Tag: Richard Ruzyllo
China has closed and so will the USA. Ireland has closed schools and banned large gatherings, Italy is in the process of closing everything. Meanwhile, Spain has also closed its schools and banned some more stuff.
Here in the United Kingdom, unlike Johny Foreigner, we have the rather jolly Cheltenham Festival (OK as long as you wash your hands!) while in London, the Coronavirus is managed through the medium of the meeting – the most important of which is the COBRA which is the 1947 Dom Perignon Brut of meetings.
In the UK’s Corporate and Political world, there are three things we like: MEETINGS, the phrase ‘WE NEED TO’ – as in ‘We need to look after our elderly’ or ‘We need to allocate some money for the homeless’ and….
A word which is most definitely the politicians’ favourite and I have used it above. It is the word ‘ALLOCATE.’
Politicians or more specifically, Ministers of the Crown, love to allocate funds. What you may have noticed is that while they allocate with gay abandon, they never tell us how to go about getting our hands on the allocation.
This time, they will be allocating ‘resources’.
Let’s have a look look at the overall favourite – the meeting. Many management scientists have shown quite clearly that meetings are a waste of time and prawn sandwiches. Unless of course, you feel that the primary function of a meeting is for the meeting leader to spend an hour-or-so is full male-display mode, flexing his mouth and impressing the underlings with his wit and rhetoric and if you are an underling, it is the status which an invitation to the meeting bestows upon you.
Another quite valid attraction of attending the meeting is to spend some quiet time making sure that you get not only a prawn butty but the egg and cress, while you fantasise about important matters such as what goes on under the Finance Director’s jumper as it strains under the pressure of her mouth-wateringly sumptuous decolletage while she overreaches when pointing to crap Powerpoint slides.
With the COBRA meetings, on top of all of the above nonsense, we have the drama of statements which appear to have been written by an intern from the Ministry of Stating the Bleedin’ Obvious. Here’s today’s example from Prime Minister Boris Johnson after the latest Cobra meeting: ‘(Coronavirus) is the worst public health crisis in a generation.’ followed by: ‘…many more are going to die.’
So why not make a decision and do something about it. Stop dithering!
For example, Mark Carney, the outgoing Governor of the Bank of England pushed the red button only hours before COBRA began and lowered the BBR by 50 basis points.
The statisticians and analysts are having such a wonderful time producing lots of numbers and graphs which clearly point to the inevitability that some of us are going to die. Yes INEVITABILITY!
The other important thing to say is that because it is inevitable it is difficult to comprehend why our leaders are in meetings whilst watching the Coronavirus express heading towards them as they cower, prawn butty in hand , shielding their eyes against the glare of its rapidly approaching lights. Next stop? Pain and Death.
We don’t want to stay at home washing our hands every five minutes wondering what to with that spare room full of toilet rolls – so the answer is not in COBRA meetings and platitudinous statements but in aggressive action.
Now would be a good time.
Don’t call me Paki, Mac.
Now that we are seeing EU migrants leaving the UK at an ever accelerating rate, the bleating has started – which is a surprise because when the government announced that it wanted foreigners to arrive in ‘tens of thousands’ rather than hundreds of thousands, there was hardly a whimper. Now we have moaning about labour shortages and how vital cheap foreign workers are to our spluttering economy…..but it’s no more that we deserve.
Our government’s style has rarely been proactive. For instance, once the referendum farce had been settled, the government should have affirmed the importance as well as the ‘safety’ of all foreigners already living and working in the UK….but instead, it played its usual ‘wait and see’ game because anything else would have needed a decision!
However, it is not just political incompetence and intransigence which is to blame for the coming exodus. There is a much more sinister undercurrent at play and it is to do with the Brits’ very strong herding instinct whose tendency is to reject rather than to assimilate. Read More
FALLING INFLATION with Rising Prices?
When you are told that inflation is falling, you would naturally expect prices to be falling . That ain’t necessarily so!
Many years ago, when I worked for a very large bank, I sent a team of people into town in order to find out whether the average British adult understood percentages. The answer was a resounding “No!”
MOST of the people we interviewed had NO IDEA about percentages!
Banks, supermarkets and even the government know very well that most people are either thick or at best borderline thick as far as simple arithmetic is concerned and they take full advantage.
Supermarkets “mix and match” their prices, so that you need to have the brain of a Stephen Hawking to decide whether it would be cheaper to buy three bags of crisps for the price of two or perhaps two at a different price with one free or maybe six bags with 10% extra. By the time you’ve made several purchases like this, you can leave a supermarket mentally exhausted.
Banks will be paying you interest at anything from 0 .01% p.a to 3.00% with maybe an introductory offer of three months with an additional 1.5%. Interest on credits is calculated from the day AFETR your deposit but debit interest on withdrawals is applied on the day of the debit. When a bank returns a wrongly applied charge, will it also re-credit the debit interest? If it does – then at what rate? You don’t know? You’re not alone.
The Government will throw statistics at you through the medium of television, delivered by double-first Oxbridge Economics graduates who have absolutely NO idea how to explain economics concepts – except to other economists. Percentage increases in GDP, percentages out of work, percentage decreases in the annual inflation rate. Percentage, percentages and even more percentages!
Which is better? a 10% discount and then VAT added or would you prefer the VAT to be added first and THEN take the 10% discount? If your energy bill tells you that the discount on your Gas is 5% and the discount on the Electricity is 5%, how many percent savings will you me making in total? What is 12% of £60?
Today, we have been told that annual inflation is on the decrease BUT we all know that prices are on the increase. How is this possible?
I am going to try and explain but in very simple terms.
Assume you bought a radio in January 2013 and you paid £95.70. If you then went to the same shop in January 2014 (a year later) and the price of the same radio had increased to £100, the price would have increased or INFLATED by £4.30. which is an increase of 4.5%.
Let’s now go back to February 2013 when the price of the same radio was £100 and assume one year later, in February 2014, the price increased yet again, this time to £104. That means that the radio would have increased in price or INFLATED by £4, which is 4.o%.
So, coming back to this year, between January and February 2014 (in one month), the radio’s price has INCREASED by £4 but at the same time, inflation has DECREASED from 4.5% to 4.0%!
Therefore, we have a rising price but simultaneously, we see falling inflation.
The media are already mumbling something about “falling food prices etc” having caused the present fall in inflation.
It is nothing of the sort : Yes, falling prices do contribute but the way that the calculations are made can be the major contributor to the figure because it is calculated in discontinuous annual slices. Today’s inflation figure depends on what the inflation figure was a year ago.
Having said all that, on this occasion, the CPI has actually decreased in one month
Mind you, as usual, whatever the basis of the inflation calculation, it will still not stop the politicians from claiming all the credit.
(Unless, of course, the inflation rate goes up too drastically, which is when those pesky “external factors out of our control” come into play!
Screw the Interview
Some of you may have read my “How to get to the top with absolutely NO talent” which gives a few tongue-in-cheek pointers as to what NOT to when attending a job interview.
I thought that it might also be useful to tell you a few other pitfalls – especially as more and more of you will be attending interviews over the next few months (years!).
Turning up on time seems like an obvious piece of advice. Turn-up in plenty of time to ask where the loo is so that you can at least straighten your hair and see how you look after the journey. You know how it when you’ve either walked 100 metres from a train station or walked 20 paces from your car – there is always that rogue gust of wind which messes up your hair or that snap rain shower which makes your suit feel like a dishcloth or washes-away your makeup. Arrive with plenty of time to settle down and convince yourself that you look good!
At some stage during the interview, you will be asked whether you have any questions. There are a couple of things which you definitely never ask about. The first rule is that you never, ever ask about salary, overtime, holidays etc. The function of the first interview is to demonstrate how lucky your prospective employer will be if he is wise enough to hire you. The interviewer needs to know what you can do for his company and not to tell you what they can do for you.
Never ask inane questions about the company. “How many employees do you have?” Do your homework. If you are being interviewed in an Agency pre-selection interview , you can get away with a few inane questions but remember that this type of interviewer sees you as no more than a commodity.
When you are asked the ubiquiotous “Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?” never reply “In your seat” or any of the other trite replies which the interviewer has heard a million times before. Start your answer with a “Hopefully..” and talk about working hard and progressing. (Every company will lie to you and say that it runs a “meritocracy”).
You want a job. This job. You need to show commitment to the job which you are being hired for.
Another favourite (lazy) interview question is the good old “What are your weaknesses” question. Yes – even now, some interviewers believe that this is an excellent interview question. Although it is a rubbish question, you can put a positive spin on it without appearing too clichéd.
The first rule here is not to give that type of answer which attempts to turn such a ridiculous question into a major positive. You know the sort of thing: ” I tend to be too much of a perfectionist” or ” I put in too many hours” etc etc. The only reaction answers such as these will generate is a yawn.
The correct way to deal with this type of question is to think about skills rather than attributes. For instance , if you need to polish-up your Powerpoint skills or have forgotten a few Excel shortcuts, use those. ” I’m a little bit rusty…..”
In my book, I state quite clearly that you should not lie about qualifications but that things such as GCSEs are rarely checked – so what you say about qualifications is up to you. However do not claim anything that you will not be able to bluff your way through or a qualification which suggests that you will be be able to do the job when you can’t. Lie intelligently. Otherwise you are not-only wasting the interviewers time but your own as well.
Most interviewers realise that you will exaggerate the responsibilities you have in your current and previous jobs – just do not overdo it!
When you are approaching the end of the interview, the interviewer knows that you need to know as soon as possible whether or not you have been successful. The “When?” question is always a pain so don’t ask it. A bad interviewer (and there are lots of those), will sometimes make you believe that you have been successful and too many interviewees spend the interview misinterpreting what the interviewer is saying – especially if at some stage he says “We”, meaning “The Company” and you think that he is including you.
