Thursday, 6 August 2015

A Great Statement on Welfare


On the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima why does a threat of nuclear conflict still exist?

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Events in history which involve mass killings and destruction always elicit calls along the lines of 'never again' when these events are recalled on anniversary days. Today is the 70th anniversary of when America dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima which destroyed five square miles of the city and killed between 90,000 to 166,000 people. Peace movements have been vocal in their condemnation of nuclear capability and have called for disarmament. There is more than enough evidence of Hiroshima to show leaders and policy makers and the global population the destruction that nuclear weapons can cause so why then is the world still facing a growing threat of nuclear conflict?

Russia spends more than a third of its defence budget on nuclear weapons. China is increasing its stockpile. Pakistan is buying battlefield nuclear weapons. North Korea, it is alleged, has 10 nuclear warheads. The question is not about which country has a bigger nuclear stockpile but, increasingly, becomes one about which country will push the button first?

Six years ago President Obama spoke about the dangers of the world becoming complacent about nuclear weapons. Today is a good reminder of why we cannot be complacent.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

What Would A Fiscal Policy For Women Be?

Women's concerns and worries are often portrayed as being a sub-set of the wider problems that beset an economy and seldom do our issues come across as being those that concern society as a whole. Hillary Clinton, however, has managed to do the latter and has announced that the days of issues being dismissed as women's issues are, "Well, those days are over". 

According to Hillary Clinton, "“We can’t afford to leave talent on the sidelines, but that's exactly what we’re doing today....We not only shortchange women and their dreams, but we shortchange our country and our future.”  She is a strong advocate for equal pay, paid family leave (including maternity leave), flexible working, affordable child care, paid sick days, increased minimum wage and other employee benefits such as training which will help break the glass ceiling.

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While women in the UK enjoy paid maternity leave, flexible working and training packages in the workplace America varies because it does not have a welfare state that has fostered an ideal of thinking beyond the narrow confines one's individual sphere of life. Putting aside these differences Hillary's positioning of women's issues as being mainstream ones will help tremendously in lifting awareness of just how crucial women are to the running of an economy.

The most salient recognition to take away from Hillary Clinton's proposals is the fact that she has identified the state as a medium for changing policies that affect women's lives. If she wins the Presidential Race in 2016 she would have positioned the state as being central to implementing feminist policies. According to latest polls, Hillary is set to win the Democrat nomination and the Presidential race. A win for Hillary would translate into an immense leap for women's rights in a country which often sets the trend for worldwide change.

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Sunday, 5 July 2015

Dimitris Christoulas of Greece

Picture this, a young man commits suicide by jumping in front of a train because he has lost his job and the prospect of finding another job is almost nil due to austerity cuts. His individual story maybe a tragedy but his death is only another statistic in a figure totalling 10,000 suicides over a period of five years. To put it into context, that number could represent the total population of a village in Britain. Picture this, an elderly gentleman puts a gun to his head and shoots himself because he is afraid of the very real possibility that he will have to scrounge for food in dustbins. 

Now, stop picturing these tragic scenarios and start coming to grips with the fact that these two scenarios are real life events that have occurred in Greece. The young man killed himself in May this year. The elderly gentleman, Dimitris Christoulas, shot himself in 2012. Both deaths were attributed to austerity. In fact, Mr Christoulas left a suicide note which blamed the Greek government of the day. He wrote: "...annihilated any hope for my survival and I could not get any justice. I cannot find any other form of struggle except a dignified end before I have to start scrounging for food from rubbish bins.”  Angry Greeks called his death a 'murder' and that it had sent a strong message to the world about Greece's struggle under austerity.



Greece will be voting on 5 July on whether to accept or reject the deal that it has been presented with by the Troika (International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank). The deal put on the table calls for raised taxes and cuts in spending in Greece. The Greek Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, decided to call a referendum after repeated dead-end efforts to get the Troika to negotiate on more favourable terms to the Greek people. 

According to The Guardian newspaper, if Greece had signed up to the Troika's demands the country's debts would still be 118% of GDP by 2030. Currently, the debt level is at 175% of GDP. 

As ever, where there are austerity cuts there are pixels of human stories that make up a picture of misery and hardship which question the wisdom of austerity. There are two ways of looking at Greece: it has to answer to its' political masters who are the Troika and Germany as they are the creditors and where money is owed it has to be paid; and secondly, where the debtor is not able to pay back because previous repayments have resulted in very little benefit but high costs in the form of people starving, killing themselves and being unable to buy medication that they need to keep them healthy. 


The choice that Greeks face is whether to continue with the status quo which will bring a guaranteed more of the same or whether to vote for 'Oxi' (which means 'no') that will result in their PM being given a mandate to negotiate for debt relief.



I know which one I would choose but I don't live there.  I have had some fantastic holidays in Greece and it is a country full of hospitable people who go out of their way to provide good service. Whatever the outcome I hope that the story of people like Dimitris Christoulas will be remembered and factored into the potential human cost of any post-referendum negotiations that take place. 

All the best Greece