In the UK, petrol prices have fallen significantly over the past couple of years and currently stand in some places at below £1 per litre. For UK residents, this price is seen as being cheap, but if we compare it to prices in Venezuela, we get quite a different picture. Prices are increasing here for the first time in 20 years from $0.01 per litre to $0.60 per litre – around 40 pence, while lower grade petrol increases to $0.10 per litre.
Venezuela has oil fields in abundance, but has not used this natural resource to its full potential to bolster the struggling economy. The price of petrol has been heavily subsidised for decades and the removal of this subsidy is expected to save around $800 million per year.
This will be important for the economy, given its poor economic growth, high inflation and shortages of some basic products. Venezuela relies on oil as the main component of its export revenues and so it has been hit very badly, by such low oil prices. The money from this reduced subsidy will be used to help social programmes across the country, which over time should help the economy.
In addition to this reduced subsidy on petrol prices, Venezuela’s President has also taken steps to devalue the exchange rate. This will help to boost the economy’s competitiveness and so is another policy being implemented to help the economy. However, some analysts have said that these changes don’t go far enough, calling them ‘small steps’, ‘nowhere near what is required’ and ‘late and insufficient’. The following articles consider the Venezuelan crisis and policies.
Venezuela raises petrol price for first time in 20 years BBC News (18/02/16)
Venezuela president raises fuel price by 6,000% and devalues bolivar to tackle crisis The Guardian, Sibylla Brodzinsky (18/02/16)
Venezuela’s Maduro devalues currency and raises gasoline prices Financial Times, Andres Schipani (18/02/16)
Venezuela hikes gasoline price for first time in 20 years The Economic Times (18/02/16)
Venezuela hikes fuel prices by 6000%, devalues currency to tackle economic crisis International Business Times, Avaneesh Pandey (18/02/16)
Market dislikes Venezuela reforms but debt rallies again Reuters (18/02/16)
- Why are oil prices so important for the Venezuelan economy?
- How will they affect the country’s export revenues and hence aggregate demand?
- Inflation in Venezuela has been very high recently. What is the cause of such high inflation? Illustrate this using an aggregate demand/aggregate supply diagram.
- How will a devaluation of the currency help Venezuela? How does this differ from a depreciation?
- Petrol prices have been subsidised in Venezuela for 20 years. Show how this government subsidy has affected petrol prices. Now that this subsidy is being reduced, how will this affect prices – show this on your diagram.
- Why are many analysts suggesting that these policies are insufficient to help the Venezuelan economy?
Calls for an independent Scotland have focused on a variety of economic issues. These have included taxation, government spending, currency, fiscal policy and monetary policy. However, the BBC News article below looks at another factor which may be affected by a ‘yes’ vote – the price of stamps.
Having just returned from 10 days in the Highlands, I certainly agree with the BBC article that it would be an expensive business to deliver to the remotest parts of Scotland and would definitely require ‘trains, planes, ferries, Land Rovers and vans’ and, in an extreme case, a fishing boat.
So is the price we pay for postage to less rural areas of the UK used to subsidise the higher costs of delivery to the remotest parts of Scotland and, in particular, to the small islands off the Scottish coastline? What would a ‘yes’ vote mean for the cost of stamps in Scotland and in the remainder of the UK? The following articles consider this rather odd question.
Why postage should be cheaper in UK if Scots vote ‘Yes’ BBC News, Brian Milligan (19/4/14)
Tories warn over post service costs The Courier (6/4/14)
- What happened when the Royal Mail was privatised?
- What are the benefits and costs of privatisation?
- Using a cost and revenue diagram, explain how the different costs of delivery between urban parts of the UK and the remotest parts of Scotland should be reflected in different prices of postage.
- If the price of postage is the same for delivery everywhere in the UK, use your diagram to explain how this happens.
- What does your diagram suggest will happen to the price of postage stamps if a ‘subsidy’ is no longer available?
Youth unemployment has been one of the main headlines for some months, with data showing a record number of young people out of work.
As part of the government’s £1bn Youth Contract that aims to help young people back into work and help those unable to find employment, Nick Clegg has announced wage subsidies to firms hiring 18-24 year olds will be paid earlier.
Some of the costs of unemployment are obvious. For the individual who is unemployed, it means a lack of income and hence inability to buy goods and services. This then has wider implications for the economy. If people are unable to purchase goods and services, this contributes to a lower level of aggregate demand, which in times of recession, is hardly ideal.
