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The report, commissioned by the County Councils Network (CCN), goes on to suggest that Britain could achieve even better growth – as high as 2.7 per cent per year – if Whitehall delivers sweeping new powers over spending and taxation to local government.

CCN, which describes the English counties as “sleeping giants” just waiting for their economic potential to be unleashed, believes over a million new jobs could be created over a ten-year period, £26.3 billion added to the national economy in tandem with public sector savings of £11.7 billion over a five-year period.

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Elaborating on this theme, Holt explained that “Local economies covered by the County Council Network account for over half of England’s manufacturing output and almost 40 per cent of exports.

That makes the CCN economy an important constituent of the whole — big enough not just to be influenced by, but to heavily influence overall economic activity in the UK.
To be effective the Industrial Strategy and the next phase of devolution should seek to build on that.

Anti-Brexit forecasters have taken a number of hard knocks since the Remain campaign was defeated at the polls, with ten of them forced to tear up their pre-referendum forecasts and Treasury reports prepared under George Osborne debunked as “very flawed and very partisan”.

Bank of England chief economist Andrew Haldane has gone so far as to describe Britain’s strong economic performance “despite Brexit” as a Michael Fish moment for the economics profession.

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Total is the first company to sign such an important agreement with Iran in more than ten years. The estimated investment is US$ 4.8 billion. The US hostile position slows down the normalisation of Iran’s economic relations, but Europe looks forward to future agreements. For Zarif, Iran remains committed to the nuclear deal “despite reckless US hostility\".

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – French energy giant Total was set to defy US pressure on Monday, with a multi-billion-dollar gas deal with Iran, the first by a European firm in more than a decade.

It is by far the biggest vote of confidence in the Islamic republic since sanctions were lifted under a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

Total is to invest an initial US$ 1 billion in the South Pars offshore gas field as part of a consortium with Chinese and Iranian firms.

Total's CEO Patrick Pouyanne and Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namadar Zanganeh signed the 20-year deal, which will eventually see the consortium pour US$ 4.8 billion into the South Pars phase 11 project.

Total will take a 50.1 per cent stake in the South Pars phase 11 project, whilst China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) will own 30 per cent and Iran's Petropars 19.9 per cent.

The aim is to start pumping into Iran's domestic grid in 2021, eventually reaching 50.9 million cubic metres of gas per day.

European firms have been eyeing opportunities in Iran, which has the world's second-largest gas reserves and fourth-largest oil reserves, but they have been cautious about investing due to US hostility.

Many companies and financial institutions are reluctant to engage with Tehran for fear of repercussions from Washington. For example, Shell and Russia's Gazprom have signed only preliminary deals to date.

In view of this, Total has appointed a compliance officer with the sole task of ensuring it does not fall foul of US measures against Iran.

Last month, the US Senate passed a bill imposing new sanctions on Iran for its support for acts of international terrorism.

The law has yet to go to the House of Representatives, and it is unclear whether President Donald Trump will abandon the nuclear agreement with Iran.

Any attempt to scupper the latter will likely face major push-back from its other signatories: Great Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia.

Last month, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif met with European Union leaders, and tweeted that they were committed to the nuclear deal \"despite reckless US hostility\".

Total has a history of involvement in the Middle Eastern nation, having led development of phases two and three of South Pars in the 1990s.

Total had signed up to develop Phase 11 back in 2009 but was forced to abandon its projects in 2012 when France joined a US-led campaign to impose sanctions, including an oil embargo, against the country.

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You know him as the founder of the Microsoft Corporation and as the wealthiest person on earth, with a personal fortune of $89.2 billion. But Bill Gates is much more than that. He's also a political activist who uses his wealth to promote a host of left-wing causes. He does much of this through his charitable foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which he and his wife established 17 years ago.

Over the years, Gates has been outspoken on a number of social and political issues. In 2010, for instance, he lamented the U.S. Government's “ridiculously low levels” of spending on so-called green-energy research, a complaint he has articulated on many occasions.

