Category: Economics for Business: 8e Ch 23

Rapidly rising food prices have led to instability in many countries and have fuelled inflation in less developed economies where food spending is a greater proportion of overall consumer spending. A number of factors have contributed to this rapid rise in prices, but one important contributory factor is the move towards growing crops that can be used as bio-fuels in the developing world and this shift in production is having a knock-on effect in world food markets.

Big food companies accused of risking climate catastrophe Guardian (8/11/07)
An agricultural crime against humanity Monbiot.com (6/11/07)
Global food crisis looms as climate change and fuel shortages bite Guardian (3/11/07)

Questions

1. Identify the main factors that have led to rising world food prices.
2. Assess the extent to which the move towards bio-fuels has contributed to the rise in world food prices.
3. Explain how the impact of rising food prices differs in the developed and developing world.
4. Discuss policies that governments could adopt to ameliorate the impact of rising food prices on the level of economic growth.

Transfer pricing is a technique used by multinational companies to avoid tax liabilities in countries they regard as having high levels of taxation. The articles below from the Guardian give the results of an investigation by Guardian journalists into the elaborate structures that have been created by multinational companies in the banana industry to funnel their profits through tax havens like the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands. In some cases they have paid an effective tax rate as low as 8% when the tax rate in their home country is 35%.

Revealed: how multinational companies avoid the taxman Guardian (6/11/07)
Bananas to UK via the Channel islands? It pays for tax reasons Guardian (6/11/07)
‘I get up at 4am, work to 6-7pm – it doesn’t feel like a life’ Guardian (6/11/07)

Questions

1. Define the term ‘transfer pricing’.
2. Explain how multinational banana companies use transfer pricing to reduce their tax liabilities.
3. “The trend in the last 30 years has been to shift the burden of tax away from companies on to the consumer and labour. Capital is increasingly going untaxed.” Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this shift in the method of taxation.

The article below from the BBC website looks at the issue of microfinance – the provision of very small loans as a form of development assistance to help people in developing countries to support themselves and develop their businesses.

Small loans to women make big changes BBC News Online (21/8/07)

Questions

1. Explain what is meant by microfinancing.
2. Examine the reasons why microfinancing is considered more effective at promoting economic development (as opposed to economic growth).
3. Assess the extent to which microfinancing could help in other developing countries to promote economic development.

The UK and global labour markets are changing significantly. In the UK we have faced a level of immigration of around 500 – 600 thousand people (the government does not know the exact figure), while in the global economy the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has estimated in its latest World Economic Outlook that the global labour force has quadrupled in the last quarter of a century. So what is the impact on the UK labour market? Many assume that the effect is negative, but as is always the way with these things, you will find plenty of economists who will argue the opposite. The article below from the Times Online looks at these national and global issues.

Workers count cost of a global labour flood Times Online (29/4/07)
Migrants create job market slack Times Online (20/5/07)


Questions
1. Using diagrams as appropriate assess the impact of recent immigration on the UK labour market.
2. Discuss the extent to which changes in the global labour force and UK immigration have affected the level of wages in the UK labour market.
3. Discuss the extent to which the global labour force is likely to change in the next decade.

The article linked to below is an extract (printed in the Guardian) from a new book by Dan Atkinson and Larry Elliott (economics editor for the Guardian). The introduction to the article summarises its theme quite effectively:
“We don’t manufacture anything any more. Most of the world won’t buy our records or watch our films. Only our gift of the gab is keeping Britain’s economy ticking over. But how long can the hot air last, ask Larry Elliott and Dan Atkinson “

Talk is cheap Guardian (18/5/07)


Questions
1. Explain the underlying trade performance of the UK in recent years for (a) trade in goods and (b) trade in services.
2. “Labour believes Britain is at the cutting edge of the knowledge economy and that Britain’s well-educated (sic), highly skilled (sic) and entrepreneurial (sic) workers are ready to kick German, American, Japanese and Chinese butt all round the global village.” Discuss the extent to which this is true.
3. Assess the extent to which the theory of comparative advantage can help explain the differences in trade performance outlined in the article.