The UK Economy Braces for 2-Year Long Recession: What Went Wrong?
The UK economy is witnessing one of the worst crises in its history. The downfall of the pound, war-infused energy crisis, skyrocketing electricity bills, collapsing stock market, changing Prime ministers, and whatnot?
Nothing has gone in the UK’s favor since the passing of the Queen. And now the country is bracing for a prolonged two-year recession with contracting third quarters.
But what went wrong in the first place? How did this trigger an economic catastrophe in the UK? And can Rishi Sunak save the UK?
Here is a detailed explainer:
UK Economy: An Overview of the Problem
With the political upheaval and the pandemic, the already suffering economy of the UK reached its brim when the Russia-Ukraine war ignited.
In response to Ukraine’s invasion, Britain halted the import of fuel, gas, or coal from Russia since June for the first time in the past 25 years.
As a result, Russia stopped its critical gas pipeline to Europe, thus creating an energy crisis.
All this led to the UK’s economic downfall.
Today, inflation is at an all-time high of 9.9%, a 40-year high. Energy bills are shot up by almost 80%despite capping. Finally, and most importantly, the pound has become one of the worst-performing currencies, with its value dropping by 24% against the dollar.
The Mini Budget Turmoil
With such disruptive environments in the UK, former Prime Minister Liz Truss came up with the mini-budget. The mini-budget baskets a slew of tax changes, including the elimination of the high rate of income tax for the wealthy and the energy subsidies policy platform.
However, the mini-budget backfired and now has snowballed from an energy crisis into debt, housing, currency, and even a banking crisis.
The pointer mentioned in the mini-budget has been so terrifying that it shook the economy of the UK and plunged the London Stock Exchange horribly.
With such an unstable situation inside the UK economy, Truss changed her mind about company taxes after days of adamantly defending her budget and firing finance Minister Kwarteng.
“I still agree with my policies, but I’ve sacked my finance minister because he announced them, and the market didn’t like them.”She said
A Cold and Long Winters Awaits the UK
The three major events that make the incoming winter snug for the UK are:
- First, Russia has entirely cut off gas, which causes the cost of electricity to shoot up by almost 80%.
- Secondly, on top of the existing gas storage, the incoming winter energy consumption is about to hit a new peak from September to December.
- Third, even if Europe had 90% of its Energy storage complete in September 2022, it could take only 90 days for it to reach dangerously low levels.
Long story short, a gas shortage during a peak consumption time, with no storage option, will further increase energy prices. It has already been shot up at extreme levels resulting in high electricity bills that eventually heated inflation and the economy of the UK.
Even though the UK is receiving help from the US and other countries, gas prices are still very high. Hence the cost of production and inflation has hit a record 9.9%.
“It is going to be tough. But protecting the vulnerable – and people’s jobs, mortgages, and bills – will be at the front of our minds as we work to restore stability, confidence, and long-term growth,”British finance minister Jeremy Hunt twitted
Bond Market Crisis with Collapsing Pound
The UK’s property market, pension industry, and overall economy are at risk of recession. The reason behind this is the decline in the price of UK government bonds and the ensuing rise in interest rates.
10-year bond rates in the UK have gone above almost 300%, going from just about 1% to 4.11% in just nine months.
Even though the bonds yield a 4% interest, the currency has depreciated to such an extent that it has become a disaster for foreign investors. As a result, foreign investors are quitting the UK market, further decreasing the demand for the pound.
Such a crisis in the bond market resulted in currency depreciation further, and the sterling slid against the US dollar. Furthermore, during the Ukraine-Russia war, Russia cut off gas supplies, and oversized reliance on imports further surge Euro.
Rishi, the Third Prime Minister in Three Months
After the resignation of Boris Johnson with 27 ministers, the office was handed over to Liz Truss. When Boris left the office, there was a sensation in the UK that it was time for stability and competence.
However, due to poor politics and policies, Liz Truss abruptly resigned from the post of Prime Minister within 45 days. The shortest and most disastrous spell that slung the economy of the UK and crashed the pound forced Liz Truss to step down from the post.
With the resignation of Liz Truss, the reign was entrusted to Rishi Sunak, the third PM of the UK in the last three months. Sunak’s appointment ended another period of political unrest in the UK.
But many analysts and Westminster observers are still of the opinion that there will soon be another crisis. With the opposition Labor Party presently leading in the polls, all opposition parties are pleading for a general election.
Can Rishi Sunak Save UK Economy?
The political unpredictability has led the UK economy into a two-year-long recession. The previous two prime ministers were unqualified to steer the UK economy’s flimsy ship. Hence Rishi has some challenging tasks to do.
Now, everything will depend on how Rishi approaches the challenging work of rescuing the UK economy from disaster, and it will be interesting to watch how he advances.
