The thoughts that count - the best of global thought leadership (March 2022)

What will the public services we use look like in the future? The Serco Institute’s monthly digest – The Thoughts That Count – pulls together some of the best thinking on public services policy from across the world.

Public services & public policy

Public services workforce for the future – Trades Union Congress (UK)

This is the TUC’s response to the House of Lords public services committee inquiry. It recommends, among other things, that the UK Government ensure public sector workers are awarded a pay rise in line with the cost of living increases; develop a long-term workforce strategy in tandem with unions to give workers equitable access to training opportunities and create public sector jobs; and create a National Skills Taskforce.

Is public service spending aligned with the ‘levelling up’ agenda? – Institute for Fiscal Studies (UK)

The IFS is starting a new project to assess how spending is allocated between different parts of England to fund a range of public services, including healthcare, schooling, policing and other local government services.

Funding the Infrastructure of Tomorrow – McKell Institute (Australia)

This report finds that Australians’ access to high-quality infrastructure, which is an essential component to their ability to access public services, is unequal, strongly reflecting urban/rural divides, household incomes and historic disadvantage.

Levelling Up for the long term – Bennett Institute for Public Policy, Cambridge University (UK)

This analysis finds that there is little continuity between the UK Government’s Levelling Up white paper and existing economic policy documents by the Government. By tracking the frequency of certain terms in past economic policy documents and in the white paper, the analysis finds, for instance, that there is almost no overlap in terms used between the 2017 industrial strategy white paper and the 2022 Levelling Up white paper.

With the levelling up missions help reduce regional inequality? – Institute for Government (UK)

In this report, the IfG analyses the UK Government’s Levelling Up missions set out in the White Paper on the policy. It finds that only four of the twelve missions are sufficiently clear and ambitious with appropriate metrics to measure progress towards the Government’s 2030 target. The other eight will need recalibration if the Government is to truly up the UK, including five which lack ambition and will require little to no policy change to be met.

Economy & the cost of living

The Living Standards Outlook 2022 – Resolution Foundation (UK)

The Resolution Foundation estimates that the war in Ukraine could push inflation in the UK to a peak of over 8% in 2022-23, meaning real household incomes for non-pensioners will likely fall by about 4%, or £1,000, compared to 2021-22. They argue that much of this living standards hit will be due to the current policy of uprating benefits by an outdated inflation measure, which will cut the real value of benefits-derived income by £10 billion. The Resolution Foundation recommends, among other things, uprating benefits by a much higher rate and moving some social and environmental obligations from electricity bills.

Biden’s Budget Deficits – Cato Institute (US)

While the recently unveiled Biden budget places great emphasis on reducing the federal deficit, Cato Institute analysis indicates that deficits would begin rising again in 2024, spending would rise from $5.85 to $8.87 trillion in the next ten years, and public debt would rise from 102.4 to 106.4% of GDP by 2032.

Economic Bulletin: Back to the 1970s? – Centre for Policy Studies (UK)

The CPS outlines the extent to which the UK is facing a cost of living crisis and the reasons for living cost pressures: in addition to the Russian war on Ukraine driving up energy and, eventually, food prices, Covid lockdowns in Chinese manufacturing hubs such as Shenzhen mean that global supply chains remain disrupted, placing further inflationary pressure on the prices of goods and services.

Why the budget fails as an economic plan – Grattan Institute (Australia)

The Grattan Institute argues that the Federal Budget fails to address some key issues facing Australia, by neglecting to offer targeted support for those more vulnerable to rises in the cost of living, adding more non-essential projects to the ‘already huge’ pipeline of transport infrastructure plans, and failing to address the structural deficits of the Australian economy which are set to continue over the next decade.

Budget Reset Paper – Committee for the Economic Development of Australia

CEDA makes the case for a comprehensive reset of Australia’s budget following the federal election and before the 2023-24 Federal Budget. They argue that, with Australia facing an ageing population and weak productivity, it is more important than ever that taxpayer dollars be used in an effective manner to deliver high-quality public services, that public finances be reviewed through an Intergenerational Report, and establish a rolling schedule of budget reviews to take onboard issues such as climate change.

PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and their Government – Public Policy Institute of California (US)

Polling in March 2022 for the PPIC shows that: a majority (56%) of California residents, including majorities across partisan groups, support economic sanctions on Russia even if this should lead to higher energy prices; 35% of Californians say recent price increases have caused hardship for themselves or for others in their households; and 26% are worried about their ability to pay their rent or mortgage. The PPIC furthermore finds that personal concerns about severe illness from Covid-19 have fallen in the past year, 42% of Californians say that voting in this year’s midterm elections is more important than in previous midterm years, and President Biden and Governor Newsom’s ratings in the state stand at 50% and 56% respectively.

Federal Budget lacks Long-Term Plan to address Future Challenges – Committee for the Economic Development of Australia

CEDA argues that the recently announced Australian Federal Budget only takes ‘modest steps’ to protect households’ capacity to resist growing economic pressures: most of the cost of living measures mostly benefit income earners and motorists rather than income support recipients who need relief. This blog post urges the Australian Government to take ‘bolder steps’ on skills and workforce participation, deliver better infrastructure outcomes and measures, address a structural disconnect between delivering critical services for Australians and the revenue required to deliver them, and more effectively address the issues facing Australia’s aged care sector.

What Rising Gas and Rent Prices Mean for Families with Low Incomes – Urban Institute (US)

American households on low incomes are disproportionately vulnerable to rises in gas and rent prices. Gas prices rose 40% between February 2021 and February 2022, which is a grave concern for the 76% of Americans who commute by car; similarly, the 15% rise in rent prices in average metropolitan area ZIP codes will have impact the spending power of the 36% of Americans who rent. The Urban Institute calls for policymakers to help shield vulnerable Americans by enacting policies to reduce evictions; reducing local public transport costs; and expanding the Housing Choice Voucher Program which would help insulate low-income renters from steep increases in rent.

Europe must prepare for a wartime economy – European Policy Centre

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has fundamentally shifted Europe’s security outlook, the EPC argues. The think tanks says, Europe’s reliance on Russian energy will now necessitate a much more interventionist role by policymakers; European states will need to significantly increase their defence spending in conjunction with investment to avert the worst impacts of climate change; and the EU will have to absorb huge numbers of Ukrainian refugees. The EPC recommends that the EU double down on its investment push, for the twin green and digital transitions but also for defence; protect the vulnerable and fairly share the impact of these newfound economic shocks; and prepare for long-term geopolitical competition with Russia and future economic shocks by reassessing economic relations with certain countries and expanding sources of growth less vulnerable to geopolitical shifts.

Gas prices stretch family budgets – Public Policy Institute of California (US)

Petrol prices are continuing to rise in California – between the end of February and March 14, they rose 20% in the state, compared to over 21% in the US as a whole. However, the PPIC finds that gas prices are still similar to what they were a decade ago when accounting for inflation, and that they continue to compare favourably with household earnings over the long term. Gas prices are, however, currently diminishing families’ spending power during a period of broader inflation which is already eroding California residents’ ability to buy other goods. The blog post therefore calls for targeted relief towards lower-income Californians, to allow them to better weather the inflation surge.

Employment

Overtime in Europe: Regulation and practice – Eurofound

This paper is a comparative study of how overtime is regulated in the member states of the EU as well as Norway and the UK, including the definition of overtime, the limits on its use and the compensation received by workers for working longer hours. The report also assesses the extent to which people work longer hours using national-level data, explores their reasons for doing so, and examines the consequences of overtime for workers and employers.

UK Spring Statement

Six things we learned from the 2022 spring statement – Institute for Government (UK)

The IfG sets out six takeaways from the UK Spring Statement, including how significant the cost of living crisis is likely to get, how measures set out in response to the war in Ukraine are likely to impact the transition to net zero, how the war and inflation affect spending and ‘Levelling Up’, and how the Chancellor will provide financial help to households and businesses.

Inflation Nation: Putting Spring Statement 2022 in Context – Resolution Foundation (UK)

The Resolution Foundation’s response to the Spring Statement argues that the Chancellor has failed both to protect the public from price rises and to demonstrate his tax-cutting credentials, due to his refusal to provide targeted support for lower- and middle-income households and to reverse previously announced tax rises.

