Get Summer 2014 Right First Time with tutor2u Exam Coaching & Revision Workshops
A mega merger is creating the world’s largest banana company - it has been announced that Chiquita of the USA and Dublin-based Fyffes will be merging to form a giant banana distribution company.read more...»
Regulation of prices through price capping has been a feature of regulation of the utilities in the UK for many years – although this is now being phased out as most utility markets have become more competitive.
Price capping systems
- Price capping is an alternative to rate-of-return regulation, in which utility businesses are allowed to achieve a given rate of return (or rate of profit) on capital.
- In the UK, price capping has been known as "RPI-X". This takes the rate of inflation, measured by the Consumer Price Index and subtracts expected efficiency savings X. So for example, if inflation is 5% and X is 3% then an industry can raise their prices on average by only 2% per year
- In the water industry, the formula is "RPI - X + K", where K is based on capital investment requirements designed to improve water quality and meet EU water quality standards. This has meant increases in the real cost of water bills for millions of households in the UK.
Capping is an appropriate way to curtail the monopoly power of “natural monopolies” – preventing them from making excessive profits at the expense of consumers
Cuts in the real price levels are good for household and industrial consumers (leading to an increase in consumer surplus and higher real living standards in the long run).
Price capping helps to stimulate improvements in productive efficiency because lower costs are needed to increase a producer’s profits.
- The price capping system is a tool for controlling consumer price inflation in the UK.
Price caps have led to large numbers of job losses in the utility industries
Setting different price capping regimes for each industry distorts the price mechanismread more...»
The UK’s biggest companies remain biased when appointing women to their boards, according to new research by Dr Ian Gregory-Smith and colleagues, published in the February 2014 issue of the Economic Journalread more...»
Despite public calls for shareholders to get tough on executive pay, a new study of the UK’s highest paid company directors reveals that shareholders are overwhelmingly inclined to approve the pay packets of top directors, just as they were before the crisisread more...»
Did you know that most train operating companies will refund 50% of your ticket for a delay of 30 minutes or more, and will double that if the delay is for an hour or longer? And that, if you are travelling by tube, Transport for London offers refunds if your journey is delayed by 15 minutes or more (although you won't get a refund if the delay is caused by a security alert, "third party action" such as a strike or bad weather)? Most probably you didn't, as a survey by the Office of Rail Regulation has found that more than 75% of rail passengers know "not very much" or "nothing at all" about what they are entitled to when services are disrupted.
The report also found that 74% of passengers felt that train companies do "not very much" or "nothing at all" to proactively provide information about compensation when there are delays. As Simon Gompertz found in this video report, there are plenty of ways in which the train operating companies could make the information available, whether through instructions on the back of the tickets and announcements on trains to apps.read more...»
In a bold move in the continuing battle between Facebook and Google to dominate the next phase of digital / mobile growth, Mark Zuckerberg's listed business has agreed an £11bn acquisition of WhatsApp - a deal to be paid in a combination of cash and shares.
The total value of the deal is staggering high for a business that employs just over 50 people.
- The price Facebook is paying for WhatsApp is more than ten times what Google spent on YouTube
- It is more than 20 times what Facebook paid for Instagram
- The $19bn paid for WhatsApp works out at $40 for each of its 450m users!
- The $19bn deal to buy WhatsApp is more than 10% of the annual value of Ukranian GDP
What are some of the justifications for such a mega-priced deal?read more...»
These slides are from our January 2014 revision workshops for unit 3 microeconomics. They focus on some of the arguments surrounding the possible introduction of a £7 per hour national minimum wage in the UKread more...»
This is an updated revision presentation on aspects of monopolistic competition in marketsread more...»
Boris Johnson, The Mayor of London, has been happy to extend the use of bicycles in London; and the pattern of use has thrown up some interesting points. There were 7.4 million cycle hire trips last year but an estimated 71% of cycling use was by men. Most of these journeys would have been made on foot (31%) or by public transport (47%). Coverage of the study published in the BMJ looked at the health effects is found here.. The notes in the article, provide good examples of the strengths and weaknesses of cost benefit analysis.read more...»
According to a report published by the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, the Government are currently underestimating how many students will actually pay back their university loans over the coming decades. Currently, the Government estimates that between 35 and 40% of loans to Higher Education students are never paid back - the Committee believes that the rate on non-repayment is much higher and reflects a weakness in the loan collection method. The primary reason for non-repayment is that student details get lost over a period of time particularly if the graduate moves and works abroad or was an EU citizen who has returned to their own country. The method of using the income tax registration process as a way of locating former students has been criticized for not being an effective method of collecting information. It is estimated that the shortfall could be as much as £80 million by 2042.read more...»