Pakistan Crisis Explained – Looming Threat of a Military Coup
Pakistan Crisis: struggle with terrorism, economy, and political Dispute – over 850 innocent lives lost in Q1 2023.
The South-Asian country is facing a perilous situation with a staggering toll of over 850 innocent lives lost to terror attacks in the first three months of 2023.
As the economy continues to struggle, with long-term allies like China refusing to provide bailouts and political disputes escalating, Pakistan finds itself at a critical crossroads. The judiciary is also not spared from the ongoing tug-of-war.
Now, the big questions are –
- Can Pakistan recover from its current economic catastrophe?
- Why terror attacks are on the rise?
- And is Pakistan on the route of another military coup?
The Economy in Shambles
Over a dozen people were killed as the crowd rushed to grab a pack of flour. Sadly, it’s not an isolated incident.
With inflation at 30% high – the highest recorded in five decades – the costs of essential goods have surged. But the situation only headed south, with Islamabad forced to remove subsidies as Pakistan’s financial support from the IMF dries out.
And all this is happening in a nation still trying to recover from last year’s flood, ravaging the country’s vast swaths in October. A climate catastrophe that killed 1700 people and cost the nation 15 billion USD in damages.
Read More: Pakistan Flood Puts Climate Injustice in the Spotlight: The Age of Catastrophe
On top of it, the currency is in a tailspin. But nobody is ready to help Pakistan bail out.
Why Nobody is Rady to Bailout Pakistan?
In the past, Pakistan has received significant financial aid from countries like UAE and Qatar, amounting to 24.4 billion USD over the last five years, and Chinese commercial banks have loaned over 30 billion USD. These bailouts were primarily driven by humanitarian, common interest, and economic reasons.
However, due to the government’s inability to fulfill previous promises, the countries are reluctant to help Pakistan.
IMF was another major lender of the South-Asian nation. But, the country finds itself caught in a catch-22 situation due to pressures from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to reduce subsidies and curb inflation. On the one hand, to address inflation, the government needs to provide subsidies, but on the other hand, if they cancel subsidies to increase revenue, it may lead to citizen protests.
But this delay in IMF’s bailout comes in contrast to its approval of a 15.6 billion USD loan for Ukraine and the United States’ decision to print 300 billion USD to save a bank in Silicon Valley.
It clearly shows that the priorities of IMF and Western countries are different – which does not include countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
And while stuck in one of the worst economic catastrophes, terror attacks in Pakistan are also on the rise.
The Alarming Surge of Terror Attacks
Terrorist attacks in Pakistan have been surging since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, and 2023 has been one of the deadliest years yet.
The devastating bombing in January, which marked one of the deadliest blasts in Pakistan’s history, is sadly not an isolated incident. Since then, several more attacks have resulted in loss of life and widespread destruction.
In Karachi, a police headquarters was targeted, resulting in the deaths of four individuals. In Balochistan’s Khuzdar district, at least two policemen were killed in a “remote-controlled blast,” and another attack in a crowded market in Balochistan claimed four more lives.
February alone recorded 58 terrorist attacks that killed 62 innocent civilians, including security personnel, civilians, and terrorists themselves, with 134 others injured.
The situation again escalated on March 4th when the TTP targeted a mosque in Peshawar, claiming the lives of around a hundred people, including most police officers. Despite the government’s efforts, the TTP continues to defy authority, leaving the situation seemingly helpless.
These ongoing and frequent terror attacks highlight the persistent threat faced by Pakistan, with innocent lives being lost and communities being affected by violence and instability.
How is the Politics Further Worsening the Pakistan Crisis?
The government is stuck in a complex situation. The Shabbat Sharief government blames its predecessors for all the economic woes. While the former prime minister, Imran Khan, keeps challenging the very establishment. Today, Imran Khan is facing over 30 cases, including terrorism charges.
The government is also locking horns with the judiciary for control over institutions. Judges are openly called out for being biased.
Amidst the deterioration of the government institution, all eyes are now on the military front of Pakistan – where the real power lies.
Given the country’s crumbling economy and politics, will the commander step in as they have done thrice earlier (1958, 1977, and 1999)?
Is a Military Coup Under Way in Pakistan?
The recent stampede in aid distribution centers paints a very dire picture of the Pakistan crisis. However, the country has come a long way since its last coups.
The situation on the ground is getting bad to worse. The desperation of the ordinary hard-working people is on the rise.
Experts fear there might be slight interventions in the decision-making process. But while the current upheaval might be ringing military coup bells, for now, the power still resides in the hand of the people.
244 Million Out of School Children (Where’s Their Right to Education?)
Education is the most basic right of every child. But for a staggering 224 million out of school children, education is a luxury they can’t afford.