Spring Statement 2022 – Institute for Fiscal Studies (UK)

In the IFS’ response to the Spring Statement, Director Paul Johnson notes that Chancellor Rishi Sunak has proven to be a ‘fiscal illusionist’. Despite the Statement’s tax cuts, taxation is nevertheless rising. In the short term, the measures are inadequate to protect workers from the rising cost of living, the IFS claims. . Inflation will also undo much of the real-terms increases to departmental spending announced in October, with the Chancellor likely having to announce an additional £7 billion to maintain the same level of real funding increases to public services, the IFS finds.

Revealed: Poorest get just £120 help in Spring Statement, while richest handed £480 boost – Institute for Public Policy Research  (UK)

IPPR analysts claim that, without the measures announced in the Spring Statement, the poorest fifth of British households would see living costs rise by an average of £550 in 2022, which the Chancellor’s new measures will only reduce by around £120, leaving many of the UK’s poorest households to go without essentials.

What does the Spring Statement 2022 mean for the NHS? – The King's Fund (UK)

This blog post highlights three takeaways from the Spring Statement which are relevant to the NHS. Firstly, inflation will wipe out some of the real value of the extra Departmental funding allocated to health in October’s Autumn Budget - the author estimates the Government would have to spend nearly £2.5 billion more in 2024/25 to maintain the real-terms growth in health spending envisioned in October 2021. The author also notes that changes to the National Insurance threshold, which will reduce the amount of money the Health and Care levy raises for health and social care, have not been accompanied by reductions in planned spending for health and care services, thus calling into question whether or not this change had truly meant to be earmarked for health and care. Finally, while the Chancellor indicated a focus on the need for NHS efficiency and productivity, it is unclear what productivity improvements the NHS would be able to make in the next three years.

Bright Blue’s response to the Spring Statement 2022: This is the confused Chancellor – Bright Blue (UK)

Bright Blue hails the decision by the Chancellor to adopt two policies advocated by the think tank, namely raising the National Insurance threshold and expanding the R&D tax credit to include cloud computing and data. However, overall Bright Blue’s assessment of the Spring Statement is negative. Chief Executive Ryan Shorthouse notes that forging ahead with the National Insurance rise while pledging to cut income tax is ‘straightforwardly odd’, as increasing tax revenue from earnings but not other forms of income will punish those in work. Furthermore, the Chancellor appearing to be ‘allergic to welfare’ means he has not implemented changes which would help many low-income Britons, such as uprating Universal Credit or the Warm Homes Discount, while cutting fuel duty is ‘poor policymaking’ and poorly targeted as most of those in the poorest fifth of the population do not own cars.

Rishi’s Gamble – Centre for Progressive Policy (UK)

The CPP argues that, with his Spring Statement, the Chancellor has reverted to ‘Reaganite trickle-down economics’, ‘condemned many to destitution’ and failed to address levelling up, in a gamble, they argue, he may come to regret.

Healthcare

NHS Performance Summary: January-February 2022 – Nuffield Trust (UK)

This roundup examines the latest data from NHS England on key activity and performance measures from the first two months of 2022. Among its key findings: between April 2021 and January 2022, the waiting list of patients waiting two or more years for consultant-led treatment grew eight-fold to 23,778; ambulance handover delays have continued to grow; and in February 2022, 16,404 patients waited over 12 hours from decision to admit to admission, a figure sixteen times the corresponding number in February 2021.

Public satisfaction with the NHS falls to a 25-year low – Nuffield Trust (UK)

The British Social Attitudes (BSA) survey has revealed that public satisfaction with the NHS fell percentage points, to 36%, between 2020 and 2021, representing the lowest level recorded since 1997 and the steepest single-year drop in satisfaction in the history of the BSA survey. This likely reflects the end of the ‘halo effect’ around the NHS in the first year of the Covid pandemic as well as continuing pressures on health services: by the time of polling in mid-September 2021, nearly 6 million were on waiting lists in England, up from 4.4 million before Covid. However, the Government and the NHS should take heart from the indications that public faith in the core principles of the health service remain overwhelmingly strong: 94% believe the NHS should be free at the point of use; 86% believe the NHS should chiefly be funded through taxation; and 84% believe care should be universal.

