Hard news

Concrete Quarterly has been the magazine of choice for architects who admire the scale, the starkness or the sinuous curves of concrete buildings since 1947 – and it still hasn’t made it on to Have I Got News For You. At the website of The Concrete Centre, you can read the latest edition featuring the gargantuan Bodleian book fortress, which I edited. Or you can go right back through the archive to read the first edition, which I didn’t.

Insuring Brazil

Everyone seems to be excited about Brazil, and where there’s economic growth, there’s more to insure. According to speakers at an ACE Group client briefing at Lloyd’s, which I covered for Strategic Risk magazine earlier this month, massive government investment and a fast-maturing insurance industry mean great opportunities for foreign companies. The Brazilian insurance industry almost quadrupled in value over the last 10 years to reach US$49.65m in 2009, with even more staggering growth of 409% in the life and pensions sector. Audience members were worried about state intervention in business following the election of  former Marxist guerrilla Dilma Rousseff as the country’s first female president. But Rear Admiral Chris Parry, a strategic forecasting specialist, reassured them: “The Brazilian government knows it’s got to show a level of fiscal responsibility and political predictability, or it will be lumped in with the other South American countries…You won’t see nationalisation, but you may see the odd demonstration of state power to show they can do something if the electorate wants them to.” He also encouraged them to look elsewhere in South America – Costa Rica and Chile are both good bets apparently.

Good news for the ambulance chasers

Before Lord Young of Graffham became infamous as the Tory Peer who thinks we’ve “never had it so good” and that the recession doesn’t exist, he wrote a rather more sensible report about the compensation culture, warmly welcomed by insurers and, in happier times, David Cameron. I assessed the chances of his recommendations becoming law for Insurance Times. Back then, the fact that he’d been invited to stay on and implement them was a hopeful sign. So now what’s going to happen?

“There’s no question: this would be disastrous”

Depending on where you’re standing, legal expenses insurers are either bloodsucking ambulance-chasers hiking up premiums for everyone, or fearless defenders of justice for all, providing a much-needed service. One thing is certain: if Lord Justice Jackson’s recommendations for reforming the compensation market are implemented in full, their days are numbered. As the government’s verdict looms, I assessed their chances of survival.