Bellerbys Economics - Mr Stephenson

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Let's All Go To The Movies

Excellent film from PBS has just been released called 'Who Killed The Electric Car' which looks at the way the motor and oil industries in the USA, in particular, worked hard to resist environmental legislation and to prop up demand for oil. Even as recently as 2005, General Motors were talking of crushing all their electric cars.

However, with oil prices rising rapidly, global warming concerns, instability in oil-producing countries and other problems, the electric car appears to be making a comeback - either in its pure form or as a hybrid with some petrol usage. Toyota's Prius continues to sell well and Honda has just announced the launch of its own hybrid vehicle.

On the other hand, we must remember that even electric cars do not come with zero emissions - even electric cars need energy - so we must also focus on the source of that energy - which is cleaner: coal-fired stations, nuclear or renewables such as sun and wind?

You can find out more here:

You can see the movie at the Duke of York's cinema in London Road, Brighton next weekend

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

New Mobile Phone Generation

The latest kickstart to the mobile phone industry starts today with the introduction of the .mobi suffix to website addresses.

To create a website using the .mobi suffix, your website must meet technical standards which will make them easy to download to mobile phones, providing a much better internet experience for mobile phone users than the current generation allows.

Insiders predict that within three years, access speeds will be equivalent to broadband connections. True internet access for mobile phone users will shift the way we work away from static computers to dynamic mobiles - a new revolution is beginning right here right now as I write this piece!

This is supply-side innovation at its best - creating a new industry, new jobs, more efficient use of resources, increasing the speed of information exchange (sometimes called the sixth factor of production) and the velocity of spending - as we will soon be able to buy things through our mobiles and have the cost added to our mobile accounts or subtracted from our top-up cards which will increasingly become more general debit cards or credit sticks.

You can register new .mobi addresses for as little as £14 if you prefer to be on the supplier rather than the consumer side of the market.

The future starts here and it looks like the future is orange.

Monday, September 25, 2006

VAT Fraud

VAT is the sales tax paid in the UK - 17.5% is added to the price of the product before sale.

The UK has been hit by a fraud worth £8.4bn - according to Eurocanet, a monitoring service. That's equivalent to a 1% rise in income tax.

The fraud succeeds because exporters are able to claim back the VAT on products exported. So, they set up an import company which imports the products and 'sells' them to an exporter. The exporter adds on the VAT figure for retail - but instead of selling the product within the UK, the products are exported (often back to the company they bought it from) - and the VAT is claimed back form the government through the normal accounting channels.

The exporter then closes his business down so there is no chance of the government reclaiming the VAT it has paid out.

Then, of course, a new company is set up and the cycle is repeated.

You can see more details here on a BBC Panorama programme that covered the issue in some depth:

We will look at this again in Module 5 when we study the broader issues of corporate governance and business ethics.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Romanian & Bulgaria

The EU has confirmed that Romania and Bulgaria will join the EU on January 1st, 2007. This will bring the number of EU countries to 27.

Bellerbys College is doing its bit to welcome the new countries into the family by leading a project linking schools together in the UK, Italy and Romania in the first year which it is hoped will expand to include Bulgaria and Turkey in the second year.

Bellerbys students will be invited to undertake a number of joint student development projects with students from the other colleges in the project. More details on the exact nature of these projects will be made available in November.

Monday, September 18, 2006


New students can find a copy of the syllabus here:

You will also be issued with a hardcopy of the syllabus in due course from the examinations office.

There are no changes in the syllabus from the previous year.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

BBC Economics

The BBC's excellent Economics site that you should try to visit as often as possible has now moved to here:

Those of you now starting module 6 should try to look at the underlying trends in any item of daily news.

For example, the news item that describes the rapid increase in trade between India/China and Africa has lots of implications for development economics. It demonstrates that India/China are following up on the policy initiated two years ago to promote trade between the BRIC countries (Brazil, India, Russia, China) and other developing countries as a way of accelerating growth in these countries. The recent free trade deal between Brazil and India is another example of this.

