Letters to the editor

North Africa crisis

[Re: Does the crisis in North Africa represent the start of a new wave of global instability, yesterday]

Media portrayals of recent events in Mali and Algeria paint a picture of a high-risk continent, blighted by radical jihadists, chronic instability and incompetent governments. But Africa is far larger and more varied than Europe, with 55 countries. Most are safe and increasingly visitor and investor friendly. In West Africa, elections in Ghana, Senegal and Sierra Leone have shown democracy is deepening. And remember that, in Sierra Leone a decade ago, a brutal civil war had just ended. We mustn’t abandon West Africa. It’s an important emerging market frontier.

Alex Vines, head of Africa at Chatham House



[Re: The protectionist beast is back in a subtly fresh form, yesterday]

As Stephane Garelli points out, protectionism is nothing new and will never disappear. Worryingly, it just evolves. Our key concern should be developing a strategy to prevent our companies’ competitiveness disappearing beneath huge state-guided companies, with the full weight of emerging market superpowers behind them. We can’t, as Garelli points out, retrench into protectionism. We must, therefore, open up much more than just our borders. Flexible labour, efficient capital markets, high quality education, and a simple low rate tax system are the answer. We can’t erect barriers to unfair competition. We must undercut it.

Oliver Michael



Barack Obama’s inauguration speech shows he’s learnt absolutely nothing in the last four years about fiscal responsibility.

It’s highly likely that the government will use heavy snowfall as its latest excuse for slow growth.

I wonder if more people lost a day’s work because the snow made roads impassable, or because their kids’ schools were closed.

HMRC’s crackdown on tax avoidance will be counterproductive if it just drives business out of the UK.