Members of the South African Municipal Workers’ Union  protest in front of the Nelson Mandela Bridge in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. Pre-tax inequality in South Africa is as high as it was 20 years ago – and it is the world’s highest. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Martin Wolf: The legacy of injustice has shaped the country. Now it needs growth, of the right kind

Pedestrians are reflected on a share prices board in Tokyo. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Is it time for higher taxes on retained earnings? Behaviour raises big policy questions

The change in gross domestic product of crisis-hit countries is now almost universally positive, but GDP remains far below what might have been expected from pre-crisis trends. Photograph: Getty Images

It may be hard to avoid crises but it is vital to make them both small and rare

French president Francois Hollande walks on the Solheimajokull glacier, where the ice has receded by more than 1km, during an official visit to Iceland earlier this month. Photograph: Thibault Camus/EPA

Goals of eliminating mass poverty and tackling global warming are complementary

This is barefaced cheek and such behaviour must not succeed

Immigration has economic pros and cons for the European Union

Migrants gaze out of a train window in Coratia. In deciding what to do, the EU must draw a distinction between refugees and immigrants. Countries have legal and moral obligations to refugees. They do not have such obligations to other immigrants. Photograph: Marko Djurica/Reuters

From the refugee crisis to the Ukraine to Greece and Brexit, the EU’s is beset by problems

Paper tiger money: there is a plausible, if not universally accepted, understanding that China’s growth is overstated by official statistics and may be as low as 4 per cent.  Photograph: Jason Lee/Reuters

If it were to happen, a decision by the Fed to tighten now would look downright foolish

The US Federal Reserve building in Washington, DC.  Photograph: Getty

After nearly seven years of zero interest rates, the inflation of which critics warned is invisible

Beijing has spent $200 billion on a failed attempt to prop up the stock market and that foreign exchange reserves fell by $315 billion in the year to July 2015. Photograph: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Big question is whether a market-driven economy is compatible with the growing concentration of political power

Greece is in the “last chance saloon”. The logic of where it is now is definitely towards the exit. Photograph: Orestis Panagiotou/EPA

If Greece left it would guarantee default and generate permanent instability for euro zone

Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s prime minister: Syriza has failed to put forward a credible programme of reform that might solve the problems of the Greek economy. It has made populist gestures. It is a dreadful government produced by desperate times. Photograph: Yorgos Karahalis/Bloomberg

Which is best for Greece: further austerity or sovereign default and monetary sovereignty?

Incentives and innovation could be the best way to ensure carbon-free technologies are competitive with fossil fuels. Photograph: Reuters

Improved technology might end our dependence on the burning of fossil fuels

Neither Greeks nor their partners should imagine a clean break if it leaves the euro

World leaders at the G7 summit in Germany: we should be sceptical of their commitments to climate action as we have heard them for nearly a quarter ofa century. Photograph: Markus Schreibe/AP

Environmental challenge is a problem of insuring against the chance of catastrophe

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras has accused bailout monitors of making “absurd” demands. Photograph: Kostas Tsironis/Bloomberg

To fail now would be to pile a new mountain of error on the old ones

‘It is possible to have too much finance. More importantly, significant economies are in this position, among them Japan and the US.’ Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

What is needed is not more finance, but better finance

Yields on government bonds of the big advanced economies peaked in the early 1980s: Japan’s peak was near 10 per cent, Germany’s 11 per cent, and those of the US and UK 15 per cent and 16 per cent.

If the ECB succeeds with its endeavours and so the recovery continues to gain pace, then bond yields should rise a great deal

Protesters, many against the so-called fast track trade authority of the TTP trade agreement, rally outside a hotel where US President Barack Obama held a meeting in Portland, Oregon last week. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Since the failure of the “Doha round”, the focus has shifted to exclusive agreements

In what condition does the coalition government leave the UK economy? Photograph: Reuters/Luke Macgregor/Files

Osborne’s claim UK might be most prosperous major economy by 2030 is fantasy

Greek myths: A sixth myth is that if Greece defaults, it would have to create a new currency and so leave the eurozone.