Don’t spend the interview searching for imaginary clues which make you believe that you have the job.
” I need to know as soon as possible because I have other interviews.” is another favourite which practically guarantees that you will not be participating in a second interview or shortlist.
” I really need this job.” or my personal favourite ” I’d do anything to get this job.” do not convey you as a thrusting “go-getter” – just a desperate loser. (I’ve been on the receiving end of both). Avoid!
Finally, I presume that you are wearing a suit (both males and females). If you are, make sure that it is clean and pressed and ladies – do not display your chest – no matter how proud of it you are. It can be an unnecessary distraction and in my experience , does little to enhance your job chances (and I’m a big fan!) – but it is a very common mistake!
Good Luck….and remember the correct mind-set. It is THEY who will be lucky to employ YOU!
ECONOMIC CHAOS ?
The piece below is over 2000 words long and I have just completed it for a client .
It is about the random nature of an economic system.
Have you ever wondered why ALL economic predictions are wrong? Have you noticed that in spite of a proven record of error, economists and politicians continue to bang their heads against the forecast-wall and refuse to do anything else but continue to predict outcomes which by now, they must realise will be incorrect?
They certainly use all the latest computer models which have been empirically derived and used for many years.
So, are there any incorrect assumptions about “fundamentals”?
Is the economic process Stochastic (a sequence of random variables)? Or is it Deterministic (when the output of a system is totally dependent on its initial state and subsequent inputs – and therefore, predictable)?
(Mind you, to add to the confusion, deterministic systems may occasionally produce random and therefore unpredictable results. )
Is economics a question of Stochasticity v Determinism?
Why do I ask the question? Because there appears to be a total absence the ‘stable equilibrium’ predicted by classical economists.
On the contrary, Market Economics behaves like a collection of dynamically unstable systems. The instability is attributed to external ‘shocks’ rather that any fault in the basic concept. There is what can only be described as ‘non lineality’.
One solution to this ‘non-lineality’ is CHAOS THEORY!
So far, no real evidence has been produced of ‘low – dimensional’ Chaos in economic processes but there are definitely discrepancies between the ‘expected’ according to classic economic models and the ‘observed’. Just look at any economic prediction within your memory. It was probably incorrect.
We still have a ‘mechanistic’ view of the world and economics as a ‘hangover’ from 18th century SCIENCE.
Scientific thinking is very simple: ‘Measure, predict and adjust until you no longer have any more surprises. Then keep measuring to confirm that what you measured in the first place can be replicated’.
Economics was conceived on that same principle . It was established as a ‘science’. That’s where the Determinism crept in.
It was at this time that man first considered the possibility of his own intellect being so unconstrained that he would eventually understand the ‘Universe and everything’ through the medium of scientific reasoning.
This principle was applied to all sorts of activities and thinking – including economics.
The so-called ‘Enlightenment Policy’ would help man in his pursuit of happiness. Especially in the sciences. Science was cool and now in the early 21st Century it is enjoying a bit of a revival.
Of all the subjects on offer, Physics became the admired Paragon for Enlightenment and so it continues.
The way Physics works is simple: Carefully describe an environment and you should be able to predict the outcomes of any experiment conducted within that environment.
Likewise in Economics: Know the initial environment and you should be able to predict outcomes based on subsequent inputs.
The belief stemming from that philosophy is that EVERYTHING is governed by ‘NATURAL LAWS’ which are a set of ‘cause-effect’ regularities. That means that everything can be predicted.
These same principles have been applied to Economics.
A simple scientific rule is that ‘The state of any system is a consequence of what it was in the preceding moment…..and so on.’
In the beginning, random occurrences had no place in such linear thinking. Everything was governed by Mathematics and Laws.
However, there is one major flaw in the way that we ‘do’ science: That is our ignorance of the CAUSES which generate phenomena and events.
For instance, we know the effects of gravity – which we can measure but we don’t really know the CAUSE.
However, in spite of our ignorance of the exact causes of events added to the imperfection of our analyses, we still cannot have 100% certainty about the vast majority of phenomena.
Economists also appear to have forgotten both the imperfection of analysis and their ignorance or (at best) of the exact CAUSES of events.
What is the solution? What is to be done about our comparative blindness?
Our ‘crutch’ is the science of probability. Chance.
Current economic thinking is a throwback. In economics, the world is still viewed as totally deterministic.
‘STOCHASTIC’ is non-existent – as is uncertainty because uncertainty is treated as ignorance or a failure to understand the deterministic rules of a very complex system.
Yet, with ALL our processing power, no-one has yet been able to establish those rules which should predict outcomes.
So, as Chaucer wondered in The Nonnes Priest Tale – Travelling from A to B: Freewill or Predestination?
Looking at the unpredictability of economic outcome, we move from linear to non-linear dynamics, from certainty to probability, from Economic Theory to Chaos Theory.
Theories of economics have been shaped by the assumption of ‘Rational Man’ who behaves in accordance with a known set of rules.
The evolution of economics into a science was ‘booted’ into becoming a science when it was ‘mathematicised’. Formulae arrived and suddenly, it became a bona fide branch of Applied Mathematics.
Many of the original people who translated economics into a mathematical form were physicists, engineers and mathematicians…… and it still shows. At that time, their view of the world was ‘linear’.
Does that work in economics? The short answer is ‘no’. That is why economists are struggling, interpreting and making excuses.
Marshall in his ‘PRICIPLES’ compared the study of economics to the study of tides. The number of variables affecting tides means it is impossible to create a consistent dynamic picture.
Even nowadays, there isn’t enough processing power to generate an accurate picture of such a dynamic system, especially as the number of variables affecting such a system is, for all intents and purposes – infinite.
Imagine random stones being thrown into the sea or small outcrops of rock or variations in the seabed. They all have an effect on the ‘shape’ and speed of the tide.
And so it is with an economic system: lots of rocks, stones and other variables.
It is not possible to formulate or predict a picture of such an infinitely dynamic system.
Currently, economic theory appears to predict that any shock to such a dynamic system will (obviously) have an effect on the system but that it will ultimately converge-to or seek either a new equilibrium or ‘tend’ towards its original equilibrium because, after all – that’s what ‘systems’ are supposed to do!
Economic Theory assumes a tendency towards stability and equilibrium with certain ‘oscillatory happenings’ on the way.
So we have a situation where economic thought was (and still is, in most cases) linear, deterministic and quasi-dynamic. That is to say, the ‘set-in-concrete’ notions of certainty, invariant economic laws and sameness……………..rather than approximation, probability and infinite variety.
For instance, the Bank of England predicts an inflation rate one year ahead, based more on hope than fact or perceived fact. But when such predictions are (always!) wrong, there is no revisiting of the thought process, merely another prediction with little or no basis in anything-in-particular.
Often, both ‘inputs’ and predicted outcomes are decided by committee and vote!
All predictions appear to be based on an assumption of an ultimate convergence of economic process to stability, via those periodic cycles which, although not understood are treated with a certain sense of fatalism.
Chancellors are so locked into predictions based on erroneous facts that they will even massage their outcomes in order to land somewhere near the expected landing point – purely in order to retain credibility not only for themselves but also for ‘the system’.
What cannot possibly be countenanced are the random fluctuations of what is most likely a permanently unstable economic system. We don’t do that sort of thing because it may suggest a lack of control!
Let’s have a look at non-linear Economic Dynamics.
Actual (REAL) economic results indicate little resonance with the symmetry and regularity suggested by a linear mechanistic dynamic system. (Something that moves predictably along a pre-determined path).
On the contrary, fluctuations and movements are totally unpredictable. That means that regular Deterministic Laws cannot apply.
If we look at an economic situation in say, the Eurozone at a particular point in time, we may try to predict an outcome in say, 10 years’ time.
However, a small variant or an incorrect assumption in our analysis of the initial economic situation will have an effect on the ultimate outcome. The earlier that variation occurs, the more devastating will the effect be.
For instance Greece’s hidden debt at the time of its accession to the Eurozone, undetected at the time, is having a huge effect on the Eurozone’s economic outcome.
Meanwhile, the economists, bankers and politicians crave and need the comfort of ‘stability’. They know that the further the Eurozone travels from the initial conditions at Greece’s entry into the Euro, the more anomalies“The Greek Effect” will generate. It’s a self-amplifying issue.
Consequently, the bulk of the work of Eurozone politicians is now concentrated on creating a series of ‘faux’ stabilities.
It is the fallout from Stochasticity which is causing fear with Determinism being their comfort and shelter.
It was only 60 years-or-so ago that stochastic considerations were appended to classical economic theory.
But the so-called New Classical Macroeconomics was no more than a compromise. “Let’s introduce a Factor X because we can no longer ignore it.”
Yet, the economists still needed their ‘models’ – because deep down they were still the mathematicians and physicists of old.
A formula was devised (SLUTSKY) which took the linear dynamic business cycle model and added random (not necessarily economic) terms which attempted to explain the real ‘actualités’!
At last, an attempt had been made to explain ‘exogenous shocks’ to an economic system by the introduction of nothing more than random error terms.
But what was REALLY missing in classical economic reasoning was the concept of NON-LINEARITY.
So, the battle was between a Linear Model with a Stochastic Term (a fiddle factor) versus a pure Non-Linear Model.
Obviously by now – 200 years from the beginning, we have to assume that the evidence for linearity in economics has been overestimated!
So, if we agree that we do need a new non-linear model of econonomics, what are we searching for? What are the other ingredients and how do we ‘work them in’?
Do we want a synthesis of economics, psychology, politics and sociology? Or do we simply stick to the notion of determinism?
Human evolution is viewed as a random process (although the way it is often expressed makes it seem as if scientists view it an ‘inevitable linear’).
The evolution of an economic system is also pretty random, except that, applying psychology, politics and sociology, it can never be a system that can develop naturally. (For example, Survival of the Economically Fittest).
