Over the next two weeks, the Olympic “medal table”, ranking nations according to the number of gold, silver and bronze medals their athletes have collected in London will be widely reported.
But there will be few surprises: The United States, China and Russia will almost certainly top the table, followed by the smaller wealthy countries. Great Britain will most likely fare better than usual, because the host nation usually does.
Population, GDP per capita, past performance and “home advantage” appear to have a strong relationship to nations’ Olympic success, a common-sense observation that has long been demonstrated by social science.
Substantial academic literature, stretching back to the 1950s, has been produced by economists, sociologists and political scientists using statistical techniques to relate nations’ macroeconomic conditions to their Olympic performance, and forecasting upcoming games.
Typically, these take the form of regression analyses that use historical macroeconomic data as independent variables to account for participating countries’ medal share at the Olympics.
During the London games, the FT will use
three four such models as a benchmark to rank our medal table according to teams’ ability to outperform models that account for their size, wealth and other socioeconomic factors: Read more
There has been speculation recently that the government is planning to divert millions of pounds in NHS funds from deprived urban areas in the north, to leafy, Conservative voting constituencies in the south.
This stems from health secretary Andrew Lansley’s recent comment that “age is the principal determinant of health need” and that distribution of the £100bn budget for the NHS in England should “get progressively to a greater focus on what are the actual determinants of health need.”
Somewhere along the line, those comments were interpreted by a generally cheesed-off medical profession that Mr Lansley intends to introduce an “age-only” NHS allocation formula, switching substantial NHS funds from, generally younger, Labour-voting constituencies in north to the octogenarians who thrive in the Conservative-voting villages of the south.
It’s a good story, which might even contain elements of the truth, but the reality, as ever, is a little more complicated.
At present, five separate allocation formulae are used to divvy up different bits of the £100bn NHS pot to different areas of England. The largest share – the hospital care budget – is divided up using one formula, while four others – mental health, GP prescribing, health inequalities (more on that in a later post) and maternity – are each allocated using their own separate formula. (Think for a second about the demographics driving the demand for maternity services as opposed to, say, hip replacements, and you will grasp why this makes sense.)
Health economists and statisticians frequently tweak and argue over these formula in order to move, hopefully, ever closer to the Holy Grail: a distribution of health resources which is fairly distributed on the basis of health need. Read more
by guest contributor Paul Hodges
Shale gas developments in the US have sparked a wave of euphoria about the opportunity for a renaissance of its domestic manufacturing base. Petrochemicals should be one of the main beneficiaries, as the ethane produced from shale gas discoveries now provides the US with some of the cheapest feedstock in the world.
Major producers including Dow Chemicals, Shell and Chevron Phillips have already announced plans to build new ethane-based capacity. Others are likely to join them. Current estimates suggest total US ethylene capacity could therefore increase by 25 to 30 percent from today’s 27 million tonnes.
However, one key factor has the potential to spoil the story – much of this new capacity will need to be exported in the form of polyethylene (PE) and other major plastics. Yet as the chart shows, based on data from Global Trade Information Services, US net PE exports have actually been declining since 2010, even though its cost advantage from shale gas was increasing. Read more
Today’s EU foreign ministers meeting to discuss the possible relaxing of sanctions against Myanmar is the latest sign of diplomatic relations easing between the desperately poor south east Asian state and the west.
As relations improve, and investors and businesses eye up opportunities, its worth remembering just how poor Myanmar is compared to its neighbours. Read more
The global economic recovery “remains on life support”, according to Tracking Indices for the Global Economic Recovery, the Brookings Institution-Financial Times index of the world economy.
The Tiger index, which is designed to track the global recovery on a set of macroeconomic, financial and confidence variables, shows a weakening of growth momentum in the emerging markets as well as an anaemic recovery in advanced economies. Read more