0

Give me a child






THERE are no nurseries in Bulakabya, a hamlet hacked out of sugar-cane fields in eastern Uganda. That is not for a lack of children: most women will have at least eight and, since polygamy is widespread, some fathers have more. Until recently these children had few chances to learn. Parents often left them to their own devices until they could hold a hoe.

This is changing. On a tarpaulin mat in a church built from wood and mud, toddlers take turns at playing games that help them count, spell and get on with peers. Lively Minds, a charity, teaches the mothers how to foster children’s cognitive and social skills. It also advises them on nutrition and hygiene. It says its intervention doubles the number of children scoring highly enough on cognitive tests to be thought of as “school-ready”. Cases of diarrhoea and malaria have also fallen.

This is just one example of the multiple benefits that come from putting more emphasis on early childhood development (ECD), a term that includes everything that can be done to boost the physical and intellectual health of youngsters before they reach the age of eight.

According to the…

Continue Reading

Uncategorised
0

Italian banks: Spectral forms






Print section
Print Rubric: 

Two lenders seal a merger, while another ponders its options

Print Headline: 

Spectral forms

Print Fly Title: 

Italian banks

UK Only Article: 
standard article

Issue: 

The threat from Russia

Fly Title: 

Italian banks

Location: 

MILAN

Main image: 

Will they Passera?

Will they Passera?

FROM the mists of Italian banking, new shapes are emerging. One is at last becoming flesh: on October 15th the shareholders of two lenders, Banco Popolare and Banca Popolare di Milano, approved a merger that has been months in the making. The substance of another—Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world’s oldest bank as well as Italy’s most troubled—is still shrouded, but it is likely to become clearer at a meeting of Monte dei Paschi’s board on October 24th.
The merged bank, to be … Continue Reading






Uncategorised
0

Travelling in hope






BEFORE dawn the Dignity 1 has completed her first rescue, scooping 114 migrants without lifejackets from a rubber dinghy adrift in the Mediterranean. The crew, who include a doctor and two nurses from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the charity that operates the boat, check the arrivals to see who needs immediate care. No sooner have they finished than the ship is called to assist the Samuel Beckett, an Irish military vessel also engaged in search-and-rescue. Several migrants she has picked up need urgent medical help: they have chemical burns from fuel leaking in their sinking boat. In the evening the Italian coastguard brings 196 more people on board. By midnight the Dignity 1 is carrying 417 migrants. Cordoned off at her prow is the body of Joy, a 23-year-old Nigerian who had been six months pregnant. She died of a heart attack after getting petrol in her lungs.

Some people the boat picks up have fled persecution. Hassan, a 14-year-old Somali picked up the previous day (see picture), is escaping civil war. It has taken him five months to get this far, three of them in…

Continue Reading






Uncategorised
0

Bringing light to the grey economy






IT IS not what Kavita Ahuja, a tutor in Mumbai, does at her job that marks her out from around nine in ten of her fellow Indian workers, but what she does afterwards. As one of her private economics lessons ends, she does not ask her pupil for cash. Rather, her fee of 400 rupees ($6) is settled with a few taps of a smartphone. A side-effect of receiving pay digitally is that she has joined the 48m Indians—in a country of 1.3 billion—who work in the formal, regulated economy. Eduwizards, the app that matches Ms Ahuja to her pupils, deducts what she owes in income tax before paying her, as well as incurring a slew of taxes on its cut.

Moving from the informal to the formal economy can be that simple. But in many countries the transition remains rare. Half to three-quarters of all non-agricultural workers in poorer countries (perhaps 2 billion people) fall outside the purview of officialdom and so can be categorised as “informal” (or “shadow” or “grey”). In rich countries the share is much smaller, though still significant. One-tenth of Britain’s economy is thought to be informal.

Informal businesses typically sell legal goods and…

Continue Reading






Uncategorised
0

Can the next man do better?






SIX months ago the cognoscenti of Turtle Bay, the UN’s location on the east side of Manhattan, were pretty sure that the next head of the nearest thing to a world government would—for the first time on two counts—be an east European and a woman, quite likely the one who runs UNESCO, the UN’s education and culture agency. Instead, it will be a 67-year-old man, who was a social-democratic prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002 and then head of the UN’s refugee body for a decade from 2005. A second Bulgarian candidate, also a woman, but with a rosier reputation as a punchy ex-dissident than her ex-communist compatriot, caused a momentary frisson of gamblers’ excitement by throwing her fur cap into the ring at the last minute. But she was too late and too controversial. António Guterres, who will succeed Ban Ki-moon at the year’s end, has been welcomed across the global board.

