24th January 2020
Written by Scott Reid, Associate Partner
Edited by Kevin Pringle, Partner
This week’s latest rammy between Greta Thunberg and US Republicans at Davos has got me thinking. She, a 17-year old on a gap year, pointed the finger of blame for climate change squarely at the septuagenarian president and his cronies; “My generation will not give up the fight.” In riposte, Donald Trump decried her and other “prophets of doom” whilst his Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnunchin asked, “Is she the chief economist or who is she?”; “After she goes and studies economics in college she can come back and explain that to us.” The clash was entirely predictable, partly because it’s already been played out ad nauseum at every dinner table across the land. Young cries to old: “You’ve robbed us of our future!”. And old to young: “You don’t know how good you’ve got it!” The utterances thereafter presumably then include “snowflake” and “Ok boomer…” Rinse and repeat for any topic including home ownership, wage growth or, according to my father, how many times I travelled abroad last year. Who should we listen to? Both, of course. Declining birth rates on the one hand, and longer life expectancy on the other, mean that neither are going away, or at least diminishing in influence any time soon. It would be truer nowadays to say that the young and old will inherit the earth. The arguments for each camp were spelt out in a brilliant episode of Talking Politics podcast this week. Podcast host and Cambridge politics professor, David Runciman, tells us that as societies age, so the importance of older people to our politics grows (look at recent debate over the licence fee for over-75s, for example). And yet, as his guest technologist Azeem Azhar points out, as we move into the 2020s the purchasing power and corporate leadership role of millennials and Gen Z will hit its peak. An Economist graph of the day suggests we might be looking at generational divide the wrong way. When looking at changes of opinion over time, instead of boomers, Gen X, Y and Z each moving against another – support for abortion or even climate change, for example - the main trend is that all generations move as one. In short, opinions might be less to do with when we’re born as to who else we share the planet with at any one time. That might not help Greta and the Republicans get along any time soon. But hopefully it can be a stalemate-breaking tool at the Friday night dinner table.
Five people in Scotland are being tested for coronavirus as a precaution, the Scottish Government has confirmed. A strain of the virus has so far killed 25 people in China, with the first death outside of Hubei province where the disease was initially reported occurring yesterday. At least three of the patients being tested in Scotland are believed to be Chinese nationals. George Soros has pledged $1 billion to support a global higher education campaign against populism. Speaking to the World Economic Forum in Davos yesterday, Soros criticised several global leaders including US president Trump, China’s Xi Jinping, Indian prime minister Narenda Modi - and Brexit. The initiative, to be called the Open Society University Network, will connect Western universities, cultural institutions and thinks tanks with those in poorer, more remote areas. The US has rejected a request by the Home Office to extradite one of its citizens who is charged with killing teenage motorcyclist Harry Dunn. The suspect, Anna Sacoolas, left for the US under diplomatic immunity which the US authorities said would be rendered a “practical nullity” if the request was accepted.
Business and economy
Tesco will remove plastic wrapping from its multipack tins in a move it says will reduce plastic waste by 350 tonnes a year. The supermarket said the change, which is the first of its kind by a UK retailer, would affect 40% of its customers daily shops. Tesco is also working with third party brands including Heinz and Green Giant on a similar initiative which would reduce their plastic waste. Morrisons is planning to cut 3,000 supermarket floor management roles as part of a restructuring which will create 7,000 new hourly-paid roles. The new jobs will be in customer-facing roles including their ‘Market Street’ butchers, bakers and fishmongers. Asda has reportedly also begun consultations to cut more than 2,800 roles in administration, cash office and personnel. A banker implicated in the embezzlement case against Africa’s richest woman, Isabel dos Santos, has been found dead in Lisbon. Nuno Ribeiro da Cunha managed the account of oil form Sonangol, formerly chaired by Dos Santos, at the Portugese lending bank EuroBic. Portugese media have reported that “everything points to suicide”.
Columns of note
In The Atlantic, Joe Pinsker looks at the curious gaps in the global uptake of paternity leave by new fathers. He argues that while western countries, including Japan, Germany and Iceland, have made significant policy changes to incentivise dads to take up allocated leave, cultural resistance to stopping work is still the main barrier. Pinsker says that a “work-first” approach has led to paternity uptake rates stagnating at two percent or less in Japan, Australia and the Czech Republic. (£) For the Financial Times, newly-appointed UK Editor Robert Shrimsley writes on his personal struggle to buy an electric car. He argues that a sophisticated marketing push by car manufacturers designed to protect their place in the market has instead created a damaging widely-held belief that the dawn of the mass consumer electric car has arrived, even when significant barriers including cost, charging provision and travel distance, remain. (£)
What happened yesterday? The London market fell alongside its international peers on Thursday as concerns over the coronavirus spread. The FTSE 100 ended the day 0.85% lower at 7,507.67 points. Germany’s Dax was down by 0.94% and the French Cac-40 down 0.65%. Sterling fell 0.32% on the dollar at $1.31, but rose 0.14% on the euro to €1.19. The European Central Bank, meanwhile, kept all its main policy settings unchanged at its latest interest rate decision meeting. Rates on the main refinancing operations, the marginal lending facility and its deposit facility were kept at 0.00%, 0.25% and -0.50%, respectively. On the FTSE, Chinese trade-dependant miners Antofagasta (-4.83%), Rio Tinto (-3.86%), BHP Group (-2.67%) and Glencore (-2.96%) all fell. Airlines easyJet (-3.47%0 and IAG (-3.94%) also fell following an instruction from InterContinental Hotels Group (-3.23%) for guests to change or cancel their stays up to February 3.
What's happening today?
Martsons Nu-oil & Gas
UK Economic Announcements (09.30) BBA Mortgage Lending Figures
Did you know?
According to official local sources, the number of people living in poverty in the 80-million strong Chinese province of Jiangsu is just 17.