Gates embraces the theory that the greenhouse gas emissions associated with human industrial activity are major contributors to potentially catastrophic “climate change.” In a June 2015 interview with the Financial Times, he repeatedly emphasized that the public sector, and not the private sector, was uniquely capable of leading a global shift to a clean-energy economy reliant on wind and solar power sources rather than on fossil fuels. “[I]t should be like the Manhattan Project and the Apollo Project in the sense that the government should put in a serious amount of R&D,” said Gates. In a blog post a few days later, Gates expanded on that theme: “Why should governments fund basic research? For the same reason that companies tend not to: because it is a public good. The benefits to society are far greater than the amount that the inventor can capture. One of the best examples of this is the creation of the Internet. It has led to innovations that continue to change our lives, but none of the companies who deliver those innovations would ever have built it.”

In a November 2015 Atlantic magazine interview about green-energy development projects, Gates said that while “the government will be somewhat inept” at spearheading such initiatives, “the private sector is in general inept.” “How many companies do venture capitalists invest in that go poorly?” he continued. “By far most of them.” Gates's lack of faith in the private sector's ability to effectively address the climate-change problem rests in his belief that “there’s no fortune to be made” in such a venture, and that “even if you have a new energy source that costs the same as today’s and emits no CO2, it will be uncertain compared with what’s tried-and-true and already operating at unbelievable scale and has gotten through all the regulatory problems.” “Without a substantial carbon tax” imposed by government, Gates concludes, “there’s no incentive for innovators or plant buyers to switch.”

Gates has expressed a lack of confidence in capitalism on a number of other occasions as well, such as when he said that “the market does not drive the scientists, the communicators, the thinkers, the government to do the right things.” In a similar vein, in March 2013 Gates told the Royal Academy of Engineering's Global Grand Challenges Summit that capitalism frequently pursues “priorities [that] are tilted by marketplace imperatives” and thus fail to address the most vital human needs. “The malaria vaccine in humanist terms is the biggest need,” he explained. “But it gets virtually no funding. But if you are working on male baldness or other things you get an order of magnitude more research funding because of the voice in the marketplace than something like malaria.” By Gates's calculus, governments and philanthropic organizations must intervene to offset this “flaw in the pure capitalistic approach.”

In June 2015, Gates announced that he planned to personally invest $2 billion in renewable technology initiatives over the ensuing five years. Toward that end, in November 2015 he joined the so-called Breakthrough Energy Coalition, which consisted of 28 wealthy investors from 10 countries who pledged to invest a combined $1 billion, to help “bend the curve” on climate change. “People like myself,” Gates said, “who can afford to take big risks with start-up companies, should — because of climate change — be willing to put some number of billions into the spin-offs that will come out of … government-funded activity.”

Immigration policy is another issue of great concern to Gates. In early 2014, he charged that “the injustice” of America's existing immigration system was “incredible.” In a July 2014 op-ed which he co-authored with Sheldon Adelson and Warren Buffett, Gates claimed that U.S. immigration policy “fails badly” on two major counts: being “humane to immigrants living here,” and “contribut[ing] to the well-being of our citizens.” Advocating amnesty for those who have broken U.S. immigration laws, the op-ed said: “Americans are a forgiving and generous people, and who among us is not happy that their forebears — whatever their motivation or means of entry — made it to our soil?” A good model to emulate, said Gates, would be the “enlightened immigration policies” of Canada.

In
February 2014, Gates joined former Washington Post CEO Don Graham in financing a $25 million college scholarship fund for illegal-alien students living in the U.S. as temporary residents under the terms of former President Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), an executive action which guaranteed that most DREAM Act-eligible young people would temporarily be granted legal status, work permits, access to certain publicly funded social services, and protection from deportation.

Gates also favors an increase in the admission of foreign refugees to the U.S., including those hailing from war-torn, terrorist hotbeds in the Middle East. In early 2016, for instance, he said that America has “the capacity” to do the same as Germany and Sweden, two countries that he said should “be congratulated” for accepting massive numbers of migrants from such places. Similarly, in September 2016 Gates praised Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who had played a key role in importing many Middle Eastern refugees to his country, as “a leader [who] wants to remind people about openness and taking in refugees in an appropriate way.”

