Host nation Russia topped the medal table at the Sochi XXII Winter Olympics in February with 33 medals, including 13 gold medals. At one of the most expensive winter games ever, estimated to have cost some £33bn, that works out at roughly £1bn per medal.
At the opening of China’s National People’s Congress in March, Premier Li Keqiang declared war on the country’s pollution. Initially, smog busting measures will focus on indicators PM 10 and PM 2.5 (particulate matter smaller than 10 and 2.5 micrometers) and include closing 50,000 small coal-fired furnaces and cutting outdated steel production by 27 million tonnes – more than France, Italy or the UK produce annually.
The Royal Bank of Scotland, 81% owned by the UK government, posted a pre-tax loss of £8.2bn for 2013. At the same time it announced that it had earmarked £576m for 2013 staff bonus payments.
The days of the PC appear to be numbered. According to research firm IDC, global PC shipments fell by 9.5% to 315.1 million in 2013, part of a declining trend. At the same time shipments of tablets were up 51.6% compared to 2012. It was enough to prompt Sony to offload its Vaio brand and exit the PC market, focusing instead on smartphones and tablets.
Research by IMF economists Serkan Arslanalp and Takahiro Tsuda estimated that $1trn was pumped into emerging market government bonds by global investors between 2004 and June 2013. At the start of 2013, roughly $800bn of debt was held by foreign financial non-bank institutions, and $40bn to $80bn by foreign central banks, with holdings focused on Brazil, China, Indonesia, Poland, Malaysia, Mexico and South Africa.
A big winner at this year’s Academy Awards, the film Gravity is a testament to international movie making. The film, which won seven Oscars, has a Mexican director, US stars, was produced by a Brit, and filmed almost exclusively at Shepperton Studios in the UK. Of the $700m worldwide box office racked up by spring 2014, $70m came from China, $38m from France and $29m from South Korea.
Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index rates 177 nations from zero highly corrupt – to 100 – very clean. With a score of 91, Denmark and New Zealand are perceived the least corrupt nations, while Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia are viewed as the most corrupt, scoring just eight. Scandinavian countries take four of the top five spots. Interestingly, EU members Italy (43) and Greece (40) are placed below Cuba, Rwanda and Georgia.
Despite improving economic growth, the fertility rate of many African nations remains resolutely high, and is likely to impede economic progress if left unchecked. Indeed, at its current rate the population of Africa could be 2.7 billion by 2050, a quarter of the predicted global population at that time. At this level, suggests The Economist, when 30 million people could be living in Kinshasa, and 40 million in Lagos, cities in Africa could become ungovernable.
Source: The Economist, 8 March, 2014 (print edition)
Mt.Gox, a major exchange for the trading of the bitcoin digital currency, filed for bankruptcy protection in the Tokyo District Court. The firm was unable to account for 750,000 bitcoins belonging to customers, or 100,000 of the firm’s bitcoins, worth a combined total of some £280m at the time.
Over half a million tourists are due to travel to Brazil this summer for the football World Cup. Putting on the competition is expected to cost around £8.3bn. Of that, £475m will be spent on deploying 150,000 police and troops to ensure a secure celebration of the “beautiful game”.
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