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QUEST MEANS BUSINESS
Time for Top Kill; Interview With Portugal's Finance Minister; Facebook and Privacy
Aired May 26, 2010 - 14:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RICHARD QUEST, HOST, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS: So, its time for top kill. BP's plan to stop the oil spill had got the official go ahead.
Portugal's finance minister tells me tonight austerity has risks, the market needs confidence.
And Facebook wants to be your friend. It's new privacy rules are public.
I'm Richard Quest. I mean business.
Tonight BP is considering just when to try and kill the spill with top kill. Right now it is believed the oil giant is carrying out tests before it attempts the procedure that is called the top kill. Within the last couple of hours the U.S. Coast Guard has given BP consent to carry this out.
Now, you're looking at a live picture. It comes to you from a mile under the Gulf of Mexico; 5,000 feet below the surface of the water. Top kill has never been tried at such depths before. BP itself is giving the move only a 60 to 70 percent chance of success. The oil continues to pour out of that broken pipe at a rate of 5,000 barrels a day.
And when you look at that picture, just remember one thing, that has been pouring out like that 24/7 for the past month. The depth of water above the ruptured well is giving BP a huge problem when it comes to closing off the leak so, one has to ask why drill at such depths if there is no tried and true plan in case something goes wrong. CNN puts that question to Tony Hayward, the chief exec of BP.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY HAYWORTH, CEO, BRITISH PETROLEUM: I think the first thing to recognize is that this is an unprecedented accident. The industry has been working in the deep water for 25 years. And not had to contend with this. As our initial assessment of the accident has indicated, which we have now shared with both Congress and Secretary Salazar, there are a whole series of failures here. Most importantly the fail safe mechanism, the blow out preventer, failed on there separate occasions.
Now, having said all of that, it is clear that this will be a transforming event in the history of deep water exploration. It is very clear that much more needs to be put in place to deal with this situation, should it ever occur again. Clearly our intentions going forward will be to change many things to ensure that it never can occur.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: Tony Hayward, the chief exec of BP. The company is under enormous pressure to get this latest attempt to work. It is now more than a month since the explosion. It killed 11 people, let us never forget that, and destroyed the Deep Water Horizon Rig that BP was leasing.
President Barack Obama has grown increasingly frustrated. Officials say he told aides, and this is a quote, "plug that damn hole." For now the president's announcing a stricter regime of inspections and tighter safety regulations. And the president has also overruled BP's plans to turn off that video feed that you were seeing, during the leak-of the leaking well, during the repair. It will now be forced to carry out its repair operations under the glare of publicity.
There is new information overnight on the moments leading up to the explosion that triggered the leak. Congressional investigators in the U.S. say there were many warning signs that something was going terribly wrong. Leaks, and increases in pressure in the well, were all ignored by BP and those on the rig. Those very warnings that perhaps should have said, indeed did, presage the explosion that took place.
Professor Iraj Ershaghi, is the director of the petroleum engineering program at the University of Southern California. The professor joins me now from Los Angeles.
Good afternoon to you, Professor. Many thanks for taking the time. Let us just start with top kill and the-what is going to happen over the next two or three days. And it is an extremely complicated process and I don't pretend to understand any of it. But how worried or how confident are you that this will be successful?
IRAJ ERSHAGHI, DIRECTOR, PETROLEUM ENGINEERING, USC: OK, actually just to demonstrate this, I brought a straw for you. Because that is the easiest way to understand. If you can see the straw?
QUEST: We can.
So imagine from the bottom of this straw, you have oil and gas coming up and now you want to force it down. So what you do from the top of the straw you are going to force heavy density mud, drilling mud, which is a combination of water, bentonite, barite, and even some cases we use galena, which makes it very heavy. So, the pressure of that mud is going to control the outward movement of the fluid.