No American bank was so heavily exposed to Detroit as to be made insolvent by its default

A shopper is seen through large lantern decorations at a shopping mall in Beijing. Capital growth is falling after a huge investment boom in the 2000s, particularly in China. Photograph: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters

Decline in potential growth leads to debate about savings glut and secular stagnation

A street vendor selling Greek shadow-puppet theatre figures  in Athens: Greece remains internationally uncompetitive, as shown by the sluggishness of its exports. Photograph: Kostas Tsironis/Reuters

An accidental exit from the eurozone is quite likely – not because Greece or its partners want it

‘In early 2011, the European Central Bank raised its intervention rate from 1 to 1.5 per cent. This was wildly inappropriate, and in the end it had to cut rates again and embark on QE.’ Photograph: Daniel Roland/AFP/Getty Images

Those betting on inflation jumps and a bond-market rout will be disappointed

Shoppers walk through Mangaldas Market in Mumbai. Speculation that prime minister Narendra Modi’s policies will boost economic growth has propelled India’s Sensex to the world’s third-biggest gain among major markets during the past 12 months. Photograph: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg

Martin Wolf: Government making sensible reforms

The primary driver of the rise in global output is expected to be a 75 per cent jump in global average real output per head, as the prosperity of emerging economies catches up with that of high-income countries

Agreement to implement tax on carbon would mean a more efficient energy future

China saw a rise of 70 percentage points in the ratio of corporate and household debt to GDP between 2007 and last year. Photograph: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty

When the world economy depends on fragile balance sheets, expect more crises

At the very least US spenders will, once again, have to pull not only their own economy, but much of the rest of the world. Photograph: Michael McCloskey

The global economy is an integrated system, ignoring that reality is futile

An elderly woman reacts as her acquaintances board a bus to flee due to a military conflict in Debaltseve, Ukraine. The IMF is seeking to negotiate a new multiyear extended fund facility with the troubled country. Photograph: Sergey Polezhaka /Reuters

A deomcratic and law-governed Ukraine would shake the Russian kleptocracy

Yanis Varoufakis, Greece’s finance minister (left), with George Osborne, the UK chancellor of the exchequer, in London on Monday. Photograph: Matt Dunham/Pool/Bloomberg

Most observers believe Greece could find the €4.3bn it needs to pay the IMF next month

Presidential guards parade before newly appointed ministers and deputy ministers at a swearing in ceremony outside the presidential palace in Athens on January 27th, 2015. Photograph: Marko Djurica/Reuters

Creating euro zone is members’ second-worst monetary idea, a break-up is the worst

The SNB has embraced the risk of deflation from which the ECB wishes to escape. Photograph: Reuters

An ECB stimulus must happen despite Berlin fears – the euro zone economy is at stake

Political leaders walking in solidarity after the attacks in  Paris. Photograph: EPA

Martin Wolf: Fanatic a familiar character in history

“The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable,” – John Kenneth Galbraith

Martin Wolf: If the European Central Bank pulled out all the stops, the rise in confidence might surprise

Many believe dysfunctional behaviour in finance is due solely to distorted incentives

German Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann: argued “it is fanciful to believe that monetary policy tools can sustainably lift the growth potential of an economy”. Photograph: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Opinion: Germany must think big and broaden its outlook

The decline in oil prices should be helpful to the world economy, albeit with caveats. Photograph: Getty/iStockphoto

The decline in the value of cude should help the world’s economy . . . to an extent

Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo. Demand deficiency syndrome has afflicted Japan since the early 1990s and the US, euro zone and UK since 2008 at the latest. Photograph: Getty Images/Flickr RM

Opinion: policymakers need to eliminate dependence on unsustainable credit

A man walks past a restaurant in the Dotonbori amusement district of Osaka,  Japan, yesterday. The difficulties caused by fiscal austerity have become particularly evident in Japan and the euro zone. Photograph: Reuters