Building a European Health Union: Opening borders for intensive care specialists – European Policy Centre

Covid-19 has shone a spotlight on the inability of intensive care medicine (ICM) specialists to migrate between EU member states due to a lack of mutual recognition of their qualifications, the EPC claims. This report calls for the European Commission to place ICM on the list of professions listed on the Directive on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications, and establishing minimum pan-EU training requirements and competences and incorporating these into training for ICM specialists across EU states. This will allow ICM specialists to move across EU national borders and better insulate the EU against future public health crises.

California’s Health Care Safety Net – Public Policy Institute of California (US)

This fact sheet explains key statistics about Medi-Cal, California’s version of Medicaid which supported 14.2 million people in September 2021. Medi-Cal enrolment has increased by about 1.8 million since the beginning of Covid, but as of the beginning of 2021, 2.8 million residents of California remained uninsured – nearly three-quarters of these were Latino, and 35% were not American citizens.

Access to and delivery of general practice services – Health Foundation (UK)

This briefing examines data from 146 GP practices in England using the askmyGP online consultation service between March 2019 and September 2021. Despite concerns that using digital services such as askmyGP risks excluding certain segments of the population, the analysis indicates that many patients prefer remote consultations to in-person ones and that GPs can mitigate against the risk of exclusion by adopting a blended approach.  

Not so universal: How to reduce out-of-pocket healthcare payments – Grattan Institute (Australia)

Australians spend nearly $7 billion a year out of pocket to access out-of-hospital medical services and medications, the Grattan Institute claims. This is as a result of gaps in Medicare coverage. Public hospital outpatient times are too long, the think tank claims, leaving many Australians with no choice but to turn to private specialists, who often charge far more than the Medicare schedule fee. The Grattan Institute recommends, therefore, that state governments expand outpatient services to reduce wait times; that the federal government pay specialists to provide GPs with over-the-phone advice about patients without actually meeting them; to lower co-payments for people on multiple medications; and eliminate out-of-pocket payments for diagnostic services, such as blood tests and radiotherapy, and fund these directly through a commercial tender.

The state of health and care 2022 – Institute for Public Policy Research (UK)

In view of a pandemic-accelerated trend of declining healthcare access and outcomes, IPPR makes several policy proposals to better live with Covid-19, build back better and create a more sustainable healthcare model for the future.

At Your Service – Policy Exchange (UK)

General practice in the UK is in sore need of change, with a stretched- and burnt-out workforce, lack of systematic reporting and analysis of activity, fragmentation with secondary care and confusing and outdated mechanisms for reimbursement and contracting mechanisms. Policy Exchange sets out a programme for reform, addressing integration, digital transformation, workforce and scaled provision.

Variation in Patients' Use of, Experiences with, and Access to Telehealth during the First Year of the COVID-19 Pandemic – Urban Institute (US)

This report finds that 37.4% of non-elderly adults and 46.2% of elderly adults in the US had at least one telehealth consultation during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic. Telehealth visits were more common among high-income adults, those with health insurance, adults in fair or poor health and those living in metropolitan areas. Publicly insured non-elderly adults were more likely to have a phone consultation than those with private insurance, which may reflect patient access to video technology or the telehealth modalities covered by insurers. A majority of patients agreed their experience of telehealth was convenient and low-cost, but the authors found disparities in access to telehealth based on income and health.

Health system recovery from Covid-19: International lessons for the NHS – Nuffield Trust (UK)

The Nuffield Trust says that the challenges facing the NHS as it seeks to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic are enormous, including the waiting lists reaching record 6 million patients. This report by the Nuffield Trust examines how 16 countries’ health systems are seeking to recover from the pandemic and move forward, with potential solutions for the NHS.

A matter of life and death – Health Foundation (UK)

This report lays out an evidence-based framing strategy to increase understanding of and support to address wider determinants of health. This strategy has three prongs: acknowledging the severity of the issue, as life expectancy in Britain’s poorest regions is years shorter than in wealthier areas; “going deep” to show how health is shaped by these determinants; and promoting solutions-focused communications to allow people to take charge of their own health.

