Finfacts 2015 highlights: Irish, Europe, Global economy + innovation
As usual the year has been a mix of good and bad news with the climate change agreement signed by 195 nations in Paris this December, being a positive start to a rocky path to an "aggregate emission pathways consistent with holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C." In Europe this year, the European Central Bank bond-buying program gave a moderate boost to the Euro Area economy in 2015 with the headline unemployment rate in October at 10.8% and the EU28 rate at 9.3% while Ireland's rate was 8.9% (the broad rate was 19%) — the US rates in November were 5% and 9.9%.
Barbarism in West Asia and a flood of refugees from the Syrian civil war, prompted Angela Merkel, to make the boldest decision of her decade as chancellor of Germany, by allowing an inflow of asylum seekers that will likely have topped 1m in 2015, by New Year's Eve.
On Monday the results of a WIN/Gallup International poll of 64,000 in 65 countries show that Merkel, the 2015 Time Magazine Woman of the Year, ranks as the second most popular of ten global leaders polled; 42% hold a favourable view of her, 29% unfavourable.
Rich and corrupt Catalonia, which accounts for 16% of Spain's population and about 20% of its gross domestic product, made moves to declare independence and end modern Spain which dates from the end of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1715. In 2013 GDP per inhabitant in Catalonia was 111% of the EU28 average compared with 83% in Galicia — the home area of Mariano Rajoy, Spain's prime minister — and 70% in the Andalucía region of the south where the official unemployment rate was nearly 35% earlier this year.
During the years of the financial crisis we have become familiar with banker fraud. This year the biggest story of corporate fraud was provided by Volkswagen, Europe's biggest car group, which was found to have installed cheat devices in vehicles to produce fake emissions data to comply with regulations.
The Indonesian government at last has begun taking action against pulp wood and palm oil plantation companies operating on Sumatra and Borneo islands for setting the rain forests on fire for clearance in collusion with corrupt local officials. This year the so-called "haze" from smouldering peatlands was the worst in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore since 1997.
The World Bank said in a report this month that since 2010, emerging market growth has been buffeted by global headwinds such as weak international trade, slowing capital flows, and slumping commodity prices, external challenges which have compounded domestic problems including blunted productivity and bouts of political uncertainty.
The slowdown comes after a golden period of expansion for emerging markets. In the two decades beginning in the early 1980s, emerging markets almost doubled their contribution to world GDP, acting as the main engine of global economic expansion, and accounting for about 60% of global growth during 2010-14.
However, the report says that emerging market growth has been fading steadily since 2010, slipping from an average 7.6% in 2010 to a projected less than 4% this year. China, the Russian Federation, and South Africa have all logged three consecutive years of slowing growth.
With hindsight, it has become clear that there was in fact no coherent growth story for most emerging markets. Scratch the surface, and you found high growth rates driven not by productive transformation but by domestic demand, in turn fueled by temporary commodity booms and unsustainable levels of public or, more often, private borrowing. Dani Rodrik, native of Turkey, specialist on globalisation and Harvard economist, August 13, 2015. His new book "Economics Rules: The Rights and Wrongs of the Dismal Science" is on the best economics books of 2015 lists of both the FT and the Economist.
Something has gone badly wrong in the emerging economies... The search for culprits is under way: commodity prices, fracking, US interest rates...But the answer is simpler and more traditional. It is politics. Bill Emmott, former editor of the Economist, August 17, 2015
In short, though emerging economies’ debts seem largely moderate by historic standards, it is likely that they are being underestimated, perhaps by a large margin. If so, the magnitude of the ongoing reversal in capital flows ...may be larger than is generally believed — potentially large enough to trigger a crisis. Carmen Reinhart, specialist on historical debt trends and Harvard economist, October 9, 2015
Jason Furman, chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers and Sandra Black, a council member, noted this month in an op-ed on the huge US prison population in the Huffington Post:
About 2.2m Americans are now behind bars, and Federal, State, and local jurisdictions spend $80 billion a year keeping them there. At the same time, incarceration disproportionately affects the poor and communities of color: while African Americans and Latinos make up 30% of our population, they make up 60% of our inmates.
The use of fines and fees has grown dramatically in the past three decades: in 1986, 12% of those incarcerated were also fined, but by 2004 this number had tripled. Two-thirds of all prison inmates now have criminal justice debts, and 44 States charge formerly incarcerated individuals for probation and parole supervision [ ] Fines and fees do not just impose large financial and human costs on poor offenders — they are also inefficient ways to raise revenue [ ] in Rhode Island in 2008, nearly 2,500 individuals were incarcerated for unpaid debts at an average cost of $505 per commitment. In 13% of these cases the cost of incarceration alone was more than the debt assessed.
The US has 25% of the known global prison population despite having only 5% of the world population.