Feeble economic performance has occurred despite the most aggressive monetary policies in history

‘Atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases are at levels not seen in at least 800,000 years. In addition, human-caused emissions of such gases have risen consistently.’ Photograph: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Opinion: Republican wins in US midterms have implications for humanity

Haruhiko Kuroda, governor of the Bank of Japan, points to a sign as he speaks during a news conference at the central bank’s headquarters in Tokyo yesterday.  Photograph: Bloomberg

Monetary Policy Committee divided over quantitative easing policy

Following the stress tests, the European Central Bank concluded that 25 institutions, nine of them Italian, would need to add a total of €25 billion in capital. Photograph: Ralph Orlowski/Reuters

Tests are not a complete fix for banking sector, still less for economy’s wider problems

Bundesbank president Jens Weidmann. With conventional monetary policy at its limits, the choice is between unconventional monetary policy or expansionary fiscal policy. Germany is extremely uncomfortable with both. Photograph: Ciro De Luca/Reuters

Opinion: zone needs to reach deal between more reform and more demand

The People’s Bank of China headquarters in Beijing. Photograph: Petar Kujundzic/Reuters

Opinion: we need to escape from this apparently relentless cycle

The Federal Reserve’s policies have also benefited the relatively well off; it is trying to raise the prices of assets which are overwhelmingly owned by the rich

A debt-addicted economy with stagnant levels of education is likely to fare ill in future

 People rally for  greater action against climate change during the People’s Climate March on Sunday, September 21st, in New York City. Photograph: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

All but most obdurate sceptics must recognise probability of irreversible climate change is much greater than zero

Russian soldiers dressed in Soviet WWII uniform march through  Red Square in Moscow.

West must shed its post cold-war illusions and act according to its principles

 Photograph: Mike Kemp/Rubberball/Getty

The European project is a failed marriage, and only a radical reappraisal of the union – political and, above all, fiscal – can pr(...)

Marine Le Pen of France’s National Front: the capacity of member states to tolerate unemployment and deep slumps cannot be unlimited. Photograph: Benoit Tessier

If the powers continue on the same course, the result will probably be a populist reaction

A woman walks past a currency exchange store with an Argentine national flag on display in Buenos Aires’ financial district. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

Sovereign issuers should shift from reliance on standard debt contracts towards ones with risk-sharing elements built in

The production line at the Scania AB factory in Sodertalje, Sweden. Photographer: Erik Abel/Bloomberg

Opinion: canonical academic model of governance rarely the best

The Bank for International Settlements has accused the world’s main central banks of incompetence

A pro-government activist throws a firework at policemen guarding the US embassy in Buenos Aires, during a protest against the US court ruling about “holdout” investors in Argentina. Photograph: Reuters/Enrique Marcarian

Opinion: mechanism to restructure sovereign debt is not optional in global capitalism

ExxonMobil says it does not envisage a low-carbon scenario of the kind many climate researchers advocate. The company believes the costs this would entail, and “the damaging impact to accessible, reliable and affordable energy resulting from the policy changes . . . are beyond those that societies, especially the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, would be willing to bear”. Photograph: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

Opinion: humanity is making risky climate bets and ExxonMobil may be proved right

What the first World War had not done, the Great Depression, Nazism and the second World War did. By the time of D-Day the world economy had disintegrated. Photograph: EPA/Jamie Peters

If there is one lesson from the past 100 years it is that we are doomed to co-operate

“Mexico’s past offers a warning; its present offers hope. But it is far from certain that the programme of reforms will also be sufficient to generate the improved performance the country needs.”

Opinion: Mexico’s ‘productivity puzzle’ provides remarkable contrast with other emerging economies

 Former US treasury secretary Timothy Geithner discusses his new book ‘Stress Test, Reflections on Financial Crises’. Photo: Getty Images

Must the government rescue the system when huge crises occur?

