In less than one month, on May 7, Britons will elect 650 members of parliament, the bulk of them in England, but more than 100 in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well. The country has the chance to either 'stay the course' as the sitting government would have it, or move towards a more socialist economy.

The predictions are this election will be close, there is a likelihood of a hung parliament, whereby no single party would have a majority of the seats. That would take the UK, once again, into coalition territory.
This time around the Conservative Party is trumpeting falling unemployment, higher wages and strong overall economic growth as a result of its five years in the coalition government. While the opposition Labour Party says living standards are still being squeezed by the slowest recovery in 100 years.

The Office of National Statistics in the UK states that the British economy grew 2.8 percent last year, its fastest growth in nine years, and some of the best in the developed world. That has put the UK back to pre-financial crisis levels of growth. At the same time, the British public is feeling more optimistic, consumer confidence is at its highest point for 12 years. Living standards are higher than they were at the last election as well.
But some economists reckon the government has been part of the problem, not the solution and it is only since it started to relax the very harsh austerity measures it put in place, that the economy began picking up speed.

So what is next for the UK? Will the next government move towards a more socialist economy? And what does this mean for the European Union?

Ferdinando Giuliano, economics correspondent at the Financial Times, joins the discussion on Counting the Cost.

The business of human trafficking

In 2003, the United Nations ruled that human trafficking was a crime. More than 100 countries signed the protocol and many introduced anti-trafficking legislation. However, human traffickers continue to operate, and this continues to be a big problem.

In 2005, according to the International Labour Organisation, there were at least 2.4 million trafficked people at any given time in the world. Today, 21 million is the latest estimate.

In 2005, the profit was about $32bn a year, today it is at $150bn profit a year.

The problem is particularly bad in the Asia Pacific, where there are around 3.5 million vulnerable refugees. Four years ago, 32 countries in the region signed a framework agreement to try to curb the problem.
But in southern Thailand, they are not waiting around for results. Some locals have taken matters into their own hands, arming themselves to stop their communities from descending into lawlessness. Al Jazeera's Marga Ortigas reports from Thailand.

To discuss the issues behind forced labour and human trafficking, Counting the Cost is joined by Beate Andrees from the ILO in Geneva; and Nick Grono, the CEO of The Freedom Fund.

Greek's debt crisis

Athens bought itself some time by paying back half a billion dollars to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). But time is short, Greece is still expected to run out of cash within weeks.
Its creditors have frozen further aid until officials reach an agreement with the government on a package of economic reforms. Eurozone finance ministers have also told Athens it must present acceptable proposals for fiscal, pension and labour market reform in the six days after that loan repayment was made.

Will Greece make it? And what are the implications for the eurozone?

Barnaby Phillips reports from Athens.

Source: Al Jazeera