Bill Gates highlights 6 good news stories of 2015
"Africa Went a Year Without Any Polio
On July 24, Nigeria marked one full year without a single new case of locally acquired polio, the crippling and sometimes fatal disease. It is the last country in Africa to stop transmission of wild polio.
Neil Tyson Made a Stunning Case for Science
In April, the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson accepted the National Academy of Science’s most prestigious award. I’ve included this on my list not because of the award itself; Dr. Tyson has received lots of big honors during his distinguished career. I’ve included it because of the brilliant speech he gave that day. He makes the best argument I’ve ever heard for ensuring that science plays a big role in policymaking (You can see it here.) Inspired by the short and eloquent Gettysburg Address, Dr. Tyson makes his case in just 272 words. Dr. Tyson’s speech should be required reading (or viewing!) for all students, just like the speech on which it was based. Lecture at the Library of Congress Nov 2015.
Global Health Innovators Won the Nobel Prize
On October 5, I woke up to the wonderful news that this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine had been awarded to three researchers who developed indispensable tools for fighting diseases of the poor. William C. Campbell of the United States (and Ireland) and Satoshi Ōmura of Japan were honored for work that led to the drug Ivermectin, which is super effective at treating a wide range of diseases caused by parasitic worms, such as river blindness and filariasis. Tu Youyou of China was honored for developing Artemisinin, which is the centerpiece of treatments that have made malaria entirely treatable and save more than 100,000 lives every year. Ivermectin and Artemisinin are true miracle drugs—and proof of the outsized impact that can flow from a single great discovery.
SAT Test Prep Is Now Free for Everyone
This past June, the company that created the SAT helped the Khan Academy launch a free online learning portal for any student who wants help getting ready for the SAT or PSAT.
Mobile Banking Exceeds Our Optimistic Projections
As Melinda and I highlighted in this year’s annual letter, we believe that mobile banking is one of the best tools we’ve ever seen for helping people lift themselves out of poverty. Today, more than two billion people have no access to financial services, severely limiting their ability to borrow, save, invest, and participate in the mainstream economy.
The Americas Have Eliminated Rubella
In April, health officials declared the Americas the first region in the world to be free of endemic rubella, thanks to a massive, 15-year effort to vaccinate men, women, and children everywhere in the hemisphere. Rubella, also known as German measles, leads to death or severe birth defects when women get the disease during pregnancy. The campaign to eliminate rubella from the Americas prevented more than 100,000 children from contracting rubella syndrome, saving $3 billion that countries could then use to meet other critical health needs."
Bill Gates on his favourite books of 2015
Irish Puritans in shock defeat
A Vatican cardinal said last May that Irish support for same-sex marriage was a "defeat for humanity." However, the world's first approval of same-sex marriage in a public plebiscite, which was supported by all political parties, was more than a victory for tolerance and a defeat for the Catholic Church.
The sweeping 62% victory was a crushing defeat of the puritanical Ireland that had been fashioned by Éamon de Valera (1882-1975), the dominant political leader in the decades after independence in 1922, and John Charles McQuaid (1895-1973), Catholic Archbishop of Dublin in 1940-1972 and co-ruler of Catholic Ireland.
Seán O'Faoláin (1900-1991), the Irish writer, in his 1939 biography, 'De Valera,' wrote:
De Valera's concept of life is that of a dreary Eden, and the meagre flesh pots he offers to his as-yet unconverted Egyptians are always associated by him in a melancholy way, with duty and patriotism.
De Valera's Gaelic Eden later unmasked, was an Organised Hypocrisy and a cruel one for dissenters from the orthodoxy.
The New York Times Editorial Board commented on the result of the Irish referendum:
In a statement conceding defeat, the Iona Institute, the main opposition group, said it would continue to affirm “the importance of biological ties and of motherhood and fatherhood.” The absurdity of that statement speaks for itself. [ ] The outcome in Ireland sends an unmistakable signal to politicians and religious leaders around the world who continue to harbor intolerant views against gays and lesbians. It also should offer hope to sexual minorities in Russia, the Arab world and many African nations where intolerance and discriminatory laws remain widespread.
Éamon de Valera, president of Ireland, pays homage to Archbishop McQuaid, at the 1962 turning
of the sod ceremony in South Dublin, for the new University College Dublin (UCD) campus.
Celebration of the same sex referendum result at Dublin Castle, May 23, 2015 — Dublin gets its name from
the Dubh Linn or Black Pool (dubh = black), on the site of the present Castle Gardens and Coach House. In
1204, King John of England commanded the erection of a more fortified castle and it was the headquarters
of British rule in Ireland until early 1922. More... (on the castle). Ireland has at last embraced republican ideals.
Pic on top: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (second left), UNFCCC's (UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) Christiana Figueres (left), French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and President of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris (COP21), and President François Hollande of France (right), celebrate historic adoption of Paris Agreement, Dec 13, 2013. UN Photo/Mark Garten
The Economist: A futurist, a demographer and a museum curator spot trends that will affect the way people live and work