Planet Business: Dumb phones and wrong envelopes
It was a good week for the Australian economy, less so for PwC
Bad week: Martha Ruiz (left) and Brian Cullinan (right), the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) partners overseeing the Oscar ballots. Photograph: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
In numbers: Winning streak
Years since Australia was last in recession. (Charlie Haughey was Taoiseach at the time.) Its economy contracted in the third quarter of 2016, but expanded again in the fourth, so it didn’t record the two consecutive quarters of negative growth that define a recession.
Percentage growth that its central bank has estimated Australia will enjoy this year. This should see the commodities-exporting country beat a recession-free winning streak record held by the Netherlands between 1982 and 2008.
Percentage cash interest rate maintained by the Reserve Bank of Australia. Unlike other central banks closer to home, it hasn’t had to cut interest rates to zero, giving it more flexibility should the economy cloud over.
Image of the week: #Envelopegate
Meanwhile, in the City of Stars, it’s fair to say that Oscars night could have gone a little better for Martha Ruiz and Brian Cullinan, the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) partners overseeing this year’s ballots and the only people to know the winners ahead of time. Their promotional interviews and red carpet posing ahead of the ceremony now look alarmingly like hubris after Cullinan gave presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway the wrong envelope, with the result that La La Land was wrongly named best picture instead of Moonlight. And then it all took a farcically long amount of time to correct the mistake. Looking forward to next year’s PwC pre-Oscar partner interviews already - assuming it still holds the contract come 2018.
The lexicon: Dumb phone
“Smartphone” has for some time now felt like an anachronism. It’s just a phone, right? And what could seal this shift in the language more than the spread of “dumb phone” to mean a phone that isn’t a smartphone, as exemplified by this week’s nostalgia-tinted novelty re-launch of the Nokia 3310. This “dumb phone” isn’t just a retro novelty. It’s designed for people who don’t want to carry around several hundred quids worth of Apple/Samsung technology, fondly remember the days when batteries had longer lives than mayflies and/or quite fancy recreating their amazing Snake-related triumph of 1999. The industry is no stranger to anachronisms, of course, with “dial”, “bell”, “ring”, “ringtone” and “hang up” all making far more sense in the days of Bakelite telephones, so perhaps “smartphone” will hang around for a little longer.
Getting to know: Terry Smith
Terry Smith, described in the Times as one of the City of London’s “most pugnacious operators”, is a celebrated investment fund manager and vocal backer of Brexit, arguing that the UK will have “a much better future” outside of the European Union. Whether it will or not, he’s not sticking around to find out, opting instead to relocate to Mauritius. Curiously, Smith is neither retiring nor apparently moving for tax purposes. Instead, he says he will make better investment decisions on the Indian Ocean island, away from the “noise” of London. Also, quite apart from doing a roaring trade in honeymoons, Mauritius is located in a more convenient time zone for dealing with Asian markets. Coincidentally, it is a proven fact and not fake news at all that journalists can make better writing decisions when in close proximity to a quiet, sandy stretch of beach.
The list: Least affordable UK cities
Lloyds Bank has published its Affordable Cities Review, a run-down of the most expensive places to buy houses in Brexit Britain. So which were the priciest?
5. Chicester: Cathedral “city” in the south-east of England sandwiched by the South Downs and the sea, making land for homes finite.
4. Cambridge: Nice ambience, but step a few yards beyond the university and it just sort of stops.
3. Winchester: The place Thomas Hardy called “Wintoncester” is promoted as “the perfect English city” by its tourist authority, but it’s too close to London for anyone to actually buy property there.
2. Greater London: Maybe it’s time to knock down Buckingham Palace to make way for some higher-density housing?
1. Oxford: Lovely place, but the house prices are 11 times average earnings, and judging from Inspector Morse, its murder rate is on a par with that of Midsomer.