Are you teaching transport / airline economics? The newly released 2013 IATA data resource might be useful - http://www.iata.org/publications/economics/Documents/passenger-analysis-dec2013.pdf
Globally there was a 5.2% increase in passenger demand compared to 2012. The 2013 performance aligns with the average annual growth rate of the past 30 years. Capacity rose 4.8% and load factor averaged 79.5% up 0.4 percentage points over 2012.
The market for in-flight wifi is dominated by one service provider and tends to be slow and expensive. This article provides some background. It is an interesting example to think about when considering the different types of economic efficiency i.e. allocative, productive and dynamic. Less than 10% of airline users take up the wifi offer! Consider reasons for this that go beyond the high price! When was the last time you either used or wanted to use wifi on a flight?
If you attended the recent tutor2u revision conferences for up-coming micro-economic exams (look out for the macro workshops and combined micro and macro to come in March) you will have seen how fuel-pricing was used as an example of market failure, government intervention strategies and government failure.
Fortunately, the energy market is a gift that keeps giving to us in the economics world (every cloud has a silver lining) as a report out today (see this link for the BBC version of the story) indicates that Parliament is about to intervene to try and stop the energy companies charging more to customers who pay by cash rather than by direct debit (£114 per year, according to the report).read more...»
Here is a really well produced and clear visual explanation of the Hotelling model of spatial location. As two competitive cousins vie for ice-cream-selling domination on one small beach, discover how game theory and the Nash Equilibrium inform these retail hot-spots. A good short video to use when teaching or learning about game theory.
For more ....Tutor2u's Introduction to Game Theoryread more...»
The cost of a thirty second advertising slot at the annual Superbowl final is immense. This year advertisers are paying $4 million dollars for a 30 second advertisement during America's largest televised event. But big hits on the social web often produced at a tiny fraction of the cost challenge the conventional view that mega bucks spent reaching a TV audience remains a viable way of using the marketing dollars. This short news video from the Financial Times is a useful reminder of the importance attached to brand advertising by some of America's biggest consumer products.read more...»
Here is an updated revision presentation on aspects of perfect competition - A2 economics revision notes can be found hereread more...»
Here are ten multiple choice revision questions covering the topic business objectivesread more...»
Here are ten multiple choice revision questions covering the topic contestable marketsread more...»
Here are ten multiple choice revision questions covering the topic economic efficiencyread more...»
Here is an updated revision presentation on satisficing as an alternative to profit maximisation and also some of the factors affecting the profitability of a business such as Stagecoach plc - A2 economics revision notes can be found hereread more...»
It was announced yesterday that the Government is planning to abandon its use of expensive software such as Microsoft Office (see article in the Guardian here) partly as a way of reducing costs but also as a means of breaking some of the software company's 'oligopolistic' stranglehold on the market.
As well as offering an example of Government policy to combat market failure, this story gives us a little insight into the issue of contestability in the software industry.read more...»
So farewell, then, Facebook! That is the conclusion of a highly technical paper by two Princeton researchers, John Cannarella and Joshua Spechler, which received a lot of publicity in the press last week. The authors conclude that “Facebook will undergo a rapid decline in the coming years, losing 80 per cent of its peak user base between 2015 and 2017”.read more...»
Here is an updated revision presentation on short run revenues and profits for businesses - A2 economics revision notes can be found hereread more...»
Here is an updated revision presentation on short run costs for businesses - A2 economics revision notes can be found hereread more...»
Here is an updated revision presentation on fixed and variable costs for businesses - A2 economics revision notes can be found hereread more...»
Capping seems to be all the rage at the moment. We read of capping electricity and gas prices, capping welfare payments for families ... and now a proposed cap on bonuses for bankers is being put forward by the EU and by the Labour Party.
In this article, Tim Harford cuts to the chase and highlights the contradictions in the EU blanket policy on capping bankers' bonuses. It is a good example of a policy where the unintended consequences include the probably that banking salaries would rise still further.
Under the EU proposal, a cap on rewards would limit payouts to banking executives to annual pay - or twice that only if shareholders approve.
BBC Hard Talk: Adair Turner on the effect of a bonus cap on bank salariesread more...»
Saudi Arabia’s position as one of the largest players in the global oil market, producing more than a tenth of the world’s output and owning a quarter of the world’s proven reserves, has negative effects on other market participants. Writing in the Economic Journal, Anton Nakov and Galo Nuño document two features that have made the Kingdom different from other oil producers:read more...»
