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Saturday 28 July 2012
Letters: Osborne's medicine isn't working
The lesson that George Osborne refuses to apply from the Wall Street crash is that governments have to be the borrower of last resort to get things going. With long-term interest rates at historic lows, the reason commerce does not borrow is because it lacks confidence.
A government borrowing at this point demonstrates a degree of confidence which, at these rates, is bought incredibly cheaply. Osborne is trying this in an underhand manner by using Quantitative Easing, but this is so poorly targeted that the effects are negligible.
Public works create more jobs and more demand. Time to abandon Prudence Mark II and make the U-turn.
Lewes, East Sussex
"Politics," J K Galbraith famously said, "is not the art of the possible. It consists in choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable."
What the Chancellor is doing may be unpalatable to many, but it is not disastrous, as was the previous government's economic bungling with its populist appeal and little of substance to back it. Hence the deficit.
I am puzzled by the commentators and politicians who have suggested that our economic mess can be remedied only by George Osborne giving up other work and devoting more time to managing it. This is in direct contradiction of our experience, which has been that the more time he spends on the economy the worse it gets.
If, as looks likely, David Cameron continues to stand by his man our best hope for recovery depends on finding Osborne a few more jobs to distract him.
George Osborne is making the same mistake as Gordon Brown: he is trying to spend each pound more than once. Gordon Brown tried to cut taxes, increase welfare payments and build schools, hospitals and aircraft carriers.
Osborne wants to increase taxes, cut welfare payments, repay Gordon Brown's debts and stimulate the economy. When did we stop teaching maths at school?
Lord Oakeshott apparently believes that Vince Cable would make a better Chancellor than George Osborne. When someone can show me what Cable has achieved in two years as Business Secretary other than offering us headline-grabbing quotes, then I might take some notice.
West Wittering, West Sussex
Gold for the engineers who built the Games
During the coming two weeks, millions will be tuning in to see the extraordinary sporting talent the Olympic Games offer and crossing their fingers for some medals for Team GB. But through the eyes of an engineer, seeing the Olympic Park complete and the magnificent venues in all their glory is just as exciting.
Civil engineers, working for the ODA alongside other built-environment professionals, have brought the Olympics to life. They have designed and built the venues and facilities, constructed 30 new bridges, restored 8.35km of waterways and built 1.8km of sewer tunnels under the site.
They also oversaw the demolition of more than 200 buildings, the removal of 52 electricity pylons, the cleaning of more than two million tonnes of soil and the protection of wildlife and plant species.
The Olympics is a true feat of engineering in every sense. If anything could excite and inspire young people to take engineering as a career, it's a project like this. For me, our engineers definitely deserve gold. We now proudly hand the baton over to the world's leading athletes.
President, Institution of Civil Engineers, London SW1
Anxious to enjoy my "Olympic Experience" despite the ticket debacle and Locog numpties embarrassing our nation, I set off for Old Trafford. I enjoyed the football, but that's about it. Woeful Team GB were surpassed by an exciting young UAE side, but nothing came close to the combined efforts of everyone else to sour the day.
Come by train? OK, I thought. Not possible; the return train leaves 10 minutes after the final whistle from the city centre. Don't bring a big bag. OK, I thought. Doesn't matter, you still have to empty everything, whatever size your bag, and have it put in a huge sealed plastic bag to take into the venue. No signs to inform you of the process, just lots of people looking official but doing little.
Food available in the venue? OK, I thought. No chance. Two matches and only chocolate and warm pop available between them. Really showcases the sponsors' "overly expensive" products well. Where was the water? None.
Get your merchandise here. OK, I thought. Few kiosks, few tills and too many people. Good job I didn't try for that train. Park and ride, that was the idea. Great journey in, queues and queues out and near-death experiences trying to cross the road at Trafford Park.
So Lord Coe and Locog, from those of us in the sticks, what the heck have you been up to? Score D for all of you. Let's hope the Olympic Park experience is better than mine in Manchester. Fundamentals are important. The Games should be for the people, but with all the corporate and "Olympic Family" concerns it would seem you have lost your way. Remember, we are not all flush at present. How many years and how much money have you had to get this right?