Social care

The cap on care costs: what does the government proposal mean? – The King's Fund (UK)

This explainer by the King’s Fund lays out the impact of the proposed change to the social care cap. Following the Government’s social care reform in September 2021, which saw the means test rise from £23,250 to £100,000 and capped the total amount spent on social care costs over an individual’s lifetime at £86,000, ministers subsequently announced a new rule change whereby state funding provided for individuals qualifying for state assistance would not count towards the cap of £86,000. In essence, this could mean many people would need to sell 70% of their assets to pay for their care and could need to sell their homes. This will furthermore disproportionately impact those with lower levels of wealth and working-age adults with long-term disabilities.

Social care 360 – The King's Fund (UK)

This analysis by the King’s Fund covers the period 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021 - the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK. It finds that public expenditure on social care rose significantly during this period, and that while requests for care from older people to local authorities decreased, overall the number of people receiving formal long-term care services went up.

Covid-19

The Covid-19 vaccination programme: what comes next? – The King's Fund (UK)

The National Audit Office has judged that the Covid-19 vaccination programme in England was value for money. Costing £5.6 billion up to the end of October 2021, only 4% of doses went to waste, far lower than the 15-20% projected. Furthermore, while it had been assumed that 75% of the adult population would receive two doses, by the end of October 2021 85% of adults in England were double-jabbed. Nevertheless, only about 64-68% of 18-29-year-olds were fully vaccinated by the end of October 2021, and only 58% of 12-15-year-olds had received first doses by the end of January 2022. Furthermore, the pandemic and the vaccination campaign are not yet over: there remain an estimated three million or more unvaccinated adults.

People with disabilities and the COVID-19 pandemic: Findings from the living, working and COVID-19 e-survey – Eurofound 

This paper examines the situation of Europeans with disabilities during the Covid-19 pandemic, comparing their access to healthcare, mental wellbeing, financial situation and optimism about the future to Europeans without disabilities. On all fronts, it finds that Europeans with disabilities were considerably worse off than their counterparts without.

What policymaking lessons can we learn from the government’s Covid-19 response? – Centre for Cities (UK)

The UK Government’s Covid-19 response is estimated to have cost between £315 and £410 billion, amounting to between £4,700 and £6,100 per person in the UK. Two years on from the first lockdown, this blog post reviews some of the most successful aspects of the UK’s Covid policy programme, and how these may be adapted for the post-pandemic era. For instance, the success of the furlough scheme means policymakers should now turn their attention to addressing chronic labour shortages which are impacting Britain’s recovery, through raising wages and, in some regions, retraining workers.

Defence

NATO’s Moment – Royal United Services Institute (UK)

NATO has risen quickly and decisively in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, rushing to supply the Ukrainians with weapons, working quickly to consolidate its frontlines on its eastern flanks and working together to establish a crippling set of sanctions against Russia, this report argues. However, this remains an extraordinarily dangerous conflict, likely to be prolonged and with considerable potential to escalate: Russia may choose to deploy chemical weapons against Ukrainian cities, or even nuclear weapons. Furthermore, the unity of NATO allies cannot be taken for granted as the cost of living rises and economic conditions worsen at home, RUSI claims.

Making AUKUS Work – RAND Corporation (US)

Given that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the ambitions of powers such as Russia and China to reshape the world, military partnerships such as AUKUS have only grown in importance. This blog post fleshes out some of the actions the US will need to take to make AUKUS successful, including giving the alliance a legislative grounding and adequately resourcing the alliance.  

Ukraine reinforces the case for the Integrated Review – Policy Exchange (UK)

This article argues that Ukraine highlights the need for the UK Government’s Integrated Review (IR) as the foundation of modernising British defence policy. The IR acknowledges the arms race already underway, although identifying China as Britain’s chief competitor, but also sees NATO and the EU as the bedrocks underpinning European security. Furthermore, Britain’s leadership in supporting Ukraine is ‘bearing fruit’ across NATO and the EU, a strategy which the IR identified as having great potential.

Does the Strategic Compass herald a stronger EU in security and defence? – Centre for European Reform

The new, more dangerous era in European security, brought about by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, gives the EU Strategic Compass – the official EU assessment of strategic threats – greater significance, the Centre for European Reform claims. However, the Compass is not a detailed strategy document for dealing with each threat (in fact it acknowledges the EU is ‘underequipped’ to meet each of the threats it faces), but rather lays out steps the EU will take in four areas: military capability development; strengthening EU military and civilian operations; fostering resilience; and strengthening partnerships. If these steps are implemented, the EU will be bolstered in its capacity as a security actor, and be better able to take further measures, including military actions, if called upon to do so, claims the CER.