Now, this is normally done in many cases and there is no problem. Where the problem develops, if you don't know where the fluid is coming from. Supposedly this casing was cemented very well but indications are that probably it wasn't cemented well and the chances are that the fluid is not entering from here. The fluid may have gone around the casing, it could have basically collapsed the casing, it has created a hole and is coming through that. So, therefore you have to make sure when you are injecting the mud, the mud is able to control that.
Now, I have read reports about the range of the pressures on the horsepower they are using on the barges, on the drill ship, to be able to push the mud down. And they have to be very careful not to be overdoing it, because if you put not too much pressure, because you don't want to kill this thing here, you could actually burst the casing and create more problems.
So, I'm assuming, and I'm hoping and I'm praying that they have done the right calculation over here to make sure how much pressure it needs to control that. But the process is very simple. It is a matter of knowing where the fluid is coming from.
QUEST: Now, an excellent explanation. Thank you so much for that.
Once that process starts it has to be done in a particularly speedy fashion, doesn't it? Not too fast and not too slow. But the risk, as you rightly point out is that at any point in that pipeline things can go very badly wrong.
ERSHAGHI: That's correct. That's correct.
QUEST: Now, if that happens-if that happens, as you have just outlined, then we're looking at the relief well scenario. We're looking at containment chambers, on top of the access, and all those sort of things. Is drilling a relief well a 100 percent, virtually guaranteed way of stopping the leak?
ERSHAGHI: If is an amazing technology that makes it possible that you actually come from a different point and approach this well through metal detection, so make sure you are hitting it. It has been done. Shell Oil Company had one in the North Sea. So this is done routine. That's not a problem. It only takes time to do that. But in my opinion, before we wait until August, when the reliefs are there, I think we should go back to the containment idea, the big container.
But amazes me, I don't know how the calculation was, we all know that there are high grades (ph) forming at the sea floor. That was not a surprise. All they had to do was in this pipe that comes to the surface insert another one-inch pipe, and through that one-inch pipe they inject methanol, that will dissolve the high grade, and they would have no problem. I don't know why that wasn't done.
QUEST: Finally, let me just quickly ask you. Overnight, in the newspapers, lots of reports about what was happening on the Deep Water Horizon before hand, the rise in pressure, the drop off in pressure, the abnormal pressures, is it starting to seem like to you, sir, that just about everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.
I have a feeling that the cement job wasn't done-and again, I get reports that there is a measurement system we send down there to figure out how good is the cement. If the cement was not done properly the chances are that the fluid didn't enter from the bottom. It actually entered from outside the casing. It broke the cement, came out over here. All you need is a gas bubble of about 5,000, 10,000 PSI pressure that could actually collapse the casing and start a channel for it to go up. If that's the case, it is really a major problem that we have to do. The problem over here, is that BP unfortunately I don't think they know where the fluid is coming from.
QUEST: Professor, there are a thousand and one questions I wish to ask you and we are out of time, unfortunately, but we will hopefully have you to come back and talk to us again. Many thanks, indeed. Fascinating, a good explanation there of exactly what has been happening with the oil well.
Now, when we come back, at the moment, we're going to turn our attention back to our business agenda. Portugal is part of Europe's growing austerity club. It is forced into it by an unsustainable budget deficit. The finance minister will be talking to us after the break. The OECD doesn't run any countries. It is well aware of the balancing act governments face. We'll hear about the risks to the recovery in just a moment.
QUEST: In a crisis the markets want to see action. Those are the words of the U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who is visiting Europe tonight. And that brings new Finance Minister, Downing Street, Geithner says European leaders have a good plan for addressing the crisis. Now they need action. They need to implement it. The Treasury secretary is due in Frankfurt this evening for meetings and dinner with the president of the ECB Jean-Claude Trichet. No doubt on their agenda they might well be discussing the latest report from the OECD, which was released today.
The Paris-based organization is torn between optimism and alarm. It says recovery is gather pace in the largest recoveries, it has raised its forecast for growth in the OECD countries to 2.7 percent. This year, that is in developed nations. On the other hand, because there always has to be two, it is warning of threats posed by European countries' huge debts, and the risk of economic overheating in Asia. That is the scenario that they are putting at the OECD, very much their report, on the one hand, on the other hand.
