Cancel debt now, EU says
EU finance ministers hope the world's major financial institutions will agree to cancel the debt of developing nations this month, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, said on Saturday. "We are hoping that at the annual meetings in a few days time all the shareholders of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank will be able to vote on a debt-relief package that will wipe out the stock of debt of the poorest countries," he said. Speaking at the end of two days of informal talks with his EU counterparts in Manchester, northern England, Brown said that the ministers were trying to put in place a financing mechanism to help that process.
■ United Kingdom
Unions, not oil, worry Brown
Soaring oil prices are likely to have a neutral effect on the UK's public finances, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown said yesterday. Brown said oil companies' record profits would raise corporate tax receipts but at the same time other firms might have their profits dented by the rising cost of oil. "It's effectively neutral at the moment," the finance minister said in an interview on BBC Television. Brown said that, while high commodity prices had pushed up the cost of living, inflation remained under control. But he said he would this week reaffirm his message to the unions that wage demands had to be kept under control. "We will not tolerate inflationary pay settlements," he said.
Rebel spoils Telstra sale
Australian Prime Minister John Howard fought to save the privatization of telecoms giant Telstra yesterday after a rebel senator again threatened to block the sale. Howard pledged that the government would put at least A$2 billion (US$1.5 billion) into a fund from the controversial sale to ensure services in the rural areas, known as the outback. Howard's comment came in response to wavering by a coalition senator who effectively has a casting vote on the sale plans, which could net the government up to A$30 billion (US$23 billion). "Let me make it clear, our policy is A$2 billion, not a penny less," Howard said at Sydney airport before leaving to attend a UN summit in New York. National Party Senator Barnaby Joyce had baulked at the wording of the bill, which called for "up to" A$2 billion for services in the rural areas -- his constituency. But Joyce said he had been told by officials that even A$20 would be legally acceptable under such wording.
VW touts 30,000 job cuts
Volkswagen AG, Europe's largest carmaker, may cut as many as 30,000 jobs as part of its planned restructuring, mostly in Germany, Automobilwoche magazine reported, citing unidentified senior-management sources. Chief Executive Bernd Pischetsrieder wants to reduce costs in particular at parts factories in Kassel, Braunschweig and Hanover, the magazine said. Between 25,000 and 30,000 jobs would be at risk if significant savings cannot be achieved by other means, Automobilwoche said, citing a management estimate. Volkswagen pledged on Sep. 5 to speed up efforts to cut jobs in Germany through early retirements and buyout packages to help reverse an earnings slide. The company "has surplus manpower of the order of several thousand employees" in Germany, it said.