This week's round-up from the world of supply chain and procurement.
The monthly rent paid by the Order of the Knights of Malta to live in a Renaissance palace on Via Condotti, the most expensive street in Rome. Beppe Grillo, the comedian who founded the Italian political movement Five Star has written to the Knights asking them to pay a bit more to ease the city’s financial crisis. The Order, which has 13,000 members worldwide, was founded in the 11th century to tend Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land and has governed itself from its Magistral Palace since 1834. As the Knights of Malta are internationally recognised as a sovereign entity, Grillo’s request is unlikely to be granted.
The growth in the world economy in 2017, according to a new forecast by the IMF. As global GDP expanded by 3.1% in 2016, this would mark the first time in four years that growth has accelerated. The organisation is predicting a slight acceleration growth – to 3.6% – in 2018. The fastest-growing major economy this year is predicted to be India (7.2%), followed by the Philippines (6.8%) and China (6.6%). The UK economy is now expected to expand by 2.0%. Although the IMF was unusually upbeat in its report, it did warn about the threat low commodity prices pose to economies in Africa, the Middle East and South America.
The amount Japanese billionaire Taizo Son, who made his fortune with the smartphone game Puzzle And Dragons, is investing in Singapore after relocating from Tokyo in frustration at government regulations and an education system which he says is “extremely terrible” at developing entrepreneurs. His departure is a concern for the Japanese government, especially because his brother Masayoshi Son, the richest man in the country, is chairman of tech giant SoftBank. Explaining the rationale for his move, Taizo said: “I tried very hard lobbying the Japanese government but they are too big and too slow moving. In Singapore, even government regulators are innovation-minded.”
The amount of live eels on a passenger arrested at Heathrow while trying to board a flight to Hong Kong. Eels are a delicacy in China and officials estimated that the eels he was smuggling had a street value of around £1.3m. In Asia, baby eels – known as elvers – are sometimes more valuable than caviar – 1kg can sell for £6,000. Korean and Chinese gangs have targeted the River Severn, the biggest habitat for eels in Britain, prompting the Environment Agency to increase the number of patrols to check fishermen have a licence and the Border Force to deploy staff to catch the smugglers. Andrew Kerr, chairman of the Sustainable Eel group, says: “The amounts of money are so huge they can afford to lose a lot of consignments and still make money.”
80 degrees north
The location of Trefoil, Russia’s new Arctic military base, in the huge, desolate archipelago of Franz Josef Land. Built on stilts, to help withstand extreme cold, the base will house up to 150 personnel on 18-month tours of duty. In winter, temperatures routinely fall below -40C. The base, designed for air defence, generates its own electricity and has a cinema, gym, library, chapel and clinic, and a military airstrip is being built nearby. In a break with the Russian military’s secretive traditions, Trefoil has been publicised with a virtual tour.
The record box office takings for Fast And Furious 8 in its first weekend on global release. Described as a “cheery, trashy car crash of a movie” by The Times critic Kate Muir, the eighth instalment in the franchise raked in $3.5m more than Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The action movie, which stars Vin Diesel, The Rock and (briefly) Helen Mirren, generated $190m in ticket sales in its first three days in China. The original movie, released in 2001, was inspired by an article about street racing in New York in Vibe magazine.
The number of jobs at risk after General Motors decided to halt operations in Venezuela. The company’s assets had previously been seized by the public authorities while many vehicles have been taken. GM said the seizure would damage 79 local suppliers but promised to make “separation payments” to staff affected. Venezuela is in economic and social turmoil. The left-wing government had previously seized the assets of another US company, cleaning products firm Clorox, which subsequently pulled out of the country.