Earlier I spoke to the OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria, and I asked him, when you look at these risks, the risks facing recovery.
ANGEL GURRIA, SECRETARY-GENERAL, OECD: Mostly what you see is this problem of the sovereign debt. When we add the problem with the banks the financial crisis was about over-leverage of the banks, over indebtedness of the banks. Then the countries came in, rescued the financial system, and they spent a lot of money in order to get us out of the recession and they dropped the revenues because of the recession also, they got less tax revenue. So, now they have big deficits, and they have big accumulated debts and now the problem of over-leverage over indebtedness has come to the countries, to the sovereign debt. And that is posing a very great risk on the system.
QUEST: In many ways the risk that your report makes clear is greater than the first one, because in the first one they were merely saving the financial crisis, but now, whatever direction they take they're doomed.
GURRIA: Well, not quite, Richard, but it is a very, very difficult balancing act. We're talking here about countries having to not withdraw the stimulus too soon, not withdraw the fiscal and monetary accommodation too soon. But at the same time keeping an eye on-
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN BREAKING NEWS.
QUEST: We're going to pause a moment from that discussion with the OECD, we're received an e-mail, a release from BP. I'm going to read it exactly as it is written to us.
"BP started the top kill operation today to stop the flow of oil from MC252 Well, in the Gulf of Mexico. The procedure is intended stem the flow of oil and gas and ultimately kill the well by injecting heavy drilling mud through the blowout preventer"-bear with me while I just open this fully- bear with me. The procedure is intended to stem the flow of oil and gas, ultimately kill the well by injecting heavy drilling fluids through the blow out preventer on the seabed, down into the well" OK, this is the important bit. "Pumping started at 1900 U.K., 1300 Central Standard Time, that is 16 minutes ago.
The picture you are looking at, of course, is the end of the oil pipe. It is a live feed of one of the leaks. We know before anyone gets too excited and start saying why hasn't it stopped? We know this profess could take up to 2 days. But what, of course, people will be watching very carefully for in the hours ahead is whether or not that flow seems to abate, which would of course suggest that the top kill is being arrested.
So that is the breaking news. We will bring you up-to-date, pretty much every hour, every minute, that that story is developing.
Now, one-let us return to our discussion on economics. A moment ago, you heard the head of the OECD. Well, one man who has personal experience of fighting Europe's debt crisis is Portugal's finance minister. He shares some of the concerns of the OECD. Fernando dos Santos, spoke to me earlier. The minister was visiting the New York Stock Exchange. I asked him what he was telling investors to reassure them about Portugal's economy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FERNANDO TEIXERIA DOS SANTOS, FINANCE MINISTER, PORTUGAL: Mostly of the cutting that is going to be on cuts on expenditures, and also given the substantial decrease we are required to do in our deficit. We also have to increase some taxes. But we do not rely much on growth, because growth will be still low in this year and in coming years. We cannot rely on growth to help us to curb down the deficit and the debt ratio, so we have to control ourselves with expenditures and on taxes.
QUEST: Have you said to those investors, to the bond market, stop it. Stop it. Stop it. Stop attacking now?
DOS SANTOS: Not with that tone or dramatism (sic) but indeed that is what I want to tell them. That there are not reasons to pick up Portugal in the way they are picking up. I think we have implemented important reforms in social security, park administration, in cutting red tape, in improving our business environment, improving science and technology. We have an external sector which now more devoted to medium-high technology products, we have already a positive technological balance, net balance with the rest of the world. Fortunately it is progressing and investors must see this progress of Portugal entrusted in our capabilities in our improving competitiveness.
QUEST: Just about every country in the Euro Zone and in the EU, now, is on board the austerity train. Is there a risk, Minister, and do you worry, that austerity measures may tip economies back over the edge again?
