Economy

As some of the rich and powerful gathered in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum last month, Oxfam International issued a report revealing that the combined fortunes of the world’s billionaires rose by 12% last year as the poorest half of humanity saw their wealth decline by 11%.

This is an eyewitness account of the UN Climate Conference COP24, held in Katowice, Poland, in December last year from the perspective of one of the 30,000 participants. All attempts will be taken to avoid acronyms of climate terms, or at least explain them, and I will outline the ‘insider information’ that I got from my first COP.

The inability of the Liberal Party to find candidates for Hunter seats for the March New South Wales state election suggests that even its party faithful recognise that Gladys Berejiklian’s Coalition government is headed for electoral defeat and, probably, a total wipe-out in the Hunter.

In the banking royal commission’s final report, Commissioner Kenneth Hayne made 76 recommendations for reforms to the sector, but stopped short of calling for charges to be laid against bank executives and board members, or any radical shake-up of the industry.

This has led some, such as financial commentator Michael Pascoe writing in the February 5 New Daily, to proclaim: “And the winner is ... the big banks!” His words were promptly reinforced by the fact that bank shares skyrocketed the day after the report was released.

After Commissioner Kenneth Hayne released the banking royal commission’s interim report in September, many of the headlines and takeaway quotes focused on its claim that banks “put profits before people”.

 “Why did it happen?” the report asked. “Too often the answer seems to be greed — the pursuit of short term profit at the expense of basic standards of honesty. How else is charging continuing advice fees to the dead to be explained?...

It is not unusual to hear someone blame the crisis in affordable housing and healthcare or the very expensive tertiary education system on Baby Boomers, the generation born between 1946-64. Gayle Burmeister and Mary Merkenich take aim at this mistaken argument.

Australia’s super-rich keep getting richer.

A new report from Oxfam has found that the top 1% of the country’s plutocrats now own more wealth than the bottom 70%.

There has also been a record rise in the number of billionaires — from 33 to 43 — with their combined wealth now at almost $160 billion last year.

Brazil is going through a profound political crisis, probably more serious than the military coup in 1964 that ushered in 25 years of authoritarian rule, writes Sue Bradford.

After his election as president in October, the neo-fascist Jair Bolsonaro began selecting his ministers. His most important decision — and one that will probably change the destiny of Brazil for many decades — was to choose Paulo Guedes, an advocate of extreme free-market economics, as a super-minister, responsible for a hugely-expanded finance ministry.

Street protests have broken out in at least seven cities across Sudan, beginning on December 19, in response to the price of bread increasing nearly threefold. They are rocking the repressive regime of Omar al-Bashir and echoing the protests against austerity and price rises that swept the country in January that were brutally repressed.

Many "yellow vest" anti-government protesters in France vowed to press on with their demonstrations on December 11, a day after wringing out fresh concessions from President Emmanuel Macron. SBS.com.au reported that Macron announced a series of measures the previous night in an address to the nation, including a hike in the minimum wage and tax relief for pensioners and on overtime work.

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