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Monday, October 15, 2012

Scotland to Vote on Leaving the United Kingdom in 2014

U.K Prime Minister David Cameron and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond have signed a deal to grant the Scottish government the power to hold the referendum on independence before the end of 2014. Dubbed the Edinburgh Agreement, the agreement follows months of negotiations on the contents of the referendum and the rights of those above 16 years of age to participate in the vote. The central government managed to avoid a second question, on further devolution, being placed on the ballot, but conceded on the youth vote to the Scottish government. Salmond wants the referendum to be held in the autumn of 2014, the year when Scotland hosts prestigious events such as the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup. Recent polls have shown that about a third of the Scottish population supports independence from the United Kingdom, but the length of time for the campaign could prove to be decisive for the Scottish nationalists. If independence is approved, Scotland would break a 305-year-old union with England.

Portugal Set to Unveil Radical Budget in Order to Keep Bailout on Track

Portugal is set to unveil a tough budget on Monday in order to keep to its proposed €78 billion bailout. Among the measures to be adopted by the centre-right government led by Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho are income tax rises of up to 30 percent, an emergency surcharge of 4 percent on earnings, a tax in financial transactions, as well as steep rises on property taxes. The government is also expected to slash pensions. Opposition members say the budget proposals would risk social upheaval and have pledged to vote against the proposals, saying they will stifle growth. Portuguese President Aníbal Cavaco Silva used his Facebook page to comment on the planned budget, saying that it would not be right to reduce the country’s deficit “at any cost”.

Troika Suggests Evacuating Less Populated Greek Islands to Save Money

All Greek islands with less than 150 inhabitants would be evacuated for budgetary reasons, according to a proposal made by representatives of the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, known as the troika. “I was at a meeting and they asked me to evacuate Greek islands with less than 150 people because they were a burden on the budget”, said Kostas Mousouroulis, Minister for Maritime Affairs. At least 22 islands would fit the troika’s suggestion, made public by a Greek blog and reported by French newspaper La Tribune. The news comes as the Greek government tries to find new sources of income. It has decided to resume oil and gas exploration in the Ionian Sea and in lands close to Albania, and it hopes new prospects in waters close to Crete could bring a minor oil boom its crippled economy. Greece is also fast-tracking approvals for the development of new gold mines, which could make the country overtake Finland as Europe’s largest gold producer in four years.

EU Agrees on New Financial and Trade Sanctions Against Iran

The European Union (EU) has decided to adopt new financial and trade sanctions against Iran in order to force Tehran into restarting talks on its nuclear programme. Among the sanctions adopted by the EU are a ban on Iranian gas imports, a prohibition on EU vessels taking on Iranian oil, a freeze on Iranian assets in the EU and a ban on all transactions between European and Iranian banks. “It is very, very important that Iran is sent a very strong signal that we want to see a negotiated settlement”, said Catheron Ashton, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs. “We want to persuade Iran to come to the table”.

Nobel Prize Awarded to Economists Who Solved Real World Problems

Two Americans were awarded the Nobel economics prize on Monday for complementary studies on matching theory. Professor Alvin Roth of Harvard University and professor Lloyd Shapley of UCLA answered a central economic problem, that of matching different agents when the simple market practice of adjusting prices to make supply equal demand wouldn’t readily apply. Their studies centred on the allocation of doctors to hospitals, students with schools and human organs with those waiting for transplants. Roth and Shapley worked independently of one another, but the combination of Shapley’s theory and Roth’s investigations improved the performance of many markets. The Nobel committee hailed their work as “an outstanding example of economic engineering”.

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