Mind you, economists have already had several attempts at introducing the concept of non-linear economics.
Followers of Keynes developed theories which generated Real Business Cycle Theory but any exogenous shocks to the new non-linear system were considered as merely ad hoc disturbances.
Economists could NOT break away from LINEAR THINKING. Linear thinking was being applied in an attempt to imprison a loose and free system, which tended to CHAOS.
The result? More economic models that you can shake a stick at!
It is only fair to say that our understanding of economic phenomena has been greatly enhanced by all these models and formulae…… but still no cigar. No General Theory of Economics. No equivalent of E =mc2….+εe
So Chianella, Pun, Goodwin, Kaldor, Baldrin, Woodford, Barmal, Benhabib etc have all done their bit but we’re still NOT QUITE there.
Unfortunately, for all intents and purposes, many of the models did no more than introduce the concept of economic ‘white-noise’.
Chaotic systems generate their own randomness without need for external input. Therefore in a chaotic system, predictions can ONLY be very short term and even if there were deterministic rules within such a chaotic system, an inability or failure to 100% ‘book’ the initial conditions of the system will always yield forecasting errors.
This all suggests that economic forecasting (except that on a very short time-scale) is a nonsense. PLUS – the bigger the system, the bigger the CHAOS.
That would suggest that a proposal such as a EUROPEAN ECONOMY is a flawed concept because there is very likely to be an exponential amplification of Chaos.
The dynamic of a mega-economy is very different to a housewife balancing the books at home – although economists are still applying the same principles to both.
Unfortunately so far, classical economists continue to resist economic chaotic concepts.
The reason for this apparent intransigence is simple: it is very difficult to extract evidence of chaotic dynamics from economic data – especially on a meaningful scale. Especially if another dose of chaos is injected into the ‘mix’ by erroneous or spurious data.
In order to predict in a chaotic system a VAST (infinite) amount of data is required – far more than is normally available and so far, the search for Chaos in economics has not been successful.
Meanwhile it is Chaos which is making long-term economic forecasting totally impossible and increasingly sophisticated and precise measurement of ‘initial conditions’ incredibly difficult and potentially prohibitively costly.
If we imagine an economy to be like a cloud – subject to all those forces that clouds are subject to, we can see the impossibility of a mathematical model which can predict the size, shape and exact direction of the cloud or even its shape and volume as it travels.
Its ultimate shape will always remain a mystery.
Politicians, bankers and economists ought to be able to say ‘I don’t know’ without us constantly expecting magic answers which do not exist.
For example: ‘Mr Chancellor or Mr Banker – what will be the effect on the economy of billions in Quantitative Easing?’ Correct answer? ‘We don’t know.’
“The initial conditions of a system are always uncertain, while Chaos guarantees that these uncertainties make prediction impossible.” (Heisenberg)
THAT is the essence of Chaos within an Economics System.
50 Predictions for 2013
Last year’s predictions are HERE.
Some were right, some were nearly right whilst others were nowhere near! That’s because most forecasting is a mixture of extrapolation, conjecture, wishful-thinking and luck…………..apart, that is, political and economic divination , which also includes an unhealthy slice of blind optimism.
My interests are mainly political and economic although the list below contains a few random “fun” ones!
I have not included too much of the blindingly obvious, such as the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest in Malmö, where the United Kingdom will be in the bottom THREE and the most likely winner will be Scandinavian.
Wishful thinking has been avoided. For example I do wish that Mo Farah would stop sticking his hands on his head and doing an impression of a demented Pretzel in a vest!
Conjecture, based on past performance suggests that there will NOT be any banking reorganisation because of vested interests and political cowardice. Governments have it within their power to keep that particular pot boiling for years!
All Eurozone Crisis predictions of the last four years vastly underestimated politicians’ capacity for procrastination, ineptitude and political self-interest.
However, I do perceive that European countries with reasonably strong economies will begin to see the advantage of NOT prolonging the Euro agony and once again, striking out on their own, setting their own interest rates and returning to the Lira or Peseta!
These are my predictions:
1. Gold will skyrocket in value.
2. Brazil will finally become THE place to invest(shares and currency)….but see 41 & 42 below.
3. Germany will accelerate the sale of its Bunds, in spite of the fact that it hopes to sell about only about €250 billion Euros’ worth which is lower than in 2012.
4. As predicted last year, Silvio Berlusconi will reappear in Italian Politics – much to Frau Merkel’s chagrin.
5. Pressure will increase on Chancellor George Osborne to be replaced (It’s the ONLY way that the Coalition can move to Plan B without too much loss of face).
6. The banks will continue to rebuild their balance sheets as the value of their assets diminishes, resulting in an increase of non-bank lending. Credit Unions, peer-to-per lending, asset leasing, community finance organisations and invoice finance will all accelerate as the banking system continues its introspection.
7. United Kingdom property prices will fall by 25%.
8. Frau Merkel will be re-elected and continue as Germany’s Chancellor.
9. Italy will talk about leaving the Euro and readopting the Lira…………..and Berlusconi will be accused of blackmailing Europe.
10. People-power will win-out in Greece and it too will (finally) seriously consider leaving the Euro as its austerity programme is given a violent “thumbs down” by its people.
11. The theoretical €30 billion in French tax hikes will have a negligible effect on its tax “take”. High net worth individuals and businesses will continue the exodus which began in late 2012.
12. Greek banks will begin to totter as loan defaults by Greek borrowers (both personal and commercial) continue to accelerate.
13. The “restructuring” of Spanish banks will fail.
14. David Cameron and other members of the UK Coalition Government will continue to add 100,000 to the ” number of new jobs we have created in the Private Sector” every time they make a speech. By mid-2013, the “figure” will have swollen to over 1.5 million. Unfortunately without the associated increase in tax-take which one may be forgiven for having expected.
15. Japan printing money will result in a currency battle, primarily involving the American dollar.
16. Greek Tax authorities (in spite of all those reorganisation noises!) will still fail to collect the taxes.
17. David Cameron will realise that UKIP is a clear and present danger and will begin the fight-back by the only way possible. He will adopt their policies and reinforce that by continuing to spray copious volumes of testosterone in Brussels.
18. Mario Monti will stand for election in Italy in a last-ditch attempt to maintain the stranglehold on European politics by Goldman Sachs old boys.
19. The Euro will make its annual journey “to the brink”.
20. Protests will accelerate across Europe – into the United Kingdom….as voters wake-up to the politicians’ ineptitude, procrastination and complacency. Voting-out incompetent governments and merely replacing them with incompetent outfits of another flavour will no longer be viewed as the solution.
21. In France, Francois Hollande will continue to demonstrate why the French don’t really appreciate Presidents who are Socialist.
22. The ECB’s Mario Draghi will once again tell the world that he will do “all it takes” to keep the Euro intact…..including the ruination of millions of Euro lives.
23. Someone, somewhere will wake up to the fact that the banking system is not working and has morphed into a fat, ever-hungry cash cow which no longer executes the functions which it was designed for (to support individuals, commerce and government).
24. Youth Unemployment in Greece and Spain will approach 60%.
25. By the end of 2013,the Catalans and the Basques will decide on their self-determination.
26. There will be a massive surge in the Spanish anti-Royalist movement and the Spanish Royal family will feel “unloved” as demands are made for the abdication of King Juan-Carlos.
27.The Franco-German Euro Axis will be consigned to the poubelle of history as Frau Merkel finds herself another “favourite”.
28.There will be an exodus of high-earners from France in protest to the Socialist-style “Politics of Envy” taxes on those earning over €1 million.
29. British P.M David Cameron will continue to bang-on about “the mess that Labour left behind” – THREE years after coming to office. That will remind the electorate that in spite of the PR, the Coalition still has no idea about how to deal with the budget deficit, except to adopt the bad part of the Merkel Model.
30. Japan’s money-printing programme will drive up its inflation, to match (and exceed) that of the USA, possibly achieving “hyper” levels. Then, they’ll print some more!
31. USA: There will be no “Fiscal Cliff”. The cracks in policy will be papered over by compromise and political expediency………. as America lurches towards the next crisis.
32. In the UK, the Church of England will continue to fret about sex-related matters such as gays, gay marriage and lady bishops. Hopefully, some of them will find a bit of time for their God and congregation!
33. The winners of the X-factor and Britain’s got Talent will have no discernible…………talent. (That’s my annual, sure-fire, 24-carat banker!)
34. In Europe (as usual), neither Barroso nor Van Rompuy will say anything REMOTELY interesting or pertinent.
35. Europe will continue to TALK of fiscal and political integration………but that’s what it will remain…..TALK. Why? Because one of the by-products would have to be some form of Debt-Mutualisation which so far, remains a deal-breaker.
36. German resistance to European supervision of the banks will result in the smaller banks remaining unsupervised.
37. In Italy, Mario Monti has clearly demonstrated the usefulness of a government of Technocrats: they have pushed through economic reforms and budget cuts which a properly-elected government would have NO CHANCE of implementing. However, the honeymoon appears to be over and Italy will return to a Berlusconi-led coalition.
38. Bundeskanzlerin Merkel will strengthen her position as de facto European leader as other (weaker, male) European leaders (half of who are on their way out – including the UK administration) continue to defer to her.
39. After the German elections, Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrats will form a new coalition with the Social Democrats.
40. Stagnation, Recession and Depression will continue in Europe. Greece will remain in depression (yes!), as will Spain and Portugal.
41. If you’re an investor, you could do worse than keep an eye on Mongolia’s mining boom which will pick up speed in 2013.
42. If you’re a gambling person, here’s an interesting “double”. Lord Patten to resign as BBC Chair . Then, invest your winnings on anything in Macau whose economy is booked to grow by about 15% in 2013.
