Bank of England Upgrades Growth Forecasts
Outgoing Bank of England Governor Sir Mervyn King has delivered his last inflation report, upgrading the UK’s growth forecast. He also said that inflation should fall faster than predicted previously, dropping to the targeted 2 percent level within two years. “Today’s projections are for growth to be a little stronger and inflation a little weaker than we expected three months ago. That’s the first time I’ve been able to say that since before the financial crisis”, said Sir Mervyn. Economic growth for 2013 is expected to be greater 1 percent, up from a previous estimate of 0.9 percent. “This hasn’t been a typical recession and it won’t be a typical recovery. Nevertheless, a recovery is in sight”, he added. Some analysts saw his remarks as optimistic. David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce, interviewed by the BBC, said that “we accept that growth is likely to remain positive, but believe that the speed of the recovery will be somewhat slower than the governor indicated”.
Clegg Acuses Conservatives of ‘Shifting Goalposts’ on EU Referendum
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats, used his appearance at Prime Minister’s Questions to say that a referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union was a matter of “when, not if”. He was standing in for Prime Minister David Cameron, who is currently visiting the US. He refused to commit his support to a bill asking for a referendum during the current parliament, saying that the European Union Act 2011 guaranteed a referendum if the country’s relationship with the EU changed significantly after a renegotiation of treaties. “You and your colleagues in the Conservative party are perfectly free to change the goalposts but we have this legislation, the people of Britain have a guarantee when a referendum will take place and that is what I suggest we should all go out and promote”, said Clegg. “There is a fundamental debate we need to have in this country about whether we are an open or closed nation and whether we stand tall in our European neighbourhood or not”, he added. His remarks mean that Labour is the only party not to have defined its position on a potential EU referendum.
Chinese General Questions Japan’s Sovereignty Over Okinawa
Major General Luo Yuan, of China’s People’s Liberation Army, has said that the Okinawa and Ryukyu Islands do not belong to Japan. He said that they could not claim sovereignty over the archipelago as the islands started paying tribute to China in 1372, but were only taken by the Japanese in 1832. Okinawa, the largest island, was administered by the US under a UN mandate until 1972, when Japanese control was resumed. The island is still home to a large number of US military bases. “Let’s for now not discuss whether they belong to China, they were certainly China’s tributary state. I am not saying all former tributary states belong to China, but we can say with certainty that the Ryukyus do not belong to Japan”, said the general during an interview with the China News Service. His remarks come four days after the People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper, questioned Japan’s sovereignty over Okinawa in an article, laster dismissed by Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga as “injudicious”.
Cyclone Mahasen Prompts Mass Evacuations in Bangladesh and Burma
Hundreds of thousands of people in Bangladesh have been ordered to evacuate low-lying areas around the port city of Chittagong and the coastal district of Cox’s Bazar ahead of Cyclone Mahasen. The country’s authorities have pegged the cyclone’s danger at seven out of 10, with the Bangladesh Meteorological Department saying that the associated storm could create a 2 metre surge along the coast. In Burma, President Thein Sein urged government officials to avoid repeating the mistakes made during Cyclone Nargis, when 140,000 people were killed in 2008. “Security, safety, food and health care are crucial. And it’s very important to carry out relief work on humanitarian grounds for all regardless of race and religion”, he said. “The military will move them to higher ground”, guaranteed Aung Min, a minister at the president’s office. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that Mahasen could be “life-threatening” to 8.2 million people in Bangladesh, Burma and also northeastern India.