As noted in the posting about the new high-speed rail link (High-speed rail link is on track), transport issues in the UK are always newsworthy topics and here we go again. This time, though, we look to the sky, where air traffic was halted for five days, from April 14th to 19th. Whilst some flights took off on the morning of the 20th April, further volcanic clouds were expected to ground flights at 7pm. Then, with new scientific evidence suggesting that it would be safe to ease restrictions, flights resumed on 21st April.
A big problem during this period was the uncertainty about how long the disruption might last. And even with the easing of restrictions, there was no certainty that dangerous levels of ash might not return if there was a new bout of activity from the volcano and if winds were unfavourable. One thing that was certain is that it would cost the British and other European economies at a time when they can hardly afford it.
The airline industry is already expected to lose £1.4bn this year and the volcanic cloud is estimated to have cost airlines approximately £130 million per day in lost revenues. The tourism industry has also suffered, although the losses are significantly lower. Countries, such as Kenya, that rely heavily on air freight to transport goods have suffered and businesses have also lost out, owing to cancelled meetings, delays to mail and stranded staff. Customers were angry that they might face extra charges to rebook flights and were having to pay for further accommodation. Whilst the direct effects on economic growth were thought to be only minimal, the long-term effects are uncertain. A drop of between 1% and 2% for European GDP was being suggested.
Airlines have been asking for compensation, in particular BA. After a tumultuous time with strikes, such a disruption could not have come at a worse time. BA has estimated costs of between £15m and £20m per day, due to lost passenger and freight revenues, as well as the need to support passengers trapped abroad.
However, the news was not all bad, especially if you are a rail operator or own a shipping company, as other means of transport have seen a huge rise in demand. Many stranded passengers have railed against the ‘profiteering’ of rail, coach and car-hire companies as prices soared. A case of supply and demand?
Iceland volcano cloud: the economic impact BBC News (19/4/10)
BA seeks compensation for volcano losses Telegraph (19/4/10)
Tourists and economy trapped by the volcano eruption in Iceland Balkans Business News (19/4/10)
Iceland volcano: the impact of the ash cloud on Britain Guardian, James Meikle (18/4/10)
Volcano’s ash cloud causes sporting chaos BBC News (20/4/10)
Travel companies lose millions of pounds with UK tourism next to suffer Independent, Alistair Dawber (20/4/10)
Volcanic ash costing airline £130m a day Channel 4 News (19/4/10)
BA demands government compensation as airlines watch reserves go up in smoke Independent (20/4/10)
British Airway seeks compensation for air chaos (including video) BBC News (19/4/10)
How long will chaos last – and what has it cost? Independent (19/4/10)
Europe counting economic cost of volcano CNBC, Patrick Allen (18/4/10)
How could Europe volcano cloud crisis play out? Reuters, Peter Apps (19/4/10)
- Who are the main losers from the volcanic ash cloud? Think about businesses and individuals.
- How can other means of transport, such as rail, be seen as a complement and a substitute to air travel?
- How can the economic impact of such disruption be estimated? Can you apply a cost–benefit analysis to this situation?
- Airlines are losing revenue and hence profits. Try illustrating this on a diagram.
- Should the airlines be compensated? If so, how would you propose compensating them? Are there any problems with your proposal?
- If one airline is the sole provider of flights between two locations, does it have a natural monopoly? Explain your answer.
- What is the impact on UK exports and imports? How might the exchange rate be affected?
- Does anyone gain from the volcanic ash cloud? Explain your answer.
Whilst the internet and technological developments provide massive opportunities, they also create problems. For some time now, newspapers have seen declining sales, as more and more information becomes available online. Type something into Google or any other search engine and you will typically find thousands of relevant articles, even if the story has only just broken. As revenue from newspaper sales falls, revenue has to be made somewhere else to continue investment in ‘frontline journalism’. The question is: where will this come from?
The Financial Times and News Corp’s Wall Street Journal charge readers for online access and we can expect this to become more common from May, when the Times and the Sunday Times launch their new websites, where users will be charged for access. Subscription to these online news articles will be £1 per day or £2 for weekly access. Whilst the Executives of the Times admit that they will lose many online readers, they hope that the relatively low price, combined with a differentiated product will be enough of an incentive to keep readers reading.