Andreas Whittam Smith (Opinion, 26 July) lists many of the shaming demands this country has had to meet to bid successfully for the 2012 Olympics. But perhaps the most outrageous and egregious was the requirement we should grant a tax waiver to the sponsors so that the income derived from their Olympic involvement should be exempt from tax.
Six years after this massively expensive concession was granted, a few companies, including Coca-Cola and McDonald's, have been forced by adverse publicity to announce that they will not now take advantage of this waiver, but by the time the others, together with IOC officials, journalists etc coming to work on the Games have had a tax break at our expense, our Treasury will be as impoverished as before.
And David Gauke will still be reproaching us for paying our plumbers cash in hand. We have indeed humiliated and beggared ourselves in pursuit of transient "glory".
Steve Ovett would not have committed Londoners to suffering the humiliation of the Olympic Route Network, at the hands of the IOC, without any prior consultation, but Sebastian Coe did.
Thanks due for some colonialism
The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones, so let it be with British colonialism, William Shakespeare might have said. No one seems to remember the excellent education, health service and transport network which British colonial administration built in the colonies.
The admission by the Government that "Kenyans were tortured and sexually abused by colonial forces during Mau Mau uprising" (letters 17, 23 July) could open a Pandora's box, releasing a series of claims from the former colonies in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, which could bankrupt the UK.
In my native Uganda, the Omukama (King) of Bunyoro-Kitara kingdom, Solomon Gafabusa Iguru has reputedly alleged that the British colonial government pillaged and plundered his kingdom in a scorched-earth policy, and reduced the population from about 2.5 million in 1891 to only 98,000 in 1899. Now he has hinted that he wants an apology from the UK Government and compensation, said to be nearly £4bn, for "war crimes".
Hard work to gain arms treaty
Douglas Alexander's article (24 July) claims the Government is planning to "water down" an arms-trade treaty to get the support of reluctant members of the UN. This was disappointingly one-sided, and showed little regard for the intensity of work done by a dedicated team under successive governments.
The UK has led efforts to secure a treaty. Negotiations are complex and tough, but our red lines are clear and need to be met. We have set these out repeatedly: we want an agreement which is robust, legally binding and delivers significant gains for the international community, particularly greater security and the preservation of human rights.
The treaty must include everything, arms brokering must be controlled and corrupt practitioners prosecuted. It should establish a transparent system whereby states publish a list of controlled goods and report regularly on arms exports.
In international negotiations much happens out of the limelight. Far from lacking leadership, ministers are in daily contact with their counterparts, and our diplomats continue to work hard.
A treaty would be the culmination of six years of work. We will continue to fight for this vital chance to help make the world a safer place.
Foreign Office Minister for Counter-Proliferation, London SW1
A gift fit for a Queen
At the former West India Docks at Canary Wharf is the Danish Royal Yacht Dannebrog, still in active service for the Danish Royal Family, and their floating home for the Olympics. Our former Royal Yacht Britannia lies in Leith as a tourist attraction. Could not Messrs Cameron, Clegg, Osborne and co launch a public-subscription campaign for another Britannia as a thank you from the British people during the Jubilee year and riding on the wave of the Games?
In response to Mary Dejevsky (27 July), the campus at the University of Liverpool certainly is not empty during the summer. Many international students and pre-sessional students attend a variety of programmes and, in fact, it is difficult to find a teaching-room or accommodation on campus in the summer. We also have outreach educational opportunities programmes but, then again, Liverpool is pretty ace.
Deputy Director, Liverpool Confucius Institute, University of Liverpool
What happens to the pensions of those civil servants lucky enough to be paid through a service company? One assumes that having left the employ of the CS they have forfeited their pension rights, or at least reduced them considerably, or is this naïve?
Lindfield, West Sussex
Sam Laidlaw of Centrica (report, 27 July) says their profit of £2m a day is reasonable because they need to invest in "smart metres". What does a smart metre do?
I was shocked to hear that so many senior politicians have paid tradesmen cash in hand. I thought they all put it on their parliamentary expenses to be paid for by the taxpayer.
The shame game
The idea of "naming and shaming" tax avoiders is doomed. These people are without shame; otherwise why would they take as much as they can from society then avoid paying their fair share back?
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