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#UAE @HHShkMohd in the spirit of tolerance use #EAFOL16 to return passport of @Ahmed_Mansoor - ht @EmiratesLitFest

This is addressed to all participants of #EAFOL16  #Dubai, #UAE, whether audience or authors.  2010 was the second year of #EAFOL and I...

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Poetry not punishment, a rebuttal to all the #Islamophobes

In the wake of the evil perpetrated in Paris my mind has been racing - how to counteract the inevitable surge of Islamophobia.

My most enjoyable time, during two decades of living across the Middle East, was when I was involved with Sharjah International Book Fair, #UAE and I introduced some new concepts, including poetry (personally I am not a great fan of poetry) which is ingrained within the culture.

Here are a few images taken from a public poetry evening blogpost, which I initiated:

Ordinary folks enjoying a night out, as all civilised humans do.

A couple of months later I organised an open-mic session during the 2011 edition of the book fair:

I am not a religious person, after all atheism from age thirteen has moulded me, but my UK upbringing reminds me of these words spoken by Jesus, a man held in great reverence by Islam and Christianity:

Forgive them for they know not what they do

Friday, 13 November 2015

Cuts to tax credits are both a crime and a blunder - FT.com #UK

Cuts to tax credits are both a crime and a blunder - FT.com: "

The UK chancellor's proposals combine drastic cuts to tax credits with a substantial increase in the minimum wage

Often, little decisions are more revealing than big ones. The UK government’s overall fiscal objectives are significant and debatable. But its decision to impose a cut in tax credits in the Summer Budget is far more controversial. Indeed, it is so contentious that the House of Lords has arguably overstepped the bounds of constitutional propriety by rejecting the enabling legislation. Whether that is the case or not, this is bad policy, dishonestly presented. The government should indeed think again.
The objections to the fiscal strategy are powerful. There is no strong reason to run an overall surplus by the end of this parliament: at a time of extraordinarily low interest rates, the case for borrowing is strong. Legislating the surplus is also objectionable. Again, the decision to make virtually all the post-crisis fiscal adjustment via cuts in spending is extreme, not least because the ratio of spending to gross domestic product will fall to levels briefly touched only twice since 1948.

Yet debate never focuses on such generalities, however big the implications. Only specifics are politically salient.

The annual net cut to benefits and tax credits planned by George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, was to be £12.5bn. Of this, £3.3bn was to come from lower thresholds for withdrawal of tax credits and higher rates of withdrawal. Another £1.1bn was to come from cuts in the generosity of the system for people with more than two children. It is these changes to tax credits that the House of Lords rejected last month. Yet these savings from overall cuts to welfare amount to only 0.7 per cent of GDP, while those to tax credits alone are a little over 0.2 per cent. In the overall fiscal context, such sums are clearly small.

Yet these cuts matter a great deal to the people most affected. In his Budget speech, Mr Osborne claimed: “Taken together with all the welfare savings and the tax cuts in this Budget, [the living wage] means that a typical family where someone is working full-time on the minimum wage will be better off.” This argument must depend on what is meant by a “typical family”.

There will be high costs for a policy that lowers support for children and reduces the returns from work

In a thorough study of the planned changes, the Institute for Fiscal Studies concludes that even if Mr Osborne’s new national “living wage” were to have no effect on GDP, employment or hours of work (in fact, it will probably lower all three) it would offset only 27 per cent of the drop in household incomes from the tax and benefit reforms. For the 8.4m households that contain someone doing paid work and are elegible for benefits or tax credits, the average loss would be £750 a year, while the average gain from the new living wage would be just £200. The average household with children eligible for benefits or tax credits, of which there are 7m, would suffer a net annual loss of £1,130. For such households, the effect would be significant, if not disastrous. The losses from proposed tax and benefit reforms would be concentrated on the lower deciles of the income distribution; in the second decile from the bottom, for example, the reduction is estimated at about £1,300 a year, or close to 8 per cent of net income. Meanwhile, the biggest gainers from the living wage fall in the middle of the distribution.