Also, the pressure being placed on China to increase the value of the yuan has implications for the US and China current accounts; for controlling inflation within China; for increasing the overseas purchasing power of Chinese consumers (Bellerbys courses would become cheaper!) - but also for the domestic value of China's large foreign exchange holdings which are held mainly in dollars and the competitiveness of Chinese labour costs on the world market - a big issue!

Also, the terrible news that Zimbabwe's rate of inflation is 1200% illustrates many of the points that we will discuss as module 6 unfolds.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Let's All Go to the Movies!!

It's Friday, it's 5 o'clock and it's movie time!!

My recommendation for this week is "An Inconvenient Truth", a great new documentary about global warming presented by Al Gore, the US presidential candidate who some argue should have won the 2000 American presidential election.

It sounds like it might be a bit boring - but actually the previews I've seen have been absolutely gripping - like the most exciting Hollywood disaster movie - except that unfortunately the images in this movie have not been created by special effects - they are real!

This is a must-see for all students thinking of re-sitting module 3 in January. Try to get to see it if you can - it covers just about the whole of the module 3 syllabus in 90 minutes. When it comes out on DVD, we'll get a copy for the library.

Meanwhile, this term's edition of 'Economics Today' magazine is now available and can be read in the library - or you may be able to borrow my copy when I've finished with it. There are a number of excellent articles this time - including one on buffer stock systems and another on elasticity, both important parts of module 1.

Finally, here once again is the link to the website about personal statements that some of you have been asking me about:

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Malaysia News

The Malaysian economy continues to make good progress with economic growth this year of around 5.5%. Inflation is running a little high at 3.9% and this may result in an increase in interest rates soon. In turn, this may reduce growth and exports a little - one of the effects of an interest rate rise being an increase in the exchange rate over a period of time, making exports more expensive.

Malaysia has a good current account surplus of around $7bn annually and exports mostly electronic products. GDP PPP per person is around $10,000 placing Malaysia in the middle income group of countries.

The only dark cloud on the horizon is the Prime Minister who is coming in for a lot of criticism for appointing friends and relatives to high positions. His own future looks in doubt.

Meanwhile, it appears that the biggest growth industry in Malaysia is the beauty industry with a rapid increase in expenditure on plastic surgery, botox treatments, skin blemish removal and so on.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Tutor 2U Blog

There are many excellent economics blogs on the web now.

There's this one of course - but also the Tutor2U blog which is very useful for A-level economics students. You can visit it here:

You can also gain access to a wide selection of views here:

Amongst my own favourites are:

Dear Economist - Tim Harford is the rising star of TV Economics - check out his TV series, 'Trust Me, I'm An Economist'. He also wrote 'The Undercover Economist'

Freakonomics - Can now be found here:

You need to take care when reading blogs and websites of course - even this one - because you are only dealing with one person or one group's opinion. A good economist should always ask themselves - 'What is the source of the information' and 'What are their objectives' - but bearing this in mind, you can have a lot of fun browsing through Economics blogs and learn a lot of useful stuff.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Wang Hui

Wang Hui is a professor at Qinghua University in Beijing. He is editor of the magazine Duzhu and has written an excellent book looking at the forces shaping modern China and the challenges that lie ahead - it's called "The New Model China". You can ask Pat in the library if she can get it for you.

The book is in three parts:

Firstly, it identifies the groups that are forcing the pace of change in China:
- Intellectuals and students seeking a more open society
- Workers in the cities seeking greater social security and better public services
- Business people seeking more opportunities

Secondly, it identifies the problems facing modern China
- Institutional corruption
- Growing inequality
- The changing role of government

Finally, it considers what may be the best approaches to solving the conflicts that exist such as
- Traditional v Modern approaches
- City v Country
- The role of the nation-state in a globalised world

The emphasis throughout the book is on the need for humanism (considering the needs of the individual and the community) and the importance of pursuing development policies that we have come to describe as supply-side polcies.

Wang Hui covered most of these topics in a lecture he gave at the LSE in London last year and if you want to gain an overview of what's happening in modern China, this is a good place to start.