In summation, though Bill Gates is the ultimate capitalist, he has little faith in the ability of the free-market system to drive the engine of human progress in a positive direction. Moreover, he views the United States not only as a nation that needlessly mistreats massive numbers of people (such as immigrants and refugees), but also as a nation that has caused considerable harm to the natural environment. In other words, Bill Gates is a man of the left.

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The French prime minister has vowed to make a raft of public-spending cuts to stem France’s “intolerable” reliance on state borrowing, which he said had left the country dancing on a debt “volcano”.

In his opening speech to parliament on Tuesday, Edouard Philippe side-stepped the notion of one-size-fits-all austerity, instead insisting that the plan of the new centrist president, Emmanuel Macron, was to reduce public spending while launching a €50bn (£44bn) investment programme and cutting a range of taxes, including slashing corporate taxes to boost businesses.

Philippe’s speech revealed a delicate balancing act between what he called unavoidable public spending cuts coupled with state infrastructure investment and tax cuts that he promised would raise people’s spending power.

He warned that French public spending and debt had reached unsustainable levels. “We are dancing on a volcano that is rumbling ever louder,” Philippe said. “The French are hooked on public spending. Like all addictions, it doesn’t solve any of the problems it is meant to ease. And like all addictions, it takes will and courage to detox.”

Cutting France’s budget deficit is key to winning the trust of its European Union partner, Germany, and persuading Berlin to embark on reforms of the bloc. France has one of Europe’s highest levels of public spending.

Philippe said public debt totalled €2.1trillion, nearly the equivalent of a year’s economic output, which left the country vulnerable to speculation. He said the government aimed to bring France’s deficit within the EU limit of 3% of GDP this year.

Exact details of where public spending cuts would happen were not spelt out. Philippe, who was on the French right before he was appointed by Macron, said the public sector wage bill would be reduced, meaning cuts to the number of state workers. He also spoke of scrapping tax loopholes and reviewing housing spending.

But, crucially, Philippe promised taxpayers would not bear the brunt. “France cannot remain the champion both of public spending and taxes,” he said.

“Businesses must want to set up and develop on our territory rather than elsewhere,” he added, announcing that corporate tax would be cut from 33% to 25% in the next five years.

Philippe reiterated Macron’s campaign promises, including the loosening of labour laws to “free up” business. But the timescale for some flagship tax cuts – such as reducing housing tax – could be pushed back, coming into effect between now and 2022.

The rightwing opposition party, Les Républicains, which during the election campaign had argued that France had not balanced a budget for 40 years, said the proposed spending cuts did not go far enough and there was insufficient detail on how to finance the new spending.

The leftist Jean-Luc Mélenchon denounced what he called a free-market dismantling of the state.

Philippe reached out to voters confirming Macron’s promises to make dental and eye care free on the health system, overhaul the school-leaving exam, the baccalauréat, and introduce a new national service for young people.

Other measures included compulsory vaccinations for young children and progressively raising the price of a packet of cigarettes from €7 to €10.

Last week, France’s independent auditor revealed an €8bn funding shortfall in this year’s budget, saying the deficit would once again be above the EU’s limit of 3% of national income.

Philippe had immediately seized on this to blame overspending on the previous administration under the Socialist François Hollande, for whom Macron had worked as an economic adviser then economy minister until last year.

It is a tradition in French politics for each new administration to blame the previous one for overspending, but Hollande, who inherited a much higher funding black hole from the rightwing Nicolas Sarkozy, had failed to blame Sarkozy loudly enough and paid the price when he then tightened the belt on public spending and his popularity plummeted and support collapsed.

Philippe and Macron have sought to distance themselves from the Hollande era.

Philippe’s speech came as Macron took part in a missile launch simulation aboard the French nuclear submarine Le Terrible in the Atlantic. France will be the only EU country with nuclear weapons after Britain’s departure. According to the French constitution, it is the president who decides whether to fire nuclear missiles.

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