Paddy’s warning

▪️ Paddy’s warning ▪️ Miyem Ali ▪️ Escape from poverty ▪️ Study and live longer ▪️ Forgetful

British businesses are warning of a new wave of post-Brexit trade disruption because EU exporters are not ready for UK customs changes which start this month, and Britain’s port infrastructure might be unprepared too.  Although Britain left the European Union’s single market in January 2021, it has repeatedly delayed imposing checks on EU imports. 

By contrast, the EU immediately enforced its rules, leading to port delays in 2021 and prompting some British exporters, such as cheese-makers and high-end beef farmers, to give up on selling to the bloc, at least initially.

Britain imports up to 70% of its fresh food from the EU in the winter months, falling to about 30% in warmer months, with as many as 1,000 trucks daily arriving at its ports.  Make UK, representing manufacturers, said last month that 90% of firms it surveyed still faced problems doing business with the EU, with customs and clearance the biggest barrier. These problems are likely to lead to price pressure and the possibility of scarcity.

Meanwhile, Marco Forgione, Director General of the Institute of Export & International Trade, representing UK importers, said large EU firms would probably cope with Britain’s new rules but smaller ones – such as specialist food exporters – might struggle.  “Some of them might decide it has become too complicated to trade with the UK and stop exporting,” Forgione said. The Dutch Association of Wholesalers in Floricultural Products has called for a delay in the UK border checks until 2025.

In spite of the shambles in which the UK finds itself, the UK’s Minister for Europe, Leo Docherty, told reporters during a recent visit to Malta that the Brits were glad to be freer than Malta since they left the EU.  Freer, maybe, but certainly poorer.  Various studies have concluded that the UK economy is some 5.5% poorer now than it would have been had it stayed in the EU.  But Docherty thinks that there were only “some bumps” on the road after Brexit.

None of the reporters at the meeting thought of asking him about the open letter he had received from his brother Paddy about the impact of Brexit.  Paddy had appealed to his brother to “use your position to end opportunities for others and damage the lives of generations to come. Brexit will be such a blight on the country that the social mobility from which you have benefited will be battered.”

The UK’s Minister for Europe, Leo Docherty, while visiting Malta

Miyem Ali

A “mild and gentle” 21-year-old, who also happens to be a “Gift of God”, has been charged with driving a car without a valid licence and insurance cover, without its owner’s consent, supplying false details to the police who stopped her, and breaching bail conditions from previous court proceedings when she was out on the street after her curfew.

The girl’s lawyer appealed to the Magistrate to give Miyem Milal Ali bail, on the grounds that she had a four-year-old child and that, if held in detention, she might lose her job with serious repercussions for her financial situation.  The magistrate was not convinced, quite rightly in my opinion, that Ali   ̶   whose first two names are so evocative   ̶   could be depended upon to respect the Court’s conditions.

While one could feel sorry for her, it is legitimate to ask whether a responsible mother would leave her infant child to allegedly commit a string of offences, especially when there were already proceedings against her.  Is she one of those young people who nowadays think that freedom is the liberty to shed all behavioural norms and damn the consequences?

What also irks me in this kind of situation is why the system does not automatically require a Court to assign a social worker to assist the accused in facing up to his/her responsibilities.  Is detention in a Correctional Facility, which is not correctional at all, the only solution?  The likelihood is that this kind of detention will make somebody even more criminally-inclined than was the case before.  

Escape from poverty

Six million of the poorest people in the UK would need to more than double their incomes to move out of hardship, says the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in its UK poverty report for 2024.  Escaping poverty has become significantly harder over the past two decades, it said, with progress to eradicate hardship in Britain having stalled under the Conservatives since 2010

The report shows that the average person in poverty in the UK had an income 29% below the poverty line, up from a gap of 23% in the mid-1990s. People are considered to be below the poverty line if they live in a household with income below 60% of the median.

The report also revealed that the 14.4 million people who were in poverty in the UK   ̶ that’s 22% of the population   ̶   included 8.1 million working-age adults, 4.2 million children, and 2.1 million pensioners. The charity also said six million people were in very deep poverty.