Critics of this strategy argue that this a high risk strategy, as there is so much information available online. Whilst the BBC does plan to curtail the scope of its website, the Times and Sunday Times will still face competition from them, as well as the Guardian, the Independent, Reuters, etc., all of whom currently do not charge for online access. However, if you value journalism, then surely it’s right that a price should be charged to read it. Only time will tell how successful a strategy this is likely to be and whether we can expect other online news sites to follow their example.
Times and Sunday Times websites to charge from June (including video) BBC News (26/3/10)
Murdoch to launch UK web paywall in June Financial Times, Tim Bradshaw (26/3/10)
Times and Sunday Times websites to start charging from June Guardian, Mercedes Bunz (26/3/09)
News Corp to charge for UK Times Online from June Reuters (26/3/10)
Murdoch-owned newspaper charges for content BBC News (14/1/10)
- Why have newspaper sales declined?
- How might estimates of elasticity have been used to make the decision to charge to view online articles?
- ’If people value journalism, they should pay for it.’ What key economic concepts are being considered within that statement?
- Why is charging for access to the Times Online viewed as a high-risk strategy?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of this strategy? To what extent do you think it is likely that other newspapers will soon follow suit?
- Which consumers do you think will be most affected by this strategy?
- In what ways might non-pay sites gain from theTimes’ charging policy?
- Would you continue to read articles from the Times linked from this site if you had to pay to access them? If so, why? If not, why not? (We want to know!!)
According to Sir Liam Donaldson, England’s Chief Medical Officer, swine flu is on its way back. However, vaccinations are now available to the most vulnerable people, including front-line medical staff, people with chronic health problems and pregnant women. But, what about every-day workers? Surely, these are people that need protecting too, as they are the ones who contribute to the economy. How do you prioritise?
A key question is how much swine flu has actually cost the UK economy. Here, we’re not just concerned with the cost of the vaccines, but also the opportunity cost of that money, the lost output from illness, the human suffering – both of the victims and of their relatives and friends – and, of course, the impact on business and the economy. Some of the countries worst hit by the outbreak of swine flu have faced particular problems, such as protectionist trade policies and a significant fall in business through tourism.
So, will the vaccine prove cost effective for the government, or is it more about the moral obligation to provide it? These articles look at some of the recent developments in the worst pandemic in years.
Mexico economy squeezed by swine flu BBC News (30/4/09)
Swine flu vaccine on its way to GPs Grimsby Telegraph (21/10/09)
Exclusive – WTO protectionism report to feature swine flu bans Reuters (12/6/09)
Flu bill ‘may hit fire plans’ Teletext (27/10/09)
Swine flu vaccination under way BBC News (21/10/09)
Swine flu costs have put dent in profits, Amerigroup says Pilot Online, Tom Shean (27/10/09)
Swine flu gives Pharmaceutical Companies a New Edge Top News, Tangaroa Snell (26/10/09)
Economic cost of swine flu could be around $3 trillion to $4.4 trillion Today’s Zaman (Turkey) (2/11/09)
Swine flu mass vaccination programme launched Guardian (21/10/09)
Full list of swine flu cases, country by country Guardian (updated daily)
Doctors plan mass swine flu jabs for under-18s Times Online (1/11/09)
- What is the opportunity cost of swine flu? How could you illustrate this on a diagram?
- Vaccines are going to those at risk first. Why is this particularly relevant in terms of the economic problem?
- What is protectionism and what are the main forms? Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of protectionist policies in the context of swine flu.
- If the government had to decide whether or not a swine flu vaccine was worth producing, how could they have done this? Outline the process by which costs and benefits can be weighed up. Are there any drawbacks to this method?
- How have businesses been affected by swine flu? Think about those who have benefited as well as those that have lost.
It’s probably one of the most recognisable names in the world – Disney. Well, as if the company wasn’t already established enough, it’s just got a bit bigger, with a $4bn deal with Marvel Entertainment, Inc. Characters such as Mickey Mouse, Cinderella and Donald Duck have now been joined by some more masculine characters including Spider-Man, Iron Man and the X-Men. Much of Disney’s recent success has come from films appealing to girls, but in-house Disney franchises appealing to boys are fewer and further between. “We would love to attract more boys, and Marvel skews more in the boys’ direction, although there is universal appeal to many of its characters” said Bob Iger, Disney chief executive. “Marvel’s is a treasure trove of characters and stories, and this gives us an opportunity to mine characters that are well known and characters that are not well known.”
