UK CEOs earn 143 times company average pay; Facebook offers free internet access to Zambia; First impression of India’s Narendra Modi

1 UK CEOs earn 143 times company average pay (Juliette Garside in The Guardian) The bosses of Britain’s 100 biggest listed companies are earning on average 143 times more than their staff, according to data that exposes the growing imbalance between how the nation’s workforce and its business leaders are rewarded. The pay gap is widest at Rangold Resources, where boss Mark Bristow was paid £4.4m last year, nearly 1,500 times that of his average employee, many of whom work in the company’s African mines. The study by the High Pay Centre, also singles out marketing giant WPP and the retailer Next, both companies with large British workforces.

WPP founder, Sir Martin Sorrell, received nearly £30m last year, 780 times the £38,000 earned by his average worker. At Next, Lord Wolfson received £4.6m, while his staff, most of whom work on the shop floor, typically took home £10,000 – about 459 times less than their boss. The disparity at Next would have been greater had Wolfson not chosen to waive a £3.8m bonus and share the sum among the company’s 20,000 staff.

At Compass Group, which employs many cooks, cleaners and security officers, the average £13,000 annual salary is among the lowest in the FTSE 100 index of Britain’s biggest listed companies. But chief executive Richard Cousins took home £5.5m last year – 418 times more than his workers. The gap is widening, according to the High Pay Centre. In 1998, a FTSE 100 boss was typically paid 47 times more than their workers. Analysis of six major UK companies in 1980 found the senior executive was paid between 13 and 44 times more than their staff.

2 Facebook offers free internet access to Zambia (Wendy Lee in San Francisco Chronicle) In the African nation of Zambia, few can afford an Internet connection. Watching a few mobile videos on YouTube requires a data plan that costs 51 cents – roughly half the daily earnings of many Zambians. It may seem purely altruistic, then, that Facebook is working to provide free Internet access to the country. But the company stands to benefit greatly if it manages to connect the developing world to its social network.

Working through its coalition, which includes a number of tech firms including Samsung and Nokia, Facebook has launched a free app that provides limited Internet access to Zambians who have cell phones without data plans. Customers of cellular provider Airtel can download the app for access to 13 outlets, including Facebook and Wikipedia. They can find out about the weather, women’s rights and job openings for several months before they will eventually need to decide whether they want to buy a data plan. The app doesn’t directly show ads, but users can see ads through certain websites accessed through the app.

For Facebook, expanding Internet access helps expand its user base. Facebook wants to remain the dominant social network in the world. But after saturating developed countries like the US and the UK, the company is rushing to convert people in developing nations into Facebook users before competitors can target them. Anyone who signs up for Facebook in Zambia through the free app will count toward the company’s more than 1.3 billion monthly active users worldwide. Advertising experts say there is great demand for a digital way to reach consumers in developing countries.


Right now, advertisers in developing countries run billboards and print ads – forms of advertising that don’t provide as much data as social media ads, which can target specific consumers based on their age and interests, said Leo Ryan, group head of digital consultancy for Social@Ogilvy, UK. If Facebook’s app becomes the primary way people in Zambia access the Internet, it could dominate the nation’s ad market, Ryan said. Even though more than 85 percent of the world lives in areas with cellular coverage, only 30 percent are accessing the Internet, according to But Facebook spokesman Derick Mains said there are no plans to monetize the app.

3 First impression of India’s Narendra Modi (Seema Guha in Khaleej Times) Can he deliver an India free of communal tension?  India Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first address to the nation, from the ramparts of the Red Fort on India’s 68th independence anniversary, was a refreshing change for people accustomed for the last 10 years to listening to the bland growth figures and percentages doled out by an erudite economist.

Modi spoke extempore, though he had a couple of points jotted down. He exuded confidence as he spoke and instead of sweeping policy issues, which ordinary people may or may not understand, he emphasised small but important measurers, the nuts and bolts of everyday life. The bottom line, however, is whether Modi can actually walk the talk, considering that he has so far not succeeded in reining in the right-wing elements of the larger Hindutva family.

There was mixed response to his speech. Most ordinary citizens related, others said it fell short of expectation and grumbled that foreign policy did not figure at all. Surprisngly for a man known for his thundering rhetoric, the speech was conciliatory, taking in the contribution of previous governments, avoiding jingoism, a trademark of his previous avatar as chief minister. There was no mention either of terrorism or Pakistan.

Women in India are delighted that Modi spoke of rape and taken the bull by the horn. Instead of blaming the victim, he asked every family to take responsibility for their sons. He also spoke of building toilets for women, and stressed on cleanliness, something no prime minister has done before and showed that he is in touch with the real India and knows its problems.

Modi came into government with the promise of reform and development. Many were hoping to hear some big ticket announcements. But the prime minsiter concentrated mainly talking of strengthening the manufacturing sector, which can create jobs. “Come, make in India,’’ he invited. This invitation was to people across the world, to set up manufacturing units here and sell where ever they wanted. It is a good slogan, but the government has to create a business-friendly and rid the country of the red tape, which can daunt the most enthusiastic of businessmen.


About joesnewspicks

This blog captures interesting news items from around the world for those strained by information overload and yet need to stay updated on global events of significance. The news items displayed are not in order of merit. (The blog takes a weekly off — normally on Sundays — and does not appear when I am on vacation or busy.) I am a journalist for nearly three decades.
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