That’s why, through this article, we are debunking the false mirage of all the “development in educational” and shedding light on:
- The current status of such millions of out-of-school children
- Major driving forces behind the education crisis globally
- Potential solutions
244 Million Out of School Children Globally
In 2022, a UNSECO report displayed that over 244 million children and youth between 6 and 18 won’t start a new school year, with the most out-of-school children in the Sub-Saharn region (98 million).
Research has shown that children are the first to bear the brunt in today’s war-torn world and calamities heightened by skyrocketing inflation and extreme climate events.
Though the numbers have come down after the sharp COVID-19 (290 million), the current wars, inflation, and climate change have left aid organizations responsible for financing universal education without sufficient funds.
Throughout the globe, there are various factors causing children to drop out of school, with some countries being hit harder than others. Nigeria, Yemen, and Afghanistan, in particular, are grappling with a staggering increase in the number of out-of-school children, largely due to the following underlying reasons.
High Inflation – Low Economic Safety
For parents unsure, if they’ll have a next meal, sending children to school is the last thing on their minds. For example, over 80 million people in Nigeria live below the poverty line. This has led the country to one of the worst national education crises.
“I miss my teacher, friends, and all my schoolmates.”10-years old Treasure, Nigeria (source: Frace 24 English)
Security threats, extreme poverty, and lack of public schools contribute to Nigeria’s education catastrophe. Like Treasure, 20 million Nigerian children are out of school, making them highly vulnerable to child labor, abuse, and underage marriages.
8-Year Long Civil War
In Yemen, out-of-school children are at increased risk of exploitation – being forced into civil war (child soldiers), early marriages, and child labor.
Mansour, a 16-years old boy, broke his spine in an accident at work in 2019 and has been unable to walk since. Once, Mansour went to school, studied, and regularly met his friends. Now, he is completely dependent on his mother for everything.
And Mansour is not alone.
Yemen’s war has forced 2 million children out of school, wrecking their future. Moreover, 3.7 million Yemen students consistently miss school due to the withholding of teachers’ salaries (almost 2-3rd of Yemen’s teachers have not received their salary in seven years).
Since Taliba’s takeover in 2021, Afghan women over the age of 12 have been banned from school. With the new academic year starting in March, hundreds of thousands of teenage girls remain barred from classes.
Today, 80% of Afghan girls and young women (2.5 million) are banned from school. Out of which 30% have never even gained a primary education.
Despite repeated claims of reopening schools and universities for women, the Taliban (the de facto government) has failed to follow through. The group made similar claims during its previous rule from 1996 to 2001, but the girls were banned throughout the five-year rule.
“(the ban)takes away their ability to participate in their community in a way where they can ultimately have jobs, become doctors or teachers.”Catherine Russell, Unicef (Source: al Jazeera)
While the international community has made the right to women’s education the critical condition for aid negotiation, the Taliban is only giving empty promises in return.
Can Out of the School Children Crisis be Solved?
The out-of-school children problem is multifaceted and diverse. Almost every country’s fraction of students don’t go to school, but the numbers are significantly high in war-torn and under-developed countries. Even for students who are going to school, the quality of education and learning opportunities in such countries is vastly different.
According to a recent study by the world bank, these children are at the Irish of losing $17 trillion in lifetime earnings. And unless actions are taken, learning losses will continue to endanger the future of these children, nations, and the world.
Experts advise that providing school meals to students will encourage poverty-ridden families to send their children to school for food. But this will need funding from international governments and organizations.
Education- A Fundamental Right
The world has come a long way in making education a fundamental right. From only 1 out of every ten literate individuals two centuries ago to today’s 9 in 10 adults with essential reading and writing skills – we’ve made progress.
But, to tackle the current and looming world problems in the 21st century and beyond, we’ll need a strong team of educated people. It’s hard to imagine that even today, millions of children are growing up without the opportunity for education that we had. But the reality remains the same.
So, yes, we’ve come a long way, but a lot of work is still left to make education a fundamental right for every child globally.
Shein Exposed – The Dark Side of China’s Fast Fashion Giant
Shein – one of the world’s top fast fashion websites, popular for its cheap and trendy clothing, has enjoyed explosive growth over the past years. Courtesy of thousands of sponsored fashion hauls and cheap laborers, the company is more popular than ever.
But there’s a dark side Shein doesn’t want you to know – the real cost of fast fashion. In this article, we will unveil the reality of how Shien is providing ultra-cheap fashion, the toll it has on the environment, and how it’s shaping today’s mindless consumerism.