This new deal is likely to have major repercussions for Warner Bros and all of the major Hollywood studios, as well as those with a vested interest in Marvel. It is also hoped that this deal will restore some of Disney’s profits, which have been reduced through the current economic downturn. The following articles consider this deal and the likely results.
Weaker sales dent Disney profits BBC News (30/7/09)
Disney to buy Marvel in $4bn deal BBC News (31/8/09)
Walt Disney buys Marvel Entertainment in £2.5billion deal Mirror News (1/9/09)
Disney take-over of Marvel Telegraph, Paul Gent (2/9/09)
Disney’s Marvel Deal Forces DC’s Hand Defamer, Andrew Belonskey (10/9/09)
Disney deal puts Marvel online slots at risk for Cryptologic Online Gambling News (9/9/09)
Disney’s picl-up of Marvel not so super: Citi FP, Trading Desk (4/9/09)
Disney to buy Marvel in $4bn deal (video) BBC News (1/9/09)
Of mouse and X-men Economist (3/9/09)
Disney buys Marvel, Now in Business with every studio in Hollywood Defamer, Brian Moylan (31/8/09)
For Disney’s announcement of the take-over, see:
Disney to acquire Marvel Entertainment Disney Corporate News Release
- Discuss the pros and cons for consumers of the take-over of Marvel Entertainment by Disney.
- Which factors will have had a significant impact on Disney’s profits in the current recession? Explain why.
- What do you think will be the likely impact of the take-over on Marvel’s shareholders?
- Discuss the main ways in which a business can grow and consider their advantages and disadvantages.
- How will Disney’s Marvel deal affect its competitors and those with whom it does business? Is Disney going to be able to control prices and other aspects of business deals?
Changes in the price of oil have effects throughout the economy. And it’s not just on the obvious things, such as petrol prices, energy bills and rail, bus and air fares. Most companies are significantly affected by the price of oil, as oil is a key input into their production, whether for transporting their inputs or the goods they produce, or as plastics or other petrochemicals. This is why the price of oil receives so much attention: we’re all affected by it. You will have seen the price of petrol changing dramatically over the past year or so and this is largely due to changing oil prices. The price of oil peaked at $147 a barrel in July 2008 and fell as low as $32 a barrel in December 2008.
So what is it that causes these changes in oil prices and what does it mean for the world’s economies? Read the following articles, which discuss these issues, and look at recent developments in the oil industry.
First fall in oil use since 1993 BBC News (10/6/09)
Trump’s world view Fox News, Interview between Greta van Susteren and Donald Trump (30/6/09) Oil settles above $71; China to boost reserves The Associated Press, Dirk Lammers (29/6/09)
Nigeria worries push up oil price BBC News (29/6/09)
Oil up to near $72 on dollar fall, Nigeria attack Town Hall, Pablo Gorondi (30/6/09)
Chinese demand forecast to boost oil price The Star Phoenix, Joanne Paulson (30/6/09)
Lower oil price hits Total profit BBC News (6/5/09)
Oil price hovers at $70 amid pipeline attacks Financial Times, Miles Johnson, Javier Blas, London (27/6/09)
What is going on in the oil market? BBC News (27/10/08)
Rising oil prices poses threat to recovery, Alistair Darling warns Telegraph (12/6/09)
Fears of oil crunch recede as recession knocks down global demand The Independent, Sarah Arnott (30/6/09)
- How is the price of oil determined? Give 2 examples of factors that could cause (a) the price of oil to increase and (b) the price of oil to decrease.
- How are company profits affected by the changing price of oil?
- OPEC is an oil cartel. What are the factors that make collusion more likely to succeed? Do they apply to OPEC?
- When prices of oil increase, why do we still use similar amounts of energy; still buy petrol? What’s so special about this commodity? Think about elasticity.
- How is the price and consumption of oil affected by the macroeconomic situation?