43. The “in denial” UK Coalition Government will continue to spout meaningless statistics as the retail trade continues its slow-motion collapse and accelerating volumes of businesses go into administration and bankruptcy.
44. The Protestant Church will begin to turn more to Bible-centred Christianity – away from the airy-fairy, trendy, unleaded and flaccid Christianity of the Rowan Williams era. More “splintering”.
45. Last year I predicted a dismembering of the UK’s Coalition government but now realise that it was just wishful thinking. I underestimated how much Tory crap Nick Clegg could swallow. Last year, his capacity seemed infinite. However, for 2013, I predict that Europe will provide the catalyst for an all-out Coalition Civil War.
46. Unless the Chancellor can sell 5G, 6G and all the other “G” Futures and assuming he collects for 4G, there will be a massive government Welfare Review designed to further butcher Public Spending. ( He has no choice because of his rather stunted economic repertoire). That will finally shake the Libdems from their collective coma and fight the Tories. Otherwise…….Libdem Oblivion.
47. “Dead-tree” journalism will continue to atrophy and die with an announcement that at least one major newspaper is to go exclusively digital. (My money is on the Guardian).
48. Massive Solar storms may envelop the Earth which, according to NASA, could render the above predictions both irrelevant and obsolete. Keep an eye on www.swpc.noaa.gov
49. Andrew Mitchell MP will make a return appearance in the Cabinet after the nonsense of allowing the police to investigate themselves in what is increasingly looking like the fit-up of the year.
50. William Hague and Hillary Clinton will keep-on “condemning” the Syrian Authorities as they continue to murder with impunity. Western powers have learned that when they intervene in the Middle East – only one group ever benefits: The Construction Industry.
So what did the Lords ever do for us?
We may well caricature the Lords as the Westminster Chapter of God’s Waiting Room, populated by trembling, Zimmer-pushing geriatrics who spend their days farting and dozing on red leather whilst listening to each others’ arteries hardening, with only the occasional trip to nursey’s office to have the colostomy bag emptied………… It’s nothing like that.
The very first thing that strikes you is its very “ordinariness”, its informality and its total lack of pomp.
It is certainly NOT full of self-important, puffed-up, swaggering aristos clipping jug-carrying flunkeys around the earhole, screaming “Another tankard of Port, my man !!”
It is a quiet place. It a a place underpinned by mutual respect and the ability to listen.
None of the raucousness and noisome dissonance of the “other place”. None of the name-calling and playground punchups or “Leave him – he’s not worth it” attitude of the Lower House.
These are the “self-actualised”. Those who “have done it”, “seen it” and who know better.
In general, the House of Commons is anti too much reorganisation of the House of Lords. Ever wondered why?
Is it a rabid dislike of the “hereditaries”? Is it an over-developed sense of “democracy” ? Is it the “They should be elected NOT appointed…” group?
It is none of the above.
Most Honourable and Right Honourable Members of Parliament see the Lords as a reward, something to aspire to, a recognition of their years of selfless sacrifice and a final gift from the Establishment. They covet the ultimate status achievable within the United Kingdom. “Yes, My Lord!” ……It is their Gold Watch.
And why not?
They say that age is a price worth paying for wisdom. The average age within in the House of Lords is 65.
The average age in David Cameron’s Commons sand-pit is about 50.
Mind you, it is David Cameron who has done more to lower the “currency” of a Title than any previous Prime Minister. He ennobled 117 individuals within 12 months of coming to office. That told us a lot about his comparative youth, impetuosity plus his demand to impress. No point in complaining that “there are too many of them” (there are 818 voting Lords) after you have just added over 100 to the fire!
He was also aware that one of the major items on the Libdem shopping list was a reform of the House of Lords and that Nick Clegg needed a bone to play with. That is exactly what he was given. No more.
Currently, the Lords is a patchwork of hereditaries, politicians, lawyers, Anglican bishops and various “sundries” from public and commercial life. That is how it should be.
The alternative is an elected bunch of those bred-nurtured-and-educated purely for politics (it’s already happening in the Commons). Soulless and charisma-free Party wonks to whom commerce and normal life are a matter of wonderment and mystery.
On this occasion, let’s once again do what politicians do best. Leave it alone and wait.
Merkel Gives No Ground on Demands for Oversight in Debt Crisis
(Bloomberg) — Chancellor Angela Merkel gave no ground on Germany’s demands for more European control over member states in return for joint burden-sharing as she conceded that the bloc has yet to master the debt crisis.
The German leader said yesterday she hadn’t softened her stance at last month’s summit in Brussels and that a so-called banking union involving a bloc-wide financial overseer will have to include joint oversight on a “new level.” She chided member states who had sought to slow moves toward greater central control “since the first summit” in the 30-month-old crisis.
“All of these attempts will have no chance with me or with Germany,” Merkel said in an interview with broadcaster ZDF in Berlin.
Two weeks after a European Union summit aimed at bridging differences over crisis resolution, euro leaders are still squabbling over details of how to lift the bloc out of the turmoil. Merkel hardened Germany’s position that any attempt to share burdens in Europe — such as jointly issued euro bonds or common banking bodies — must first be met with greater cooperation and a handover of some sovereignty to Brussels.
The euro fell to its lowest level against the U.S. dollar in more than two years last week, sliding to as low as $1.2163 on July 13. Europe’s most credit-worthy government bonds climbed, with German two-year note yields down to a record minus 0.052 percent, as investors sought havens from the euro crisis.
Diverging rates and capital outflows within the 17-member monetary union signal that the single currency is “slowly unraveling,” Stephen Gallo, senior foreign-exchange strategist at Credit Agricole SA in London, told Bloomberg Television’s “The Pulse” in a July 13 interview.
“The whole project is unraveling, that’s what’s essentially happening now,” Gallo said.
While Merkel said that Europe is on the “right course” toward putting an end to the crisis, euro-area leaders “haven’t solved the problems conclusively.”
German lawmakers will interrupt their summer vacations and return to Berlin on July 19 to vote to approve 100 billion euros ($122 billion) in rescue loans to Spain. After Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy last week announced 65 billion euros in welfare cuts and tax increases, Merkel reiterated yesterday that financial assistance would not be doled out without conditions.
“Whoever receives assistance and where liabilities are taken over, there has to be control,” Merkel told ZDF.
French President Francois Hollande, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and Spain’s Rajoy have pressed for faster action, including joint liabilities, while Merkel has called jointly issued debt the “wrong way” to fix the crisis. Merkel last month castigated a blueprint for the summit by EU President Herman Van Rompuy as too focused on “collectivization.”
Euro officials this month have also sparred over the timetable for establishing a euro-wide bank supervisor, a benchmark required before they implement one of the decisions from the June 28-29 summit — direct bailout funding for banks. Investors have viewed such a step as a way to sever the link between banking debt and sovereign debt.
Euro-area finance ministers will confer on Friday, July 20, to complete an agreement on Spain’s bank bailout. On July 10, the minister’s announced 30 billion euros of aid would be made available by the end of this month.
Klaus Regling, who heads the euro’s bailout funds, told Welt am Sonntag yesterday that governments could avoid liability for bank rescues under proposals for a regional supervisor. That contradicts German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, who said July 9 that he expects governments to guarantee loans even if they go directly to banks, Welt said.
Merkel said leaders hadn’t yet reached an agreement on the terms for bank rescues.
German Bundesbank President Jens Weidmann said euro leaders had caused damage by failing to define more clearly their conclusions at the summit. He told Dutch newspaper Het Financieele Dagblad on July 14 that euro nations “should discuss giving up sovereignty with the same openness as the question of how to resolve the debt problem collectively.”
As governments in Spain and Italy struggle under the burden of higher borrowing costs, Weidmann, Germany’s chief central banker and a European Central Bank GoverningCouncil member, told Boersen-Zeitung that Italy’s higher yields don’t justify a request for bailout assistance. Euro bailout funding should be deployed only as a last resort, he said.
“If Italy stays the course on reforms, it’s on a good path,” Weidmann told the newspaper in an interview. Asked whether the euro area’s third-largest economy needs to tap the fund, he said, “No, I don’t see Italy in that situation.”
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti has sought a “debt shield” against spillover from a Spanish banking crisis.
Euro-area leaders have given Spain an extra year, until 2014, to drive its budget deficit below the euro limit of 3 percent of gross domestic product, a concession that may foreshadow leniency for other indebted states in the bloc.
In Greece, an MRB poll published in Athens-based Real News newspaper showed that almost three-quarters of Greeks want Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s coalition government to insist on a renegotiation of the country’s international bailout.
Seventy-four percent in the survey said the government should insist on discussing the terms even if negotiations steer toward the prospect of Greece leaving the euro; 15.5 percent said the government should stick to current conditions.
Volker Kauder, the parliamentary leader of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, told Welt am Sonntag that he doesn’t want to give Greece more time to meet economic targets.
Merkel, asked the same question during the ZDF interview, said she would await a report by Greece’s international creditors, known as the troika.
With assistance from Tony Czuczka in Berlin, Paul Tugwell in Athens, Guy Johnson in London and Fred Pals in Amsterdam. Editor: Dick Schumacher.
To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Donahue in Berlin at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at email@example.com
Some may be wondering about the timing of Bob Diamond’s decision to “walk” from what is the best-paid and most high-profile banking job in the UK. Some may believe that he was hounded out by the banking establishment.
I reckon that he walked in order to free himself-up ahead of the ridiculous inquisition by the Treasury Select Committee. I sincerely hope that they leave their briefcases on the table in front of them and remember to wear tin hats – because Barclays Bob is going to give them hell. They will be forced to listen to a few home truths about the conduct of not-only Barclays but the entire politico-banking establishment.
Believe me, Bob knows where ALL the bodies are buried and he’s the first guest at the Wake.