Unemployment also means an inefficient use of resources, meaning the economy is operating below full capacity. Fewer people in work also implies lower tax revenues for the government, at the same time as higher unemployment benefit payments, contributing towards a growing budget deficit. This point is of particular concern, when it is young workers claiming benefits, as it could mean a life of dependency.
There are also some longer-term consequences, in particular for those who have been out of work for some time. They lose their skills, making it harder to find a job and this can pose costs to employers and further costs to the government through re-training. As such, government initiatives to tackle youth unemployment have never been more important.
The wage subsidies that were announced back in November will now be paid when young people have been out of work for six months, instead of nine. This initiative aims to help reduce youth unemployment in areas where it is at its worst. Twenty local authorities have been identified as priorities for the government and will benefit from this scheme. As Nick Clegg said to CBI summit:
“Three months can make all the difference. When you feel like your banging your head against a brick wall, when you live in an area where opportunities are already few and far between, another 12 weeks of rejection letters, of being cut off, of sitting at home waiting, worrying, that can seriously knock the stuffing out of you, making it extremely difficult to pick yourself up …
So jobcentres will be able to make use of the subsidy before people are referred to the Work Programme, capitalising on their links with local employers, and they’ll also intensify support, so more training, more regular coaching, spending more time with young people to knock a CV into shape or prep ahead of an interview.”
There are critics of the scheme, who argue that it is too little, too late and that it will simply displace older workers, thereby creating worse unemployment for another group. Until the economy begins to grow and confidence returns to the markets, unemployment is likely to remain a frequent headline. The following articles consider the wage subsidy and the state of unemployment in the UK.
Wage subsidy could mean more jobs Independent Online, Business Report, Pierre Heistein (14/6/12)
Wage subsidies scheme moved forward The Press Association (27/6/12)
Wage subsidy plan for young workers brought forward BBC News (27/6/12)
Wage subsidies scheme moved forward Independent, Alan Jones (27/6/12)
Nick Clegg announces extra help for jobless in 20 troublespots Guardian, Juliette Jowit (27/6/12)
Young people’s prospects have ‘nose-dived’ says report BBC News, Judith Burns (25/6/12)
Economic gap between young and old significantly worse since 2008 – study Guardian, James Ball and Helene Mulholland (25/6/12)
- Why is unemployment such a big concern for the UK economy? What is so important about youth unemployment?
- Which factors have contributed towards such high youth unemployment?
- How will the wage subsidy encourage firms to take on more young people? Think about how a rational firm behaves when choosing between 2 workers.
- Why does the wage subsidy cause concern for organisations supporting the employment of older workers?
- To what extent do you agree with the Guardian article that says that young people have borne the brunt of the recession and subsequent government cuts?
- What other things have been undertaken in a bid to reduce unemployment and stimulate the economy?
- Think about the costs of unemployment. Categorise them into costs to (a) the individual, (b) friends and family, (c) the government and (d) the economy.
Market failure occurs when the free market fails to deliver an efficient allocation of resources. Pollution by cars is a prime example of a negative externality or an external cost. We pay road tax and face high tax rates on petrol, but another form of government intervention is due to come into effect. From the 1st January 2011, nine models of electric car will be eligible for grants of up to £5000 (although only three models will be immediately available). By subsidising certain electric cars, the government is aiming to give people an incentive to switch to these so-called more environmentally friendly cars, as they will now be cheaper.
There are concerns, however, that generating the electricity to charge these cars still emits carbon dioxide. The Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, said:
There’s no point in switching the car fleet to running on electricity if the electricity emits vast amounts of carbon dioxide.
So is the electric car the car of the future?
Nine electric cars will be eligible for subsidies BBC News (14/120/10)
Cash grants for environmentally friendly cars announced Telegraph (14/12/10)
£850,000 to kickstart use of electric cars in NI BBC News (14/12/10)
UK names nine electric cars eligible for subsidy Reuters (14/20/10)
- What is the purpose of a subsidy? Using a diagram explain how it will work and what the impact should be.
- Why is pollution an example of a market failure? Illustrate this on a diagram.
- Why could electric cars also be an example of a market failure? Illustrate this on a diagram.
- How will the subsidy aim to encourage more firms to produce electric cars and also more consumers to buy them?
- Is there an argument for increased investment in technology to produce electric cars more cheaply and more effectively?
- Why is there such a high demand for car usage?