Narendra Modi, the next prime minister of India, in Ahmedabad yesterday. He will change Indian politics and economics. Photograph: Amit Dave

Narendra Modi is promising to spread the perceived successes of Gujarat to the rest of the country

Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank. Photographer: Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg

The recovery in confidence is too fragile, and the revival of growth too feeble

The Gherkin and St Helens stand at the heart of the City of London. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Governments need to use their balance sheets to build productive assets

Former US treasury secretary Lawrence Summers has argued that the high-income economies seem to be worryingly unable to generate good growth in demand without extreme credit instability. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Opinion: failure to answer question of demand was leading cause of financial crisis.

The reaction to French economist  Thomas Piketty’s ‘Capital in the Twenty-First Century’ shows the rising tide of anxiety about inequality. Photograph: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images

Opinion: Inequality damages the economy and efforts to remedy it are, on the whole, not harmful

“The total assets of a number of big banks have continued to soar: institutions with assets of $2 trillion are common. Such banks remain highly interconnected, though the extent of this might have diminished recently.” Photograph: Andy Sacks/Getty Images

Opinion: the problem is not only the subsidy for bank risk-taking, it is also the likelihood of disasters

The People’s Bank of China has argued that an open capital account would improve the quality of Chinese foreign assets, promote cross-border use of the renminbi and help the country’s enterprises restructure. Photograph: Reuters/Petar Kujundzic

Opinion: Beijing needs to reform before opening national savings of $5 trillion to the world

A clerk at a branch of China Merchants Bank, in Hefei, Anhui: China will not have a financial meltdown, but reform and rebalancing are essential. Photograph: Reuters

Growth cannot be sustained by increasing indebtedness indefinitely

An employee arranges stock under price tags at a supermarket in Huaibei, Anhui province. Photograph: Reuters

Beijing clearly recognises the need for action –the question is whether corrective forces overwhelm its efforts

European Central Bank president Mario Draghi  (centre) with Minister for Finance Michael Noonan and European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn attend an euro zone finance ministers’ meeting in Brussels on Monday. Photograph: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

Fear is the bank may be forced to pretend low inflation is not a threat because it cannot agree on what to do about it

People lay flowers and pay their respects at a memorial for anti-government protesters killed in clashes with police in Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine.  Photograph:  Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

‘The country will need to move towards new rules of the social game: it must engender true citizens, honest guardians, proper mark(...)

The prospect of far better lives depends on how the gains are produced and distributed

If robots divide us, they will conquer

Perhaps the biggest question of all concerns what is going to happen to China. Since 2008 its growth has become increasingly dependent on soaring credit. This cannot be sustainable. Photograph: Alex Lee/Reuters

To nurture recovery and promote reform is way forward

Ben Bernanke, soon to be ex-chairman of the US Federal Reserve, will surely be regarded as one of the Fed’s most significant chairmen. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Knowledge of economic history helped Bernanke halt a terrifying panic, but he also made mistakes

Leaders richly rewarded for mediocrity cannot be relied upon when things go wrong

Yokohama and Mount Fuji: “Given its demography, Japan would do well to attain growth of 1-1.5 per cent a year. The country will be unable to combine economic dynamism with fiscal consolidation without a rise in consumption’s share in GDP.” Photograph: Getty Images

Signs are that deflation can be beaten but hopes for faster growth are optimistic

The indication by the US Federal Reserve that it was considering a reduction in the rate at which it would expand its balance sheet had a dramatic effect on emerging economies

When funding conditions turn, relying on cheap dollars to finance local assets can be lethal

 What would happen if Chinese and Japanese military aircraft were to fire on one another? What would happen if Chinese military jets were to fire on a civilian aircraft or force it down? The mixed signals from US may even increase risks of conflict

China’s decision to create a zone that covers uninhabited islands under the control of Japan is provocative

Protesters wearing leaders’ masks demonstrate in front of the National Stadium during the UN Climate Change Conference  in Warsaw. Photograph: EPA/BartlomieJ Zborowski

Some 195 countries painfully agreed to make a ‘contribution’ to combating climate change

Former US treasury secretary Larry Summers suggested that there could be no easy return to pre-crisis normality in high-income economies. Instead, he sketched out a disturbing future of chronically weak demand and slow economic growth.

