Sunday, 17 January 2010

Sunday, 17 January 2010

France is officially, for the fifth year in a row, the best place in the world to live according to a survey carried out by the magazine International Living, who for the past 30 years have been producing a 'Quality of Life' index, looking at the best places to live in the world.
Their index examines nine main criteria, such as the cost of living, climate, crime, environment, infrastructure and the quality of health care, with statistics drawn from official sources. The magazine does acknowledge that if you live in France you have to be prepared to put up with ‘tiresome bureaucracy’, they this is outweighed by an superb quality of life, including, of course, the world’s best health service.
France scores high on most categories in the index, but it is the lifestyle of the French that the magazine considers to be the special quality of the country. As you may guess, these include the pleasures of long lingering lunches, the importance of friends and family, the beautiful countryside, and many more aspects of La Belle France that cannot be measured by a set of statistics.
Behind France in the ranking of 194 countries comes Australia, followed by Switzerland and Germany. Britain languishes in 25th place, while Spain comes in at a sluggish 17th place. Britain's ranking highlights why so many are keen to move across the Channel. 25th place in the poll, coming behind the likes of Uruguay, Hungary and Lithuania ! Somebody has remarked that if the benefits system wasn’t so generous and local governments weren’t obliged to house anyone arriving without cash, it would be lower down than 25th place.
A debate rages over whether Greece can scramble out of its economic problems and start to reclaim its standing within the Eurozone. You may not have any links with Greece at all, but the repercussions if they don’t sort their problems out could be earth moving. Questions over whether other EU states will offer Greece financial support and whether, if Greece were forced out or forced to pull out of the Euro, the Euro project could survive are coming thick and fast. The answers are a lot more elusive and if we measure all the Eurozone countries against the original financial measures which were the original requirements for membership of the Euro, few would pass, so it is a bit of pot and kettle right now. Consequently, I would be very surprised if any other EU state would point the finger at Greece until their own houses are in better shape.
However, while the debate is in place we can expect further volatility in the Euro.
That would be great if the UK wasn’t being tarred with the same brush as Greece. There is a strong feeling that UK debt levels will create problems in the year ahead as credit referencing agencies continue to monitor Britain’s progress - or lack of it and Sterling is certainly reflecting that in its current levels of weakness. Equally, the fact that Iceland is prevaricating on whether it will repay the £2.3 billion that the UK government paid to those who lost money when Icelandic banks collapsed, isn’t helping matters. £2.3 billion may only be a miniscule part of the humungous debt that Britain has accumulated in the last couple of years but every little helps. Having said that the £ has gained some ground over the last 7 days against the Euro.
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