DOS SANTOS: Yeah, I am aware of that risk. But also I am aware that if we let confidence deteriorate (ph) in this environment, we are leaving markets. That will be even worse for our economy. If investors have the perception that we have difficulties in getting the funds to invest in the economy, if expectations are about sustainability of our public finances and of the improvements in our potential for growth are also fable (ph), I think investors will not trust in us and they will cut on expenditure, namely in investments. And that is too bad for the economy. I believe that we have to take this risk. We need this fiscal adjustment. And the fiscal adjustment will improve confidence. And then the improving confidence will attenuate any kind of recessionary impact it may have.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: That is the finance minister of Portugal talking to me from the New York Stock Exchange. And tomorrow, you will be able to hear, on this program, the secretary general of the OECD. We will give a chance to hear all of his very strong views the questions of austerity. That will be on tomorrow's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS, because, obviously, we had to interrupt him with that breaking news.
Now maybe, you joined Facebook to connect with friends. Lately you might have found you were connecting with more people than you had bargained for. Facebook, now, is changing its privacy rules.
And as my Tweets tell me, not many of you listened (ph) to them in the first place.
QUEST: Welcome back. Facebook says it is making itself a more private space. In the past hour the social networking site has been giving details of new privacy settings. It has been fiercely criticized over a recent change which left details of many users openly available on the Internet.
Maggie Lake is New York. Maggie, first of all, I'm going to need you to tell me the various changes.
But Omar135 says, "I think all social networking sites should get together harmonized privacy regimes. Think out of the box. One goes to social networks to show, not to hide."
People are very much up in arms about this?
MAGGIE LAKE, CNN FINANCIAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and as you are hearing, it is not always one-sided. You are seeing a sort of divided merge. Some people think it is a given when you are on social networking that you are out there sharing all of your information. That is the whole point. And other people say, whoa, whoa, no. There should be some controls out there.
Listen, Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, already on the record, saying, we made some mistakes. We moved too fast. We are hearing what you are saying and we are going to institute these changes that will address your concerns. And this is what they are laying out, he is, in a press conference out in California. Quite small, very hard to sort of get actual video, or we would bring it to you. It is sort of a webcast of sorts.
But here it is, in a jiff (ph). First of all they are going to make the controls simpler. One simple control that will set who can see the content that you post. That was a lot of the complaints. That it was so complicated, it was hard to sort of wade through and get exactly what you wanted, the filter that you wanted.
They are also going to make less publicly available information. Reducing the amount of basic information that is visible to everybody. They are going to remove the connections, privacy model, and they are only going to put your name, profile picture if you choose to post one, gender, if you choose to mark that, and networks.
And finally, they are going to have an easier opt out. A simpler control to say whether applications or websites, those third parties, that were the latest sort of catalyst for all the uproar; whether they can access any of your information.
What is not clear, Richard, is that they haven't-from what I can see so far-it is still going on, haven't changed it so that the default is nothing, and you opt into sharing. It seems that they are just trying to make the sort of filtering of sharing a whole lot simpler for users.
QUEST: Hang on, Maggie.
QUEST: Maggie, I just want to say, I'm just looking here. Apparently the principles, according to the press release that I'm seeing now, people have control over information they share. Facebook does not share personal. Facebook does not give advertisers access. Facebook does not sell any personal piece of information. Facebook will always be a free service for everyone.
Maggie, Facebook has been bitten badly by this, hasn't it?
LAKE: It depends on who you talk to, Richard.
LAKE: I mean, clearly, listen, they wouldn't be doing this if they didn't think that there was an issue. Some people suggest it is more for the government regulators because some senators jumped on this, this last thing with the web site, more for government regulators that are watching and less that there is a real outsized outrage coming from their user base.
But I also read an interesting blog where someone said, now that they are so big, right, over 400 million users, you know the initial joiners who were young, who don't care about sharing information, have sort of morphed. And the demographic is changing and there are a lot of other people who do care about their information being shared. So, I think there is user, you know, anger about this. They don't like the way they handle it. They don't think they were transparent. And Zuckerberg, they are trying to get out in front of this before this becomes a bigger PR problem for them.
