Tag Archives: robert peston

Your essential weekend reader — my personal pick of the week’s must-reads

Papers - Some rights reserved by NS MewsflashIt’s Sunday morning, so here are a dozen of thought-provoking articles to stimulate your thinking juices, culled from all those I’ve linked to this past fortnight. You can follow me on Delicious here.

Immigration and the knowledge economy – Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg makes the business case for immigration reform in the US, but the lesson is universal: “In a knowledge economy, the most important resources are the talented people we educate and attract to our country.”

Mum did to Maggie what she’d done

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The seven EU members who are less creditworthy than myself

Following Robert Peston’s comparison of what interest rate the Italian government is charged for borrowing money compared to what his own household would be charged (Italy turns out to be more creditworthy than the Pestons, but only just), I thought I would take a look to see how I compare.

Take that, then, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Portugal, Romania and Spain. You are the seven EU members who are being charged a higher interest rate to borrow money long-term than I would be.

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News International’s William Lewis, BBC’s Robert Peston, and the alleged act of theft which aimed to bring down Vince Cable

Rewind to December 2010, and you will recall the furore which greeted the revelation by the BBC’s Robert Peston that Lib Dem business secretary Vince Cable had been secretly taped by undercover Telegraph hacks “declaring war” on Rupert Murdoch and his bid for BSkyB.

Vince was almost forced to resign, responsibility for handling the bid was handed over to a Murdoch-friendly Tory, and the Telegraph was embarrassed by the implication that they had censored the story in order to avoid assisting media rival News International.

A report in today’s New York Times sheds a new and extraordinary light on that sequence of events, and suggests that:

  • The Telegraph was not sitting on the Cable/BSkyB scoop, but was all set to run it as a follow-up to the paper’s initial story focusing on Vince’s forthright views on the Coalition;
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The Independent Banking Commission publishes its interim report

Via the BBC:

UK banks’ retail operations should be “ring-fenced” from their investment banking arms, the Independent Commission on Banking has recommended.

However, in its interim report the commission stopped short of recommending the two should operate as separate entities.

It said more competition was needed in retail banking, including the sell-off of more Lloyds branches.

The commission’s final recommendations will be published in September.

Robert Peston adds,

The big banks will claim that putting their retail banks into subsidiaries would impose significant extra costs on them – because it would force them to raise and retain more capital (which is expensive), and it

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Public sector pensions: cuts amount to 7%

Robert Peston’s analysis of the proposed public sector pension reforms from John Hutton contains this key calculation:

The estimate – made by the analyst John Ralfe – that the switch would save just £2bn a year, out of the estimated total annual cost of state pensions (much of which is hidden) of £30bn.

That £30bn is Ralfe’s estimate of the annual cost. It is double the official estimate, with the disparity due to a disagreement on the appropriate discount rate for valuing future liabilities.

A reduction in the value of retirement benefits of 1/15th would of course be unpleasant. But compared

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Robert Peston casts his eye over George Monbiot’s tax plans

Max Teuerman took to this blog last month to criticise George Monbiot’s attack on the government over corporation tax plans. Now the BBC’s Robert Peston has blogged his own long-promised take on the story, saying:

The government seems to be trying to do precisely the opposite of what Mr Monbiot accuses it of doing: it is trying to stem the exodus of companies and their assets abroad.

As Peston explains,

George Monbiot warns that if dividends from overseas branches of multinationals become exempt from tax, that will create an incentive for multinationals to relocate more of their operations to these overseas

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Bank levy introduced

It’s January, so the government’s bank levy has come into force. The basic details are that it is a o.05 per cent levy on bank balance sheets, but rises to 0.075 per cent in 2012 and the details of how it works are designed to encourage banks to rely more heavily on more stable sources of funding in the future.

Expected to bring in £2.5 billion a year, the revenue is pretty small compared to the estimated costs of the financial crisis overall (even if future sales of the government’s bank shareholdings are factored in). However, at a time when …

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Robert Peston nails the Cable story

I was going to write a post about the Cable / Telegraph / other Lib Dem ministers story, but reading Robert Peston’s post I see he’s said what I was going to say – but said it first and said it better. So over to him:

What I still feel bemused about is why the Telegraph, for which I used to work, did not publish the one story that would have unquestionably legitimised its under-cover exercise to elicit the private views of Lib Dem ministers.

Pretty much everything these Lib Dems have been caught saying about their Tory colleagues is what one

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Peston’s posers: where next for our mixed economy?

The BBC’s business guru Robert Peston poses the question over at his blog, If markets don’t work, what will? He identifies three recent examples of public authorities – the treasury, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission and Ofcom – alleging that the markets they are being paid to regulate just aren’t working, and that consumers are being overcharged.

Market failure is not a new phenomenon by any means. Even in my A-level Economics I was taught that the ‘perfect market’ quite simply didn’t exist: consumers do not have omniscient knowledge and don’t always behave rationally, barriers to entry for companies do exist, there is rarely complete freedom of decision, etc. Inevitably, therefore, we have been left with a mixed market economy, in which privately-owned and state-run companies co-exist, each bound to some extent by government regulation aiming to protect the public interest in the absence of that ‘perfect market’.

From 1979 until 2008, the pendulum swung in favour of the private sector, what Peston describes as ‘the Anglo-American political consensus of the past 20 years that the markets are normally right’. And then came the collapse of Northern Rock and Lehmans. Since when, says Peston, a ‘new ideology’ has sprung up:

… participants in markets who accumulate the biggest personal fortunes are merely those most adept at predicting the irrational behaviour of the herd. Which probably shouldn’t be seen as any more noble or as a more socially useful form of wealth creation than betting on the 3.30 at Kempton Park.

Where does all this leave us? Peston’s article poses the questions, doesn’t supply the answers (why should he?):

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Shock Robert Peston news: he’s human and fallible

Although Robert Peston has recently been criticising HBOS for the behaviour that led to it running up massive losses, a look through his book published as recently as last year shows him repeatedly praising HBOS for some of the very actions that are now being criticised.

For example, in late February, Robert Peston wrote on his BBC blog that,

For all the criticism of the alleged excessive risks taken by HBOS’s mortgage department – as per the charges levelled at the bank by its former head of regulatory risk, Paul Moore – the most reckless lending and investments were made by

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