Cyprus tries to sort out its finances: Cyprus’s parliament has delayed a vote on a solution to sort out its money problems. The 10bn-euro ($13bn) payout agreed by the EU and IMF demands that all bank customers pay a one-off tax and this has led to large cash withdrawals.
After the furious public reaction to this bailout deal, the fight now turns to parliament. MPs will debate the new tax before it is voted upon later on today (Monday). And it’s by no means certain to pass, with some coalition members set to rebel.
The President argued in a televised address last night that the deal was the only way to avoid bankruptcy. But in an attempt to soften the blow, he is now trying to reduce the levy on those with smaller deposits.
If the bill is rejected by MPs, today’s bank holiday might be extended so as to avoid a run on the banks. And all the while, those in debt-stricken countries outside Cyprus are watching to see if this levy will set a precedent and whether they should fear for their savings too.
Horsemeat scandal widens: The Romanian government says it is investigating claims that horsemeat found in food products in several European countries came from Romania.
It is a convoluted supply chain involving Dutch and Cypriot agents, two French processing companies and Romanian abattoirs. But where in that complex network did horse become beef?
The investigation is focused on the paperwork, the export documents which should certify what kind of frozen meat is being transported. In Romania two of the 35 European approved abattoirs were involved: one that deals only in horses has now been cleared – the other, some 450km from Bucharest, slaughters both cattle and horses and remains part of the inquiry.
In France, where six supermarket chains have withdrawn products, the Prime Minister has called an emergency meeting.
The Romanian President is also deeply concerned. “I hope the false labelling of meat does not come from this country,” he said. “False labelling for financial profit would harm Romania’s credibility for years to come – with serious implications, he added, for our export market.”
Austerity for Chinese New Year: China has banned TV and radio adverts which encourage extravagant gift-giving ahead of Chinese New Year, which begins this weekend. Expensive watches, gold coins and alcohol are among the items that are affected, according to the state media.
During Chinese New Year it’s common to give gifts to bosses and officials as a way of gaining favour. But now the authorities have announced a ban on advertisements that have been encouraging people to give luxury items.
In a statement, the authorities said these radio and TV ads were spreading “incorrect values” and creating a “bad social ethos”. According to reports, the ban relates to promotions which suggest products are “must-have items for superiors”.
It’s the latest move by China’s leader, Xi Jinping, to try and cut down on government extravagance and corruption. At many official occasions, banquets have been banned or scaled back, red carpets are out, and the floral arrangements are no longer there. China’s new generation of leaders are keen to display a more frugal administration in the face of growing public anger over official corruption.
Senior officials have repeatedly warned that corruption poses the greatest threat to the rule of the Communist party.
Building a better future: Industries must radically cut the amount of materials they use, to combat resource shortages and climate change for a planet of nine billion people, according to a report for the Royal Society.
This discussion paper says the antidote to fears about resources is what’s known as material efficiency; that’s making the things we want, but with less material.
The researchers say we could use half as much cement in buildings, for instance, if we designed and built them with more time and care. We don’t do it now because labour’s dear and materials are cheap. We could drastically reduce steel in cars, if governments deterred the trend towards bigger, more powerful vehicles.
The researchers say material efficiency is vital for tackling climate change, too. For the UK, for instance, to generate enough clean energy so materials are produced in current quantities, would need the equivalent of a four-fold increase in nuclear power or a 40-fold increase in wind power. That’s barely feasible, they say, so resource efficiency is the only way ahead.
The researchers say the trick will be to make sure that good design allows people to continue getting the things they want but simply made from less. For the transition to happen fully they urge governments to shift taxation away from people and on to resources. This would be controversial but the researchers predict it will create jobs for people to manufacture goods in a more intelligent way.
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