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Fuel for Thought

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

When teaching elasticities, fuel always seems to have been a favourite example of a good with very inelastic demand in response to price changes.  However, this AA research adds further to the evidence that suggests that even fuel has now reached it’s limit in terms of quantity demanded remaining firm at it’s market price.

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Ali G and demerit goods

When discussing demerit goods, it is always good to be able to show a few examples. In these youtube clips, Ali G interviews a police superintendent about offensive weapons and a US federal agent about illegal drugs.

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Unit 4 Macro: USA edges closer to naming China as a “Currency Manipulator”

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The U.S came closer to finally calling the Chinese a currency manipulator and retaliating in the new round of protectionism fears. A good summary of the key issues here.

Unit 1 Micro: Producing Coffee - Kenya in Pictures

If you are teaching the economics of commodity prices and coffee in particular - this resource - will appeal strongly to your visual learners! The Guardian Pictures web site has a quite stunning set of photos of Kenyan coffee producers - growers who are hoping that rising world prices will bring respite after years of difficulty including volatile crop yields, poverty prices and incomes and a long term decline in investment.

3 for 2 no more

Monday, October 03, 2011

The book world was shaken this month when it emerged that Waterstone’s, the UK’s largest book chain, is going to ditch its decade-old 3-for-2 offer. Good for A2 micro when discussing firms’ strategies for growth and profit. Read more here.

Unit 4 Macro: Protectionism

Here is an interesting, if slightly challenging, article for the A2 macro economists on protectionism and the state of the global economy in the Telegraph: Protectionism beckons as leaders push world into Depression

Unit 2 Macro: Homework Assignment on Consumer Spending

I have attached below an example of a homework assignment for my Unit 2 macro economic group which focuses on some of the main drivers of consumer demand for goods and services. It is available for free download as a pdf file. Discussion in class will centre on income, wealth, interest rates, confidence and expectations as key determinants. This is a particularly important stage of the economic cycle and there are many influences constraining household demand as we head towards the end of 2011.

AS_Macro_EW_Conusmption.pdf

Unit 1 Micro: Homework Assignment on Market Prices

I have attached below a homework assignment for my Unit 1 AS Micro students on market prices. The assignment focuses on the global markets for coffee and also for steel and is attached below as a pdf file for download if teaching colleagues might like to use and adapt it!

AS_Micro_Market_Prices_EW.pdf

China - helping or hindering economic development in Africa?

Sunday, October 02, 2011

If Africa was a physical battleground between east & west during the cold war of the 20th Century, it can arguably be seen today as the ideological 21st Century battleground between the difference approaches to promoting economic development: the western aid model versus the Chinese trade model. Is the Sino-Africa relationship mutually beneficial? I certainly don’t claim to have a comprehensive answer to this but it has been interesting talking to Africans on my journey so far about their perception of this, particularly in Zambia…

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AS and A2 Macro: Exchange Rates and “Safe Haven” Currencies

This article from the WSJ highlights one determinant of exchange rates that we may not be too familiar with, whether or not a particular currency is regarded as a “safe haven” i.e. if a particluar investor fears that a currency will not hold its immediate or future value, then said investor may choose to exchange it for one which is more likely to.

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Unit 4 Macro: When China Met Africa

Film-makers Marc Francis and Nick Francis won many plaudits and awards for their wonderful documentary Black Gold - uncovering the struggles of coffee farmers in Ethiopia to sustain their businesses against the monopsony power of multinational coffee roasters. They have a new film being released in the UK this autumn - When China met Africa. On the front line of China’s foray into Africa, the lives of a farmer, a road builder, and a trade minister reveal the expanding footprint of a rising global power. Watch the trailer using the link below.

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Economics Resources: Best of Today Podcasts

Friday, September 30, 2011

A hat tip to my fellow blogger Graham Carter for suggesting this handy resource. The BBC web site maintains a regularly-updated selection of podcasts drawing on some of the best stories covered by the Today programme. Here is the link. Dip in once in a while to see if there is an audio-resource connected to relevant business, economic and financial news stories.