Photo: Adobe Stock

This report prodded me to look at the statistics for Malta.  In 2022, the number of people at risk of poverty in Malta was 85,800, or 16.7% of the population.  There were 18,700 people, or 3.6% of the population, who would need to increase their income by €3,630, or 50%, just to reach the poverty line.  Another 24,120 people, or 8.4% of the population, would need an income boost of €1,820, or 20%, to reach the threshold.

Even that would be scant consolation, as they would still be teetering on the brink of poverty.  To reach the median income, those 85,800 would have to boost their income by €7,260, or 67%.  That’s an incredibly tall order, particularly because the statistics I have quoted are based on income after the persons concerned have received all sorts of social benefits and allowances. 

So, yes, eradicating poverty is still a struggle.  Poverty is not just a statistic.  It is thousands of people, including children and elderly persons, who cannot live a decent life.  But just throwing money at them will not solve the problem.  The solutions must be holistic and encompassing various facets, not least education from an early age, which is the only way to avoid inter-generational transmission of poverty.

Study and live longer

Every year spent in school or university improves our life expectancy, while not attending school is as deadly as smoking 10 cigarettes a day for a decade or heavy drinking, according to a systematic study directly linking education to gains in longevity, published in The Lancet. Completing primary, secondary, and tertiary education is the equivalent of a lifetime of eating a healthy diet, lowering the risk of death by 34% compared with those with no formal education. 

The study implies that efforts to ensure children stay at school need to be given additional impetus.  It also implies that increases in the school leaving age and rising numbers of young people staying on into further and higher education could add years to future levels of life expectancy.

Neil Davies, Professor of medical statistics at University College London, says that “the relationship between time spent in education and earnings has been very well studied and is pretty robust. This is also likely to be worse for more disadvantaged students.”

David Finch, an assistant director of the Health Foundation who has studied life expectancy as part of its healthy lives team, has concluded that there are really big inequalities in life expectancy between the least and most deprived sections of any population as well as a significant difference when comparing by qualification level.

A study by A. Lleras-Muney published in the Review of Economic Studies concludes that one more year of education increases average life expectancy at age 35 by as much as 1.7 years. Other studies have shown that highly educated people stand to benefit first and most from the prevailing drivers of decreasing mortality, particularly with regard to the risk factors of cardiovascular diseases. 

The impact of education on life expectancy increases according to the level of education.  One study by Marc Luy and five other researchers estimated that life expectancy increases by around 2.7 years between a low level and medium level of education, whereas that between a medium level and a high one increases by around 4 years.

Photo: Wavebreakmedia/Thinkstock

But education also helps people build better social connections. It makes them better at accessing and understanding information that can help them make better choices, essentially, whether it’s financial or what they choose to do and participate in. It can help them feel empowered and valued. 

David Finch, an assistant director of the UK’s Health Foundation Finch, asks whether spending a longer time in education and a longer lifespan will translate into better standards of living over somebody’s lifetime.  When it concerns the future, “that’s where there is a question: can people access affordable housing? Are young people’s career earnings trajectories what they were for people 30 or 40 years ago, at the same age? The prospects aren’t as rosy,” Finch says.

When our population is ageing and the burden on a lower proportion of working people of maintaining the non-working part of the population is increasing, it is imperative that education at higher levels in Malta makes greater strides. 

Forgetful

My editor occasionally draws my attention to the need to check my blog before I send it to him.  It could be a spelling mistake or a sentence that somehow misses something    Wait a minute, the previous sentence needs a stop at the end!  I tend to blame it, jokingly, on the probability of a neurodegenerative disease at my advancing age.

But I recently came across a study published in Cell Reports which mentions evidence that nonpathological forgetting is an adaptive and active part of learning and memory maintenance.  Livia Autore, a neuroscientist and postdoctoral  researcher at Trinity College Dublin, says that forgetting is part of the process of updating our memories in order to adapt to a constantly changing environment.  Mr Editor, please note.

Other experiments at the University of Alberta reported by Jacob Berry, a neurologist, demonstrated that even when a memory is forgotten, it’s actually still there; it’s not actually gone.  “It’s almost like it gets demoted by the interference of so-called engram cells in the brain to a dormant stage.  In that stage, the cells are able to either update, or they can actually rescue or revive the memory,” says Berry. 

I won’t go into the specifics of the various experiments using mice or even fruit flies, but anybody who is interested in the science could visit here and here.

Main photo: PA Media

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