The Ukrainian Crisis and the Integrated Review – Royal United Services Institute (UK)

Major General James Cowen CBE DSO writes as the only CEO of a major British NGO who has also served in the Army. He describes how the Integrated Review of March 2021, whereby Britain’s security, defence and foreign policy assets would work in concert rather than in isolation, should be applied in Ukraine, and what moves the West should make to aid the Ukrainians. These include transferring air defence and anti-tank systems and weapons as quickly as possible to shore up the defence of Lviv and Odesa, and providing urgent humanitarian aid to Poland and other countries bordering Ukraine in the ilk of the response to ethnic Albanians fleeing Kosovo in 1999.

Impact of Russia’s invasion on UK Integrated Review – Chatham House (UK)

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, many Conservative parliamentarians and ex-military figures have been calling for an increase to defence spending, with many also calling for Britain to reassess the Indo-Pacific tilt laid out in the Integrated Review and to instead recommit its focus to Europe, this report claims. Chatham House says that parts of the IR are already being unpicked, such as the pivot out of the Middle East. Importantly, the UK is not ‘free-riding’ on the US commitment to NATO, and instead playing a leading role in the Western response to Russian aggression. Chatham House suggests that, in light of Germany’s decision to rearm and boost defence spending, Britain may wish to bolster NATO’s defences in the High North, especially if Finland and Sweden end up joining the alliance. Ultimately, what the Russian war against Ukraine has shown is that NATO remains an integral component of any British defence strategy.

London Prepared: A City-Wide Endeavour – Royal United Services Institute (UK)

Tasked last summer by London Mayor Sadiq Khan to conduct a review of London’s preparedness for a major terrorist incident, Lord Toby Harris of Haringey has just published the resulting report. He concludes that significant progress has been made in the past few years by London’s emergency services and other agencies. However, he warns that the threat from extremism is ever-evolving and London will need to remain vigilant, while ideologies based on misinformation and hostile towards democracy and science have grown in popularity in a number of Western countries, with potential to escalate to violence (e.g. the Capitol Hill riots). As such, security and resilience will need to be built into every part of the fabric of London in a city-wide endeavour.

Scotland: A Touchstone for Security in the High North – Royal United Services Institute (UK)

This report explores what implications an independent Scotland would have for security in the Arctic, especially given new threats posed to NATO’s northern flanks. The authors argue that the potential for a ‘gap’ in the High North’s security infrastructure be incorporated into the debate surrounding Scottish independence.

Justice

The Golden Thread: Putting family at the heart of the criminal justice system – Centre for Social Justice (UK)

Recidivism rates are 39% lower for inmates who receive visits from partners or family members than for inmates who do not, according to the CSJ. Despite this, multiple UK Governments have failed to effectively harness the power of family connections to the criminal justice system, the think tank claims. This report makes the case for greater state support for families of prisoners and how to capitalise on the work of Lord Farmer in placing family relationships at the heart of criminal justice.

Language Barriers in the Criminal Justice System – Institute for Crime & Justice Policy Research (UK)

This report forms part of a series, funded by the Bell Foundation, which seeks to create an evidence base of research exploring how language barriers may impact an individual’s experience of the criminal justice system and provide lessons as to how practitioners can improve their practice in working with individuals who do not speak English natively.

Immigration & asylum

Open the borders for Ukrainian refugees – Institute for Economic Affairs (UK)

Over 3 million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion, with the vast majority of these being taken in by neighbouring EU countries such as Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. The IEA says that the UK’s initial response to Ukrainian refugees has been criticised as inadequate, and while it has since launched its Homes for Ukraine scheme, this remains a more bureaucratic approach than that of the EU, which granted three years of residency to all Ukrainian citizens and matches refugees with locals on arrival at train stations. Welcoming Ukrainians more wholeheartedly could help fill some of the record-high 1.3 million job vacancies in Britain and place downward pressure on inflation – Ukrainian nationals already account for nearly half of temporary work visa holders in the UK. The IEA furthermore calls for Britain to assume an open-door policy towards Russians and Belarusians fleeing their countries and willing to denounce their governments’ actions.

