Media Watch 16/4/15

By Rowan Williams

Britain’s next government will face a more serious struggle to reduce the annual spending deficit than previously thought, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has found. The news could cause concerns over political parties’ spending plans – particularly the Conservative Party, who have pledged to generate a budget surplus over the course of the next parliament. According to the IMF, lower tax revenues and uncertainty over the election have altered growth forecasts, predicting a £7 billion spending deficit in 2019. A £7 billion surplus had previously been predicted by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). Higher taxes, and higher spending on welfare and tax credits may be required as a result of slower growth, the IMF warned. Growth has been predicted to fall from 2.7 percent to 2.3 percent. The IMF’s figures come from the group’s six-monthly monitor of the finances of its member states. In its monitor, the IMF appealed for poorer nations to capitalise on low fuel prices raising energy taxing and cutting income tax, shifting the burden of tax from the poorer to the richer.

The leader of South Korea has promised to raise the sunken ferry Sewol, one year after it sank. Memorial services are being held across South Korea to mark the disaster that killed 304 people, many of them school students. The largest memorial ceremony is being held in Ansan city, the home of the student victims. South Korean Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo was blocked from entering the memorial hall in Ansan by relatives of the victims, many of whom are angry at the lack of an independent inquiry into the disaster. The ferry had been overloaded and illegally modified, with safety standards and rescue efforts coming in for severe criticism from the public. Several crew members were jailed for negligence, while the ferry operator firm’s chairman vanished and was eventually found dead. South Korean President Park Guen-Hye has pledged to salvage the ferry, in an operation estimated to cost £74 million. Nine bodies have yet to be recovered from the wreckage.

The search area for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 will be doubled if the plane is not found, ministers from China, Australia and Malaysia have said. Search teams have continued to look for evidence of the craft that vanished without trace in March 2014, along with 239 passengers and crew, most of whom were Chinese. The search area is to be extended to cover an additional 60,000 square kilometres, covering the entirety of the ‘high-probability’ area designated by experts. The extended search is expected to take another year to complete, with the current search area expected to be completed in May. Investigators believe the search area, 1,000 miles west of Australia, is the most likely area of any crash, after the flight disappeared shortly after taking off on its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Experts believe the flight was flown off-course before crashing.

The Papers

Today’s headlines move away from politics for the first time this week. The Guardian leads with a report into the fire at Bradford City stadium in 1985 undertaken by one of the fire’s survivors. The paper writes that the fire was “‘no accident'”, with the fire at the stadium being one of nine fires breaking out at premises linked to the stadium’s ex-owner. The Independent leads with news that one thousand soldiers in Britain have been “stricken by MoD’s anti-malaria drug”. Almost 1,000 British troops and veterans have sought psychiatric treatment after taking discredited anti-malaria drug Lariam, prompting an outcry from relatives and former military chiefs, the paper reports. The Times leads with news that the Crown Prosecution Service will not pursue charges of historical child abuse against Lord Janner. The ruling “raises new fears of establishment cover-up”, the paper writes. The Daily Telegraph leads with news of a “Scramble for houses as market shrinks”. The high-end property market has been left ‘paralysed’ by fears over a mansion tax, stamp duty rises, and the general election. The Financial Times leads with news that the International Monetary Fund has dismissed the “prospect of Britain balancing the books this decade”. The announcement is a “blow for political parties” promising higher spending, with the shortfall attributed to “weakness in tax revenues”, the paper writes.

British Media on China

On the purchasing of Segway: Chinese tech firm Ninebot has bought Segway for an undisclosed sum, the Guardian and BBC have both reported. Ninebot received financial backing from Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi. The BBC writes that Segway “had sought an import ban against Ninebot in September” over fears of copyright infringment, while the Guardian reports that Ninebot started out as a crowdfunded project, but now ships products to 38 countries. Ninebot’s latest funding round secured US$80 million in funding from firms including Xiaomi, the paper writes.

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