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The upcoming market that is destroying livelihoods

Introduction

Sand is the second most used natural commodity, whose relative importance in the global market has increased drastically in the past half a century, due to the substantial increase in demand for materials in which sand is a major contributor. The number of people living in urban areas has more than quadrupled since 1950, to over 4.5 billion today. The UN predicts that another 2.5 billion people will join the 4.5 billion people already living in cities within the next 3 decades.

The increasing demand for sand

Therefore, the demand for sand has increased. An example of this is within the construction industry, where sand is used to provide strength to materials such as asphalt, mortar, and concrete. However, due to the world’s ever-increasing population, there is forever an increase in the demand for sand-based materials used to increase supply for buildings and infrastructure. To meet these demands, many billions of tonnes of sand are used worldwide annually, so much so that a UN report estimated that the global sand use in 2012 alone could have created a concrete wall 27m high by 27m wide around the equator.

Effects of increasing demand for sand

Although sand is associated with its trivial use of constructing sandcastles on holiday as a child, or in the play area at your local park, it is a necessity to keep global river systems intact, a resource that we certainly take for granted. As innocent as sand may seem, the incredible demand for it is causing loss of livelihoods, loss of ecosystems, and is even a cause of death around the world.

As described by an article written by the BBC, in Kenya, the over-dredging of the local riverbeds in poor, rural counties such as Makueni, is leaving some communities without access to drinking water, subsequently leading to the eventual deaths of many locals. Kenya, alongside many other African countries, is known for its seasonal, sand-filled rivers due to its desert biome. When heavy rainfall occurs, the sand allows water to percolate, and therefore acts as a natural store for water flow, providing a water source for the surrounding villages. However, once these rivers are dredged by companies and governments who wish to sell this commodity, only the bedrock — a relatively impermeable surface — remains, causing no water to be stored and surrounding land to be flooded.  It is important to understand that many thousands of people rely on such natural resources of water to live. While companies continue to exploit indigent areas, many are left without the means to survive. 

Furthermore, the increased demand for sand has led to it becoming a highly desired commodity, which subsequently has encouraged unofficial markets to emerge. An example is India’s black market for sand harvesting, which is operated by violent sand mafias. There have been many reports of killings, in a growing wave of violence sparked by the global desire to own one of the worlds’ most under-appreciated commodities. Many hope to purloin sand, through methods of violence in order to export this product in unofficial markets. Based on the law of demand and supply, when there is increased demand, there is an increase in the price. As the price elasticity of demand for sand is relatively elastic this provides mafias and other rogue organizations the power to gain significant funds from the export of such product. 

For some, sand is just a means to an end; a way to exploit yet another non-renewable resource (a skill our population has, sadly, acquired profoundly), but for many, sand protects their village, their livelihood.

Sources

BBC, September 2017. How the demand for sand is killing rivers. Available at https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-41123284. (Accessed May 2021)

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News

Biden’s Proposed Tax Increase Angers Investors

Introduction

With just days left until his 100th day in office, President Joseph Biden is presenting a third economic package worth over $1 trillion entitled the American Families Plan. This $1.8 trillion package intends to increase funding for childcare and education. However, to help pay for this package, the president is looking to America’s wealthiest.

Why investors are angry

The proposal includes a dramatic increase in the capital gains tax rate for those making $1 million per year or more. Simply put, the capital gains tax is a tax on profit made by the sale of non-inventory assets such as stocks or bonds. Currently, the capital gains tax rate is 20% for those who make the aforementioned income. However, this plan would increase that number to 39.6%, which will become the new top income tax rate if this plan comes to pass. That is not all, since the surtax on investment income introduced by former President Barack Obama would actually make the total tax rate 43.4 %.

In just one bill, the capital gains tax rate would more than double for the wealthiest of the United States. This doesn’t even account for the capital gains taxes issued by individual states. For example, in California, the combined state and federal rate would be 56.7%.

Possible long-term effects of the bill

Needless to say, many investors and venture capitalists are infuriated by this plan, since it would reduce the value and drive to allocate money towards long-term investments. Furthermore, if fewer people commit to investments because of this much larger tax, the tax revenue will be reduced over time. This would essentially defeat the purpose of the tax increase in the first place. Also, as if building a business from the ground up wasn’t difficult enough, it will become much more difficult for entrepreneurs to acquire investments to help get their business started. The announcement of this plan resulted in stocks sliding more than they had in a month, which reflected the impact that this plan would likely have on the stock market as a whole.