Shein – More than a Fast Fashion Brand
Over the years, She-in has gone from being a low-cost Chinese apparel merchant to a global online fashion giant. Its sales skyrocketed from $10 billion in 2020 to over $100 billion in 2022. The biggest Unique Selling Point (USP) of the brand is low-price trendy clothing, majorly catering to Gen Z women.
The company mass produces thousands of products daily in its 6,000 clothing factories across China. According to Rest of World, the brand includes 2,000 to 10,000 new styles each day, a majority of which are copied from other popular brands or small-scale designers.
But behind the glamourous shield of Shein lies the dirty reality about how the company is able to produce so much at low prices. Blue color laborers forced to work 75-hour shifts with very little time off, and mostly under unfit conditions, are at the heart of the company.
Atrocious Working Conditions
Multiple reports and investigations have exposed how the company consistently violates Chinese labor laws. Journalists have uncovered concrete evidence that Shien’s $7 crop tops were made by workers in unsafe workshops working on minimum wage (often without contracts.)
“Inside The Shein Machine,” a Channel 4 documentary, revealed the harsh reality of factory workers through undercover footage. These workers were made to work 17-hour shifts to produce hundreds of garments daily. In one factory, they were paid a base salary of $20 per day, which would be deducted by $14 for every garment with mistakes.
The cheap, readily available fabric of choice from Shein is virgin polyester, a material that is not only highly polluting but also incredibly persistent. Its production process releases three times more carbon than cotton, and unlike biodegradable cotton, polyester never breaks down. This is a devastating reality, and it’s Time for a change.
According to Time, the company releases over 6.3 million tons of CO2 per year. However, Shein is not alone climate culprit here. Across the board, the fashion industry accounts for about 10% of carbon emissions.
Landfills are overwhelmed with a staggering 93 million tons of textile waste annually, much of which is burned and releases harmful pollutants into the atmosphere.
The Impact of “Fashion Haul” Influencing
Social media is filled with influencers packing huge boxes of fashion-forward, cheap polyester clothing. For those unfamiliar, fashion hauls are young social media creators showing off their latest fashion purchase, rating the product, and recommending the right one to their millions of followers. Titled “Summer fashion haul” and “Bought all this under $50 only”, these videos are mostly targeted to GenZ with the aim to spark a desire to buy the displayed look.
Evoking FOMO in the viewers, these hauls play a crucial part in glorifying fast fashion and normalizing shopping in large quantities. A majority of which is disposed of after a few times.
Promoting driven-to-shop psychology, these fashion hauls have become immensely popular with the hashtag #hauls over 13 billion views and #clothinghaul about 1 billion on TikTok. A majority of these hauls are powered by Shien, with the hashtag #sheinhauls 3.8 million views on the platform.
The fashion hauls are Shein’s critical marketing strategy. Their affiliate collaboration with influencers who gets a 10%-20% commission on each purchase is one of the key reasons why the fast fashion website became the giant it is today.
Shein is on a Decline
Shein, the fast-fashion brand known for its cheap and trendy clothing, has seen a meteoric rise in recent years. However, its sales took a sharp turn in 2022 for the first time since the pandemic, with a few reasons behind the drop.
The slowing post-pandemic economy has left shoppers with less disposable income to spend, and persistent accusations of poor clothing quality, worker mistreatment, and unethical business practices may have finally caught up to the brand.
According to Brandwatch, 70% of online conversations about Shein were negative between 2020 and 2023. However, despite these challenges, Shein remains optimistic and reportedly seeks $3 billion to fuel its expansion in 2023.
The Problem is Bigger than Just Shein
Reports of Shein abusing its workers, producing harmful clothing, and worsening the planet have been circling for years. Still, the brand is thriving with more customers than ever.
This sparks the question – Is Shein really the problem?
And we know the answer. Shein, or any fast fashion brand, has transformed the fashion industry because of multifaceted factors, including affordability, convince, emotional connection, and above all, social pressure.
We are contributing to the exploitation of minimum-wage laborers
We see it, we are engaging with it every day on social media, and we are ridden with negative emotions like addiction and guilt. According to ThredUP, one in three Gen Z feels assisted to fast fashion, whereas one in five feels pressured to keep up with the latest fashion trends.
But that’s not what fashion is about. Created as a medium of self-expression and creativity – today, the industry has taken a 180-degree turn. And sadly, it’s no foreseeable end to the trend. However, a huge section of the population is standing up against fast-fashion brands like Shein.
The Need to Adopt Responsible Fashion
The industry is huge, and Shein is not the only culprit. By engaging in the fast fashion trends, we are giving the green light to brands like Shiens to continue labor exploitation and release humongous amounts of toxic chemicals.
But by educating and supporting ethical and truly sustainable fashion brands, we stand a chance to snowball a positive change in the industry. Fortunately, the trend of responsible fashion is already catching on with young shoppers.
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