Countries should seize the opportunity to take in Ukrainian refugees – it could transform their economies – Brookings Institution (US)

The fastest-growing refugee exodus in modern history is unfolding at rapid pace before our eyes, says the Brooking Institution. The Brookings Institution makes reference to historical precedent to urge countries to recognise the potential benefits Ukrainians may bring to their workforces. For instance, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, 600,000 immigrants from Ukraine and other former Soviet republics arrived in Israel and swelled its population by 15% in five years. These newcomers brought with them in-demand STEM skills that bolstered Israel’s growing tech sector and turned the small country into the start-up hub that it is known as today. Similarly, in the two decades after the fall of Saigon, 1.4 million Vietnamese refugees were resettled in the US, which had a positive effect on trade and investment relations between the US and Vietnam thanks to the international business networks created by refugees.

Fixing temporary skilled migration: A better deal for Australia – Grattan Institute (Australia)

Australia’s present immigration policy is unpopular with the public, fails to capitalise on the potential benefits of temporary skilled migration, and allows for workers to be exploited by employers, says the Grattan Institute. This report calls for a reset in temporary skilled migration policy. Key to this is to stop sponsoring so-called low-skill, low-wage temporary skilled migrants for occupations ‘in shortage’, and to instead restrict such migration to high-skill jobs, where individuals are more likely to bring more knowledge and ideas and pay more in taxes than they receive in public services and benefits.

Unseen unity in the EU’s migration policies, but how long will it last? – European Policy Centre

While the millions of Ukrainians fleeing the war in their homeland have been granted the right of free movement across the EU and met with an unprecedented degree of unity among EU member states, this policy brief argues there is little reason to believe this unity will endure. This is due to EU countries’ deeply entrenched divides over responsibility-sharing for refugees and whether such responsibility-sharing may involve relocation between countries.

Congress’ competitiveness legislation should address immigration – American Enterprise Institute

Congress is currently considering legislation to bolster the US’ domestic manufacturing capabilities, as well as the country’s science and innovation and R&D competitiveness relative to China. The blog post argues that members of Congress should also consider liberalising immigration rules, to allow the best and brightest foreign nationals (such as Chinese students upon completing their studies, or Russian tech workers fleeing sanctions) to come and work in the US and grow American innovation capabilities.

With the Ukrainians, Avoid the Mistakes of Other Refugee Crises – RAND Corporation (US)

This blog post sets out several recommendations for EU countries in dealing with the 3.7 million and counting Ukrainian refugees who have fled the conflict in their country. EU countries should take steps to move Ukrainians from the temporary camps set up in border areas and into the community so that these camps do not turn into squalid long-term slums, RAND argues. EU governments and UN agencies should coordinate to relocate Ukrainians to areas where their skills will be needed in accordance with local labour market demand. Finally, school systems in the EU will need to significantly expand their absorptive capacity to take in a large number of refugee children from Ukraine.

Settling the Unsettled: Closing the Urban-Rural Immigration Gap in Canada – Public Policy Forum (Canada)

This report examines the reasons why immigrants to Canada remain concentrated in urban rather than rural areas, which include: a lack of connectedness and feeling of isolation; racism, xenophobia and intolerance; inadequate job opportunities; inefficient public transport. To address these, the report suggests that local authorities adopt measures such as developing an anti-racism strategy, an immigration mentorship programme, subsidise housing solutions, provide adequate transport options etc.

Energy security

Living without Russian gas – Institute for Government (UK)

Despite the crippling sanctions levelled on Russia since the invasion of Ukraine which have crippled the Russian economy and caused the value of the rouble to fall sharply, Russia is still able to access large sums of foreign currency in exchange for its energy. These contracts, which are mostly denominated in dollars or euros, have increased in value due to the rise in energy prices and could amount to as much as $1 billion every day, the IfG says. Given that many commentators and politicians have been calling for Western countries to reduce their reliance on Russian oil and gas, this paper sets out how the UK Government could prepare for the fallout of such a move, including finding alternative energy supplies and reducing demand and shielding households and businesses from higher energy prices.

