Government to suspend general budget support to Malawi

Malawi will no longer receive general budget support from the UK Government, Andrew Mitchell announced today.

The International Development Secretary took the decision after the Government of Malawi repeatedly failed to address UK concerns over economic management and governance.

General budget support, which is used to allow governments to deliver their own national strategies for poverty reduction against an agreed set of targets, has been suspended indefinitely.

On governance, demonstrations have been suppressed, civil society organisations intimidated, and an Injunctions Bill passed that would make it easier for the Government to place restrictions on opponents without legal challenge.

On the economy, the UK is concerned that Malawi’s overvalued exchange rate has created chronic foreign exchange shortages which are having a serious impact on the Malawian private sector’s ability to drive future growth. There are now daily fuel queues, tobacco exports have deteriorated and Malawi is off-track with its IMF programme.

The Development Secretary’s decision is in line with international concern over Malawi’s current position. The World Bank, the European Union, the African Development Bank, Germany and Norway have all suspended or ended general budget support to Malawi.

Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development, said:

“The UK provides development assistance in order to help communities lift themselves out of grinding poverty, whether that’s through getting children into school, ensuring women survive childbirth or helping farmers grow enough food to feed their families and communities.

“But poor people in Malawi and British taxpayers alike have been let down. In these circumstances I cannot justify the provision of general budget support for Malawi.

“In the meantime we will use other means to ensure that programmes to protect poor Malawians, amongst the poorest people in the world, and deliver basic services like health and education are able to continue.

“The UK has a long and deep commitment to the people of Malawi and we are keen to see the country resume the good progress it has made in recent years. I remain willing to reconsider our approach as and when our concerns are addressed.”

The UK has helped improve food security in Malawi for over seven million people a year by providing them with high yielding maize and legume seeds via the Farm Input Subsidy Programme.

UK support to strengthen the health service has helped save the lives of 3,200 pregnant women and 40,000 children since 2004. UK funding has built over 3,200 primary school classrooms and 4,800 toilets since 2001, helping keep more girls in school.
This comes as the Government reduces general budget support across the world by 43% and tightens up the principles on which budget support agreements are made.

All budget support is tightly monitored against a strict set of expected results and can be reviewed by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact at any time.

UK Green Economy Lags Behind Following Launch Of Europe’s Most Advanced Eco Village

UK-based Oxford Sustainable Group, Europe’s largest renewable energy and sustainable development business, has announced the launch of Oxford Park, the most advanced sustainable village in Europe. Located near Tallinn, Estonia, the £170m project is a carefully planned sustainable community that consists of infrastructure, energy and social provision to meet the needs of its residents and the businesses that choose to locate there.

The Oxford Sustainable Group has designed Oxford Park using its Oxford 360 degree Sustainability Index. This has allowed it to create a community that is well in advance of UN Principles of Responsible Investment (PRI) norms for sustainability. This considers the broader requirements of the residents, surrounding economic, environmental, energy, educational, transport and leisure needs as well as long-term job creation, regeneration, finance and investment requirements. The Oxford Sustainable Group has shown that by taking a holistic approach to sustainable development it can increase profitability while benefitting other stakeholders including residents, the local and wider economcy, society and environment.

“Sustainability means a lot more than planning carbon neutral buildings or trendy underground transport systems,” said Hadley Barrett, chief executive of OSG. “We can only create truly sustainable communities if we consider all of the stakeholders in a project. That includes government, investors, and the entire supply chain – as well as the people who will live and work there – and be able to supply a sustainable product at the right price. True sustainability does not mean higher prices.

“We have a practical and down-to-earth approach for Oxford Park that is successful, sustainable and economically viable – investors do not need to turn to projects in the Middle East for green growth. We would like to replicate the planning success of Oxford Park in the UK but we need simplified regulation which allows ‘good developers’ to be fast-tracked rather than held back. We do not need more definitions of carbon free homes, we need facilitating regulation which allows trusted partners to move quickly and effectively and bring about positive changes through entrepreneurship. Practical government agencies from Finland and other locations have been asking us to help them replicate the success of Oxford Park in their countries. Currently the UK is lagging behind.”

Insurers blacklist drivers based on postcode

 

Premiums are soaring as honest motorists foot the bill for the ‘fraud epidemic’ sweeping the country, which has lead to insurers secretly to blacklist certain postcodes.

