The Bank of England meets on Thursday with inflation well above its 2% target. In April, prices rose at an annual rate of 9%. But that does not mean a large interest-rate increase is imminent. The bank’s monetary policy committee is supposed to look beyond temporary shocks and consider the wider economic environment.
Recent data suggest there is no need to panic. Employee earnings do not yet point to a wage-price spiral. In the three months to April, pay excluding bonuses fell by 2.2%, after adjusting for inflation. If anything Britain’s slow economy is more of a worry. In April GDP fell by 0.3% relative to the month before, with manufacturing hurt by soaring costs and supply-chain disruption. Increasing rates too quickly could depress growth and medium-term inflation too much. So although some at the bank may push for an increase in the official interest rate of 0.5 percentage points, most expect it to raise interest rates by just half that.
Over 100m people have been forced from their homes by war and persecution, the first time that figure has hit the grim milestone. The number is just one of many depressing figures from the UN refugee agency’s Global Trends report, which was published on Thursday. The report shows that the number of displaced people worldwide has risen in each of the past ten years, reaching 89.3m by the end of 2021-more than double the figure in 2001. Since last year things have worsened further, largely because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as fallout from the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and civil war in Ethiopia.
Before Russia’s invasion, most refugees came from Syria, Venezuela and Afghanistan. Those that fled abroad tended to go to low- and middle-income countries: Turkey, Uganda and Pakistan hosted the world’s biggest refugee populations. But many more people are internally displaced: 53.2m worldwide. That is true of Ukrainians, too. Some 4.9m Ukrainians are registered as refugees in other European countries, but more than 8m are displaced within their own country.
It is a rare summer holiday that no one wants. Tunisia’s main public union, the UGTT, called a one-day strike on Thursday. With 1m members, it brought the country to a standstill. All flights have been cancelled and public transport is not running. The union is angry about rising inflation, which hit 7.5% in April, as well as government talks with the IMF about a $4bn loan that may require subsidy cuts, wage freezes and other painful measures.
Always a fractious union, the UGTT has never met an economic-reform plan it likes. But while Tunisia’s debt-to-GDP ratio of 88% means it does need external help, the union is right to worry about what an IMF deal might mean for its struggling members. Kais Saied, the country’s increasingly authoritarian president, has spent little time on economic policy since his election in 2019. Instead he is busy writing a new constitution ahead of a referendum few Tunisians care about. He will probably be at the office on Thursday, even if no one else is.
“We brought them into the world, so we need to look after them,” she says. The idea inspired her to curate “Eternally Yours”, an exhibition about repair and healing that opens on Thursday at Somerset House in London.
The most striking works are by Aya Haidar, who fled Lebanon in 1982. In “Soleless” she embroiders the tattered shoes of refugees with depictions of their experiences. One is a record of a Syrian mother whose three-month-old baby was thrown off a dinghy by a human trafficker because he wouldn’t stop crying. “I couldn’t return function to those shoes”, writes Ms Haidar. “But I could tell their story.”