Unit 3 Micro: Science Cities and External Economies of Scale

Thursday, September 29, 2011

This feature article from the BBC web site is essentially about the vital importance of high-knowledge industries in sustaining competitiveness and growth in a globalising world. Europe lags behind many emerging countries in terms of the resources devoted to science and technology, research and development and creative industries in particular.

But the article makes reference to the expansion of science cities - knowledge clusters that bring together higher education expertise and entrepreneurial zeal - their number continues to grow from California and Boston in the USA, Cambridge in the UK, Education City in Qatar, Science City in Zurich and Digital Media City in Seoul. All good examples to use of the commercial leverage from external economies of scale in high-tech industries.

Economics at the Movies - Too Big to Fail

A big thank you to my former student Mike Dawes, who recommends the film of the book ‘Too Big to Fail’. The made-for-TV film has recently been shown on Sky Anytime, where you may have caught it, but if not there are some trailers and extracts available here on HBO’s website, as well as a synopsis.

Mike has also found a YouTube extract of a scene in the movie where US Treasury officials (Hank Paulson, Neel Kashkari, Jim Wilkinson) are deciding how to break the news of the AIG bailout in a press release and, in his words “there is a Scooby-Doo style unravelling of the recession which for 2 minutes is possibly one of the best explanations I have heard. They also neatly explain Credit-Default Swaps which is equally simple and may help those who were struggling to understand it.”

Andrew Ross Sorkin’s book which led to the film is available from Amazon’s US store here.

Unit 4 Macro: EU proposes a “Tobin Tax”

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

This morning the EC has proposed a financial tax (akin to a Tobin Tax) although going further to encompass various financial transactions, not just currency ones.

Unsurprisingly, the UK will be hit hardest by this with over 80% of the revenues for this tax (estimated to raise £50 bn a year) to come from London, given its comparative advantage in financial services.

Is this really a feasible concept, in a globalised world, with mobile financial flows and footloose capital?

Cue the drain to U.S for many firms if it becomes a reality?

Bill Nighy appeared in this video last year supporting the idea of a tax on financial transactions.

Greek debt decision tree

Sunday, September 25, 2011

I have been looking for resources to use with my A2 students to investigate the Greek debt crisis, and why it is causing such global concern. So first I am really grateful to find the powerpoint that Geoff has posted to the blog this morning, which sets out the scale of the problem there very clearly. I would like to suggest another resource I have just come across which I think complements the powerpoint quite well - especially to help answer the question “What will happen if the Greeks do default?”. Someone at the BBC has devised a decision tree looking at possible outcomes which depend on how the Greek authorities respond to their “Troika” of lenders - the European Union, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank. The potential outcomes range from a pyrrhic victory in which Greece forces its lenders to write off most of its debts, but bankrupts it’s banks, to global meltdown.

What the decision tree doesn’t include is probablilites for each outcome. That could be the class activity for the week, perhaps.

Unit 4 Macro: Greek Economy at Default’s Door

A2 level economists studying macroeconomics are almost certainly going to be discussing the economics of a Greek government default in the coming days and weeks. Many of the main macro indicators for Greece have been heading in the wrong direction for some time and the country provides a rich opportunity to study the causes and consequences of a fiscal, economic and wider social crisis. I haave put together a slide presentation of ten key macroeconomic charts for Greece. Students and teachers might want to use this (and edit / improve) when discussing events as they occur in the days ahead.

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Unit 2 Macro: Greece on the Brink of Default

AS level economists studying macroeconomics are almost certainly going to be discussing the economics of a Greek government default in the coming days and weeks. Many of the main macro indicators for Greece have been heading in the wrong direction for some time and the country provides a rich opportunity to study the causes and consequences of a fiscal, economic and wider social crisis. I haave put together a slide presentation of ten key macroeconomic charts for Greece. Students and teachers might want to use this (and edit / improve) when discussing events as they occur in the days ahead.

