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Four questions answered on the IMF lower global growth forecast

The IMF lowered its estimates for global growth: what does this mean?

In Tokyo last night the international Monetary Fund ahead of the IMF-World Bank 2012 Annual Meetings downgraded its estimates for global growth – but what does this actually mean?

What have the IMF actually said? 

The IMF Chief Economist Oliver Blanchard said: “Low growth and uncertainty in advanced economies are affecting emerging market and developing economies through both trade and financial channels, adding to homegrown weaknesses.”

The IMF also added: "In advanced economies, growth is now too low to make a substantial dent in unemployment."

What does this mean?

It means global growth has stunted and the IMF now predict the global economy to grow by 3.6 per cent instead of 3.9 per cent as previously estimated in July. One of the most significant downgrades was in the UK, where the IMF expects the economy to shrink by 0.4 per cent this year.

What factors have contributed to this new rating? 

Continued economic crises in the Eurozone, which is expected to shrink by 0.7 per cent this year, a credit cycle downturn in Asia and Latin America, slow growth in America and a significant slow down in growth from China.

What is the IMF’s advice for growth?

The IMF has said Europe must stand behind a summit pledge made in June to allow the European Stability Mechanism (bail-out fund) to stabilise struggling banks in Spain and other European Monetary Union (EMU) states. The US, the IMF has said, must increase its debit ceiling and delay automatic spending cuts and tax increases expected next year – otherwise the economy could fall back into recession and have a knock on effect to the rest of the world.

Jorg Decressin, a senior analyst at the IMF, also told Sky News: "The general mix of policy - which is to reduce large fiscal deficit, and to support growth through an accommodative monetary policy and through financial sector reform - is the right way to go.”


Heidi Vella is a features writer for

Photo: Getty Images
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When will the government take action to tackle the plight of circus animals?

Britain is lagging behind the rest of the world - and innocent animals are paying the price. 

It has been more than a year since the Prime Minister reiterated his commitment to passing legislation to impose a ban on the suffering of circus animals in England and Wales. How long does it take to get something done in Parliament?

I was an MP for more than two decades, so that’s a rhetorical question. I’m well aware that important issues like this one can drag on, but the continued lack of action to help stop the suffering of animals in circuses is indefensible.

Although the vast majority of the British public doesn’t want wild animals used in circuses (a public consultation on the issue found that more than 94 per cent of the public wanted to see a ban implemented and the Prime Minister promised to prohibit the practice by January 2015, no government bill on this issue was introduced during the last parliament.

A private member’s bill, introduced in 2013, was repeatedly blocked in the House of Commons by three MPs, so it needs a government bill to be laid if we are to have any hope of seeing this practice banned.

This colossal waste of time shames Britain, while all around the world, governments have been taking decisive action to stop the abuse of wild animals in circuses. Just last month, Catalonia’s Parliament overwhelmingly voted to ban it. While our own lawmakers dragged their feet, the Netherlands approved a ban that comes into effect later this year, as did Malta and Mexico. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, North America’s longest-running circus, has pledged to retire all the elephants it uses by 2018. Even in Iran, a country with precious few animal-welfare laws, 14 states have banned this archaic form of entertainment. Are we really lagging behind Iran?

The writing has long been on the wall. Only two English circuses are still clinging to this antiquated tradition of using wild animals, so implementing a ban would have very little bearing on businesses operating in England and Wales. But it would have a very positive impact on the animals still being exploited.

Every day that this legislation is delayed is another one of misery for the large wild animals, including tigers, being hauled around the country in circus wagons. Existing in cramped cages and denied everything that gives their lives meaning, animals become lethargic and depressed. Their spirits broken, many develop neurotic and abnormal behaviour, such as biting the bars of their cages and constantly pacing. It’s little wonder that such tormented creatures die far short of their natural life spans.

Watching a tiger jump through a fiery hoop may be entertaining to some, but we should all be aware of what it entails for the animal. UK laws require that animals be provided with a good quality of life, but the cruelty inherent in confining big, wild animals, who would roam miles in the wild, to small, cramped spaces and forcing them to engage in unnatural and confusing spectacles makes that impossible in circuses.

Those who agree with me can join PETA’s campaign to urge government to listen to the public and give such animals a chance to live as nature intended.


The Right Honourable Ann Widdecombe was an MP for 23 years and served as Shadow Home Secretary. She is a novelist, documentary maker and newspaper columnist.