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UK rail privitisation and franchising

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Has the UK's rail privatisation been a success or failure? This clip, taken from the BBC Daily Politics show last year in 2013 gives students a really good example of the pro and con debate of privatisation of the railways - this especially helps with teaching of the F584 OCR Transport Module. The really good thing about this clip is the fact that it also includes quite a bit of detail on franchising. A good plenary to this lesson would be to show the clip from EconPlusDal on privatisation, also attached below.

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Using twitter in the Economics Classroom to enhance teaching and learning

Last week the University of Worcester hosted a Teach Meet event in the West Midlands. I gave a nano presentation (3 mins) on the use of twitter for teaching and learning. The resources I used are attached below.

I ask all students to follow the Departmental Twitter page and then once a week they must complete one of the extension tasks. The best way for them to do this is usually by using the search function of the hashtag #f581 (for example, this is the name of the OCR Microeconomics Module my students sit) or likewise #f584 (for OCR Transport Economics) but of course, this applies to IB SL and Hl, as well as Pre-U, AQA, Edexcel and other boards.

Each week I check my students folders, ensuring they have completed the extension work - I find this helps them with the application of theory to real life economic situations, as well as providing some stretch and challenge for the most able. Of course, they do not have to use twitter for this. All my students have the Economist and the Espresso Economist app on their smart phone, as well as the BBC news to name but a few. They are allowed to use any source of reading they chose - but most chose the twitter source as the # search function makes their life a little easier.

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The risk of a carbon ‘bubble’

Don’t worry about all the world’s fossil fuels running out. The graphic above suggests that we can’t run the risk of burning all the fuel that we know we have anyway! But if that’s true, then what are all those fossil fuel reserves worth?

According to the Guardian, the concept of a “carbon bubble” has gained rapid recognition since 2013, and is being taken increasingly seriously by some major financial companies. The concern is that if the world’s governments meet their agreed target of limiting global warming to 2C by cutting carbon emissions, then about two-thirds of proven coal, oil and gas reserves cannot be burned. With fossil fuel companies being among the largest in the world, sharp losses in their value could prompt a stock market crash and a new economic crisis.

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One of my favourite sources of Economics is that of mjm foodie. This US style video series teaches some basic concepts of Economics (suitable for IB, AS and A2) in a clear and concise way. Although far from being suitable for stretch and challenge, these videos really do cement understanding for your weaker students. I use them as a starter/plenary to lessons and most importantly, students enjoy them. Some other revision/class notes on regulation can be found here.

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Tuesday, December 02, 2014

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Economics Questions and Calculations for Oxbridge Candidates

These two resources, adapted from various books and websites are great practise for your Oxbridge students this and next week as they prepare for their interviews.



Teaching Economics After the Crash

Teaching Economics After The Crash: Radio 4

"At universities from Glasgow to Kolkata, economics students are fighting their tutors over how to teach the subject in the wake of the crash. The Guardian's senior economics commentator, Aditya Chakrabortty, reports from the frontline of this most unusual and important academic war.

The banking crash plunged economies around the world into crisis - but it also created questions for economics itself. Even the Queen asked why hardly any economists saw the meltdown coming. Yet economics graduates still roll out of exam halls and off to government departments or the City with much the same toolkit that, just five years ago, produced a massive crash.

Now economics students around the world are demanding a radical change of course. In a manifesto signed by 65 university economics associations from over 30 different countries, students decry a 'dramatic narrowing of the curriculum' that they say prefers algebra to the real world and teaches them there's only one way to run an economy.

As fights go, this one is desperately ill-matched - in one corner, young people fighting to change what they're taught; in the other, the academics who've built careers researching and teaching the subject. Yet the outcome matters to all of us, as it is a battle over the ideas that underpin how we run our economies.

Aditya meets the students leading arguing for a rethink of economics. He also talks to major figures from the worlds of economics and finance, including George Soros, the Bank of England's chief economist Andy Haldane, and Cambridge author Ha-Joon Chang."

Listen to it here. 

Coursera module: Behavioural Economics

Monday, December 01, 2014

Colleagues who have used Coursera [] may have noticed there are some new options available in economics. Some are at undergraduate level but others aim to provide a short introduction to new areas of thinking.

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Teaching resource to introduce budget cuts to Local Government Spending

If you're looking at government intervention to correct market failure then you may find this 5 minute resource of value.  Using statistics compiled from Professor Tony Travers of the LSE, highlighted in this article, it asks students to predict which local government budget areas will see the largest cuts by 2018.