As usual, we’ve had the puerile Punch and Judy exchange between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. Both have diminished themselves through their conduct over the last wee. (If that was at all possible)
Meanwhile, the media (and I include the Social Media) have seen an outpouring of hysteria by individuals who hadn’t heard of Libor before last Wednesday. Mob hysteria at its worst.
Mind you, that is so typical here in the UK. First we “denounce”, then the Inquisition, followed by the Inquiry and then it’s back to normal as we look for the next victim.
If there have been transactions which have inflated profits, I hope that in their haste, government Ministers have not forgotten that there may be billions in the Exchequer which will have to be repaid if tax has been generated on illicit transactions. Inflated bonuses have also been subject to millions in taxation.
It’s not only the banks who are going to have a lot to unravel – but of course, these days no-one thinks before they act.
Starting with the baying politicians and media, a breathtaking lack of understanding of complex banking processes has clearly been demonstrated. The same lack of understanding which was exhibited by the Directors of Banks prior-to, during and certainly after the last bank crisis.
Make no mistake both the Bank of England as well as the Financial Services Authority have been complicit. Those pre-Lehmans LIBOR deals, probably saved the British Government from having to bail out Barclays and as other banks have also doubtless been guilty of the same misdemeanours, the Government will have saved billions on the 2008 bailouts.
(What I mean to say is that the banks were bailed out – but they weren’t bailed out enough. The last four years of “rebuilding balance sheets”, non-lending etc have clearly demonstrated that as usual, the government only did half of the job)
It is the Bank of England, the Financial Services Authority and the grubby British Bankers Association which should be standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the dock and hopefully after Bob Diamond has said what he really thinks and knows, they’ll be lined up and taken down.
Today, Mr Diamond, I’m on your side.
Show them Hell!
Barclays out of CONTROL?
A few years ago, I moved away from teaching and coaching the “soft” skills of management and have been concentrating much more on the “hard” skills.
One of the hard skills of management, which everyone running a department or process should know, is one which appears to be missing in MOST businesses. It is the art of Business Control.
It is very straightforward: POPS.
POPS is a very simple but effective method of structured management thinking.
If the POLICY, ORGANISATION, PROCEDURES, SUPERVISION Business Controls had been applied to the Banking Industry, we would never have had a financial crisis.
“POLICY” is the high-level control and is the responsibility of the Board and Senior Management. They not-only put together the Policy but their duty is to ensure that everything which happens within the organisation is in keeping with Company Policy.
For instance, if traders fiddle with interest rates and interest rates have been fiddled-with for years without anyone being brought to book – they may be forgiven for assuming that fiddling with interest rates is part of the bank’s Policy and culture.
“ORGANISATION” is about the people. Are the right people doing a particular job? Have they been trained? Have they been communicated with? Do they know what they can and cannot do? Is there a good Management Structure which can report up to Board level?
“PROCEDURES” : For instance, is a trade or block of trades recorded and checked? Are there “snap” checks and audits designed to check that company Procedures are being adhered to.
SUPERVISION is a day-to-day control (so is the Procedures Control). This control is the responsibility of the “one-up” manager. The one who is there – not the one at meetings. Very often , things happen without day-to-day supervision. For instance, if a trader makes a few dodgy deals, a good manager’s responsibility is to (at least) make the trader know that he could be caught.
Here’s an example of how a thorough Management Audit which looks at specific Business Controls can unearth the REAL cause of an issue. It is also surprising how many breakdowns and corporate crises are the result of a bad or non-existent high-level POLICY control.
In 1987, the car-ferry, The Herald of Free Enterprise sank in Zeebrugge Harbour and 193 people died. There appeared to be a very simple explanation for the “accident”. The loading doors at the front of the boat (through which cars entered the boat) had been left open.
However, a proper structured investigation designed to identify the Root Cause of the disaster was needed.
The doors were left open because one man was asleep when he should have pressed the button to close the doors. Therefore, the PROCEDURES control had broken down. The procedure was that when the boat was about to move, a button would be pressed on the bridge. That would trigger the man to press the button to close the doors.
The direct SUPERVISION control was was non-existent because the man who should have pressed the button was managed by a senior man who was only in charge of ferry car-parking and not door-closing.
In addition, there was no PROCEDURE for anyone to confirm to the bridge whether the doors were closed or not. It was assumed that once the “close the doors” button had been pressed, that the doors were closed.
The ORGANISATION control is about the people involved in the process. In this case, the organisation consisted of just ONE lowly manual worker who, on this occasion, was asleep. The First Officer who pressed his button, immediately assumed that once he had pressed it, his job was over.
The last Control is the highest-level – POLICY. This control is administered right at the top of an organisation – by the Senior Management and the Board of Directors.
One may be forgiven for thinking that there is absolutely no way that such a high-level control could possibly have anything at all to do with someone forgetting to close the loading-doors on a ferry.
However, the Root Cause of the Herald Of Free Enterprise disaster WAS a breakdown in the POLICY control.
The Company’s POLICY was to turn the ferry around in 15 minutes.
Consequently, the man who should have pushed the button was tired because he had not slept properly for two days and was already asleep when the boat had docked.
As is often the case, the ultimate responsibility for the sinking belonged to the management.
Today, Barclays banks has a very similar situation in respect of its traders who are alleged to have manipulated LIBOR for purposes of profit!
Was there proper SUPERVISION? Were PROCEDURES in place to guard against improper behaviour? Was the ORGANISATION right? Were the traders only (as far as they understood) acting within Barclays’ POLICY? Did Barclays have a “SELL, SELL, SELL!!!” Policy which encouraged short-cuts and cheating?
A measured, thought-through approach is needed.
The reaction by the media and politicians already suggests that instead, there will be a free-for-all, accusatory, disorganised non-process, preceded by the customary witch-hunt and a Lawyer Benefit in the shape of an inquiry.
What is REALLY NEEDED is a Management Audit delivered by a team of sceptics NOT PAID FOR by Barclays.
That is to say –NOT Pricewaterhouse Coopers and certainly NOT those Muppets at the Financial Services Authority.
Syria: Usually in a Civil War, the model is pretty straightforward: The Good Guys versus the Bad Guys.
In Syria, they appear to have adopted to European Union Organisational model with LOTS of Chiefs and even more confused “Indians”.
These are some of the various flavours of Syrian good and bad guys:
The Assad Government, the Syrian National Council,the National Co-ordination Committee, the Syrian Patriotic Group,the Free Syria Army, the Free Officers Movement, the Syrian Liberation Army, the Military Council, the Shabiha, the Martyr Hisham Brigade, the Ibn Malik Martyrs Brigade, the Maarratt al-Numan Martyrs Brigade, the Salhauddin [Saladin] Brigade, the Fallujah Brigade.
There is only ONE ultimate solution:
Arm the lot of them.
Then, when it REALLY kicks off, send in William Hague to “condemn” and “deplore” them.
As usual, the West has allowed the situation to develop too far, creating yet another insoluble problem.
Cave In Assad!
Νύχτα των Κρυστάλλων ?
“Greeks are lazy, Greeks are corrupt, Greeks are dishonest, Greeks refuse to obey the rules……”
Are they? Do they?
Hearing that certain countries are already thinking about “doing something” about future Greek immigration sent a shiver down my spine.
The Eurozone states and their limp politicians are beginning to treat Greeks like pariahs – in the same way that the Nazis treated the Jews in the 1930s.
What will be the the natural conclusion? Make no mistake – it could be tragic.
Is there going to be the modern equivalent of the 1938 Kristallnacht ?
Will Greek-owned shops and businesses all over Europe be vandalised because of negative anti-Greek Eurozone propaganda?
Kristallnacht was the starting point for intense economic and political persecution of Jews – with the end game being played-out during WW2. No further reminders needed.
Then, as now, it all started with an excuse. In 1938, it was the assassination of German diplomat by a Polish Jew.
The 2012 excuse is nothing more than an anticipated refusal of Greece to comply with over-strict German-inspired ” necessary” austerity rules.
Propaganda is a very powerful device. Let us hope therefore that the gradually amplifying and insidious vilification of the Greek people does not result in yet another European catastrophe.
New Banks for Old!
There is little doubt that a brand new Banking Act is a little overdue. However, instead of spending 5 years on inquiries, commissions, debate and law-writing, why don’t we just “rewind” and “tap-in” to some of the old banking legislation.
Banks HAVE become too big but only as a result of Retail, Institutional, Investment etc arms coming together to produce a Gordian Knot of “impossible to unpick” financial mystery.
This week’s favourite word is “firewall”. All we need is a buffer (or firewall) between a Retail bank and the Investment Bank. THAT’s an accounting exercise. Separate reporting , separate balance sheet, separate shares and separate management.
Once we see distinct organisations, we’ll know who we’re dealing with.
The Retail Bank’s job SHOULD BE to store and look after our money. The Investment Bank is a completely separate playground and is not proper banking at all. It is Stockbroking with additions such as crazy people who believe that they walk on water.
We need to return to the good old days when banks would finance themselves with equity and not with debt. Mind you, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with properly managed debt. In fact, without debt, there is no Capitalism.
Forget the “too big to fail” nonsense. The rationale should be simpler – a smaller institution is easier to control and inspect,with fewer nooks and crannies in which to hide “naughtiness”. Plus a small bank which “goes down”, is not going to bring an economy crashing in the same way as the banking behemoths of today can (and will).
Certainly, the British government should be looking at helping to create scores of small independent banks, rather than be held to ransom by a few huge ones.
Mind you, we once had a ready-made structure in place. The Building Societies. Unfortunately, most have now been consigned to the Skip of History. Shame.
The Building Societies would have provided a useful model because they were limited as to where they could invest depositors cash. They used to have a series of “caps” enshrined in legislation.
Today, a cap should be put on the Retail bank’s ability to invest in equities, plus a cap on liabilities as well as a strict limit on leverage.