Many car owners have seen a rise of up to forty per cent in insurance premiums over the past year, insurers are blaming an increase in fraudulent claims

An investigation has shown blacklisted areas of the UK where concentrations of fraudulent activity have taken place. These claims have lead some insurance companies to flat-out refuse some motorists insurnace in some areas.

The most popular fraudulent incidents include staged accidents, bogus injury claims and fronting, where parents claim they are the main driver for heir child’s car.

Top ten areas for fraudulent claims; Birmingham, Liverpool, Bradford, East London, Manchester, North London, Bolton, Blackburn, Southall and Oldham.

Birmingham tops the list with a staggering one in ten suspicious claims, with B8 – east Digbeth being one of the worst spots followed by B15 – Edgbaston

James Heath, head of counter fraud strategy at Keoghs, says: ‘We are now seeing what can reasonably be described as a fraud epidemic across the UK.

‘It is clear from these results that fraud is no longer restricted to the country’s most heavily built-up areas.’

See how your postcode affects your car and home insurance at www.thisismoney.co.uk/postcode

Less than £10 spend per child on ICT in many UK schools

Across in England and Wales 1,804 primary schools spend less than £10 per pupil on ICT (Information and Communication Technology) equipment. Many pupils are therefore going without up-to-date learning tools, reveals research by Syscap, a leading independent IT finance provider to the education sector.

Worse still between the period of April 1 2009 to March 31 2010 377 of the 14,495 primary schools in England and Wales spent nothing at all.

Philip White, Chief Executive of Syscap, comments: “To hear that 12% of primary schools are spending £10 per primary school pupil is especially worrying as this data covers a period before the real tightening of education budgets began.”

Says Philip White: “ICT resources have a very short shelf life especially in a school environment. Low levels of ICT investment means that schools will soon be running old, slow and very unreliable equipment which will impair the effectiveness of learning through ICT use.”

“When you consider the pace of change in ICT equipment and the increasing importance of ICT to the competitiveness of the UK economy such a small per pupil expenditure seems anachronistic.”

“Arguably you can choose to put off investing in other parts of the school’s infrastructure for a while such, as buildings, but deferring investing in technology can have a very quick and detrimental impact on the effectiveness and relevance of their ICT assets.”

“Even the national average spend annual spend on ICT of £50 per primary school pupil is seen by many commentators as too low.”

“Ofsted’s surveys of the use of ICT in schools find that technology can be extremely effective in helping pupils to acquire literacy skills. For example, using the internet for research is a great way to engage boys who are felt to be reluctant readers and writers, and computer software can be used to help children with English as a second language with their grammar and pronunciation.”

“But obsolete equipment will mean that schools can’t use the latest educational software, and pupils will inevitably lose their enthusiasm for a project if the computer keeps crashing”

Philip White added: “Most of us take access to the internet and using a computer for granted, and it is easy to forget that for many children, school is the only place where they can use technology.”

“Of course new investment is difficult in this economic climate, but it is vital that pupils are not left behind in a world where more and more information is being delivered through technology.”

Philip White says schools can bypass the short-shelf life of IT resources easing ICT equipment at a fixed cost per year.

UK House Prices to Rise Following Slow but Steady Economic Recovery

London Row HousingWith the economy on the rise, prices in the housing sector are creeping upwards, prompting what many real estate experts believe could be a major crisis in the cost and accessibility of housing to Britain’s employee base. Despite a fall in net exports, Britain’s economy has slowly recovered over the last year to a point of relative stability, although not everyone is reaping its gains.

City employees have been praised for improving economic stability – an unusual situation given then immense criticism many leading UK banks had been given just months before the economy began to improve. Yet with major banks and employers leading the UK out of its biggest trouble period in recent history, many believe that increased housing costs could hit employees hardest.

The average cost of a home rose from £166,351 to £167,425 in July – an increase that, if continued, could see the domestic housing market become one of the most costly and relatively inaccessible in Europe. Housing prices in the greater London area – one of Britain’s most important economic areas – are even greater, prompting many real estate experts to worry about a second housing ‘crisis’.

Property economists have highlighted the volatility made clear by such sudden increases, claiming that the UK’s housing sector will continue to attract rapid changes in value over the next year. July marks a high point for property investors – it appears that prices may begin to decrease towards the end of 2010.

For many first-time homeowners, that would be a very good thing. With unemployment still at high levels and Britain’s economy recovering slowly, higher housing prices will put property out of reach for hundreds-of-thousands of employees. Should price instability take over, many of Britain’s most enthusiastic real estate investors could see a lucrative, or disastrous, end to the year.