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Some more WoW from WoW delegates: Gapminder and Memrise

Sunday, November 30, 2014

WoW economics training days these past few weeks have been a great way to swap ideas with teachers of economics, both new and experienced. One of the beauties of such events is being able to network with colleagues who've used less well known online resources available to support us economics teachers.

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In praise of short termism

Saturday, November 29, 2014

The often used quote from Keynes (‘in the long run we’re all dead’) is usually invoked to attack the view that if we wait long enough, things will get back to normal (i.e. markets will equilibrate). The problem is, we might be waiting a long time. Action may well be needed to speed things along.

But the widespread view is that it’s always best to be planning for the long term. Conventional wisdom says that firms that focus on the short term are misguided. Yet a recent article has received attention because it argues that a short term world view isn’t always so unwise.

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Who owns Britain

Friday, November 28, 2014

Who owns Britain? A very informative programme on ITV last night, useful for both analysing FDI and foreign mergers and takeovers. It is on ITV player for 30 days. See here

Some of our best loved British brands, including HP Sauce, Heathrow Airport and Cadbury are now foreign owned.

A third of the UK's infrastructure including energy and transport is owned overseas.

And of the top British quoted companies in the UK, more than half the investment in those companies is by foreign investors.

Some argue that it is vital for our jobs and wages that Britain remains such an attractive place for foreign investment.

Others are concerned that we have given up control of the country's "crown jewels". 4 of the UK’s so called “big six” energy suppliers are foreign owned, including the state owned French firm EDF...

Is Globalisation making a comeback?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Globalisation ebbs and flows. There has been remembrance of the events of a century ago, when a rising tide of globalisation suffered a colossal retreat. Many observers watching the aftermath of the world crash of 2008 feared the same. Suddenly the headlines about the world becoming ‘flatter’ and more interconnected gave way to talk of fragmented financial markets, stalled trade talks and growing popular nationalism. Some economists have predicted another era of “deglobalisation”. 

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Teacher Vacancy: Eastbourne College

Teacher of Economics vacancy for September 2015 at Eastbourne College

The College seeks to appoint an inspirational and energetic, full-time Teacher of Economics to start September 2015.

The position would suit an NQT, an experienced teacher wanting to put his or her experience to use in a different context, someone returning to teaching, or a high calibre graduate without a formal teaching qualification but with the right skills and vision to inspire and motivate young people.

The successful applicant will be able to teach both AS and A-level Economics to eager and enthusiastic pupils in the Sixth Form. The successful applicant will be expected to share their passion for Economics by offering enrichment opportunities to pupils outside the taught specification.

The right person will have a marvellous opportunity to work in a stimulating environment, where resources, buildings, colleagues and pupils all strengthen the process of teaching and learning.

There is the possibility to teach Business Studies and/or Politics alongside.

To apply, please contact J Gilbert ( for a job application pack.

Teaching A level Economics in the 1990s: Ideas for the new spec?

In 1992 scissors were still a valuable tool [cutting edge?] to take newspaper articles from the broadsheets and Pritt Stick them onto a piece of clean A4. Some teachers wrote questions underneath these in biro, others saved them on floppy discs that fitted into the new generation of electric typewriters that were recommended on your PGCE course… Some lucky staff had computers that ran 'Exchequer' by David Atherton from Winstanley College- a programme that helped test your economics maths through topics such as exchange rates and the balance of payments.  There was even a board game based on the soon-to-be Euro Project...

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Seeing as the sun does - sunscreen and information failure

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sometimes teaching economics puts us in a very privileged position to influence students lives in a positive way. After a discussion of the theory and a brilliant graphical analysis of merit and demerit goods, it is likely that I can overcome any information failure on the students behalf and see dramatic increases in the consumption of healthy foods and a swearing off drugs and excessive alcohol intake for life.

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The Poo Bus

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Apologies, but I can't resist the prospect of using this story about a new solution to the market failure of pollution: an eco-friendly bus which has just gone into service to transport people between Bath and Bristol Airport.

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Vacancy: Head of Economics, Oundle School

A fantastic opportunity for a current or aspiring Head of Department:

Head of Economics, Oundle School

A dynamic leader, manager and teacher is required for September 2015 to run a lively and highly successful department - Economics is flourishing at the School, with over 100 pupils studying the subject in the Sixth Form. Oundle School is currently the reigning National Champion of the Bank of England Target 2.0 Challenge, with academic results well above the school average - in 2014, 48% of economics pupils achieved an A* (A*/A: 73%). 

