UK firms report ‘robust confidence levels’ for 2018

PwC survey to mark opening of Davos finds most companies are optimistic about growth

Nine out of 10 business leaders in Britain are upbeat about the growth prospects for their companies over the coming year despite uncertainty about the impact of Brexit, the consultancy firm PwC has reported.

In its annual survey of chief executives to mark the start of the World Economic Forum in Davos, PwC found that optimism about the health of the global economy was boosting confidence.

Related: IMF lifts global growth forecast, but cuts UK growth in 2019 – business live

Related: The Guardian view on Davos and inequality: a demagogue takes advantage

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Bossy diet advice won’t save the NHS | Dawn Foster

The idea that disadvantaged people place undue strain on the system won’t go away. But the problem is underfunding – not people who eat too many chips

Anyone still observing dry January may be on to something: last week the Big Issue’s founder, John Bird, launched the magazine’s “NHS pledge”: a request for readers and supporters to “volunteer for the NHS by staying healthy” and not become “a drain” on its time and resources. The depiction of individual people as a drain on resources understandably left many of us bridling – as it fits the narrative promoted by the government and its supporters that the key problem facing our healthcare system is too much demand, rather than too little funding.

Yes, we could all do more to take responsibility for our own health. But health and the decisions we make about health are complex, as any doctor will tell you, and poverty is a crucial factor. Such admonishments about personal responsibility are invariably directed at the poor, so that the deserving/undeserving poor become deserving/undeserving patients. Eating habits in particular are endlessly scrutinised, with the “let them eat gruel” trope regularly trotted out. Why on earth do poor people go hungry, wonder rich people, when porridge is so cheap?

Yes, we could all do more to take responsibility for our own health. But the decisions we make are complex

Related: NHS crisis is main worry for Conservative voters, poll suggests

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The case against (and for) private finance initiatives | Letters

Readers and union officials air their views on PFIs in the wake of Carillion’s collapse

George Monbiot (Opinion, 17 January) asserts that the PFI bosses fleeced us all. Twenty years ago there were exceptions. Oxfordshire county council and many other councils recognised its deceptive creative accounting and avoided using PFI.

Central government does not distinguish between irresponsible borrowing for revenue and responsible borrowing for capital. Both are in the public spending borrowing requirement (PSBR) which central government wished to present as low (a high PSBR leads to austerity to reduce it), so it restricted local government’s borrowing and used PFI to disguise its own borrowing.

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Inequality gap widens as 42 people hold same wealth as 3.7bn poorest

Oxfam calls for action on gap as wealthiest people gather at World Economic Forum in Davos

The development charity Oxfam has called for action to tackle the growing gap between rich and poor as it launched a new report showing that 42 people hold as much wealth as the 3.7 billion who make up the poorest half of the world’s population.

In a report published on Monday to coincide with the gathering of some of the world’s richest people at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Oxfam said billionaires had been created at a record rate of one every two days over the past 12 months, at a time when the bottom 50% of the world’s population had seen no increase in wealth. It added that 82% of the global wealth generated in 2017 went to the most wealthy 1%.

Related: Project Davos: what’s the single best way to close the world’s wealth gap?

Related: Technology will widen pay gap and hit women hardest – Davos report

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CBI chief calls for urgent ‘jobs first’ Brexit transition deal

Staying inside EU customs union is vital, Carolyn Fairbairn will tell Theresa May

The leader of Britain’s biggest business lobby group is to call for a “jobs first” Brexit transition deal to be negotiated within 70 days.

In a speech on Monday, Carolyn Fairbairn, the CBI director general, will also call for Theresa May’s government to show greater urgency in Brexit talks to give clarity to companies that will otherwise need to trigger alternative plans, including moving jobs and investment offshore.

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Donald Trump and Theresa May to meet in Switzerland

After cancelling UK visit, US president will discuss foreign policy at World Economic Forum

Theresa May will meet Donald Trump when they both attend the World Economic Forum in Davos next week.

Downing Street and the White House confirmed that the pair would hold a bilateral session, which is likely to focus on foreign policy issues such as Syria and North Korea.

Related: Boris Johnson: ‘Let us have a grown-up conversation with our American friends’

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The Guardian view on a caring capitalism: healing an unhappy society | Editorial

It is time to base the economy on a more rounded view of human nature than that one that just considers individuals as selfish calculators of utility

The zero-sum game of competition for money and status that has gripped societies over the past 30 years have made their publics richer overall and given them longer lives of better quality. It has led to an embarrassing wealth of consumer goods. But it is also increasingly clear that the me-first model of modern economies is a big source of unhappiness. When life feels like a cut-throat contest each one of us is encouraged to chase income and rank. In a rat race improving one’s income causes others to feel dissatisfied with theirs. One person’s pay rise is another’s psychic loss. Envy spreads despair, encouraging workers to devote more time to making money than to family or community.

Such competition weighs heavily on national wellbeing. A slice of Britain seem to be losing hope; the lives of poorer citizens are unhappier than their richer peers in ways that simply having less money cannot explain. Our story revealing that private insurers refuse policies to people suffering even mild mental health conditions shows how those who suffer could be shut out of society. Medical research shows that happier people heal quicker, worrying given measures of wellbeing show the proportions of people satisfied with their health, home and income to have fallen over the past three years.

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Europe must wake up to the drastic consequences of a hard Brexit | Joris Luyendijk

The Netherlands knows what it will lose if the UK crashes out. It is less than the price of giving Britain a sweet deal

Because it is such a riveting clown show with new crazy episodes almost every day, Europeans can be forgiven for ignoring the fact that Brexit is going to hurt them too. But as the date of Britain’s departure comes closer and Theresa May’s government continues its kamikaze policy of demanding the politically unthinkable from the EU, it is time for Europeans to wake and begin preparing for the worst.

On Thursday the Dutch government published a report drawn up by the consultancy firm KPMG analysing the consequences of a “no-deal” Brexit in which the UK leaves the EU without an agreement on 29 March 2019. Here are the practical implications and cold numbers behind the hot-headed rhetoric about no deal with the EU being “better than a bad deal” for Britain: should the UK “crash” out of the EU by late March 2019 the Dutch companies trading with the UK will have to secure a total of no less than 4.2m exporting and 750,000 importing licences. If by this time both states have a functioning customs system in place – a big if for this consistently incompetent UK government – costs for companies are between €80 and €130. That is per licence.

A hard Brexit could make every Dutch person poorer by an average of €1,000

Related: Through humility and understanding, we can still stop Brexit | Andrew Adonis

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