Letters to the Editor – Latest

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As an avid reader of your publication, I feel obliged to share with you and my fellow readers the eagerness with which I await every article by Otaviano Canuto. While I freely admit that much of his macro-economic theories go straight over my head, I always feel that I am learning from him. His latest assertions on what we can expect in terms of economic recovery from the pandemic — despite being challenging for the layperson — made more sense than the thousands of opinions I have read and listened to in the past nine months. I almost feel as if I know what to expect; even if this proves to be a false sense of security, I remain grateful to Canuto for his clarifications on such a complicated situation

Sara Horvat Split, Croatia

I wonder if Makhtar Diop ever takes the Metro in Washington DC. If he had taken the London Underground, or Madrid Cercanias (I am told), he would have witnessed the insanity of the local authorities cutting back services with the aim of reducing passenger numbers. Obviously, this has had the effect of increasing crowding — a situation in which viruses thrive. How will transport companies around the world be able to implement “new regulations to make transport resilience and safety an integral part of their new normal” when they have suffered a massive reduction in revenues… while being expected to run services in often deserted cities? I envisage many privatised transport companies falling back into the public ambit in the near future.

Francis Martin London, UK

Your contributor Mohamed A El-Erian (The Pandemic’s Complex Cocktail, Autumn) seems off his game — or perhaps he plays on a different board altogether. It is rather remarkable that El-Erian should find cause for celebration in the prospect of “generous liquidity conditions” enabled by central banks which, he writes, will “deliver further gains to investors”. Stock markets are about to close the year on a historic high and, quite unperturbed by asset price inflation, El-Erian cheers the wonderful gains that 2021 will undoubtedly deliver, courtesy of central banks that keep shovelling trillions into the already well-lined pockets of the few. It takes no exceptional powers of prescience to predict that the many will eventually be asked to settle the bill for this feast. Admittedly, El-Erian does mention (ever so briefly) the mismatch between asset prices and the real economy, concluding that wealth inequalities may be amplified. Kudos. Now, can we please have some actual insights? Wouldn’t it be more interesting to figure out how monetary policy could be reshaped to serve the interests of that real economy, as opposed to inflating the bubble? Real people — families, entrepreneurs, small businesses — need help. The wealthiest one percent do not.

Shelia Temple Glasgow, Scotland

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres seems to dwell in another world. He and his outfit have been notably mute during the Corona pandemic, relegated to the margins of events and rendered largely irrelevant by politically correct — but singularly ineffectual — mutterings regarding sustainability, and barging through open doors with affirmations of the obvious. I honestly do not think the good man is capable of conceiving a single original thought, approach, or solution. His “Decade of Action” is rhetorically not dissimilar from Boris Johnson’s “Moonshot” or Donald Trump’s MAGA campaign: all smoke, no fire. It’s a pity for the UN. The organisation should have been a font of inspiration and a source of encouragement in these trying times. Instead, it remains solidly behind the curve, wallowing in a discourse unfit for the present times, or the New Normal to come.

John Davies Washington, D.C., USA

I am not a regular reader of your magazine, or a financial expert, so criticising the subject matter of an article in your recent issue could be seen as shooting from the hip, at best, and rude at worst. My apologies in advance, then. My criticism isn’t so much of your publication but its preponderance of stories about wealth. I know, I know, it’s a financial magazine, it says so in the title. But we live in a world increasingly divided not just into “rich” and “poor” strata, but subdivided into categories. One of those categories, which I personally find offensive, is HNWIs: high-net-worth individuals. According to your feature (HNWIs Continually Searching for their Own Little Piece of Paradise, p42), personal net assets of more than $1m (no equivalent given for pounds sterling) qualifies a person as an HNWI. Hooray for them. But a million dollars (or pounds, for that matter) is no longer a benchmark of true wealth. There is an increasing number of ultra-high “earners” (is any great wealth truly earned?) — I’m thinking Bezos, Musk and company — who have obscene amounts of money. More than the national debt of some struggling countries, in some cases. Is there any justification for an individual to possess potentially world-changing amounts of money? These billionaires have the wherewithal to do great things, to unilaterally tackle the problems of pollution, access to potable water etc. Apart from some occasional, moderately generous contributions (no doubt mostly tax dodges and PR stunts), these financial titans spend their time, and their money, looking to improve their personal circumstances and lavish still more luxuries on themselves. I suggest these people take a leaf from the book of former billionaire businessman and philanthropist Chuck Feeney: he gave away almost all his personal wealth, and has lived a frugal but happy lifestyle. I realise I will be a lone voice on this subject, considering your focus and readership, but I confess stories such as the one I refer to stick in my craw. Can I just say, in parting: isn’t it time for a cap on personal wealth? Taxation won’t cut the mustard, as long as there are cunning accountants with ruses to take the sting out of annual returns. These ultra-HNWIs need to be brought down a peg or two.

Jim Kellar Dover, UK