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Unit 4 Macro: IMF Flags up Risks of Double Dip

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Here are some of the salient points from the gloomy World Economic Forecast from the IMF which argues that the global economy has entered a dangerous phase.

The IMF report highlights many of the vulnerabilities facing both developed and emerging economies. In Britain the media is emphasising a sizeable reduction in the forecast rate of growth for the UK for 2011 and 2012. Real GDP in the UK is likely to expand by just 1.1% in 2011 and 1.6% next year and the IMF economists say that there is a one in five chance of a double dip recession.

Weak growth is terrible news for the Chancellor who is hoping for a significant expansion of the private sector to offset fiscal cuts and to meet the targets for fiscal deficit reduction. It is also awful for prospects of a meaningful reduction in unemployment and prospects of tackling the structural issue of very high youth unemployment rates.

Incidentally that risk of a double-dip is thought to be much higher in the United States where the probability of a second recession following a partial recovery is put at 40%.

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Unit 4 Macro: Bangladesh and Comparative Advantage in Textiles

Monday, September 19, 2011

Many thanks to Pete Davies from Greenhead College, Huddersfield for pointing out a stunningly good article on the shift of manufacturing for garments towards the low-labour cost Bangladeshi economy. Read: Bangladeshi apparel gains from China’s rising costs - there is so much in this article about the relative cost differences and the importance of trade in garments for the Bangladesh economy, especially now that the European Union (EU) has allowed duty-free access to Bangladeshi clothes into the single market since the start of 2011.

AS and A2 Macro Teaching - Global Economic Database

Here is a link to what looks like a useful repository of global economic data from Global Finance Magazine. The data includes such topics as M&A, macroeconomics, FDI flows, and income and taxation – with interactive maps and tools that help present the data in a user-friendly format. Follow this link.

Unit 2 Macro: Economic Growth and Inequality

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Not all of the benefits of growth are evenly distributed. A rise in real GDP can often be accompanied by widening income and wealth inequality in society that is reflected in an increase in relative poverty.

“Although economic growth in China has created vast wealth for some, it has amplified the disparities between rich and poor. Although the average wealth per Chinese citizen was $17,126 - almost double that of other high growth economies such as India - median wealth was just $6,327. In 2010, China’s Gini-coefficient stood at 0.47. Inequality in China has now surpassed that in the United States.” Source: Dr Damian Tobin School of Oriental and African Studies

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Unit 4 Macro: Progress towards Millennium Goals

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Centre for Global Development has just released fresh research on the extent of progress towards the Millennium Goals. This is the link to a set of inter-active charts and data available to download in excel format. An ideal site for student-centred research on this key topic.

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Unit 4 Macro: Inequality and Development

The September 2011 edition of the IMF’s Finance & Development magazine focuses on developments in inequality and the impact of the widening gap between rich and poor on development programmes and growth. The headline article is by Branko Milanovic who looks at changes in income inequality over the last twenty-five years. A rich resource for students and teachers wanting updates on this key aspect of globalisation.

Starter Video: The Slums of Manilla

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I have used this remarkable 14 minute report from Paul Mason from BBC Newsnight in both my AS and A2 teaching. It prompts plenty of discussion about housing as a need (and a want) and whether the continued existence and growth of informal settlements (slums) is sustainable and preferable to state spending on slum clearance. Geography students (most of whom will study the economic geography of slums) see many connections with economics. The report is superbly edited and ties in well with lessons on concepts of absolute and relative poverty and the extent to which forces of globalisation are driving millions more poorer people away from rural areas into the slums.

Colleagues with IWBs who want to bring up relevant background information on the economy of the Philippines might want to make use of the Timetric data page for this country. Here is the link.