Currently, Investment “banks” operate in a very highly leveraged way – with very little equity and masses of debt. By no stretch of the imagination is that “banking” as we used to know it. Plus the sheer volume of total bank debt places an unacceptable level of cost and stress on an economy. The current Eurozone crisis is a manifestation and perfect example of that phenomenon.
This is the very simple model we need to rediscover:
The Retail Bank holds deposits which belong to the consumers. The bank is empowered to lend that money to private individuals and small business.
The Investment Bank raises money for commerce through the Stock and Gilt markets.
Historically, there came a time when the banks weren’t happy with those simple arrangements and gradually, through the medium of legislation, government took the brakes off and so began an orgy of leveraging (borrowing) by the banks. Then they overleveraged (overborrowed) with the straw that broke the camel’s back, being the banks’ decision to leverage (borrow against) their sub-prime mortgage assets. Effectively, borrowing against something whose value collapsed because it was bound to collapse.
The surprising thing is that they’re still doing it. Why? Because, they know that there’s no risk to them because standing behind them are tired and bankrupt governments who have foolishly promised to bail them out.
Banks have now completed their journey from being keepers and stewards of community assets to scary insatiable monsters in constant pursuit of profit. Not for the community but for shareholders and executives.
Unfortunately, they are not very good at it – and yet, they are allowed to continue their rampage by uneducated and naive politicians who in truth, should have closed them all down four years ago.
However, there’s another problem. Western communities do NOT save as they used to. That means that there is never enough to lend to consumers from meagre bank deposits. (We spend more than we earn). Is there a solution?
Yes there is.
Retail banks could sell all the debt which private individuals needed. Those debts could be securitised through investment banks. (The concept of loans backed by securities is not a bad one, except when it is abused as it was in the United States.)
The down-side? Banks would never again be as profitable as they are today.
The Investment bank would concentrate on finding capital for companies and controlled speculative trading but without any government-guaranteed bailouts if things went wrong.
We need the traditional (Retail) bank because it is the foundation of an economy and where the entrepreneur goes for money so that he can become a capitalist .
The investment bank is where the capitalist goes to party, with money that has already been earned.
Time to turn back the clock?
Local Election – don’t elect a Muppet.
We must make sure that we do not waste our vote in the forthcoming local election.
There was a time when party politics had nothing to do with local elections but sadly, that is no longer the case. Hopefully, one day local politics will return to choosing individuals who are best-suited to manage and control local issues and budgets.
Every party has individuals who are good at what they do. Their abilities have nothing to do with political allegiance. Within the present system – those are the people we should be voting for. The converse is also true.
At local level, we should not be voting for Liberals at because we have a good Liberal MP. We should not be ignoring any able Conservatives just because they do not appear to have the benefit of strong leadership at national level. The Labour handling of the banking crisis should not influence us if we have a Labour candidate who looks as if he or she has a contribution to make.
What should influence us is simple – which INDIVIDUAL do we believe can be entrusted with the responsibility of representing us most effectively on the Council. Blind partisan voting will only give us a random chance of voting-in the finest. At best we will elect a few good people – at worst, we will vote-in a single party, many of whom will just be “ballast”. Remember Blair’s Babes or the present crop of Cameron’s Cuties? They sit, nod or shake their heads like Muppets while those with proper views do the talking and decision-making.
There is too much political posturing at local level. Too much energy is given over to political in-fighting rather than concentrating on the needs of the rate-payers. Many of our local councillors appear to be playing at being in Westminster – consequently a local election result is now considered to be a vote either for or against the Government.
There is a rarely-printed saying in politics – “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”
For those voters who do not quite understand local politics, it may well be worth describing that most council chambers, are organised along Westminster lines. There is a Council Leader (Prime Minister), a “cabinet”, disciplined Westminster-style voting (so that most councillors only have backbencher status) and various committees. Plus, the whole thing is supported by a permanent civil-service-like structured bureaucracy.
Since the gradual separation (at local level) of economic leadership from political leadership, the calibre of local councillors has doubtless fallen.
Nowadays, individuals who are economically important within a community do not necessarily have an interest in local government. Whereas years ago, a typical councillor may have been a land-owning or business-owning member of a well-established local family, nowadays, individuals who run substantial businesses are very rarely long-standing locals.
Corporate senior managers and directors are often imported from other parts of the country or even abroad and although they may have the skills to manage and govern, they do not have any particular interest in local goings-on, because often they know that their job-tenure will be short-lived. In addition, they know that it is central government policy and not local government which is crucial to their company’s profitability.
In 1967, the Maud Committee on Management in Local Government stated that many “councillors see council work as a supplement to their lives”. Some of the reasons which have been given for becoming a councillor – prestige, recognition, seeking a better social life, vanity, stepping-stone to a career in Westminster, self-improvement.
Luckily, there are still people out there who are local, feel strongly about local issues, want to serve the local community and are not on a power-trip or an imaginary (in most cases!) practice-run for Westminster.
In local politics, the “management classes” have largely given way to the “talking professions” because the ability to debate has become a more precious skill than the ability to manage a budget. The old-fashioned free-thinker has given way to the party pack-animal who will normally vote as the party tells him – the ideology of the party has displaced the common-sense of the independent individual.
In spite of all this, we do need local government . The usual voting turnout during a local election (below 40%) gives strength to the “centralist” argument which is in favour of power being taken away from local councils. That is just one of the reasons why it is important to vote – if we do not vote, then we give the impression that we do not care about or want local government. For all its faults – “use it or lose it.”
Finally, remember that not all Liberal candidates are vegetarian lecturers and Guardian-reading white-collar public-sector workers. Not all Conservatives are barristers, middle-managers and skinheads and not all Labour candidates are teachers, media people and union members.
The time has come once again, to vote for the individual and not the rosette.
Netherlands political crisis casts cloud on euro zone
(Reuters) – The Netherlands, a core Eurozone member, was drawn into Europe’s debt crisis at the weekend when the government failed to agree on budget cuts, making elections almost unavoidable and casting doubt on its support for future euro zone measures.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose centre-right coalition has been in power since October 2010, said on Saturday that crucial talks on budget cuts had collapsed after his ally Geert Wilders refused to do a deal, and that new elections were inevitable.
But uncertainty over the makeup of a new government, and waning voter support for bailouts and austerity measures, raised questions over Dutch backing for a fiscal responsibility pact seen as crucial to helping Europe cope with its debt crisis.
The catalyst for the crisis was Wilders, who refused to agree to 14-to-16 billion euros ($18.5-$21.1 billion) of budget cuts needed to bring a bloated budget deficit under control.
Now the euro-sceptic, anti-immigration politician has threatened to fight his campaign on a European battleground.
“The Freedom Party benches are unanimously against Brussels diktats and the attack on our elderly,” Wilders tweeted on Sunday, later telling Dutch news agency ANP that Europe would be in “sharp focus” during any coming election campaign.
Wilders most recently has lobbied to jettison the euro and return to the guilder, the old Dutch currency, and he is against immigration not only of Muslims but also of Poles and other central and eastern European members of the EU – views that strike a chord with his supporters.
His Freedom Party had a pact to support Rutte’s minority government in parliament, giving it the majority to pass legislation, but after seven weeks of budget talks, Wilders suddenly backed out just when a deal appeared close.
His supporters are against budget cuts, particularly cuts in welfare, health and unemployment benefits.
“This was a package that would damage our economy over coming years and increase unemployment. And all that to meet a demand made by Brussels, accepted by the Liberals, of reaching a 3 percent deficit in 2013,” he said on Saturday.
FRAGMENTED POLITICAL FIELD
An opinion poll published on Sunday showed the Netherlands remains highly fragmented politically, suggesting that it could prove difficult to form a new coalition quickly and that Wilders’s chances of forming a new government were slim.
The Maurice de Hond poll, conducted after the budget talks collapsed, showed that no single party would have a majority if elections were held now, though Rutte’s Liberal Party has strengthened its lead, followed closely by two leftist parties.
The poll also showed that a majority favour smaller budget cuts than those stipulated by the European Union, a further sign that the notoriously frugal Dutch are suffering from “bailout fatigue” and resent the high cost of rescuing profligate peripheral euro zone countries.
“Voters from different parties share the same view – disgust or disappointment over the political action and the political parties,” De Hond said in a statement, adding that two thirds of those polled agreed with the statement: “I’m tired of all the party politics”.
Asked whether the Netherlands should cut less than the European Union wants, 57 percent of respondents agreed. Supporters of the populist Freedom Party and of the leftist Socialist Party were particularly set against cuts.
The poll showed the Dutch were most strongly opposed to spending cuts that would have a direct impact on standards of living, 56 percent of respondents opposing the introduction of a new, modest prescription charge, and 47 percent opposing an increase in value added tax.
The cabinet is set to meet on Monday to discuss what it should do next to agree a budget and whether to resign. The Queen could accept its resignation, paving the way for elections, or ask the prime minister to form a new coalition.
If elections are called, Rutte’s Liberals would win 33 seats in the 150-seat parliament, up from 31 now, the poll showed, followed by the eurosceptic Socialist Party with 30 seats and the pro-Europe Labour Party with 24 seats.
Rutte’s coalition partner, the Christian Democrats, and the Freedom Party, until Saturday his main ally, have both slipped in the polls and would win 11 and 19 seats respectively.
Rutte and Finance Minister Jan Kees de Jager – who flew back from IMF talks in Washington when the crisis broke – are among the euro zone’s harshest critics of “budget sinners” like Greece and Portugal, and the Netherlands is seen as close to Germany in calling for tough austerity measures.
That is about to change.
“The Netherlands can no longer be a role model to others. There may be a reaction in other countries: ‘If they don’t do it, why should we?’ This risk exists, which is unpleasant,” said Jaap Koelewijn, an economist and professor of corporate finance.