The successful candidate will be a well-qualified graduate and an experienced teacher.
The successful candidate will also be expected to contribute to the thriving extra-curricular life of the School.

Accommodation may be available.

An application pack and job description can be downloaded from our website
Contact Mo Tanweer at for more information.

Closing date for applications: Friday 5 December 2014
Interview date:Thursday 8 January 2015

OECD calls for Indian structural economic reforms

A new report from the OECD focuses on the supply-side (structural) reforms that economists from the OECD believe to be necessary to sustain economic growth and development in India. the report summary can be found here and will be useful students focusing on India as part of their contextual studies on development.

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How well does my job pay?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The ONS published the Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings today, which contains some very useful data. For the first time, they have produced an interactive tool to help explore some of the new figures. It graphically illustrates the occupations with the highest and lowest earnings, allows the user to see which occupations have similar salaries, and incorporates a couple of quick quizzes comparing. It would look good on a whiteboard as an introduction to Labour Markets and some of the issues around gender pay gaps, different pay rates for different occupations and elasticity of supply of labour.

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Was the Rosetta comet landing mission worth the cost?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

One of the jobs of an economist is to ask this question daily. What else might these resources have been spent on? This concept is known as opportunity cost.

Perhaps the mission can be justified in cost/benefit terms. But maybe it shouldn’t have to.

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Is Batman a good economist?

We all know Batman, the superhero alter-ego of Bruce Wayne. Mr Wayne is the heir to a huge fortune which he uses in his quest to catch the crooks of Gotham City. But could Bruce use a few economics lessons? Is he making best use of resources? Might he achieve more if he put his resources into other uses?

Ask yourself these questions:

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Economic trade offs: Japanese fiscal policy transmits to GDP growth rate

Monday, November 17, 2014

Japan has suffered years of persistent deflation, and needs expansionary policy to change that. But they also have the highest public debt of any of the developed countries, at just under 230%, and need contractionary policy to change that. How are they to manage such a difficult trade off?

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What’s the point of the G20?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Just a quick post to share a great little video I just found on the Guardian website.  

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Hay Levels

A 3 min introduction to some key concepts, using Hay Levels

Eliminating the deficit with tax rises

I like an article with a fresh look at the problems we face and this piece poses some interesting questions/ 

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Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Economics and Oxbridge Extension

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

During our recent Economics departmental meeting, we discussed various websites we can't live without in regard to the teaching and learning of Economics. Some of our favourite ones are below. Enjoy...

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Falling labour participation in the US: causes and effects

The current recovery has been different in the United States. Though unemployment has fallen from 10% to 6.1%, labour-force participation has not increased. In fact, it has declined to its lowest level since 1978. This is controversial. Some economists say long-term structural factors, mainly aging, explain most of the recent drop in the labour force. Others argue that short-term, cyclical factors are mostly to blame: workers are sitting out the job hunt, waiting for better opportunities.

What about the effects?

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In The Balance Podcast- Inflation and Deflation Discussion

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

This is an excellent podcast to introduce year 12 students to the importance of controlling inflation and the perils of deflation. 

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Numbeo and economic data

Monday, November 10, 2014

Numbeo is a new online database that helps make international comparisons in order to compare living standards.  It shows data by city and country on crime rates, pollution, health care, property prices and other key indicators.  Much like Wikipedia, data is entered by its various users in different cities around the world.

It's worth a look as a useful resource when teaching the pros and cons of economic growth or the limitations of using national income accounts as a measure of living standards. It's also useful when looking at the barriers to economic development.

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Teaching Vacancy - Head of Economics at Bedford Modern School

Here is another terrific opportunity, this time at our good friends at Bedford Modern School. All the details below.

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Job Vacancy - Head of Economics at Rishworth School (West Yorks)

An exciting opportunity here to become Head of Economics at Rishworth School. All the details below. Please note the deadline of Wednesday 19 November 2014.

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The latest research on the impact of migration

Friday, November 07, 2014

Migration is the big issue in the news, both politically and economically. New research by two economists from University College London finds that migrants added a net £20bn to the economy between 1995 and 2011, the UK receiving more in taxes than was paid out in welfare spending. The positive impact is greatest for those from the A15 EU nations [the initial EU members, such as German, Italy and Spain]. There are now more French bankers in London than in Paris.