Here is a beautifully crafted essayby leading economist John Kay on the dangers of an academic obsession with rigour and consistency in developing economic models. "Economics is not a technique in search of problems but a set of problems in need of solution. Such problems are varied and the solutions will inevitably be eclectic." He argues for a move away from formulating models that can simply run on a computer and towards "more eclectic analysis ....requiring an understanding of processes of belief formation, anthropology, psychology and organisational behaviour, and meticulous observation of what people, businesses, and governments actually do."
A rather wonderful piece that will excite many ambitious student economists keen to approach our fantastic subject in a non-linear and often contrarian way. Enjoy!
What type of business integration is happening here? The announcement of Google's takeover of smart home-appliance maker Nest for $3.2bn is potentially hugely significant for Google.read more...»
Here is a great overview from the Economist of some of the ideas behind lean start-ups and the shift in focus towards frequent / hi-speed reaction to customer feedback as minimum viable products are launched into the market-place. Conventional views of entrepreneurs are evolving fast but they still need to have that driving energy and a willingness to challenge orthodoxy! The Eric Ries book - The Lean Entrepreneur - is given extensive mentions here and rightly so.
The pharmaceutical (medicines) industry poses interesting questions for economists.read more...»
Here are 12 questions (type the answer) on aspects of market structures for unit 3 economicsread more...»
Proposing Government intervention strategies for dealing with externality market failure is a common enough exam question. Many of my students will concentrate on the use of indirect taxation, subsidies, pollution permits or regulation as a method of reducing consumption - often forgetting that the Government can use good, old-fashioned advice as a way of altering purchasing patterns.read more...»
Here are some examples of changes in the nature of non-price competition in the oligopolistic supermarket industry. The success of the My Waitrose card (now used by 3 million customers) has catapulted Waitrose into 2nd place for the largest retailer of hot tea and coffee drinks in the UK. They are now second only to McDonald's and some distance ahead of Costa, Starbucks and other well-known high street brands.read more...»
Volume car production has been surging in recent years in many Eastern European countries - this FT news video provides some of the background and offers some revealing insights into the complex sources of competitive advantage in a key industrial sector.
The vehicles that roll off the production line at the Czech company's state-of-the-art car plant near Prague now outstrip many western rivals not only on cost but on reliability and finish too.read more...»
Peter Marsh, formerly the manufacturing editor of the Financial Times, has let me know of the imminent launch of an unusual and interesting photographic project linked to the world of manufacturing. It's an exhibition of pictures of UK manufacturing operations taken by some of the world's top photographers and which will tour Britain from the end of January to September next year.read more...»
Event cinema is set to become big business both in fully digital cinemas in the UK. Cinemas that have invested in the very best digital screening technology can now harness their capacity to run non-conventional programming including live theatre, multi-player gaming and screening of live sporting events.
Tim Richards from Vue Cinemas (one of Tutor2u's major commercial partners) is interviewed here by the Economist about the opportunities of event cinema to serve a more diverse audience and leverage the assets of a cinema to improve profitability.
Vue has certainly been in the forefront of making huge investments in fully digital projection on huge screens - this is just one of the reasons we love hosting live Tutor2u events in some of the top Vue facilities in the UK.
Watch the six minute interview and consider some of the non-price factors that are important in winning the battle for market share in the cinema industry and in broadening the appeal of cinemas to a wider range of audiences and tastes.read more...»
Most first year Economics students consider government intervention and government failure as key topics in their introductory microeconomics course. Finding compelling examples of state blunders is not that difficult but understanding how the complexity of the government apparatus lies behind failures of project and policy requires digging deeper.read more...»
The contrasting reactions to Vince Cable's announcement that the Government is launching a consultation on zero hours contracts but will not ban them because they offer "welcome flexibility" for some workers, offer some good opportunity for stakeholder analysis. The report linked here summarises the government's analysis of the advantages and disadvantages, emphasising the benefits of flexibility for both employers and workers, but also the need to ensure fairness and transparency in the labour market. Here you have the differing viewpoints of employers, from the Institute of Directors andread more...»
You may have seen news reports today about the Competition Commission announcing that it will continue its investigation into the car insurance market having decided that there are concerns to be addressed. The headlines concentrate on the market failure caused by the current system of non-fault claimants organising their own replacement vehicles (and then charging the at-fault insurers) but I thought it was just as interesting that the CC are looking at the relationship between the insurers and price comparison websites.read more...»
Calling all previous delegates of our Wow Economics CPD events! If you attended Wow Economics last academic year (2012-2013) you may recall an activity called 'The Average Wage Game'. If you have attended this academic year I'm sure you will remember the activity 'The Value of Occupations'. Both resources were aimed at introducing or stimulating initial discussion about wage determination before moving on to developing the theory behind Marginal Revenue Product and its value.
