2010 - Emile Woolf writes

Dealing with debt: forget the economics – it’s just arithmetic

As the great Warren Buffett famously put it, “when the tide goes out you can see who’s bathing nude”. By now it’s clear that the West’s relative wealth, accumulated over the past 10 years, is largely illusory. Created essentially by debt, it has been bolstered by artificially low exchange rates against stronger economies. As European […]

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Axing the quangos and reforming the tax structure – both are needed

The proliferation of quangos under the previous administration contributed hugely to the deficit that has all but crippled public finances in the UK. Funded out of taxes, they were launched without reference to any democratic process, often in the wake of pointless Whitehall requirements or EU directives. The rash of self-important job creation that gripped […]

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Psychosis grips British banking. Yet who will break the deadlock?

I have written regularly on banking folly – a subject everyone now knows to be inexhaustible. In Accountancy, March 2005, I wrote: “The size of the credit mountain is without precedent…… should we ask whether it is sustainable? Or should we worry?” I noted that five of Britain’s top-10 companies were banks, compared with none […]

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Tax and accounting are the drivers: but where are they taking us?

Purists maintain that accounting and taxation should be neutral in terms of economic impact. Decision-making should be based on what’s good for the business – for its customers, staff and shareholders – without distortion by complex tax and accounting rules. But we have strayed: there is scarcely a decision untainted by daunting tax or accounting […]

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Reduce the deficit? Then reduce waste in public finances

The question of public sector finances has descended into an irrational bunfight. Watch the “contestants” hurl abuse at each other on “Question Time”. Last month I was invited by Eddie Mair of Radio 4’s PM programme to comment on the level of senior salaries in the public sector. My observation that taxes raised from the […]

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Is the single currency doomed? The problems were there from the start

These days we are all committed to sacrifice, whether attributable to tax increases, reduced public services or declining incomes. This sacrificial thread affects government too, although in a different way. Coalition, by definition, requires the combining parties to sacrifice, or place on the back burner, many of the policies for which they hoped the election […]

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Back to square one: Accounting safeguards do not work

The most sombre issue to emerge from the world’s current financial woes is that of trust. Putting it succinctly, who can you trust in markets where it pays to deceive? it was all in conformity with existing EU accounting rules.. Take Greece’s desperation to sell its bonds to reduce the size of the European bailout. […]

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Paying for infrastructure – learning from others

The economics of infrastructure funding is a fascinating subject, particularly when we observe how it varies from one country to another. How to select projects from the dozens that compete for public favour? By what criteria are they deemed worthwhile and prioritized? And, most critically, how are those selected to be financed? On my travels […]

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Hong Kong and China: reconciling the economic incongruities

Having been writing, seemingly forever, on professional matters and wider economic issues, it’s time for a refreshing break – for me at least. I am writing on the high seas, visiting many fascinating places – Guam, Papua New Guinea, the Great Barrier Reef. But the most intriguing are Hong Kong and China. I shall say […]

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Behind the words, public sector waste lies hidden

Whose analyses, explanations or remedies can you trust? One of the most valuable insights to be gleaned from a pukka crisis is how inexpert the experts are. It was Irving Fisher, the great Professor of Economics at Yale University, who declared: “Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” He said that […]

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