Sources

  1. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-04-22/biden-to-propose-capital-gains-tax-as-high-as-43-4-for-wealthy
  2. “Biden tax rise fans investor fury,” published in the Financial Times, reporting by Eric Platt, Aziza Kasumov, Michael Mackenzie, Mark Vandevelde in New York, Miles Kruppa in San Francisco, and James Politi in Washington
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News

Outbreak of Coronavirus in India

For more than a year already, the recent outbreak of the coronavirus has continuously disturbed our plans. Whereas some nations managed to normalize the situation, others have turned into a “death valley.” One of these countries is India. 

On the 26th of April alone, 316 thousand Indians tested positive for the coronavirus. However, this data cannot be fully trusted because the government is not able to supply the doctors with the required number of tests. There is also a lack of doctors to help the sick; the prices for essential medicine have sky-rocketed. Indian doctors have announced that soon there will not be enough space in hospitals anymore, and that therefore hospitals would soon no longer be able to accept new patients. The government has taken some steps to help hospitals by, for example, banning the use of liquid oxygen in non-medical purposes.

The number of daily cases for the past few days in India. The graph is taken from https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/india/.

Sources

  1. http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2021-04/26/c_139907439.htm
  2. https://www.dw.com/en/india-coronavirus-death-toll/a-57338733
  3. Picture from https://www.cnbc.com/2021/04/26/photos-show-the-deadly-toll-of-covid-in-india-as-coronavirus-cases-top-17-million.html
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News

The 24th of April throughout the years

Background

On this day in 1915 Talaat Pasha, one of the leaders of the leading figures in the Ottoman Empire, ordered to arrest 800 members of the Armenian elite in Stambul. This was the starting point of the Armenian Genocide, one of the worst crimes against humanity in history. The aim of the Armenian Genocide was to end the “Armenian question” in the Ottoman Empire once and for all. More than 1,5 million people were killed. Men were murdered on the spot, villages were burnt down, and women and children were forced to move to the desert where they died of starvation. 

On this day last year, millions of Armenians around the globe spent the day in a grave atmosphere. With shaking hands they looked at the photographs of their relatives who did not survive that nightmare. Some of them were elderly and some were not even three years old; some of them were talented artists and some were successful merchants. It did not matter who the person was, it mattered that they had Armenian blood. 

The 24th of April 2021

On this day, the 24th of April 2021, millions of Armenians will once again reminisce these horrible events. They will do it in 2022, 2023, 2024… We shall not forget our great-grandparents, who were massacred for no reason by the blood-thirsty politicians. 

In the end, I would like to ask everyone to do something. If you have an Armenian friend, an Armenian neighbor or an Armenian colleague take a look at him; just look at him for a second. If this shameful act wasn’t stopped by the Ottoman Empire’s defeat in World War I, who knows if he would be standing near you. 

Sources

  1. A Shameful Act by Taner Akcam
  2. Talaat Pasha: Father of Modern Turkey, Architect of Genocide by Hans-Lucas Kieser
  3. Great Catastrophe by Thomas de Waal
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Analysis News

The US Department of Defence’s Plans to Win the War on Global Warming

Who is the Department of Defence?

The Department of Defence is an executive branch of the department of the federal government, charged with coordinating and supervising all agencies and functions of the government directly related to national security and all the United States Armed Forces.

Global Warming and how the US is affected by it

Currently, the US contributes around 15% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions through a variety of activities including industrial activities, the burning of fossil fuels, and many more. The question remains, will the USA’s future plans allow this figure of 15% to be reduced significantly? The United States is a region of the world that is highly susceptible to natural hazards, which have only been intensified by the developing issue of climate change. Therefore, the US has a strong need and desire to reduce the impacts of climate change. In 2019, over 90 natural disasters were reported in America alone. Although the US is a developed, High Income Country (HIC), these natural disasters cost the US government billions each year, money that authorities can’t afford to lose, but more importantly the hazards can destroy whole communities and livelihoods. For example, in 2017, the government spent a record $306 billion following three hurricanes, extreme wildfires, flooding, tornadoes, and droughts – each of the 16 disasters exceeded a billion dollars in reparation costs.

The Plan of Action

The US Department of Defence has developed a ‘huge appetite’ for renewable energy sources, as described by POLITICO.com. President Biden, working alongside the Department of Defence, has assured the media that over $2 trillion of the governments’ budget will be directed into the expansion of clean energy, aiming to reduce carbon emissions and build resilient facilities over the next four years. However, the ambitious plan will need the approval of Congress, an audience that is likely to show resistance to the plan, due to the strong views of the Republicans, who aim to block any ‘green’ plans. The Department of Defence is one of the United States’ biggest contributors to carbon emissions and that is why this plan of action is imperative. Many people believe that the way to reducing climate change is by individually reducing our own carbon footprint. While this may be true, there is a limit as to how much individuals produce as companies and organizations such as the Department of Defence produce the vast majority of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Although the Department of Defence’s plans are not yet complete, their aims and intentions are in favor of helping reduce climate change, a plan that may take many years, but a small step today is still a step in the right direction.