The final decision, as ever, depended on the White House and the Kremlin agreeing not to block each other’s favourite (or most unobjectionable) candidate. The surprise was that Mr Guterres so swiftly won the acquiescence of both superpowers, even though relations between the…

Continue Reading






Uncategorised
0

Cash call






Micro-managing

GETTING a microloan is far easier than getting a bank loan. But in east Africa many people have access to an even easier source of credit. It takes just a few taps on a phone to obtain a short-term loan, which will arrive in a mobile-money account almost immediately. It is an exciting, scary development, says Dean Karlan, a development economist at Yale University.

Mobile wallets such as M-PESA and Tigo Cash have already transformed microfinance. In the African countries where they are widespread, microlenders no longer need to distribute and collect piles of bank notes—always a cumbersome task and often a dangerous one. VisionFund, which is part of World Vision International, a Christian charity, channels 95% of its Kenyan loan payments and 98% of its Tanzanian ones through mobile wallets.

Now mobile-network operators and their financial partners are rushing into lending. GSMA, an industry group, says that 45 mobile-credit services were operating in December 2015, four-fifths of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Some are growing fast: M-PAWA, a mobile savings-and-loan service in Tanzania, acquired…

Continue Reading






Uncategorised
0

Banking in Europe: Autumn blues






Print section

UK Only Article: 
standard article

Issue: 

The road to Brexit

Fly Title: 

Banking in Europe

Main image: 

20161008_FNP001_0.jpg

QUEASY calm is unpleasant, but it beats sickening panic. Late on September 29th Deutsche Bank’s share price lurched downwards again, to a 34-year low, after Bloomberg reported that “about ten” hedge funds had switched some business away from the troubled German lender. That capped a stomach-churning fortnight, after America’s Department of Justice (DoJ) requested $14 billion to settle claims that Deutsche mis-sold residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBSs) before the financial crisis. Hopes that it might settle with the DOJ for $5 billion-odd, though so far unfulfilled, have since brought uneasy respite. On October 5th Deutsche’s shares were some 20% above their nadir.  

A swift, affordable agreement would end uncertainty about the bill and quieten chatter, pooh-poohed by government and bank, that the German state might have to prop up the country’s biggest lender. It would also buy breathing space. … Continue Reading






Uncategorised
0

European banking jobs: Career breaks






Print section

UK Only Article: 
standard article

Issue: 

The road to Brexit

Fly Title: 

European banking jobs

Main image: 

20161008_FND001_0.jpg

FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT quipped that “the modern city is a place for banking and prostitution and very little else.” Little did the early 20th-century architect know how banks would flourish, hoovering up much of the world’s talent by the early 2000s. But this golden age is ending: bankers’ jobs are at risk from the digital revolution on the one hand, and falling profits on the other.
Nowhere have bankers fallen from grace with such a bump as in Europe. This week ING, the Netherlands’ largest bank, announced that up to 7,000 jobs would be cut in the next five years. Commerzbank, Germany’s second-largest bank, had already reported it would cut its workforce by 9,600, nearly a fifth.

Across Europe, bankers are packing up. In Britain more than 10% of bank jobs were cut between 2011 and 2015; in Germany the workforce has shrunk by around 20% since 2001. Since the start of the year Credit Suisse has got rid of nearly 5,000 … Continue Reading






Uncategorised
0

Europe’s banks: The chronic continent






Print section

UK Only Article: 
standard article

Issue: 

The road to Brexit

Fly Title: 

Europe’s banks

IT MUST have been an exquisite moment. On September 30th the central bank in Athens issued a statement reassuring investors that the Greek banking system was safe—from a crisis engulfing Germany’s flagship bank. Any Schadenfreude felt in Europe’s periphery at Deutsche Bank’s tumbling shares should be stifled, however. Deutsche is not about to fail: it can survive a harsh funding squeeze, its solvency is not in doubt and if push came to shove, the German government would surely support it. But many of its woes are symptomatic of problems that bedevil the whole continent.
Plenty would deny that. Deutsche is more leveraged than its peers; it is unusual in lacking a crown jewel around which it can base a business model; and it has a stack of derivatives whose prices are hard to observe in the market. More positively, it is light on the non-performing loans that clog the balance-sheets of banks in places like Italy. But in other ways its problems have a very familiar ring. Deutsche is struggling to make a decent return. It has taken … Continue Reading






Uncategorised