QUEST: All right. Let me read you some Tweets. By the way, if you want to join our Tweeting, you can find us of course, on Facebook, which is QUEST MEANS BUSINESS. You can e-mail us Quest@CNN.com And of course the Twitter address is @RichardQuest. There's plenty of ways. If you can't find us, then-I've looked at the privacy regulations and I couldn't work them out.
PierHat (ph) says, "I want one simple thing. To be in sole control of my information. Who sees what, who contacts me, the works."
Sammynetadu (ph), "Will Facebook ever be satisfied by these privacy rules. Facebook is becoming as shifty as the wind."
TexPatriot, "Facebook needs to have more respect for our private information and our willingness to be distributed."
What settings do you have for your page, Maggie?
LAKE: I have to say, Richard, I'm with you. But I have so little personal information on there. I use it more for work. So they really weren't a concern for me. So, I sort of have, you know, everyone can see, because it is meant for it to be public. But this is where it is different. Some people saying, listen, if you go out in public you expect everyone to know everything. But because you do this, for some people, in the privacy of their own home there is a little confusion on the part of users, about exactly what you are doing and how much privacy you deserve. And it is kind of evolving. It is a new universe, and there aren't really road rules out there, are there?
QUEST: Absolutely. Maggie Lake, in New York, many thanks indeed. Maggie sharing all.
There is one man, in particular, we can expect to updating his Facebook profile in the near future. He'll still be the special one, that doesn't change. His worth, his place of work does. We'll have the latest in a moment.
I'm Richard Quest, QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.
This is CNN, where the news always comes first.
It has been confirmed in the last half hour that BP has begun its "top kill" procedure aimed at stopping the oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. These are live pictures here of the underwater oil leak. Drilling mud will be pumped into the well, which will then be sealed with cement.
BP's chief executive is expected to address the media and the world within the next five or 10 minutes. And you can be assured we'll carry it live here on CNN.
Another employee suicide at the plant of electronics giant Foxconn in Shanzhen, Canada. It's prompted the company to open its doors to reporters. The makers of iPhones and computers have seen 10 young workers commit suicide this year. Foxconn's chairman says they're trying to stop the deaths.
In Seoul, the U.S. secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has pledged Washington's support for South Korea and called on North Korea to end belligerent actions. Mrs. Clinton met with the president, Lee Myung-bak and other South Korean officials who have accused the North of sinking one of their warships. Mrs. Clinton promised to push for sanctions against Pyongyang in the U.N. Security Council.
Real Madrid is under new management. The richest club in Spain has tempted Jose Mourinho, the self-proclaimed special one, to leave Inter Milan. His appointment was announced and Madrid a short time ago.
Our sports correspondent, Pedro Pinto, joins me.
A very simple question -- bearing in mind -- bearing in mind the victory, the recent victory, why?
Why would he go?
PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: He wants a new challenge and this is the most high profile club in the world. He's the highest profile manager in the world. And that's why he's going, Richard, because they've won more titles than anyone else ever in club history -- nine European Cups, dozens of league titles. They've been in a slump. And he wants to be the first manager in history to win the European Cup with three different clubs. He's done it with two -- one of only three. But now he wants to make history and be the first one the win it with three different clubs.
QUEST: So, you're saying it's not just the money, because I suspect Real Madrid must be paying some obscene amount of money.
PINTO: I know you like numbers on your show, Richard. I'm going to give you some. He's going to make $12 million a year over four years...
PINTO: Are you disappointed with that?
QUEST: I am.
QUEST: Well, how much does Real pay for their top player?
PINTO: Over $100 million.
QUEST: Hang on. Hang on. So they've paid over $100 million for the top one...
PINTO: Yes. Cristiano Ronaldo.
QUEST: Cristiano Ronaldo.