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Globalisation, comparative advantage and the puzzle of rising inequality

The poor countries should catch up with the richer ones, in theory, at least. And between 1988 and 2008, global inequality, as measured by the distribution of income between rich and poor countries, has narrowed, according to the World Bank. But within each country, there has been widening inequality in many poor places.

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Will China’s rapid rise continue?

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Just this week Ben Christopher has blogged that China poised to pass US as world’s biggest economy. It’s an interesting question of measurement, and there’s a long running debate about When will China ‘overtake’ America?

It will be many years yet before China really catches up on a per capita basis, of course. Rather depressingly, I have been wondering if the great catch-up is slowing down. From around 2000 to 2008 poor countries made galloping progress, but they seem to have hit headwinds. Will China also suffer this fate?

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Cartels and Game Theory in the Oil Industry

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is an example of an oligopoly colluding overtly to fix the price of a barrel of oil - currently there are 12 members and according to OPEC they control 81% of crude oil reserves. One of OPEC's main aims is to “ensure stable oil prices, secure fair returns to producing countries and investors in the oil industry“. 

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China poised to pass US as world’s biggest economy

This prediction is based on estimates of the real cost of living, known as purchasing power parity or PPPs which according to this FT article "are recognised as the best way to compare the size of economies rather than using volatile exchange rates". PPP theory takes into account the cost of living in individual countries and the International Comparison Program, the organisation who have come up with the research causing all the headlines have found that money goes much further in poorer countries than it previously thought.

Aside from China about to take the top spot away from the US (a place the US has occupied since 1872) "the figures revolutionise the picture of the world’s economic landscape, boosting the importance of large middle-income countries. India becomes the third-largest economy having previously been in tenth place."


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Some quirky videos here on economic questions from WeTheEconomy...

Paul G. Allen’s Vulcan Productions and Morgan Spurlock’s Cinelan have partnered to produce WE THE ECONOMY 20 Short Films You Can’t Afford to Miss. Each film is helmed by an acclaimed filmmaker, each with their own creative vision. The series aims to drive awareness and establish a better understanding of the U.S. economy. Told through animation, comedy, musical, non-fiction, and scripted films, WE THE ECONOMY seeks to demystify a complicated topic while empowering the public to take control of their own economic futures.

A panel of top economic experts including academics, analysts, journalists, and historians helped identify 20 key topics about the U.S. economy that every American should understand. Those and other economic advisers then worked with filmmakers to shape the topics into 5-8 minute films that answer the questions:

  • What is the Economy?
  • What is Money?
  • What is the Role of our Government in the Economy?
  • What is Globalization?
  • What Causes Inequality?

In the current economic climate, the need for citizens to be engaged and informed is greater than ever. Distributed digitally, across multiple platforms and in theaters, WE THE ECONOMY will do both... and best of all: it’s available everywhere, to everyone.

The videos can be found here.

Behavioural economics

As more and more syllabuses start to incorporate behavioural economics into their specifications (as they should!)... so are governments around the world.

Most recently, I came across this - a paper produced by the Irish Civil Service on how behavioural economics can assist in policy making and incorporating it into their frameworks.

This paper explains the theoretical and research-based background to behavioural economics and discusses some practical applications in the area of public policy making and public service delivery.

The paper can be downloaded here.

Mediacore: Perfect Competition

Flip teaching is the idea that instead of teaching in the classroom, and doing prep at home, pupils do the learning at home and then do the prep in the classroom - the idea being that the teacher is on hand to help with areas the pupils do not understand. It promotes independent learning and means that pupils can go at their own pace, allowing for more pupil differentiation.

A fan of Mediacore resources, I have created an audio-visual presentation of Perfect Competition to trial this.

You can find the presentation here:

(My other Mediacore presentations are here: )

I am essentially covering the model of Perfect Competition, and pupils watch it and make their own notes on it for Prep. Importantly, they can pause/replay sections as much as they want, at their own pace. 

They also make a note of the specific time slots / slides where they need clarification. The next lesson they then bring these specific questions to the classroom and as a group we address these. 

The next step is then for me to set (what would normally be a prep) as a class exercise and for me to assess their learning of the topic that way.

Let's see how it goes!

Amazon and ‘the invisible foot’

Monday, October 27, 2014

Amazon comes in for some pretty severe criticisms from various quarters. So I enjoyed reading an article by Reihan Salam in Slate, who argues that “Jeff Bezos’ company is not the problem with American capitalism. It’s the solution to our economy’s ills”.