One of the questions raised by this story is how policies are sold to the public. Whatever the merits of the living wage may be — in my view, it is a risky gamble — it is not going to offset the cuts in benefits for those affected.

Beyond this, the new policy raises questions about how best to motivate people to work, sustain the incomes of households with poor job opportunities and shield children from the burden of growing up in relatively impoverished households. There will be high costs for a policy whose central elements are to lower support for children and greatly reduce the marginal returns from work. Consideration could also be given to improving the existing system, not least to encourage second earners into jobs, which would not be hard.

The proposed reforms to tax credits raise a still wider question. Technological change and globalisation are lowering the returns to work for the relatively unskilled in most high-income countries. What, then, is the right political and policy response? One possibility is to do nothing, thereby accepting whatever happens to the distribution of household incomes and the fate of children. Another possibility is to raise minimum wages but ignore the risks to employment. The best route is to combine a carefully assessed minimum wage with subsidies aimed at supporting families with children and encouraging them into work. That is precisely what the UK had. There is no good reason to throw this away so casually.


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Wednesday, 11 November 2015

#BloodySunday a signpost to my future

On Sunday, 30th January, 1972, I was doing my prep' in my bedroom with #PickOfThePops, presented by Alan Freeman, playing on my radio, when the first reports came in a news bulletin.

My reaction was one of horror that such behaviour could take place in my country, the United Kingdom, whereas my Father's response was this was all part of the ongoing tribulations in Northern Ireland.

That afternoon moulded my unalterable view that the behaviour of all Governments, whether democratically elected or hereditary/ideological, and their agents, in this case the soldiers, should always be questioned.

Only in 2010 was it confirmed that:

Former British soldier arrested over Bloody Sunday shootings - FT.com: "November 10, 2015 5:12 pm
Vincent Boland in Dublin

A former member of the British army’s Parachute Regiment has been arrested by police investigating the fatal clashes in Londonderry in 1972 that became known as Bloody Sunday.
The 66-year-old man, who is being questioned by the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s legacy investigation branch, is the first person to be arrested in the probe into one of the most violent incidents in Northern Ireland’s “Troubles”. Thirteen people were killed and another later died of his injuries after British soldiers fired on unarmed civilians taking part in a civil rights march in the mainly Catholic city in January 1972.
The killings were a watershed in Northern Ireland’s descent into years of sectarian violence. Bloody Sunday is said to have become an important recruiting moment for the Provisional IRA. In his book on the Troubles, the historian Brian Feeney wrote that “the IRA could not cope with the flood of recruits as young men and women queued to join”.
Bloody Sunday caused upheaval in the Republic of Ireland. A crowd of 35,000 people descended on the British embassy in central Dublin and set it alight. It was also fateful for the governance of Northern Ireland. Within a few weeks, the government in London had imposed direct rule, in order to wrest control of law and order from the Ulster Unionist-controlled local administration.
Tuesday’s arrest is part of an initiative that began a decade ago to investigate murders committed during the Troubles. Its task is difficult, since many of the cases being investigated occurred several decades ago. Ian Harrison, the detective chief inspector leading the Bloody Sunday investigation, said the arrest “marked a new phase in the overall investigation which would continue for some time”.
The investigation was made possible after the publication in 2010 of the Saville inquiry into what exactly happened on Bloody Sunday. Lord Saville’s report overturned the findings of the Widgery tribunal that investigated the killings a few months after the events. That tribunal exonerated the soldiers, blamed the marchers for inciting the violence and claimed that some of them were armed.
The Widgery tribunal’s findings were regarded as a whitewash. The Saville report, which was set up by former prime minister Tony Blair and took 12 years to complete, found that the marchers were unarmed and that the soldiers fired indiscriminately and covered up what happened. David Cameron, the UK prime minister, apologised in parliament for Bloody Sunday, saying it was “unjustified and unjustifiable”.
The PSNI investigation team is expected to interview up to seven soldiers about Bloody Sunday. The arrested man was not named.
Raymond McCartney, a Sinn Féin member of the Northern Ireland assembly, said the arrest “is another step forward in the long campaign for justice by the Bloody Sunday families”."

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