Category: Essential Economics for Business: Ch 11

Rising food prices (5.5% increase over the past year) and rising energy costs have led to a rise in overall inflation. The consumer price index rose from 2.5% in March to 3% in April, triggering concerns that the Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, would have once again to write an explanatory letter to the Chancellor for inflation going over its target rate.

Biggest jump in cost of living for six years surprises the city Guardian (4/5/08)
The danger of inflation fixation Guardian (14/5/08)
Dear Alistair …. Guardian (13/5/08)
Rising food prices send inflation surging to 3% Guardian (13/5/08)
Playing the percentage game for high stakes Guardian (9/5/08)
High street prices in biggest surge since 1992 Times Online (29/5/08)
UK inflation jumps to 3% in April BBC News Online (13/5/08)

Questions

1. Explain the principal factors that led to the sharp rise in the cost of living for April.
2. Assess the extent to which inflation may be higher for many groups in society than the consumer price index figures indicate.
3. Discuss the extent to which an interest rate increase would help to reduce inflation in a climate of rising food and energy prices.

Russia has been growing rapidly. Average earnings have recently been growing at 20% a year and consumption growth has not been far behind this. Moscow apparently has more ‘6-series BMWs’ than any other city in the world. With Vladimir Putin now the prime minister he has promised to rein in inflation and boost social spending on housing and infrastructure. So what are the prospects for Russia in the next decade?

Russia: giant of a new economic world order Observer (25/05/08)
Vladimir Putin pledges to transform economy of Russia into a world leader Times Online (9/05/08)
Putin in 2020 pledge on economy BBC News Online (8/05/08)

Questions

1. Assess the recent economic performance of the Russian economy.
2. Examine the importance of oil to the Russian economy. What can the Russian government do to reduce the dependence on oil revenues?
3. Discuss the importance of infrastructure and spending on other social capital for the development of the Russian economy.

In the face of a Labour backbench rebellion over the abolition of the 10p tax rate in the most recent Budget, the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, introduced what has been described as a mini-budget this month. In this mini-budget he significantly increased tax allowances to try to alleviate the impact of the removal of the 10p tax rate on some of the poorest families.

Darling’s solution could prove costly, say economists Guardian (14/5/08)
FAQ: Formula that bought off the Labour rebels Guardian (14/5/08)
Brown risks £2.7bn tax cut to end revolt Guardian (14/5/08)
Mini-budget will put money in pockets of 22 million voters Guardian (13/5/08)
Darling’s statement in full Guardian (13/5/08)
Institute for Fiscal Studies highlights Chancellor’s dilemma after emergency tax cut Times Online (21/5/08)
Q&A on the Government’s ‘Golden Rule’ Times Online (15/5/08)
Basic rate taxpayers to get £120 BBC News Online (13/5/08)
Q&A: Tax changes BBC News Online (13/5/08)
Full statement: Tax changes BBC News Online (13/5/08)

Questions

1. What was the effect of the abolition of the10p tax rate on income distribution (before the min-budget measures)?
2. Assess the extent to which these changes will alleviate the impact of removing the 10p tax rate on the poorest families.
3. Discuss the likely impact of this change in the government’s fiscal stance on the main UK macroeconomic targets.

The Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, recently talked about the end of the ‘nice’ decade. He was not using this in its normal sense, but was taking about a ‘non-inflationary, consistently expansionary’ decade of economic growth. Economists and journalists have been busy suggesting other acronyms for the situation that we face now including VILE (‘volatile inflation, less expansionary’) and the less generous CRAP (close to recession, absent a policy’). So are we facing a new more inflationary and less stable period of economic development? Is the ‘nice’ period really over?

Recession alert as Brown fights back Guardian (15/5/08)
‘It’s things outside the Bank’s control that are going up’ Guardian (14/5/08) (Podcast)
Nasty truth behind those nice headlines Times Online (19/5/08)
Inflation prospects will make a master letter writer out of Mervyn King Times Online (13/5/08)
Which way from the edge of the abyss? Guardian (25/4/08)

Questions

1. Explain the main factors that have led to the past decade being a ‘NICE’ one.
2. Assess the extent to which we are moving into a ‘VILE’ period .
3. Evaluate two policies that the government could adopt to try to avoid the UK economy moving into a VILE period.

In recent years Labour has taken what might be described as a light-touch on regulation of City firms and financial institutions. In the article below the economics editor of the Guardian, Larry Elliott, argues that this ‘pact with the devil’ might have come back to haunt Gordon Brown as the impact of the global credit crunch continues to dominate economic news.

Brown damned by his Faustian pact Guardian (12/5/08)

Questions

1. What form has regulation of the financial sector taken under the Labour government?
2. Assess the extent to which this regulatory approach could be considered a ‘Faustian bargain’.
3. Discuss the extent to which tighter regulation of financial markets might have helped the UK economy avoid the impact of the global credit crunch.