QUEST: And only $12 million for Mourinho, who's, arguably, I mean, you know...
QUEST: -- the organ grinder, not the monkey.
PINTO: No one is the monkey. Come on. But Mourinho is the guy who's calling the shots. Sure. He will be worth $50 million over four years. That's the contract they're talking about right now. It's -- it is important to say that he still has a deal with Inter Milan in place at the moment. They're still trying to negotiate how much they have to pay Inter Milan to get their man.
PINTO: We're talking about around $20 million compensation. That's not a done deal yet. But I'm sorry you're disappointed (INAUDIBLE) the numbers...
PINTO: -- but as far as managers are concerned...
PINTO: -- this is the richest deal in...
PINTO: -- pro football.
QUEST: All right. Finally, so he goes to Real Madrid.
If you look back at Mourinho's career to date, the -- the successes, the -- the way in which he's turned clubs around and he's -- he's built on existing successes, what does he have to do?
What does the -- what does he have to do to get through all of it?
What's his biggest number one challenge for a club that has spent a king's ransom and then some (INAUDIBLE)?
PINTO: The Champions League -- two words for you. They want to win their tenth and he is the man who's been brought over to do it. He was hired by Inter Milan...
PINTO: -- just quickly, before you wrap me. He was hired by...
PINTO: -- by Inter Milan to win the -- are you going to do it?
PINTO: OK. To win their third European title, the first since 1965. They did it. And that's why he's brought over there. They haven't won it since 2002.
QUEST: All right.
PINTO: You need a whistle for the football.
QUEST: Many thanks to you. Thank you for joining us.
I need to update you with one piece. Apparently, the BP briefing on the "top kill," which is now underway, has been postponed. I erroneously led you to believe it was going to take place in five to 10 minutes. It will take place. And when it does take place, we will take you there.
In a moment after the break, which city is ranked as the best in the world for expats to live in?
It's not London. It may not even be Madrid.
We'll have the details in a moment.
QUEST: It was good enough for Mozart and Sigmund Freud. Now Vienna has waltzed to the top spot in the list of best cities in which to live. The consulting firm, Mercer, crowns the culture of the Austrian capital number one in its 2010 quality of living survey, which looked at expat lives in over 200 cities worldwide.
So there you have Vienna as number one.
Second place was Zurich in Switzerland. Cities were ranked on 39 factors affecting overseas residents, including economy, schools, housing, recreation, climate -- all sorts of things that make life livable.
Another Swiss city, Geneva, was placed in third place.
In fact, 16 European cities finished in the top 25.
At number 221 out of the 221 -- basically last of the cities covered, was the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.
Mercer compiles the list to help employers determine pay when sending employees abroad. London came in at number 39.
Let's talk to two people whose cities are at opposite ends of the league. Thomas Hapala lives in Vienna, Austria. He is on the left. And we're joined by Mowafak Jawed Ahmed al-Taey, who's a resident in Baghdad over on the right.
Let us begin, first of all, Thomas, is Vienna such a good place to live?
What makes it so spec?
THOMAS HAPALA: Of course it is. Of course there's the political stability, the infrastructure. It's right in the center of Europe. So basically from Vienna, you can get to many other countries by an hour drive.
QUEST: All right, but...
HAPALA: So it's a good (INAUDIBLE).
QUEST: But hang on a second. It's not exactly the -- and I do apologize if you live in Vienna, but it's not exactly the most exciting place to live.
HAPALA: Why not?
We have lots of students. We have the very international environment. The U.N. headquarters are here since the last 30 years. And it's awesome.
QUEST: Awesome. Awesome to live in Vienna, says Thomas.
Mowafak in Baghdad, is Baghdad as bad as people say?
MOWAFAK JAWED AHMED AL-TAEY: Well, yes, possibly. But think of the potentiality of the city. We have been through wars, but still, we can survive now. We have three main problems, which is, first, the terrorism, which is we're updating with the rather (INAUDIBLE) now. And then the corruption.