Sources

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Department_of_Defense#:~:text=The%20United%20States%20Department%20of,the%20United%20States%20Armed%20Forces
  2. https://www.activesustainability.com/environment/top-5-most-polluting-countries/
  3. https://oceanleadership.org/natural-disasters-cost-u-s-record-306-billion-last-year/
  4. https://www.politico.com/news/2021/01/04/biden-pentagon-climate-change-454404
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Analysis News

The UK’s Fossil Fuel Move

The Background

In late 2020, the UK government announced plans to completely ban the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 – previously aimed at 2040. These efforts are a step towards Boris Johnson’s 10-point environmental “green industrial revolution” plan and are part of a global effort to phase out fossil fuels. This plan is approximated at £12 billion and aims to create over a quarter of a million jobs nationwide. Apart from the fossil fuel vehicle phase-out, it also vows to quadruple offshore wind farms (which essentially increases the UK’s wind power capacity to power all households), boost hydrogen production, invest in small and advanced nuclear reactors, and several other efforts to curb the climate crisis. 

Problems with Lobbyists

Although the plan may seem like a massively scaled initiative to accelerate the move towards sustainable development, many are not too pleased with the efforts made. Firstly, the car industry has been lobbying the government this month to urge a delay in the implementation of this ban; this is not surprising at all. Major car manufacturers such as BMW, Ford, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, and McLaren all argued against these bans in written submissions, and BMW stated that there is “no scientific evidence to support such ambitious market uptake in the UK” for the previous 2040 ban, let alone this new and earlier date. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) is a UK lobby group, which aims to support and promote the interests of the automotive industry. SMMT calculated that this ban would cause a drop in car sales from £2.3m in 2025 to only about 800,000. Furthermore, SMMT’s chief executive is also worried that 9 years is not enough time to convince the public to switch to the greener electric vehicles and believes that many drivers would find it much more convenient and cost-efficient to stick to their regular way of life. However, moving this ban date to 10 years earlier would make the UK the fastest G7 country to do so. Although it would reduce the UK’s emissions significantly earlier than initially planned, it also severely impacts the marginal costs and research & development plans of several car manufacturing firms. It also puts them in a difficult position in terms of developing their supply of different vehicles and being able to adapt to changing market conditions and demand.

Apart from the car industry, other parties are dissatisfied with the announcement of this plan – including the Labour party. They claim that this plan is deeply disappointing in ambition, and say that it won’t effectively mitigate the current environmental concerns or the unemployment caused by COVID-19. Labour is striving for a green stimulus package, and is referring to Johnson’s 10-point plan as a “pale imitation” of what the country really needs.

Conclusion

Despite the divergent views on this new announcement, it is undoubtedly a step towards a greener future. This ban still works to catalyse the country’s plans to net-zero emissions and the phase-out of fossil fuels. What will actually provide assurance, however, is proper evidence to the public that Downing street and the UK government will pledge and commit to turning these ambitions into a transformative, yet urgently needed reality to curb the harrowing effects of climate change and also provide the UK with the jobs they need.

Sources:

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Analysis News

Our First Collaboration

We are very excited to announce our first collaboration with Econfinity!

Four of our team members (Lilly, Dominika, Liam, and Shivanshu) worked together to write an analysis of the impact of the first coronavirus lockdowns last spring (2020) on the European Food Industry.

Read the full analysis here:

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Biden Calls for $1.9 Trillion Coronavirus Relief Package

