Macron Unveils Small-Business Reforms and Privatizations

Austrian chancellor Christian Kern and French president Emmanuel Macron visit Salzburg, August 23, 2017
Austrian chancellor Christian Kern and French president Emmanuel Macron visit Salzburg, August 23, 2017 (BKA/Andy Wenzel)

French president Emmanuel Macron has unveiled new economic reforms benefiting small- and medium-sized businesses:

  • Streamlining bankruptcy procedures.
  • Easing auditing requirements.
  • Advising companies on digitalization and exports.
  • Lifting the thresholds at which higher tax and social charges as well as employment rules kick in. Read more

Dutch Caribbean Caught Up in ConocoPhillips-Venezuela Oil Dispute

View of Willemstad, Curaçao, November 21, 2012
View of Willemstad, Curaçao, November 21, 2012 (David Kirsch)

The Dutch Caribbean have been caught up in a legal dispute between the American oil company ConocoPhillips and the government of Venezuela.

A judge has allowed Conoco to seize Venezuelan-owned and -operated refineries on the islands in order to collect $2 billion in compensation awarded by the International Chamber of Commerce for the 2007 nationalization of Conoco assets in the socialist-run country.

The seizure poses a “potential crisis” to the economy of Curaçao, Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath has told Reuters. The Isla refinery, which processes 335,000 barrels of oil per day, accounts for a tenth of the island’s economy. Read more

Europe Can Stand Up to American Threats on Iran

Presidents Emmanuel Macron of France and Donald Trump of the United States speak in Paris, July 14, 2017
Presidents Emmanuel Macron of France and Donald Trump of the United States speak in Paris, July 14, 2017 (DoD/Dominique Pineiro)

Leonid Bershidsky is optimistic the EU can stand up to American threats and continue doing business with Iran. He writes for Bloomberg that the stakes are higher than President Donald Trump seems to realize:

With its influence on SWIFT, the Brussels-based payment-facilitation system, and its trade power, the EU is capable of blunting US sanctions. If they prove ineffective, and Iranians merely rally around their government as Russians have done in the face of American restrictions, the US may be exposed as less of a fearsome global policeman than Trump would like it to be.

Read more

Renationalizing British Utilities and Rail Would Be a Mistake

A Heathrow Express train is seen at Paddington station, London, England, March 7, 2013
A Heathrow Express train is seen at Paddington station, London, England, March 7, 2013 (Renaud Chodkowski)

Rising energy rates and railway fares in the United Kingdom are lending credence to the argument that privatization was a mistake.

YouGov last year found majorities in favor of taking energy, water and railways back into state ownership.

Telecom is the exception. Only 30 percent believe it should be run by the government.

The reason may be that the benefits of telecom privatization have been obvious whereas those of other privatizations are harder to discern.

Compared to the 1970s, however, utilities and railways provide a far better service today. Read more

Coal and Steel? Donald Trump Is Living in the Past

American president Donald Trump speaks on the phone during a flight on Air Force One to Pennsylvania, January 26
American president Donald Trump speaks on the phone during a flight on Air Force One to Pennsylvania, January 26 (White House/Shealah Craighead)

Donald Trump isn’t big on technology.

“I think the computers have complicated lives very greatly,” he said last year. (The computers.)

The whole, you know, age of computer has made it where nobody knows exactly what’s going on.

By “nobody”, he means himself.

On another occasion, the president said, “I’m just not a believer in email.”

By contrast, Trump has spoken at length about American coal and steel and his desire to revive the two industries.

This doesn’t make economic sense. Read more

Britain Starts to Feel Consequences of EU Exit

A woman looks out over the skyline of London, England, May 13, 2014
A woman looks out over the skyline of London, England, May 13, 2014 (Ray Wewerka)

It’s only been a couple of weeks since British voters decided to leave the European Union in a referendum, but they are already starting to feel the consequences.

Away from Westminster — where apparently nobody anticipated nor prepared for the “wrong” outcome — local governments are bracing for years of financial hardship, the Financial Times reports:

Many fear that the billions of euros from EU development funds channeled into some of the most deprived areas of the country will not be replaced by Westminster, just as the slowing British economy is set to hit council budgets that are already stretched.

The newspaper cites estimates of £8.6 billion in regional development funds being lost between now and 2020. Read more

Obama Gets Economic Challenge Right, Regulations Wrong

American president Barack Obama takes questions from student reporters at the White House in Washington DC, April 28
American president Barack Obama takes questions from student reporters at the White House in Washington DC, April 28 (White House/Amanda Lucidon)

Reading Bloomberg Businessweek‘s interview with Barack Obama, I get the sense the president understands the big economic and social challenges of our time but still underestimates the impact of regulation on businesses. Read more