Pandemic Underscores Need for British Health Reform

St Thomas Hospital London England
St Thomas’ Hospital in London, England, January 31, 2019 (iStock/Ray Lipscombe)

COVID-19 has overwhelmed all health-care systems, but few were as ill prepared as the British.

The National Health Service (NHS) has almost 100,000 job openings, including close to 40,000 for nurses.

The pandemic exacerbated the shortages; because doctors and nurses contracted the virus or quit in exhaustion while demand for health care went up.

Nonessential procedures have been delayed. To clear the backlog, and return to the maximum waiting time of eighteen (!) weeks for treatment, the NHS would need an extra 18,000 nurses on top of the 40,000 it is looking to hire anyway. Read more “Pandemic Underscores Need for British Health Reform”

Spain Tries to Solve Yesterday’s Housing Crisis

Barcelona Spain
Buildings in Barcelona, Spain, December 10, 2017 (Unsplash/Marco Da Silva)

Spain’s ruling left-wing parties have agreed various measures to make housing more affordable, including a rent cap and higher property taxes.

The proposals are unlikely to be effected in areas ruled by conservatives, and they are right to block them. The pandemic has already made housing more affordable in Spain. The country doesn’t need the government to step in. Read more “Spain Tries to Solve Yesterday’s Housing Crisis”

The Return of European Social Democracy

Olaf Scholz
German Social Democratic Party leader Olaf Scholz attends a conference in Berlin, June 25 (PES)

Olaf Scholz has given German social democracy a new lease on life. For the first time in sixteen years, his Social Democratic Party (SPD) — Germany’s oldest — has defeated the center-right Union of Christian Democrats. Support for the SPD went up from 20.5 to 26 percent in the election on Sunday. Still below its pre-reunification heights, when it would routinely win up to 40 percent, but enough to make Scholz the most likely next chancellor.

His counterparts in Portugal and Spain have been equally successful. António Costa was reelected with 36 percent support in 2019. Pedro Sánchez won two elections that year. Both govern with the support of the far left. Four of the five Nordic countries are led by social democrats. The fifth, Norway, soon will be, after Labor won the election two weeks ago.

It wasn’t so long ago that commentators ruminated on the “death of European social democracy,” myself included. Now it’s back in swing in the north, south and center. What changed? Read more “The Return of European Social Democracy”

Curaçao Accepts Dutch Supervision of Economic Reforms

Willemstad Curaçao
View of Willemstad, Curaçao (iStock)

The new government of Curaçao has accepted Dutch supervision of economic reforms it is due to carry out as part of a COVID-19 rescue plan.

Parties led by Gilmar Pisas won the election in March on a promise to oppose supervision.

The now-prime minister defended his about-face by arguing Curaçao was with its “back against the wall.”

Which was the same argument his predecessor, Eugene Rhuggenaath, made in the election campaign, when Pisas rejected it. Read more “Curaçao Accepts Dutch Supervision of Economic Reforms”

Netanyahu Cruises to Reelection on Back of Vaccination Success

Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits a security check point in the West Bank, February 6, 2020 (GPO/Haim Zach)

Parliamentary elections are held in Israel on Tuesday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conservative Likud is projected to place first with around thirty seats, down from 37. Twelve other parties are expected to cross the 3.25 percent electoral threshold, including two new parties on the right.

I asked our man in Tel Aviv, Ariel Reichard, for comment. Read more “Netanyahu Cruises to Reelection on Back of Vaccination Success”

Biden Plans $1.9 Trillion Coronavirus Rescue Program

Joe Biden
Former American vice president Joe Biden campaigns in Greenville, South Carolina, August 30, 2019 (Biden For President)

Joe Biden plans to ask Congress for $1.9 trillion in the first weeks of his presidency to cope with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

Matthew Yglesias and Punchbowl News, a new Capitol Hill-focused newsletter, have the details:

  • $400 billion for health, including $50 billion for testing, $30 billion for protective gear and $20 billion for vaccinations.
  • Hire 100,000 public health workers.
  • A mandatory paid sick leave program.
  • $1,400 cheques to all Americans on top of the $600 cheques sent in December.
  • Extend federal unemployment benefits at $400 per week.
  • Extend the eviction moratorium.
  • $30 billion in rental assistance.
  • Raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.
  • Raise the child tax credit to as much $3,600 per year for families with young children.
  • $350 billion in financial relief for local, tribal and state governments. Read more “Biden Plans $1.9 Trillion Coronavirus Rescue Program”

Aruba, Curaçao Agree to Terms of Dutch Coronavirus Aid

Royal Plaza Mall Oranjestad Aruba
Royal Plaza Mall in Oranjestad, Aruba, February 10, 2015 (Thomas Hawk)

Aruba and Curaçao have agreed to liberalize their economies in order to qualify for continued financial support from the European Netherlands, without which the islands would almost certainly go bankrupt.

The coronavirus pandemic has brought tourism, on which the islands depend, close to a standstill.

Sint Maarten, the third autonomous Dutch island in the Caribbean, has yet to meet the terms of Dutch aid, which include cutting public-sector salaries by 12.5 to 25 percent. Read more “Aruba, Curaçao Agree to Terms of Dutch Coronavirus Aid”

Statism Makes a Comeback in the United Kingdom

Cabinet Office London England
The British flag flies over the Cabinet Office in London, England (Shutterstock/Willy Barton)

Two months ago, I argued Britain was once again the sick man of Europe. It had the second-highest per capita COVID death rate among major countries. Economic output had fallen 20 percent from the year before.

The crisis wasn’t lost on policymakers. The dual shock of coronavirus and Brexit — Britain formally left in 2019 but still applies EU rules and regulations this year — has led to something of a quiet revolution in Whitehall: the potential rebirth of the interventionist state.

There is still much wrong with how the British government has handled both events, the poster child for COVID being the decimation of the British aviation and travel industry as well as the arts. Not since the closing of the coal mines has an entire industry shrunk so dramatically.

Yet the seeds of a new statism have been sown — by a Conservative government. Read more “Statism Makes a Comeback in the United Kingdom”

Caribbean, European Netherlands Close In on Bailout Deal

The Hague Netherlands
Dutch government offices and parliament buildings in The Hague (iStock/Fotolupa)

Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten are closing in on a deal with the European Netherlands for hundreds of millions of euros in support to cope with the impact of COVID-19.

The sticking point in negotiations has been the Netherlands’ insistence that Dutch officials would carry out and monitor economic reforms on which the bailout is conditioned; a demand Caribbean leaders argue is incompatible with their autonomy.

Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath of Curaçao, the largest of the three self-governing islands, told lawmakers this week that a compromise is at hand.

The Dutch supervisors would remain, but any decisions they take that affect spending and taxes would need to be ratified by the island legislatures.

The government of Curaçao would also be consulted on the appointment of one of the three supervisors.

Antilliaans Dagblad reports that a majority of lawmakers on Curaçao could agree to those terms.

But Raymond Knops, the Dutch state secretary for the interior, sounded less optimistic on Tuesday, when he told parliamentarians in The Hague that the three islands are currently unable to “bear” their autonomy. Read more “Caribbean, European Netherlands Close In on Bailout Deal”