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The Guardian: Financing the UK's future: Woe is Me

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"Norway has amassed [a sovereign wealth fund] of $885bn (£727bn) – easily enough to cope with the cost of looking after a population of 5 million as it ages. In Britain, by contrast, the NHS is at breaking point, the social care system is struggling to cope and there is no pot of gold to pay for the healthcare and nursing fees of the baby boomer generation as it advances into old age. Norway is currently winning the sovereign wealth fund contest $885bn to nil. One hell of a beating indeed.

"The lack of a UK-wide fund speaks volumes. There is an ingrained culture of short-termism in which consumers spend more than they earn and governments can see no further than the next election. As the Wikipedia list of sovereign wealth funds shows, even the world’s poorest countries have tried to put some of the proceeds from oil and gas extraction away for a rainy day. Ghana and Gabon, for example, both have such funds.

"One result of last year's EU referendum is that it has forced people to take a long, hard look at Britain's economic model and come up with possible remedies for its weaknesses. These have been perfectly encapsulated in the six months since the Brexit vote. The economy is growing at a fair old lick, but mainly because consumers are out on a debt-fuelled spending spree.

"... John Penrose, the Conservative MP for Weston-super-Mare, has a radical suggestion – do what should have been done all those years ago and launch a sovereign wealth fund. This would not be easy."

"You cannot buy happiness – not even on 'Blue Monday'"

"We're told every day by advertisers that buying stuff will make us happy. A new pair of shoes will help us to feel better after a breakup. New beauty products will give us a sense that we're 'worth it'. A bigger car will give us social status. New toys will make the children happy.

"Even loans are sold this way: one payday lender is currently running a campaign with a smiling woman, snuggling a mug of tea and feeling happy thanks to a 1,200% APR loan, an implausible scena"rio if ever there was one. So it's no wonder that on Blue Monday, the day our anxieties and misery are supposed to peak, the advertisers scream that the path out of unhappiness is paved with till receipts.

"Sometimes the harm this causes is relatively trivial: overconsumption of stuff we don’t need; a bit less money in the bank; a wardrobe that won’t close because we’re not very good at throwing away our throwaway fashion buys."

" 'It's a financial cliff edge': how Britain fell back in love with credit cards"

"For more than half a million Britons, January provides the mother of financial hangovers. The darkness of the days is compounded by the need to trawl the internet to find a new home for credit card debts swollen by the Christmas spending orgy. For some it is an annual ritual that keeps their share of a £192bn unsecured consumer credit mountain ticking over and out of sight.

"But last week, alarm bells started ringing as official figures showed consumers racking up debt at a rate not seen since the spending frenzy that preceded the 2008 financial crisis.

"... The Bank of England figures made it look like UK consumers were partying like it was 2007 as credit card borrowing reached a record £66.7bn in the year to November. The Bank said that consumer credit, which means all credit cards and car loans, had risen at its fastest rate in 11 years, up 10.8% over the last 12 months period to reach £192bn."

"Declutter your cupboard if you want, but it won't save the planet "

"Is this the year we finally get to grips with all our stuff? If so, it has been a long time coming. Forecasters and commentators say we have entered a new era where people prefer to share rather than own, and prize experiences over possessions. Retailers worry about the implications for them of a public sated on 'peak stuff'.

"Official figures suggest that Britons are consuming ever fewer resources. And witness the worldwide success of the rationalisation bible, Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising.

"It's an encouraging thesis with which to start a new year. If only it were true. The talk is of the sharing economy, but the reality is that very little is being done on a large-scale level to reduce our high-consumption lifestyles. While it might feel virtuous to Marie Kondo your wardrobe, we urgently need to address the vast amount of often unseen resources that support our modern way of life."

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