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A gloomy outlook for the global economy

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Some excellent data and analysis in today’s OECD Interim Economic Assessment.  The overall picture is pretty gloomy - certainly for the US and European economies.  As the press release states;

“Economic recovery appears to have come close to a halt in the major industrialised economies, with falling household and business confidence affecting both world trade and employment, according to new analysis from the OECD”

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Mixing with the Nobel Economists

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Is Europe and the United States facing a decade of very slow growth as their economies struggle to emerge from the global financial crisis? Peter Day’s In Business programme has been attending a conference of some of the world’s top Nobel Prize winning economists to hear their thoughts about approaches to stimulate innovation and growth and take economics as a discipline into new directions

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Economic boom in Brazil

Brazilians who wanted to get on in life used to leave the country to seek their fortune in the richer developed nations. But now that trend is reversing in a big way - the workers are moving back home, and being followed by a reverse wave of movement of people and capital away from the shrinking economies of the US and Europe to the booming, resource rich economy of Brazil.

This article has a number of interesting examples and raises issues such as the extent to which Brazil is likely to over-expand, and so risk a fast upturn followed by equally fast decline through the economic cycle, and the role that their high interest rates will play in avoiding that.

It makes an interesting read, and might just encourage a few to learn Portuguese and take the plunge - with the fabulous climate and geography, abundant resources, and the World Cup coming to Brazil in 2014 followed by the Olympics in 2016, why would you not?

Zondle Game: Currencies of the World

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Here is a ten question quiz using Zondle focusing on currencies around the world.

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Unit 4 Macro: Rising Weight of Emerging Economies

Sunday, August 28, 2011

If you want a short video looking at the rising economic weight and impact of emerging economies there is little better than this 2.30 min video resource published by the Economist

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Slicing up the Apple - globalisation graphic

Monday, August 22, 2011

This lovely graphic from the Economist gives a visual picture of some of the forces of globalisation at play in the manufacture of the iPhone. I was particularly surprised by the contribution to components by Samsung, which is also one of Apple’s main competitors in the Smart Phone market. There are also some useful stats underneath the graphic which would be great in a lesson where concentration ratios and market structures are being introduced.

Slicing up the Apple - globalisation graphic

This lovely graphic from the Economist gives a visual picture of some of the forces of globalisation at play in the manufacture of the iPhone. I was particularly surprised by the contribution to components by Samsung, which is also one of Apple’s main competitors in the Smart Phone market. There are also some useful stats underneath the graphic which would be great in a lesson where concentration ratios and market structures are being introduced.

Unit 4 Macro: Baltic Dry Index and Global Weakening

Friday, August 19, 2011

A few years ago the sky-high level of the Baltic Dry Index was widely quoted as a sign of the surge in global trade and the rising cost of shipping products across the world. The index is back in the news today but for more pessimistic reasons; a steep decline in the index is being taken as a harbinger of weaker demand and activity in the world economy.

The Baltic Dry Index is a shipping and trade index created by the London-based Baltic Exchange that measures changes in the cost to transport raw materials such as metals and grainby sea. The Baltic Exchange directly contacts shipping brokers to assess price levels for a given route, product to transport and time to delivery (speed).

The fall in the Dry Index also reflects a huge rise in shipping capacity - the world supply of ships of all sizes has consistently outstripped demand - and this excess supply has driven down freight shipping rates.

In this BBC news video Economic slump hits global shipping trade we see how excess supply capacity is affecting the world freight industry

Unit 4 Macro: GDP per person since the credit crunch

The Economist has a tremendous charts available here showing what has happened to GDP per person employed since the Global Financial Crisis hit in 2007. The range of outcomes is huge with countries such as China, India, Indonesia and Poland achieving solid gains (indeed Poland was one of the few EU countries to avoid recession) whilst the PIIGS including Greece, Ireland and Italy have suffered badly. The UK is not immune too as the chart makes clear.

The chart would make for a terrific discussion among students starting their Unit 4 course and could also be used as a teaching resource for students new to macroeconomics - not least in prompting discussion of the meaning and measurement of GDP and the concept of the economic cycle.