Former US treasury secretary Lawrence Summers suggested that there could be no easy return to pre-crisis normality

A Berliner at the launch of the euro in 2002. Many in Germany might conclude that they would be better off outside the euro zone.

Euro zone risks falling into deflation

Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England: believes that that “organised properly, a vibrant financial sector brings substantial benefits”.   Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

The biggest question is whether ever-increasing financial deepening and cross-border integration are good things

Oiling the cogs: Much like these oil rig pumps near Long Beach, California, the US economy is running reasonably smoothly in the short to medium term, but this does not mean fiscal challenges do not exist. Photograph: Reuters/David McNew

The United States has created major social programmes but seems unable to agree on the taxes needed to pay for them

German Minister for Finance Wolfgang talking to Michael Noonan in Brussels.  Schäuble laid out the view on which Berlin’s current policy is based with sobering clarity last week.  Photograph: Getty Images

Merkel’s plan for euro zone deeply depressing

‘This is not to argue that the decision to let Lehman fail in September 2008 was unimportant. The shock began a devastating run on markets.’ Photograph: Getty Images

The debate about the origins and aftermath of the crisis is not over

A brilliant exploration of new ideas in business argues that government is behind the boldest risks and biggest breakthroughs, wri(...)

Why has the global economy continued on its path towards integration?

Despite a huge financial crisis, the trend towards integration of the global economy has continued

An employee carries bundles of 100 yuan notes in a bank in Shainxi province. Photograph: Jon Woo/Reuters

The Chinese economy is marked by its dependence on others

Chinese economy faces tricky challenge. Photograph: AFP/AFP/GettyImages

The general view is that it is straightforward to move from 10 per cent to, say, 6 per cent growth over the coming decade

A police officer guarding the Federal Reserve building in Washington, DC: the challenge in unwinding current policies is not technical. As Fed chairman Ben Bernanke explained in February 2010, exit from quantitative easing and bloated central bank balance sheets is technically straightforward. Photograph: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

It is hard to manage a policy whose effects depend on expectations. But it must be done better – this tightening of monetary polic(...)

Milton Friedman, recipient of the 1976 Nobel Prize for economic science.

A high rate may be a risk in the very long run – but right now the risk is that it may be too low

Federal Reserve Board chairman Ben Bernanke: in testimony to Congress last month, he noted: “The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the deficit reduction policies in current law will slow the pace of real GDP growth by about 1-1 percentage points during 2013, relative to what it would have been otherwise.” Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

More relevant criticism is not whether they have done too much, but whether they have done too little

A Walrus sits on a melting ice shelf in the Chukchi Sea. The earth’s atmosphere is warming faster than expected and evidence is mounting that sea levels could rise between nine and 88cm up to 2100. Photograph: Reuters

Foremost reason: civilization built on fossil fuels

German chancellor Angela Merkel on a video screen as she addresses the audience at a meeting in Dresden recently. Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

Europe will not become a bigger Germany. It is foolish to believe it ever could

A 100 billion Zimbabwean dollar note in a country where hyperinflation is rife. The stability of inflation seems to be a reward for the credibility of inflation targeting. That gives policymakers room to risk expansionary policies.

'It is weird that inflation has remained so stable, despite huge shortfalls in output, relative to pre-crisis trends, and prolong(...)

Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda has launched a monetary policy revolution. He has ended two decades of caution, during which the bank declared itself helpless to end deflation.

The goal of 2 per cent inflation within two years is ambitious – but it now has a bold policy to meet it

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