Media Watch 19/1/15

By Rowan Williams

The world’s richest one percent will soon own more wealth than the rest of the world’s population put together, a new study has found. The study, by charity Oxfam, predicts that by 2016 the planet’s richest one percent will own 50 percent of the world’s wealth, having owned 44 percent in 2009 and 48 percent in 2014. The report comes as the world’s economic leaders prepare to meet at the World Economic Forum in Davos, where the Executive Director of Oxfam has said she will use the gathering to call for global action on inequality. At Davos last year, Oxfam reported that the world’s richest 85 people owned the same wealth as the planet’s poorest 3.5 billion. In the United States, meanwhile, President Barack Obama is expected to use his State of the Union address on Tuesday to discuss increasing taxes for the wealthy to help America’s middle class. Any such proposal is likely to be met with stiff opposition from the Republican-dominated Congress.

As many as 80 people, many of them children, are believed to have been kidnapped by militant Islamic group Boko Haram in Cameroon on Sunday night. Three people were also killed by the Nigerian militant group as it crossed Nigeria’s border to make raids on Cameroonian villages. Most of those abducted from the village of Mabass and other surrounding villages were reported to be between the ages of 10 and 15, with firefights between militants and soldiers lasting for two hours. Boko Haram’s attacks have grown in severity over the past year, with the group beginning to expand its operations into Cameroon and Niger. In its most notorious attack of 2014, Boko Haram abducted around 200 girls from a school in the town of Chibok, with many of the girls still missing. Neighbouring Chad has deployed approximately 2,000 troops to assist Cameroon’s fight against Boko Haram in the area, along with armoured vehicles and attack helicopters.

The Chinese stock market has seen its biggest one-day fall since 2008, with the Shanghai Composite Index and the CSI300 both falling 7.7 percent. The fall in value comes after Chinese authorities clamped down on margin trading, believed to be a cause of growing market speculation over the past three months. Top brokerages were punished for illegal activities in margin trading, and were banned from opening new margin trading accounts for three months. China’s banking sector, meanwhile, was hit by new rules tightening regulations on entrusted loans, with shares in banks suffering some of the worst falls of the day. Shares in Bank of China fell by 10 percent, while shares in Agricultural Bank of China fell by 9.9 percent.

The Papers

Money and inequality are the main themes in today’s headlines. The Guardian leads with news of a study showing that half of all global wealth will be held by the richest 1 percent of the population by next year. Oxfam, the charity that carried out the study, has warned of the “widening inequality gap” just days ahead of the Davos economic summit, the paper writes. The Independent reports on a separate study, meanwhile, which has found that “for every 12 jobs created in the South, one is lost in the North” of Britain. Britain’s North-South divide has “widened significantly in the past decade”, the paper reports. The Financial Times leads with news that in the United States, plans to “tax Wall Street and wealthy” have been criticised by the banking industry and Republican rivals in Congress. President Obama hopes to raise US$320 billion with the new taxes over the next ten years, with money raised helping to fund welfare spending. The Times leads with news that “Plunging” fuel prices will give a “boost to family spending”. The predicted rise in household spending power is “‘further proof’ of economic recovery”, according to Chancellor George Osborne. In other news, The Daily Telegraph leads with news that British mosques have been “ordered to root out extremists” by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles. The government has written to “every Muslim leader” in Britain “to say they must do more to stop radicals”, the paper writes.

British Media on China

On economics: a few China-related economic stories have appeared across the UK media today. The BBC reports on the Shanghai stock market tumble, which notes that the fall comes just one day ahead of China’s release of its GDP figures. The figures are expected to show China missing its growth target “for the first time in 15 years”. The Guardian includes news of the Shanghai stock market fall in its live business blog. The Daily Telegraph, meanwhile, writes that UK investors are set to go on a “bonanza” in China, with investment to quadruple within five years. With Chinese companies buying stakes in UK companies, the UK is “preparing to return the compliment”, the paper writes.

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