The Friday Fish

This week's haul from behind the headlines

No 21: Endearing Robots; Blood Antiquities; EU-Iran Banking; Latvian Reforms; The Pursuit of Happiness

Endearing Robots

The first reference to robots came from the Czech play R.U.R, written by Karel Capek, in which the term “roboti” was the name for artificial people who–disclaimer–mastermind a rebellion of the mechanical proletariat against humankind. Today, a different breed of robots modelled after Pepper the humanoid and designed by the French robotics firm Aldebaran, will be for sale in Europe for as low as €10,000. Its purpose? To help people in their daily lives, aid in customer service and assist in caring for the elderly.

Blood Antiquities

Search for antique cylinder seals on eBay, and you’ll find a list of what could be ancient artefacts dating back to Mesopotamia or Babylonian periods. The buyer might wonder whether they are genuine. But he should also ask himself how such goods ended up online. Many such antiquities have been looted from archaeological sites and museums throughout Iraq, Syria, Ethiopia, and Cambodia to name a few. The profit made from their sale may even benefit criminal or terrorist organisations–think ISIL or Al Shabaab–whose notoriety is global. The OECD has lined up guidelines for companies to take responsibility for their supply chains and to crack down on illicit trade and the exchange of blood antiquities.

EU-Iran Banking

When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met on Thursday with a group of financial institutions to encourage them to do business with Iran, he left them divided on how to interpret his advice. Some expressed caution, considering the potential consequences of investing in Iranian markets, particularly if the US position toward the Iranian government changes. In 2012, when international embargoes against Iran expanded to prohibit EU banking, several European banks faced hefty US-led lawsuits for sanctions violations. However, since the July 2015 resolution to relieve sanctions has taken effect, European policymakers like Philip Hammond see trade with Iran as “the first hurdle in the race.”

Latvian Reforms

Latvia has managed to bolster its fight against corruption and money laundering, has made reforms to its health care system, and has brought in independent boards to lead some of the country’s largest state-owned companies. The OECD recognized Latvia this week by inviting it to become a member country. The invitation is as much a pat on the back as it is a push toward further reforms, including trade liberalisation, stronger banking regulations, and new tax and investment policies.  

The Pursuit of Happiness

Subjective well-being (SWB) is catching the interest of economists, policymakers, and psychologists as they try to find out whether people are satisfied with their quality of life. Weighing the balance of positive factors like health, income and socializing with negative factors like unemployment and insecurity, the OECD has drawn up guidelines for building policies to increase quality of life.  But is SWB a fair representation of what makes people happy, and what would people change about the factors it considers to make it more relevant for their own lives? A Huffington Post survey found that people do indeed seek the maximization of life satisfaction, confirming the importance of SWB, while 40% of respondents to the survey would make changes to how it measures satisfaction.

Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q4 2017 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.8% June 2018 annual
Trade: +2.7% exp, +3.0% imp, Q4 2017
Unemployment: 5.2% May 2018
Last update: 02 Aug 2018


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Don't miss

  • Watch the webcast of the final press conference of the OECD annual ministerial meeting 2018.
  • International co-operation, inclusive growth and digitalisation lead the themes of the 2018 OECD Forum in Paris on 29-30 May, under the banner of What brings us together It is held alongside the annual OECD Ministerial Council Meeting on 30-31 May, chaired this year by France with a focus on multilateralism
  • Listen to the "Robots are coming for our jobs" episode of The Guardian's "Chips with Everything podcast", in which The Guardian’s economics editor, Larry Elliott, and Jeremy Wyatt, a professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Birmingham, and Jordan Erica Webber, freelance journalist, discuss the findings of the new OECD report "Automation, skills use and training". Listen here.
  • Do we really know the difference between right and wrong? Alison Taylor of BSR and Susan Hawley of Corruption Watch tell us why it matters to play by the rules. Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview here.
  • Has public decision-making been hijacked by a privileged few? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Stav Shaffir, MK (Zionist Union) Chair of the Knesset Committee on Transparency here.
  • Can a nudge help us make more ethical decisions? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Saugatto Datta, managing director at ideas42 here.
  • Ambassador Aleksander Surdej, Permanent Representative of Poland to the OECD, was a guest on France 24’s English-language show “The Debate”, where he discussed French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
  • The fight against tax evasion is gaining further momentum as Barbados, Côte d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Malaysia, Panama and Tunisia signed the BEPS Multilateral Convention on 24 January, bringing the total number of signatories to 78. The Convention strengthens existing tax treaties and reduces opportunities for tax avoidance by multinational enterprises.
  • Rousseau
  • Do you trust your government? The OECD’s How's life 2017 report finds that only 38% of people in OECD countries trust their government. How can we improve our old "Social contract?" Read more.
  • Papers show “past coming back to haunt us”: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria tells Sky News that the so-called "Paradise Papers" show a past coming back to haunt us, but one which is now being dismantled. Please watch the video.
  • When someone asks me to describe an ideal girl, in my head, she is a person who is physically and mentally independent, brave to speak her mind, treated with respect just like she treats others, and inspiring to herself and others. But I know that the reality is still so much different. By Alda, 18, on International Day of the Girl. Read more.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Read some of the insightful remarks made at OECD Forum 2017, held on 6-7 June. OECD Forum kick-started events with a focus on inclusive growth, digitalisation, and trust, under the overall theme of Bridging Divides.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at .
  • Visit the OECD Gender Data Portal. Selected indicators shedding light on gender inequalities in education, employment and entrepreneurship.

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