The Euro Crisis - Time for a Song

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

As we enter a period of significant uncertainty and danger for the global economy, let’s pause to enjoy this musical interlude inspired by the crisis gripping the euro zone…

Beyond the Bike - Stuart’s Epic Economic Cycle

Sunday, July 17, 2011

image

Stuart Block, an economics teacher at Cranleigh School and tutor2u presenter/blogger is just days away from a cycle of a lifetime. He is making final preparations to cycle from Cape Town to London over the course of the next year. It will be a fantastic journey and at tutor2u we’re excited to be partnering Stuart and his team as they write about their experiences on the road and with many different communities.

Here are some important links to follow:

Beyond the Bike - the main web page for Stuart’s expedition including links to fund-raising projects

The Economic Cycle -  this is a blog that will be aimed at A-level & undergraduate students and teachers and aims to explore some of the fundamental economics principles that underlie the everyday actions of societies that Stuart will be passing through, ranging from the most basic Africa market operating outside of the formal economy to high level international policymaking. An ongoing theme will be exploring the role that education plays in economic development. Look out for an RES essay competition title on this crucial issue when the essay titles are released later on in the autumn.

Watch out for the main weekly blog which will be sent out to colleagues via our regular teacher newsletter.

Fans of Twitter might like to follow Stuart here. And there is also an open group on Facebook - click here

The whole of the tutor2u team send their very best wishes to Stuart as he embarks on his journey!

Zondle Game: 12 Question Quiz about World in Figures

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Drawing on some of the data contained in the latest Economist “Pocket World in Figures, 2011 edition” I have put together this twelve question zondle multiple choice quiz. Have a go!

What might happen on August 2nd?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Well- it’s the day the United States might go bankrupt! Read on to find out more and for links to some useful resources to aid a class discussion of this fascinating topic.

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Free event at the LSE - Keynes vs Hayek

Monday, July 04, 2011

A new event for Tuesday 26th July has been added to the LSE listing today, which is a debate to be chaired by Paul Mason, economics editor of BBC 2’s Newsnight (and author of Meltdown: The End of the Age of Greed) and recorded by BBC Radio 4 for broadcast later on 3rd August. Billed as a debate between modern day followers of the sharply contrasting ideas of Keynes and Hayek, one of the speakers will be Robert Skidelsky, Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick, with others to be confirmed. Entry is free, and no tickets are required as it will be first-come-first-served.

Global Economy: Increased risk of future shocks

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A new OECD report on the risks of external shocks to the global economy looks like being really useful for teachers preparing fresh materials for their courses. “The interconnectedness of the global economy makes it more vulnerable to major shocks…...these shocks include cyber attacks, pandemics, geomagnetic storms, social unrest and financial crises.” The report can be downloaded here.

China: The End of Cheap Labour

China’s unit labour cost advantage in high-volume manufacturing is being eroded at a faster rate according to this feature piece from Time Magazine. “The average manufacturing wage in China is still only about $3.10 an hour, (compared with $22.30 in the U.S.), though in the eastern part of the country, it’s up to 50% more than that.”  There are strong economic, social and political pressures for wages to rise and as they do this will have hugely significant demand and supply-side effects on their economy, for example accelerating the pressure for China to invest more in new technologies and product and process innovation to move higher up the value chain and become less dependent on supplying cheaper products to the rest of the world. My recent China Economics Revision Note focuses on some of these issues.

Development Economics - Emerging Africa

Emerging Africa: This new briefing document from the Center for Global Development looks at how 17 African economies are leading the way towards stronger and more durable development. A hat tip to John Wilson from New Zealand for flagging up the resource via his Twitter account. John can be found here: @mixedeconomies

AS Micro: Fears over a century of hunger

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Nigel Cassidy reports in this video from BBC news on fears that the world faces “a century of hunger” if the international community cannot agree on new rules regarding food prices. Food security is a hugely important global economic, political and social issue and one of the best resources for keeping up to speed on this is the Guardian’s dedicated page of articles. Here is the link. Check the links at the bottom of the blog for past articles on this topic.