The annual budget cuts Wilders has balked at are needed for the Netherlands to meet European Commission targets. Without them, its public deficit is forecast to hit 4.6 percent of GDP in 2013, well above the 3 percent agreed with the Commission.
If the Netherlands does not cut spending and breaks EU budget rules, it is likely to lose its coveted triple-A credit rating, leading to higher borrowing costs.
The level of state debt rose to 65.2 percent of GDP at the end of 2011 from 62.9 percent in 2010, Statistics Netherlands said last month.
Ratings agency Fitch recently warned the Netherlands it must get its finances in order or risk a ratings downgrade, while in a report last month, Citibank went as far as to say it no longer deserved to be considered a core member of the euro zone because of its fiscal woes.
The uncertainty over budget cuts and reforms, and the time it takes to organise elections, will probably lead to higher interest rates and higher yields on Dutch government bonds.
“The cost of finance for the Netherlands will go up slightly compared to Germany, but our debt is mostly long-term. The Netherlands doesn’t have high refinancing needs in the next few years,” said economist Sweder van Wijnbergen.
($1 = 0.7571 euros)
(Additional reporting by Gilbert Kreijger and Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Michael Roddy)
The Labour-Liberal Coalition is just about managing to cope with the constant rioting but at least immigration has been halted. No-one wants to move here anymore.
Head Minister Yvette wishes that she hadn’t defeated David Miliband because her life with the 30-stone Ed Balls ended as soon as he had been defeated in the Leadership election by the elder Miliband. She had felt honour-bound to avenge her former husband’s humiliation and to everyone’s surprise, she had won!
Within two days had been texted by the Leader and asked to either form a government or go into exile to Melton Mowbray in the Mid-Shires.
No-one knows where the younger Miliband is at the moment. Rumour is that he is teaching English somewhere near Beijing – but these days – who knows.
Anyway, it was no joke having to go everywhere totally surrounded by large sweaty Security Guards in too-tight suits. Yvette hated that nearly as much as the Kevlar jacket which she seemed to take off only at bedtime . Even that wasn’t much fun any more.
She was soon to meet the rather wizened President of France. She briefly thought of President Lagarde in those good old days when she had been Head of the now defunct International Monetary Fund. The whereabouts of the money continues to be a mystery – but there are still lingering suspicions as to how well Germany (which used to be known as Europe) is doing.
As she climbed into the human-drawn bullet-proof rickshaw (the Ministerial Jags had been scrapped soon after the Petrol Wars) , out of the corner of her eye, she caught sight of what appeared to be a familiar face. The features were still smooth – even after THAT prison sentence – but the Buller Boy confidence now looked a little deflated and the sandwich board was not sitting comfortably on the 30 year-old hand-made suit. Sometimes, she thought that the post-incarceration humiliation phase of a prison sentence was a bit unnecessary but it did seem to teach some humility to those who were believed to need it.
The House of Parliament used to be called Phoenix House and she was once again reminded of the historical episode thirty years ago when someone called Rupert Murdoch had a custard pie thrown in his face within these very walls! The incident had led to the destruction of the entire newspaper industry – Pre-Digi – and was commemorated by a sculpture fixed to the pavement outside.
She looked at the trio of figures. Maxwell, his wife Wendy Deng and pie-thrower Jonathan May-Bowles were depicted in life-sized splendour. Well….that wasn’t strictly true. The “sculpture” was by the Gunther von Hagens studios and rumoured to be no more than the plastinated remains of the three participants. However the bomb-proof glass case in which the sculpture was sealed made analysis impossible – plus there had been rumours that two of the figures depicted had been spotted in various locations – just like Arkle, Lord Lucan and Gordon Brown. Mind you, she mused, without any reliable news….who knows?
When she was awakened by the scream of a knocked-over tourist just outside the main entrance to the Virgin Westminster Palace of Fun, she shouted to the rickshaw pulling-team to stop. She noticed quite a few people wandering about amongst the potholes. They were all wearing those ill-fitting but mandatory jackets with “TOURIST” emblazoned on the back – although many of them were English and from only 30 or 40 miles away.
She decided to take a risk and see whether the person her team had knocked over was OK and stepped rather gingerly onto the pavement. She reached into her gun-case for a handheld pot-pourri, as the stench of the open street was something to which she was no longer acclimatised.
A few years ago, this would have been what used to be called “an iOpportunity”. A digital image would have been taken of the Head Minister cradling an injured citizen to her Spanx-Kevlar bodice and the image would have been transmitted to everyone who still had an iDevice.
Unfortunately. Electronic signals were a thing of the past and citizens only wore “ the iBox” around their neck or waist for decoration.
However, it was soon apparent that the Tourist had a broken leg. Yvette turned and re-entered the Ministerial Carry-pod. “Deal with it, “ she snapped to one of her guards.
As the door hissed shut and she felt the shudder of the rickshaw slowly gathering speed, she fancied that she heard a single gunshot….. in fact, as she proceeded, she noticed that there were lots of gunshots……
To be continued/
Holding Bank Shares? Think again.
Another week, another bank rip-off…
The Payment Protection Insurance (PPI) mis-selling scandal has only just come to a head. Banks are facing compensation claims of as much as £6bn from customers duped into buying insurance they didn’t need.
And now big UK banks will be all over the papers again – this time for mis-selling another sort of insurance, this time to small businesses.
Here’s how it works…
You’re a small business and you take out a loan with a bank. And just like with PPI, the bank wants to hit you with some “insurance”. Making interest on a loan isn’t enough for these guys. They want to optimise !!!
With a small business, banks cannot sell critical illness or redundancy insurance. So they have to be a little more imaginative.
The idea went a little like this: “Hey, that loan you’re taking… Now you’d be a fool not to want to protect your business against interest rate moves. Look, we’ll put together an interest rate swap contract. Basically, if rates move against you, this contract will pay out…”
But what many business owners didn’t realise was that if interest rates moved down (which of course they did) then they’d be on the hook for potentially hundreds and thousands of pounds.
And you can bet the banks were keen on shifting these policies. This from the Sunday Telegraph:
“The case of Adcocks (a small electronics retailer) highlights just how much of an edge the banks had. Following 12 months of what Mr Adcock describes as “encouragement” from his local Barclays relationship manager, the company in February 2007 took out an interest rate hedge on its £970,000 of borrowings from the bank. Unbeknownst to Mr Adcock, on the day he signed the agreement, Barclays Capital, the bank’s investment banking arm that structured the deal, is likely to have booked a profit of as much as £100,000 from the sale of the hedge.”
These interest rates swaps have driven some businesses into administration. The banks have been siphoning cash straight out of business accounts as a result of ‘adverse moves’ in the interest swap.
Professor Michael Dempster of the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Financial Research said: “I liken it to going to bet on a horse race having fixed the result. You’re not guaranteed to win, but you have a heck of an edge on the punters.”
All this could mean more huge claims against the banks. Prof. Dempster said “I think this could be at least the same size as PPI.”
So it’s clearly another savage blow for the UK’s retail banks. If you aren’t already out of the banking sector, then these sorts of shenanigans ought to make you think twice about holding bank shares.
HSBC – 2011 – $22billion.
Steve Slater (Reuters) 5:19 a.m. EST, February 27, 2012
HSBC Holdings, Europe’s biggest bank, predicted growth in Asia and other emerging markets would outweigh sluggish European economies this year as it posted a $21.9 billion profit for 2011, the best outturn by a western bank so far.
HSBC added, however, that success in emerging markets was becoming increasingly expensive, with costs rising 10 percent, or $3.9 billion – a third of that due to higher pay.
Banks across Europe have been posting billions of dollars of losses as the euro zone sovereign debt crisis has eroded the value of their government bond holdings and hit their trading operations, and as they strive to meet tough new rules aimed at preventing a repeat of the 2007-09 banking crisis.
HSBC has been relatively unscathed because it makes more than three quarters of its profits outside Europe and north America. It remained upbeat on Monday about prospects for emerging markets despite fears that some are overheating and could see an abrupt slowdown in growth this year.
“We remain comfortable with the emerging markets (outlook) and are confident that GDP growth in emerging markets will be positive and China will have a soft landing,” Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver told reporters on a conference call.
“We think there’s some recent buoyancy in the U.S., so the real issue of negative focus is how the euro zone plays about,” he added, predicting the euro zone economy would flatline this year, with “marked recessions” in some southern countries.
HSBC, with around 7,200 offices in 80 countries, said pretax profit rose 15 percent to $21.9 billion in 2011, just below analysts’ average forecast of $22.2 billion in a Reuters poll.
The figure fell short of the group’s record profit of $24.2 billion in 2007, but beat all other western banks that have reported so far for last year, including U.S. rival J.P.Morgan which made a $19 billion profit.
The world’s most profitable banks in recent years have been China’s ICBC , which made $32 billion in 2010, and China Construction Bank , which made $26.4 billion.
HSBC’s profits were boosted by a $3.9 billion accounting gain on the value of its debt. Stripping that out, underlying pretax profit fell 6 percent to $17.7 billion, due in part to rising wages in emerging markets and to restructuring costs.
CUTS AND BONUSES
Gulliver, who is reshaping HSBC to cut annual costs by $3.5 billion, lift profitability and sharpen its focus on Asia, said he would step up his plan this year.
He said HSBC would continue to pay higher wages in emerging markets, where there is strong competition for bankers among international and local rivals, adding higher revenue from those areas showed the investment was worthwhile.
At 0945 GMT, HSBC shares in London were down 1.5 percent at 566.1 pence, lagging a 0.7 percent decline in the UK’s benchmark FTSE 100 index . The shares have beaten the STOXX Europe 600 banking index by 15 percent over the past year.
“They’ve had a good run so I can’t get too enthusiastic, but they’re (HSBC) going in the right direction and it’s a good bet in a difficult sector,” said Brown Shipley fund manager John Smith, who holds HSBC shares in his portfolio.
