Thursday Newspaper round up

The Times

Reports that five million old age pensioners will be worse off after the Chancellor, George Osborne announced a £1.2bn raid on their future earnings while cutting taxes for the wealthiest. In a Budget that sharpened dividing lines with Labour for the rest of the parliament, the Chancellor gambled by cutting the top rate of tax to 45p, saying that the 50p rate raised “next to nothing”. The £110m cost will be covered five times over by an array of tax grabs on the super-rich, capping reliefs and raising hundreds of millions of pounds on the sale of properties worth more than £2m. Mr Osborne, hemmed in by his “unwavering” commitment to the austerity drive, took the politically explosive step of hitting pensioners in the pocket to help pay for the Budget’s big ticket items, the £4bn bill for lifting middle and low income earners out of tax while also easing the pain of higher earners who will lose child benefit,

The Guardian

Hit squad surrounds flat as man admits Toulouse killings. Hundreds of police and balaclava-clad hit squad officers last night surrounded an apartment block in Toulouse where a 23 year old unemployed panel-beater, France’s public enemy No 1 was holed up, apparently with a cache of automatic weapons.

Jaguar Land Rover clinched a joint venture deal with China’s Chery Automobile in a move that promises to boost sales in one of its fastest-growing markets. Sales of JLR’s sleek saloons and powerful SUVs in China have boomed in recent years as luxury cars remain in demand, even as the overall market cools. China is JLR’s third largest market after the UK and US. One in six Land Rovers, Range Rovers and Jaguars built last year were shipped to China, where sales grew to 42,000, an increase of more than 60% in a year. In 2000, China produced more than 2m cars. In 2011,that figure had risen to about 18.5m. Chery and JLR are understood to be seeking regulatory approval for the £1.8bn venture to manufacture and sell luxury cars in China, although that could be only weeks away.

The Greeks got a new finance minister on Wednesday, days after the crisis-hit country’s interim prime minister Lucas Papademos said he was convinced Athens was “more than halfway along the path” to economic growth and recovery. Filippos Sachinidis was promoted from deputy minister after Evangelos Venizelos stepped down to take over the helm of the socialist Pasok party ahead of parliamentary elections which could come as early as next month. Sachinidis is a moderniser and former banker widely seen as a pair of safe hands as the debt-stricken nation navigates its worst crisis in modern times. His appointment was welcomed by both Pasok and the centre right New Democracy, the two parties power-sharing under Papademos, himself a former vice-president of the European Central Bank.

The Times

President Barack Obama flew into Roswell, New Mexico, yesterday to survey a booming oil industry that economists believe could double America’s economic growth rate by the end of the decade. The President will also be hoping that his two-day tour will nullify recent Republican attacks over the rise in gasoline prices. With the US economy apparently on the mend, Republicans have found it increasingly difficult to paint President Obama as the socialist who wrecked America, but they have found fertile ground at garage forecourts. Petrol prices have risen by about a third to $3.86 a gallon in the past two years, largely due to increases in the price of crude oil after political disturbances in North Africa in 2011 and concerns over Iranian production in 2012.

The Daily Telegraph

The Government may “unashamedly back business”, as George Osborne said today, but it was “working households” who earned his support. Businesses were handed another penny off the rate of corporation tax and their call for a cut in the 50p rate of “executive” income tax did not fall on deaf ears. But the gestures were symbolic rather than meaningful. Following the rapturous applause of last year, business could barely muster a tortured smile this time.

Industry body Oil & Gas UK said the Chancellor’s promise of certainty on decommissioning tax relief and new tax breaks on small and deepwater fields would stimulate tens of billions of pounds of additional investment. The Budget was a “turning point” for industry relations with the Treasury after outrage at the surprise tax rise in last year’s Budget, Oil & Gas UK said. The measure means more than 2bn barrels of the UK’s oil and gas reserves that would otherwise have been left in the ground will now eventually be recovered at no net cost to the Exchequer. The Treasury estimates that the reforms could actually boost its coffers by £1bn over the next five years, due to tax on projects that would not otherwise have gone ahead.

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