UK firms wake up to Brazilian opportunities

As Nick Clegg makes his delayed visit to Brazil this week, with the aim of doubling UK exports to this fast-growing economy, the UK’s former Consul-General in Sao Paolo has written an interesting piece for the BBC’s website. As Martin Raven points out, British business has taken a long time to take Brazil seriously, and this high-level visit replaces one that was due to take place in February but cancelled at less than a week’s notice because of the debate in the House of Commons over the AV referendum - which can hardly have helped. As a result, he says, the UK has fallen behind other countries investment into the Brazilian economy and “there are now more international German companies in Sao Paulo alone than in any individual city in Germany.”

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Oceans at grave risk

Monday, June 20, 2011

The tragedy of the commons and the grave consequences for the state of marine ecology are highlighted in this new report. Covered with passion in this blog. Climate change, pollution and over-fishing are two fundamental problems for the oceans. More details here from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) website.

The report identifies a number of important policy approaches to tackle the problems - The scientists say that the ‘precautionary principle’ must be used in terms of oceanic impacts, in other society shouldn’t don’t proceed with activities unless they are proven to be largely safe for marine ecosystems.  And they argue for much stringer use of property rights by widening the size of international marines of the sea.

TED Talk: Jeremy Jackson: How we wrecked the ocean

 

Six Global Trends Shaping Business Strategy

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

This is a cross posting from the Business Studies blog because it strikes me as being SO useful for A2 students in particular as they look to include synoptic arguments and ideas into the evaluation this June. This new report by consultants Ernst & Young is a pinch of gold dust for such students, as it examines in a reasonably accessible way six broad, long-term developments which shape business around the globe.

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Economics of Tourism in Kenya

Friday, June 10, 2011

Anthony Meacham has spotted this resource from BBC3. Last night on BBC3 there was a good programme on the economics of tourism in Kenya. Available on IPlayer using this link: Tourism and the Truth: Stacey Dooley Investigates Kenya See also this report from David Shukam (Oct 2010) Placing a value on Kenya’s largest forest This clip is also relevant from the BBC Learning Zone (Oct 2009)

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Poor Economics - Esther Duflo at the LSE

Friday, June 03, 2011

A summery hat tip to Jon Andrews from St Paul’s School for heading to the LSE this week and providing us with some personal reflections on the Esther Duflo lecture there.

Teaching in the capital has its benefits; a notable one of these being the accessibility of a fantastic array of public lectures. The LSE public lecture programme provides an excellent opportunity to hear speakers on various topics from various backgrounds, some very relevant to the A level course. Last night the LSE hosted Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo who came to discuss their book ‘Poor Economics’. Professor Banerjee is currently the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at MIT and Professor Duflo, also from MIT, is Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Poverty Alleviation and Development Economics. Both are highly influential, Duflo having been included within Fortune magazine’s ‘forty under forty’.

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A2 Macro: Revealed Advantage

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Tim Harford’s piece in the New York Times today is a stunning visualisation of what economists term revealed competitive advantage - if you have a few moments please do read through it - superb for understanding the inter-connections between trade performance and structural changes in output, jobs and investment.

“Economies change in structure over time, moving from simpler goods to scarcer, more valuable ones. Countries rarely make radical structural changes. Instead, they generate capabilities gradually, and new industries usually develop from existing ones. Unfortunately, some industries — oil extraction, say, or fishing — do not naturally lead to anything new without a huge leap.”

Here is the link to the article

Government boost for UK trade

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

“The only way”, says William Hague, “to increase our national prosperity and secure our growth for our economy, is through trade, and our Embassies play a vital role in supporting British business.” Therefore the Foreign Office announced today that they are opening five new Embassies and many Consulates, from China and India to El Salvador and South Sudan. This two minute clip from the Foreign Secretary’s speech to the House of Commons today could make a good lesson starter for a revision session on trade, the capital account, comparative advantage, government intervention for competitive advantage, and so on.

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