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Jeff Sachs calls for government to set an investment agenda

The world seems to want, and need, plenty of advice on ways to boost macroeconomic performance. I was drawn to one piece on Project Syndicate that was especially interesting because the author, Jeff Sachs (one of the most famous development economists) introduces his comments by saying:

“I am a macroeconomist, but I dissent from the profession’s two main schools of thought … the neo-Keynesians, who focus on boosting aggregate demand, and the supply-siders, who focus on cutting taxes.  Both schools have tried and failed to overcome the high-income economies’ persistently weak performance in recent years. It is time for a new strategy, one based on sustainable, investment-led growth”.

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Local Government Association calls for change in rules on allowing term-time holidays

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Local Government Association (which represents local councils in the UK) have joined the debate about term time holidays for pupils this week.  They argue that current rules banning term time holidays or imposing fines on those families who take such breaks do not recognise the complexities of modern families and also prevent poorer families from affording vacations that are invariably dearer during the holiday period.

It struck me whilst reading one of the reports that the suggested policy is to allow head teachers that most quantifiable of options, 'common sense', to make decisions on a case-by-case basis would be the sort of argument that would make me scream if a student wrote it in an assessment answer.  Economics students, unlike Local Government officials, need to take a much more analytic approach to this question!

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Free nursery places for 3 year olds appears to have no impact - an example of Government Failure?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Reports out over the last couple of days suggest that government spending on free nursery places for 3 year olds since 1998 has not produced any valuable educational or economic outcome. The policy was introduced as part of a series of reforms introduced by Tony Blair when he came to power in 1997. The Blair Government saw it as a method of reducing the differentials between educational attainment of poorer and wealthier sections of society and promoting a speedier return to work for some mothers.

Researchers studying the impact of the policy during the 2002 to 2007 time period, where spending on the policy amounted to more than £7bn found that the education received at age 3 had some impact on attainment at age 5 but any improvements were lost by age 11. The research suggested that the policy had only a minor impact on enabling more women to return to work earlier. Also, there is evidence that 5 out of 6 users of the free place would have gone to a paid-for equivalent at age 3 anyway.

So, does this offer us a good example of government failure in economic and social policy?

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Public sector pay and pensions are why the deficit stays high

Why can’t the UK government get its deficit down? This question has been exercising commentators recently, in the light of the latest assessment from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) that George Osborn will once again miss his target for the deficit in the 2014/15 financial year. Of course, the size of the deficit has fallen, from the £157 billion which Labour bequeathed in 2009/10 to £108 billion in 2013/14. But it does just not fall as much as either the OBR consistently predicts it will or the Chancellor would like it to. This limits the ability of the government to deliver tax cuts in advance of the election next year.

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Black Gold Challenge

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

If you have a short break coming up - and you're new to economics - now would be a great time to collect together some resources about the extraordinary recent shift in the oil market.

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Trick or Treat Economics Challenge

A seasonal quiz challenge for your economics students fresh out of the tutor2u Learning Lab.

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Sugar Cane and Economic Development in Mauritius

Monday, October 20, 2014

A2 development economists will read this article from the BBC with great interest and ought to be able to extract plenty from it. Extraction lies at the heart of the piece because instead of simply growing sugar, Mauritius has successfully invested in capacity and capabilities to create more value from the basic crop. Their economy has prospered in recent years with strong increases in real GDP per capita (PPP adjusted). 

But there are fears that the relaxation of sugar production quotas in the European Union from 2017 onwards will be a competitive threat for her sugar exporters. EU sugar growers are likely to expand and perhaps crowd out Mauritian exports. Declining world sugar prices also represent a threat to the sustained growth and development of the Mauritius economy in the near term.

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UK Productivity Gap Widens

New data has been released on relative productivity for the UK and other G7 nations. In 2013, based on GDP per hour, the UK came sixth of the G7 countries, with the USA top and Japan bottom. UK productivity was 17 percentage points lower than the average for the rest of the G7, the widest productivity gap since 1992. In absolute terms, UK output per hour fell slightly in 2013 compared with 2012, contrasting with an increase of 1.0% across the rest of the G7.

The relatively low level of labour productivity is a key supply-side issue for the UK economy to address. What factors do you think contribute to our output per hour lagging behind other advanced countries? Why does it matter? 

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Growth and Development in the Ivory Coast

Here are some summary notes on economic growth and development prospects for the Ivory Coast.

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