Both activities relied upon data relating to UK wage rates by occupation. This data was based upon information taken from what was the latest ONS report on wages in the UK (November 2012). I said, at the time, that when the data was updated I would forward information for both games so that teachers can update them accordingly. This information is now here and ready for you to download!read more...»
With London’s Victorian sewage system struggling to cope, the 25km Thames Tideway tunnel is intended to boost capacity. But the £4.2bn Super Sewer project has run into considerable and vocal opposition. London's main sewers are over 150 years old and built for a city for 2.5 million people. The population of London is now over 8 million and when heavy rainfall arrives, there are frequent and sizeable discharges of raw sewage into the river Thames. 39 million tonnes of untreated sewage flushes into the Thames in a typical year - that’s enough to fill the Royal Albert Hall 450 times. The sewage discharges puts the UK in breach of the EU Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive.
Critics of Thames Water argue that they have under spent on sewage system maintenance over the years despite recording persistently high profits. Thames Water announced £150 million profits in 2012.
Residents around the 21 proposed construction sites have protested about the externalities connected to the project. Other opponents argue that the money would be better spent on cheaper sustainable urban drainage techniques.
Future generations will benefit but today's water users will pay most of the construction cost with higher water bills imminent for a number of years to come. The Thames Water proposes adding £70 to £80 a year indefinitely to the average bill of Londoners to fund the 16-mile sewer from Acton in west London to Abbey Mills in east London. But a report by Bloomberg New Energy Finance calculates that the tunnel could be built for between £30 and £35 per household per yearread more...»
The phrase ‘industrial policy’ seems to take us decades back in time. In 1964, a powerful catchphrase of the new Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, was the need for Britain to embrace the ‘white heat of the technological revolution’. Sadly, by the 1970s this vision had deteriorated into a list of institutions, stuffed with dull businessmen and trade unionists, meeting to decide how to prop up yet another failed sector of the UK economy.
But the concept is now back in vogue. Perhaps surprisingly, given the historical experience, the coalition chose to preserve Labour’s Technology Strategy Board (TSB) quango. The TSB has a budget of £400 million to “accelerate UK economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation”. A key way in which it plans to do this is through the purchasing decisions of the public sector.read more...»
Boris Johnson has got into trouble for his statement that it is "surely relevant to a conversation about equality" that just 2 per cent of “our species” has an IQ over 130. Over the past couple of years, the Occupy movement has made headlines by attacking the top 1 per cent.
The summer 2013 edition of the top American Journal of Economic Perspectives focuses specifically on the “Top 1 Per Cent”. This is written almost exclusively in English rather than maths, and top economists debate a range of intriguing questions.read more...»
Hopefully the UK economy will turn a corner in 2014 and return to robust growth and good health, raising living standards for some of the poorest people in the UK. It would be very odd if you hadn't reflected on the plight of the poor in the UK over the last few years, and in the build up to Christmas.
Much discussion of poverty in Economics is of a normative nature. What do we mean by poverty anyway? Isn't it all just a matter of opinion? Is poverty a lifestyle choice, picked up by people who have been given the wrong incentives by the welfare system? Perhaps it's the fault of immigrants, or greedy business, or dishonest politicians.....
Some relatively impartial data would be very welcome in this very heated debate.read more...»
The release of two major new iterations of games console including the PS4 is an opportune moment to take stock of the transformation of the oligopolistic computer gaming industry into one whose revenues now exceed films and where social gaming, connectivity and collaboration are features of an industry where dynamic efficiency is crucial. Paul Mason from Channel 4 news reports in this short clip.read more...»
Price fixing and bid rigging by groups of firms in Europe are not solely the preserve of highly concentrated industries. According to research by Professor Stephan Davies and Dr Oindrila De, even industries with relatively large numbers of firms feature such anti-competitive practices – and they typically have a ‘ringleader’, which organises and enforces the cartel. Their study, published in the November 2013 issue of the Economic Journal, finds that roughly a quarter of the 89 cartels detected by the European Commission over the past two decades have a ringleader or ringleaders. In cartels with relatively large numbers of firms, the ringleader tends to be the dominant firm, acting aggressively to set prices and ensure that smaller firms fall in line.read more...»
I don’t know the answer to the question I've just posed, but I think the recent news about RBS raises some interesting issues about the perceived zombie problem in the UK economy.read more...»
The Tutor2u slideshare channel has just notched up over a million hits and we continue to add new resources each week. Here is the link to the site.