Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Bank of England (pictured above) starts its 2 day rate setting meeting today, amid fresh evidence of the credit squeeze on business as figures released yesterday showed lending to businesses and individuals tumbled by a record £14.7 billion between April and June. The second quarter slump in lending is the biggest since the Bank of England’s data started being collected in 1997 – with manufacturing, construction and services worst hit. The figures are likely to fuel anger over profiteering banks holding back on loans to struggling firms and individuals despite being propped up by the taxpayer – so maybe the MPC should be asking why, when interest rates are at a historic low, bank charges for loans (if you can get one) and rip-off arrangement fees are at a record high. But let’s be reasonable – from the bankers’ perspectives, their bonuses paid for by the taxpayer and blatant greed are much more important than the economy.


As a reaction to international criticism that it’s not been doing enough to tackle climate change, India has decided to push ahead with a vastly ambitious plan to tap the power of the sun to generate clean electricity. And surprise, surprise, after a meeting chaired by the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, it wants rich nations to pay the bill. Although India has virtually no solar power (above) at present, the plan envisages the country generating 20 GW from sunlight by 2020. Global solar capacity is predicted to be 27 GW by then, according to the International Energy Agency, meaning India expects to be producing 75% of the planet’s capacity within just 10 years. Now I’m sorry to be so churlish, but in the middle of a recession I have to say that if India can afford nuclear weapons, it can afford its own sodding solar panels.


Former US President Bill Clinton flew into North Korea yesterday on a surprise mission to secure the release of 2 American journalists. He was taken from the airport into a rare face-to-face meeting with the regime’s “Dear Leader”, Kim Jong Il (pair pictured above in a rather blurred official photograph). The unexpected summit meeting has raised hopes across the region that North Korea may soon be enticed back to multinational disarmament talks after 3 months of mounting atomic tensions and provocation. North Korea’s official news agency reported that Mr Clinton and Mr Kim engaged in “sincere and exhaustive discussions” on a range of issues. I can just imagine how it went : “Bill, we’ll release the prisoners – we’ll even disarm all our nukes right away - just please, please we implore you don’t send your wife.”