President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who was inaugurated last week, proposed a $1.9 trillion relief package to both help Americans get through the pandemic and to provide extra funding for COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution across a United States that has been crushed by the virus. His plan calls for $1,400 checks for each person in most households, $400 per week for the unemployed through to December, expanded paid leave, and increases in child tax credit.. This package along with the smaller one released in December would mean that most Americans will be receiving a combined total of $2,000 each. Unlike past packages, all dependent adults, such as college students, will be eligible for payments since Biden has emphasized that he believes that these people, whether they have kept their jobs or not, are in need of help. This portion of the package that directly supports households makes up about half of the plan’s total cost, with much of the other half of it going to vaccine distribution and testing in local and state governments throughout the US. In addition to expanding eligibility, this package will also raise child tax credit from $2,000 to $3,000 for this year as with $600 additional dollars for children under 6 years old. The plan will also provide the poorest households with the full benefits of this. The child tax credit currently provides parents with a credit of up to $2,000 per child under 17 years old on their taxes. Simply put, it means that if you are a parent of two children under 17, you would pay up to $4,000 dollars less in taxes when it is time to pay them. The package will also focus on extending student loan forbearance, which will pause loan payments, provide $350 billion for state and local governments, and dedicate $50 billion to increasing testing and vaccine distribution. Overall this enormous plan covers a lot of issues in the United States that this pandemic has either created or exacerbated. However, this enormous plan is still the starting point for the new president and his attempts to fight a pandemic and an economic recession simultaneously. Mr. Biden has said that he plans to outline another proposal dedicated to economic recovery and combating climate change in February.

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Elections in Uganda

Electoral officials declared on the 16th of January that Yoweri Museveni has been re-elected as President of Uganda in an election with almost 18 million people who registered to vote. Receiving almost 57% of the votes with his main rival Bobi Wine receiving 35% of the votes, he is due to start his sixth term as President of Uganda. Changes had to be made to allow him to continue running for office. Museveni has been in power since 1986, the same year an armed uprising took place after decades of civil war. He claims to represent security and economic stability and has also been portrayed as a liberator, which helps him win votes.

Bobi Wine is a former pop star and with just 38 years of age is a lot younger than 76-year-old President Museveni. He says that he represents the younger generation. After the results were announced, he accused Museveni of cheating. This may sound like he is just a bad loser, but the Ugandan government did shut down the internet ahead of the voting day, an action which was condemned by election monitors. As the results started coming in on Friday, Bobi Wine claims that Ugandan soldiers surrounded his home, a statement which a government spokesman described as “dramatized.” Furthermore, a lot of Wine’s key advisers had either been arrested or are in hiding. There was also a lot of violence leading up to the election. Dozens of people were killed, and opposition politicians accused the government of harassment.

Meanwhile Museveni said that the vote had been peaceful and described the election as possibly being the “most cheating free” in the history of the continent of Africa. He also declared that “foreign meddling will not be tolerated” as the EU, the UN and several other rights groups raised concerns.

Bobi Wine announced that he rejects the results and will continue to present evidence of voter intimidation and rigging. His party — the National Unity Platform (NUP) — is expected to be the biggest opposition party in parliament, campaigning for basic needs such as access to healthcare, clean water, and education. Since then, another opposition party (Forum for Democratic Change) has also called the election “fraudulent.”

Sources

“Uganda: Veteran Leader Yoweri Museveni Declared Election Winner.” BBC News, BBC, 16 Jan. 2021, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-55689665.

Kiruga, Morris. “Uganda Elections: Museveni Wins, Bobi Wine the Rising Power in Parliament.” The Africa Report.com, The Africa Report, 17 Jan. 2021, http://www.theafricareport.com/59593/uganda-elections-museveni-wins-bobi-wine-the-new-power-in-parliament/.

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On this day

On this day, 73 years ago (January 12th 1948) Mahatma Gandhi began his final fast in an effort to persuade Muslims and Hindus to work towards peace- a reoccurring theme, demonstrated throughout his life. Previously, Gandhi committed himself to 18 fasts, after his vow to “fast unto death”, in order to protest the British government’s decision to colonise the Southern Asian country of India. Throughout his life, Gandhi was the leader of a plethora of non-violent civil disobedience campaigns, ranging from the Dandi Salt March in 1930 to the “Quit India” movement of 1942. The majority of his campaigns stemmed from encouraging the British to allow India to gain its independence as a country, once again. A goal in which he achieved in 1947. Through colonial rule, the British had  exploited India’s raw materials, caused cultural upheaval and abused their political power within the country- Gandhi dedicated his life to changing this. In recognition of his selfless acts, I would like to take a minute to remember the unequivocal changes that Gandhi implemented on this Earth, positively influencing millions of people around the globe, causing a conversation that was continued by many famous figures of history including Martin Luther King JR, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. During his many peaceful political protests, Gandhi taught the concept of “satyagraha”, a Sanskrit word which closely translates to “insistence of the truth”. This concept was shown through this extraordinary leader’s actions, to free the oppressed, to obstruct and prevent discrimination and to gain India’s rightfully deserved political, economic and social independence, for the benefit of all. Through the incredible life that he led, Gandhi proved,  to all, that one determined man (or woman), has the power to successfully take on an empire.