Russia to build Iran nuclear reactors; Jobs since recession: Only 1 in 40 is full-time; Oil price fall puts history on its head

1 Russia to build Iran nuclear reactors (BBC) Russia has agreed to build up to eight nuclear reactors in Iran, 12 days before a deadline for a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear activity. The deal agreed by Russia and Iran envisages the construction of two reactors, with scope for a further six. World powers including Russia have been pressurising Iran to curb its activity amid fears it wants to build a bomb.

Six world powers – the US, the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China – are seeking to persuade Iran to reduce its uranium enrichment to a level below that required to build a weapon. They have offered to lift sanctions in exchange. It is thought that Iran would want help with its civilian nuclear programme in return for submitting itself to more invasive inspections.

Russian news reports quoted Iran’s nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, as saying that the agreement on building the new reactors was “a turning point in the development of relations between our countries”. Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear power company, said the construction would be monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a global watchdog, and will meet safeguards against weapons proliferation.

2 Jobs since recession: Only 1 in 40 are full-time (Angela Monaghan in The Guardian) Only one in every 40 new jobs created since the recession has been for a full-time employee, according to the Trades Union Congress. The share of full-time employee jobs – excluding self-employment – fell during the recession and has failed to recover since, falling from 64% in 2008 to 62% in 2014, the TUC said. That is equivalent to a shortfall of 669,000 full-time employees.

Unemployment never reached the levels feared at the onset of the crisis, but the figures highlight that job creation between 2008 and 2014 has been dominated by rising self-employment and part-time work, not full-time employee jobs. Employment increased by 1.08m between January to March 2008 and June to August 2014, but only 26,000 were full-time employee roles.

Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, said: “While more people are in work there are still far too few full-time employee jobs for everyone who wants one. It means many working families are on substantially lower incomes as they can only find reduced hours jobs or low-paid self-employment.”

But a Treasury spokesman said: “This research is misleading because it lumps the recession together with the recovery. In the last two years of the previous government employment fell by 658,000 and the number of full-time employees fell by 929,000. Since the coalition government came into power employment has risen by almost 2 million, with three-quarters of the increase coming from full-time workers.”

3 Tussle over oil price fall (Jonathan Eyal in Straits Times) The current sharp drop in energy prices is more than just a matter of market flutters. It is an indication of a bigger shift in the balance of power between producers and consumers. Right now, the world is awash with oil, and markets have responded in the only logical way, by marking the price of this crucial commodity down, from a peak of $115 per barrel in June to little more than $80 today.

Saudi Arabia, Opec’s biggest producer, has rejected appeals to cut the amount of oil it sells, and other Gulf producers have also refused to cut their production. By keeping prices down, the Saudis hope to squeeze US shale oil and gas operators and thereby prevent US production from rising. Recent research has suggested that around 10 per cent of all US shale oil won’t be economic to extract at prices below $90 per barrel, and no less than half of all the US oil would be uneconomical if prices drop below $80.

That’s history stood on its head: previously, oil producers used to increase their oil prices if they wanted to squeeze concessions out of Washington; now, they have to lower prices to put pressure on the White House.

The Saudi determination to drive prices lower is also dictated by another key consideration: the emergence of Asia, and particularly China, Japan and India, as the Middle East’s biggest customers. Yet again, Saudi Arabia leads the way: it slashed its so-called “official selling price” for Asian oil customers, a move which was swiftly followed by a handful of other Opec member states in the Gulf. The real fight now is not so much about squeezing as much cash as possible out of existing exports but, rather, about making sure that producers gain markets for the future.

Few doubt the significance of what is currently unfolding. For it was weak oil prices which destroyed the Soviet Union in the 1980s and which fostered the conditions that led to the election of Hugo Chavez as president of Venezuela in 1998; falling oil revenues could this time destabilise not only America’s and Saudi Arabia’s enemies, but also some of the West’s allies.

One conclusion is, however, evident: this tussle for energy prices is an expression of one of the most significant strategic reorientations in years. Precisely a century after colonial Britain and France created the Middle East we know today, Asia is replacing them and the US as the region’s biggest market and investor.


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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