And I would like to add the third thing, and that's the political will. We don't have...
AL-TAEY: -- yet the political will (INAUDIBLE)...
QUEST: OK. But...
AL-TAEY: We do have a great potentiality to do everything in the world better than possibly any -- any city in the world.
QUEST: Right. But Mowafak, do you feel, when you think about living in Baghdad, do you wish you lived somewhere else or are you happy to be there?
AL-TAEY: Never in all my life. I've been in England for 14 years and (INAUDIBLE) when I have the -- all the opportunities in the world to live there. But I don't -- I cannot leave Baghdad for more than two weeks. You see, we do have an extended families here. And these extended families could recovery any problem that we could go through, whether it's financial, social, everything. Our extended families here are really working very well.
QUEST: That's Mowafak in Baghdad.
Back to you, Thomas, finally. I'm going to give you a -- imagine I've got a travel ticket here. It's a ticket to anywhere in the world -- Sydney, Singapore, Rio, Vancouver.
Thomas, will you still stay in Vienna?
HAPALA: I would travel the whole world and then come back to Vienna to live here.
QUEST: The diplomat. Thomas and Mowafak. That's Vienna and that is Baghdad.
Many thanks, indeed.
Milan Taylor is from Mercer, which publishes the annual quality of living survey.
We had a bit of fun there, but obviously there's a serious point to all of this, isn't it?
Expats love the security of Vienna and dread the risks of places like Baghdad.
MILAN TAYLOR, MERCER: It's important that when employers are sending their employees around the world, they understand what the risks are. And it -- it helps them, too, to make sure that relative hardship allowances are paid where it's needed.
QUEST: This issue is -- and, again, I'm going to offend vast numbers of viewers, I suspect. But the cities that come up the top might be thought of as being amongst the more -- what word would you say?
TAYLOR: I would want to say the B word in boring, but might be more - - well -- MERCER: They are cities that rank highly because employers can send their employees to them in the knowledge that they -- and amongst the facts if we look at, they are safe cities, they have good banking facilities, there's good recreation facilities. And these are all things that are really important if you're sending an expat and -- and their families abroad.
And it's important to understand why these things drive results -- the index. Vienna has...
QUEST: But are you surprised that in -- that things like culture, joie de vivre of Paris, the excitement of London, the -- the just excitement and liveliness of New York, don't push those cities up to the top?
TAYLOR: I mean the -- the beauty of the Mercer Index is that it's neutral and it's objective and it's independent, which makes that -- the subjectivity of the cities which we may have all visited or seen, it takes that out of it, so that, again, we can create the right lists to ensure that we pay the people the right amounts of money if it's a hardship location.
QUEST: Right. And when we talk about paying people extra, what sort of sums -- I mean I know it's done on percentages and it's done on relativities and all those sort of things for -- for when you're in a, say, a Vienna versus a New York versus a Singapore?
TAYLOR: Yes, I mean it -- it does different -- each hardship allowance is probably unique to that city. But for some extreme cities, you would look at hardship allowances around 25 percent, in some cases.
But if you look at the index this time around, Vienna is still number one. Baghdad has improved. It -- its index rating has inched up because of infrastructure development, around the airport, for example.
QUEST: Finally, briefly, you've got that ticket that I've -- Thomas has been around the world. He's given me the ticket back.
Where would you like to go and live?
TAYLOR: No place like home. I'm staying in London.
QUEST: Well, that's -- this is (INAUDIBLE).
You can go home in safety.
Many thanks, indeed.
Just a quick reminder of our main news headline again. That is that the "top kill" of the well in the Gulf has now begun. BP has confirmed that it is pouring drilling -- heavy drilling mud into the wall in an effort to try and stop the leak in the Gulf of Mexico.
We are expecting a conference for -- a news conference from BP very shortly.
And that's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS tonight.
I'm Richard Quest.
Whatever you're up to in the hours ahead, I hope that it's profitable.
"MARKETPLACE AFRICA" is next.