4 September 2020: It is back to school for the #icaewchartoftheweek with some graphical geography to illustrate the 50 states and one district that together comprise the United States of America.
Surprisingly, there is no single official set of regions for the USA, with states classified differently according to which federal agency is responsible for the classification. For example, the US Census Bureau uses four regions (the Northeast, the Midwest, the South and the West), while the Bureau of Economic Analysis allocates the states between eight regions, the Office of Management and Budget uses 10, the federal court system 11, and the Federal Reserve 12.
For the purposes of this particular chart, we have allocated the states based on an unofficial but commonly accepted grouping of states: the West, the Midwest, the Northeast, the Southwest and the Southeast. Unlike the census regions, Delaware, Maryland and Washington DC are included as part of the Northeast, while Arizona and New Mexico (part of the West in some classifications) are combined with Texas and Oklahoma to form the Southwest, with the remaining Southern states constituting the Southeast region.
In terms of population, this gives five regions of which three – the West with 70m, the Midwest with 69m and the Northeast with 64m – are pretty close to the UK’s current population of 67m. The Southeast’s 86m population is almost 30% more than the UK (being closer to Germany’s 84m), while the Southwest’s 43m is around 35% less than the UK’s population (slightly below Spain’s 47m).
Although the UK is around a fifth of the size of the USA in terms of population, it is much much smaller in terms of area, with the USA’s 9.84m square kilometres more than 40 times the UK’s 0.24m square kilometres. That is around eight times as much space per person as for the UK.
26 June: The prime minister has announced a reduction in the number of government departments. How big is the cabinet compared to the rest of the world?
The news that the UK Government is reducing the number of government departments by one prompts the #icaewchartofthemonth to take a look at the size of government executives across the world.
As the chart highlights, with 26 members, the UK cabinet is one of the largest amongst major economies – comprising the prime minister Boris Johnson, 21 department ministers and four ‘ministers attending cabinet’. This does not include the Cabinet Secretary or other officials, meaning that cabinet meetings generally involve more than 30 people in total.
Compare that with the more compact 16-member German federal cabinet (Chancellor Angela Merkel and 15 departmental ministers) and the ten-member Chinese state council executive (comprising the premier Li Keqiang, five vice-premiers and four other senior departmental ministers).
It is certainly much larger than FTSE-100 company boards, where the average size is 11, and very few listed companies have more than 16 board members.
There is some debate around whether reducing the size of the UK cabinet would be more conducive to effective government. Some suggestions that the merger of the Department for International Development (DfID) with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) to form the new Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in September is the first step on the way to that goal – with further mergers possible. However, although there will be one fewer departmental minister, there is a reasonable prospect of the minister responsible for development at the FCDO being invited to attend cabinet given its importance to the government’s global agenda.
Of course, merging departments is not the only way to achieve a slimmer cabinet – for example, the 31-member Russian cabinet (not shown in the chart) rarely meets as one body. Instead, there are regular meetings of the 10-strong prime ministerial group (the prime minister Mikhail Mishustin and nine deputy prime ministers) and occasional meetings of the 20-strong cabinet praesidium that includes the most senior ministers as well.
The UK Cabinet also works in this way to a certain extent, with critical decisions often being made in smaller groupings of senior ministers, such as the 9-member National Security Council, the 9-member Climate Change Committee or the 12-strong EU Exit Operations Committee for example. Canada, with its 37-member cabinet, also operates through a series of cabinet committees ranging from around 8 to 15 members. However, in both cases, the full cabinet still meets regularly and remains the formal executive body for authorising government actions.
With rumours of a cabinet reshuffle in the UK this autumn, it will be interesting to see whether moves to reduce the size of the cabinet will actually take place or whether we will see further development of cabinet committees as the places to be ‘in the room where it happens’.
With recent changes in ICAEW communications, the ICAEW Public Sector team has started an #icaewchartofthemonth to complement the #icaewchartoftheweek.
The first #icaewchartofthemonth was published on the ICAEW’s Insights Hub (icaew.com/insights) on Friday 31 January 2020 and is on the UK’s international trade. It highlights how important the £718bn in imports and £673bn in exports in the year to 30 September 2019 are to the economy of the UK.
As the UK Government starts to negotiate new trade arrangements with countries around the world, the EU will be the highest priority. Imports into the UK of £369bn represent 51% of total imports and exports to the 27 EU countries of £297bn are 44% of total exports. This is followed by the USA, where imports of £87bn and exports of £133bn represent 12% and 20% respectively.
Trade relationships with countries in the Asia-Pacific region will also be very important, in particular China (imports £60bn and exports £39bn), Japan (£17bn and £15bn) and the 10-country Association of South East Asian Nations (£22bn and £19bn).