American attitudes about nuclear power after the Russian invasion – American Enterprise Institute

This blog post concerns levels of support among the American public for the use of nuclear energy, especially in the wake of Russian forces seizing control of the Chernobyl and Zaporizhzhya nuclear plants in Ukraine. In the most recent poll (March 2022), 34% of Americans believe nuclear plants are generally safe, while 42% believe they are not. 57% of Americans also believe a nuclear power incident will occur in Ukraine as a consequence of the Russian invasion, while 20% think this will not happen.

How Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will impact energy markets – Middle East Institute

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Europe’s subsequent efforts to divest itself of Russian oil and gas imports, three Gulf countries stand to benefit from the increased demand for energy: Qatar, given its gas production, and Saudi Arabia and the UAE, for their increased capacity in oil production. However, Qatar’s exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) are already nearing capacity, while the UAE and Saudi Arabia are reluctant to dramatically and suddenly increase oil production, the Middle East Institute says.

Can Europe manage if Russian oil and coal are cut off? – Bruegel (Europe)

Under its new energy strategy, RePowerEU, the EU will seek to cut its gas imports from Russia by two-thirds by the end of 2022, and to wean itself completely off of Russian energy by 2030. Europe can manage without Russian gas next winter, but will the EU be able to manage without Russian oil and coal in the immediate term? This would, Bruegel argues, be possible, but EU policymakers would have to confront significant logistical challenges. While a sudden halt to Russian oil and coal supplies to Europe would drive up the prices of these fossil fuels, global markets for these are more flexible and liquid than for gas and so markets would be able to rebalance, allowing Europe to procure the oil and coal that it needs in the short term. However, Bruegel warns that these attempts must be accompanied by a longer-term drive towards carbon-neutral energy sources, to end Russia’s leverage over European energy supplies once and for all.  

Observations on the Biden ban on imports of Russian fossil energy – American Enterprise Institute

Following President Biden’s ban on US importation of Russian fossil fuel energy, the AEI offers the view that a unilateral US ban on these Russian imports is likely to have little effect. Given that many US allies are, in Biden’s words, not ‘currently in a position to join us’, combined with the low share in the US energy mix that Russian fossil fuels possess, the US ban is made all the more insignificant.

Transport

Train operators need autonomy, not more top-down control – Institute for Economic Affairs (UK)

The IEA finds that train operators with autonomy from the Department for Transport were, prior to the Omicron wave, recovering more quickly from the Covid pandemic than those directly under the DfT’s control. Freight rail transport, for instance, was actually doing better than it had been before Covid. Given that there will likely be no return to pre-Covid levels of business and commuter travel, convincing travellers to choose rail over cars for leisure trips will be determined by factors such as timetables, pricing structures and the comfort of train carriages. Profit-motivated companies are better-placed to provide these incentives than the DfT or Great British Railways, proposed by the Shapps-William Review of May 2021.

Roundabouts, overpasses and carparks: Hauling the federal government back to its proper role in transport projects – Grattan Institute (Australia)

Pork-barrelling in federal politics has resulted in transport projects which favour electorally important states, such as Queensland and New South Wales, at the expense of the likes of Victoria, claims the Grattan Institute . Furthermore, much of the federal government’s funding for transport projects is technically the domain of state and local governments and outside the federal purview: the federal government should only be involved in nationally significant infrastructure on the National Land Transport Network. This report therefore makes the case for the federal government to leave locally important road and rail projects to the relevant state and local authorities and for the federal government to adhere to its role overseeing national transport infrastructure.

Mapping the 30-minute city – Centre for Cities (UK)

Many British cities lag behind similarly sized cities in Europe in terms of providing quality public transport linking residents to employment and education opportunities, says the Centre for Cities. This report examines ten case studies of cities in the UK and in Western Europe to help illustrate the connectivity issues faced by residents of large British cities in comparison to their counterparts on the continent.

Understanding the Willingness to Make the Modal Shift to the New Metro in Riyadh – King Abdullah Petroleum Studies & Research Center (KSA)

Traffic congestion is increasingly a problem in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, and with transport demand set to increase still further in the coming years, car-based infrastructure will not be sufficient to ease existing pressures. The Saudi government has therefore unveiled a new proposal for the country’s first metro rail system. This study examines the factors which would incentivise Riyadh residents to shift from car to public transport use.

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