In one 2004 poll, 72% of the French had a favourable view of Americans, more even than in Britain (62%) or Spain (47%). Some 68% of those questioned in another poll the same year said that what unites France and America was more important than what separates them. During the 60th anniversary of the Normandy landings in 2004, politicians were frosty, but the people at large showed an outpouring of gratitude to American veterans.
It’s true that there is a big gap between the view of the U.S. (pretty bad) and the view of the American people (quite good) in France, a sure sign that a substantial part of what is regarded as anti-Americanism is mainly driven by anti-Bushism. Continue reading →
Italy is approaching a crunch. Rather like Venice in the 18th century, it has coasted for too long on the back of its past success. Again like Venice, it has lost many of the economic advantages which underpinned that success. For Venice, it was a near-monopoly on trade with the East that paid for the creation of its beautiful palaces and churches; today’s Italy has benefited hugely from a combination of low-cost labour and a switch of workers away from low-productivity farming (and the south) into manufacturing (mostly in the north). But such good things invariably come to an end.
Italy badly needed a dose of pro-market reforms, liberalisation, privatisation, deregulation and a shake-up of the public administration, all of which Mr Berlusconi had promised. He even pledged to cut taxes. A majority of Italian voters, backed by much of Italian business, were willing to overlook both his legal entanglements and his conflicts of interest and give him a chance to reform the country. But as the next election approaches, very little of what he promised has been delivered, so many of his erstwhile supporters are feeling disillusioned. Continue reading →
The sharp eyed will have noticed that I have copiously refrained from commenting on the unexpectedly high reading obtained in yesterday’s German Ifo Institute Business Climate index. The index registered a slight unexpected increase, but as Ifo President Hans-Werner Sinn notes: “An evaluation of responses submitted before and after the federal election showed a tendency to more unfavourable expectations after than before the election, so the reading may in fact say a lot more about sentiment before rather than after the election.
More informative in many ways may be the Gfk consumer climate survey out today (follow link and click on button). The survey, which attempts to forecast the climate going forward, saw an increase in the number expressing scepticism about private income expectations and the propensity to buy:
“While in August this year the consumer mood was still relatively unaffected by the hike in oil prices and yet fired by the prospects of the elections, both the tax reform and the trend in oil prices seem to have been felt in September. Indicators covering private income and private consumption are particularly affected. Consequently, the consumer climate was also slightly down. In contrast, economic prospects have become more optimistic. The findings of the September survey given below do not reflect the outcome of the recent elections, since the survey was completed just before the date when the elections were held.”
At the present time it is very hard to assess what the impact of Germany’s election stalemate will be on the economic climate moving forward.
I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but there seems to have been a deafening silence on outcomes following last weeks ‘informal’ EU foreign ministers gathering in Newport. The only thing I have been able to find was a piece from Radio Free Europe which informed me that ‘No News Is Good News‘. Possibly, but this doesn’t explain the reasons for the blackout.
French economic growth slowed more than expected in the first quarter and this is bound to have a negative impact on yesterdays ‘big push’ to win support for the ‘yes’ in the European constitution referendum. Gross domestic product in what is Europe’s third-largest economy grew January -March by only 0.2%. This compares with the October-December period, when it expanded by a revised 0.7%. Continue reading →
News in today might suggest that far from obsessing ourselves with the current plight of the US economy, our attention might be better directed rather nearer home. Reading off from the results of the latest Purchasing Managers Index survey which appears in todays Financial Times, the services sector is growing, but employemnt in it isn’t. Sound familiar? Now we’d better sit down and start examining the possible causes. Of course, it might be just a temporary blip (this is what they keep saying in the US, but it’s a blip that has been running some months now) and then again it might not be. Continue reading →
No this is not (yet) the title of one of my new pages (although we were looking into living in sin, but unfortunately it’s already taken). No the denial I am referring to is much nearer home for most of us, since it is up there in Brussels. “European Union nations are dragging their heels in their ambitious drive to become the world’s most competitive economy by the end of the decade” or so we are lead to believe from the EU annual survey published by the Commission on Wednesday.
This foolish piece of what the Spanish would call ‘chuleria’ (no easy translation but I suppose you could try vain self-important show-off bragging) – the pledge to overtake the US by 2010 – was adopted at the Lisbon 2000 summit. It was madness in its moment, now it looks just plain ridiculous. Continue reading →
I got into trouble some time ago for suggesting that school might be better if it wasn’t mandatory. I suggested that those who would never go to school if the law didn’t force them to were the ones who weren’t getting much out of it now. This was greeted with more opposition, I think, than the time I suggested that the death of disco was the work of a conspiracy led by Lee Atwater.
So, I note with some amusement that TNS-Sofres, a French polling company, has done a survey of students, parents, and teachers attitudes towards the French school system. This survey was highlighted in yesterday’s La Croix and you can download their conclusions here (en fran?ais, bien s?r) Continue reading →