HSBC said profits at its investment bank fell 24 percent to $7 billion, hurt as the euro zone debt crisis slowed capital markets activity in the second half of last year.
Loan impairment charges and other credit risk-related provisions, however, fell $1.9 billion to $12.1 billion.
The group said it paid out $4.2 billion in bonuses, down 2 percent on 2010. Banks are coming under intense pressure from politicians and the public to rein in pay awards because of the role of the sector in the world’s economic problems.
HSBC said it paid one of its bankers, whom it declined to name, 8 million pounds ($12.7 million) last year. Gulliver was the second-highest paid employee, getting 7.2 million pounds — including a 2.2 million bonus — down from 8.4 million in 2010 when he ran the investment bank.
($1 = 0.6306 British pounds)
(Additional reporting by Sarah White and Sudip Kar-Gupta; Writing by Mark Potter; Editing by David Holmes)
Copyright © 2012, Reuters
It was Gordon Gekko who said that “Greed is good” and currently it is that greed which is popularly believed to be the root cause of the current economic downturn. But who was it that said that “Change is Good”? What if the real root cause of the crisis is poor governance , jump-started and caused by the new Change mantra?
Nowadays, the word “Change” appears on a very high percentage of job descriptions. There are “Change Gurus”, “Change Agents”, “Change Trainers”, “Change Management” and a hundred other delicious flavours of Change.
“Change” has become synonymous with progress but very often the consequence of constant change is a company which never quite achieves stability or Steady State. It has been believed for nearly thirty years that a company which does not change, risks being “left behind”. However, there may be certain industries which should embrace the Steady State Theory and not the constant-change environment. Change not-only appears to feed progress but during transitional periods, it also provides opportunities for corporate mistakes to be buried. Because a constantly-changing company never achieves Steady State, management errors and holes in accounts are always regarded as just temporary.
A mere thirty years ago, there were four columns supporting the Financial Services Industry: Banking, Insurance and the Building Societies were the highly visible threesome and their City cousin was the Stockbroker. He was the mysterious one who spoke in a strange tongue and dealt in financial mysteries and abstracts. The sort of stuff that Bankers did not understand.
A few predicted that these four venerable institutions would, one day become indistinguishable from each other. And so it has come to pass.
Thirty years ago, Banks lent short-term unsecured money, issued chequebooks and most branches had a manager who was accessible both to the private individual as well as the local businessman. It was a “people business”. Eventually, Change decreed that Bank Managers were not skilled enough to recognise the subtle shades of risk hidden in propositions which landed on their desks. “Systems” were created. Decision-making was taken from the branches and handed to the system. Credit Scoring was the way forward.
Did credit-scoring work? Yes, but only when it was applied.
Building Societies were still true to their 19th Century roots. They lent money which enabled private individuals to buy a home after they had accumulated a deposit. There were only two types of mortgage. Gross of Tax and Net of Tax. There were savings accounts which were called Paid-up share accounts and there were only two types of these – the only difference being that you could either add interest annually of half-yearly. There were also deposit accounts which paid slightly less interest but allowed the depositor first crack at the funds in the unlikely event of a run on the Society’s funds. The products were simple.
The in the late 80s when MIRAS ( Mortgage Interest Relief At Source) was removed and the green light was given to all sorts of strange hybrid mortgages and accounts. New systems meant that even the most complicated and incomprehensible products could be administered.
Originally, Insurance companies sold peace of mind and would pay either a lump sum or an income to a family in the event of the breadwinner’s death. The first inkling of change was in the mid-seventies when the Royal Insurance Group introduced the first low-cost endowment plan – the G-plan. It sold like hotcakes. In the long term, these contracts produced hundreds of thousands of unhappy mortgagors and many red-faced Actuaries.
Stockbrokers lived in large (sometimes condemned) buildings in the City and they practiced their dark arts without too much interference from anyone.
In the good old days, the lending of money to an individual had never been a profession – it was more of a “trade” because it was simple. Consequently, the money-lending business (nowadays it is called “banking”) was run by ordinary honest folk who could gradually work their way to the top of their organisation. Not a Degree or MBA in sight. The same applied to the Building Societies and Insurance companies.
The Directors would make sure that they kept the bank or building society on an even keel and well within the liquidity rules plus they would vary interest rates when instructed by the Bank of England and they NEVER went bust because it was nigh on impossible to go bust. There was one occasion many years ago when the Chelsea Building Society was forced to revalue its assets in order to comply with liquidity rules but otherwise – no problems.
There were no executive bonuses because the word “profit” was not in their dictionary – but they would strive to make a small surplus. Likewise, there were no golf days, conventions or any other executive freebies.
But dark clouds were already gathering. Even 25 years ago, the Banks wanted to become Building Societies, the Building Societies thought that it would be a good idea to become Banks and the big Insurance Companies wished that they too could become all things to all people.
The high priests of Change were beginning to take a foothold.
Then, in the 1980s, laws were changed and the “suits” came.
Until then, Directors of lending institutions used to be a crustily venerable lot and tended to be unqualified businessmen who strangely enough, were more entrepreneurial than the MBAs that are running the show these days. Typically, they were senior partners in Accountancy Companies, Estate Agencies or Solicitors. They were men in their 50s and 60s who were REAL businessmen who had created their own wealth.
That is where the seeds of destruction were planted – in the panelled boardrooms of provincial England. The Old met the New and were dazzled by the following: (perm any two from six) MBA, Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Degree, University.
The pipe-smoking unqualified old duffers were dazzled and seduced by the shiny new boys with MBAs and incomprehensible management jive talk. They all wanted one!
Once laws had been changed and the new boys were let loose, Building Societies issued chequebooks, Insurance Companies bought Estate Agents, banks bought Stockbroking firms, Insurance Companies introduced savings accounts dressed-up as life assurance (remember Unit-lined whole-of life policies?), Stockbrokers morphed into Investment Banks, Banks bought Estate Agents – in fact, everyone bought (and sold) Estate Agents.
Foreign banks arrived in the UK and began buying-up bits and pieces. It was all about Change through acquisition and the ugly phrases “client-bank optimisation” and “cross-selling” were born.
The price that the industry paid for all this change was an imperceptibly gradual loss of management control and increasingly lengthening reporting lines. That in turn, resulted in two things: A sudden growth in regulation (SIB, LAUTRO, FSA) and the emergence of dictatorial and “entrepreneurial” management.
It was in 80s USA that the cult of the “corporate entrepreneur” had been born and transplanted rather uncomfortably into the gut of the UK’s financial industry.
A corporate entrepreneur is a man who takes risks with other peoples’ money and is rewarded for his “entrepreneurship” through the medium of the profit-related bonus.
The Financial Services industry became a testosterone-fuelled orgy of Change, Acquisition, Growth and an accelerating race towards more and more profit. Several CEOs would not have looked out-of-place in a James Bond villain’s lair.
The charismatic, dictatorial Chief Executive with a Messiah complex had arrived. This type of individual was comfortable in the company of millionaires and billionaires and his word was always final.
Many real entrepreneurs took advantage and high-level CEO-administered Vanity Lending was born.
Thirty years of change have created a Financial Services Industry which has become a Frankenstein and our Government is keeping very busy patching it up here and there.
Currently, there is little else that can be done but thirty years of increasingly accelerating change may eventually need radical solutions and perhaps a return to the old ways. Simple products for what is essentially a simple process.
The Change Experiment has not been successful because current economics now owes more to the Chaos rather than the Keynes theory.
Is it time to go Back to the Future?
Today’s EU letter to Van Rompuy & Barroso
The letter reproduced below is signed by 11 European leaders. It is addressed to Herman van Rompuy and José Manuel Barroso, although the real audience is the entire European Union.
As I’ve pointed out before, in Euroland, there has been a noticeable increase in the use of a very strange new language . It has been used by European leaders during their various pronouncements over the last couple of years.
The rhetoric adopted by current Euroean Commissars is frighteningly similar to the Soviet-style nonsense spouted by dead-eyed Party apparatchiks of the 1960s. It is the empty “old-school” Party-designed exhortatory language of the now-extinct Soviet official.
In common with the good old Berlin Wall days, these pre-written Euro-statements appear to promise much but actually, say nothing.
It is a very long statement of the obvious and in keeping with EU tradition , there is overuse of the word “must” rather than the word “will”.
This looks very much like a preamble to many , many meetings but it is noticeable that neither Germany nor France has signed it.
Herman van Rompuy
President of the European Council
José Manuel Barroso
President of the European Commission
20 February 2012
A PLAN FOR GROWTH IN EUROPE
We meet in Brussels at a perilous moment for economies across Europe. Growth has stalled. Unemployment is rising. Citizens and businesses are facing their toughest conditions for years. As many of our major competitor economies grow steadily out of the gloom of the recent global crisis, financial market turbulence and the burden of debt renders the path to recovery in Europe much harder to climb.
Europe has many fundamental economic assets. But the crisis we are facing is also a crisis of growth. The efforts that each of us are taking to put our national finances on a sustainable footing are essential. Without them, we will not lay the foundations for strong and lasting economic recovery. But action is also needed to modernise our economies, build greater competitiveness and correct macroeconomic imbalances. We need to restore confidence, among citizens, businesses and financial markets, in Europe’s ability to grow strongly and sustainably in the future and to maintain its share of global prosperity.
We discussed these issues when we last met. It is right that we discuss them again. Building on the conclusions we have previously reached, it is now time to show leadership and take bold decisions which will deliver the results that our people are demanding. We welcome the steps being taken, nationally and at the European level, to address this challenge and look forward to agreeing further concrete steps at our next meeting, with action focused on eight clear priorities to strengthen growth.
First, we must bring the single market to its next stage of development, by reinforcing governance and raising standards of implementation. The Commission’s report to the June European Council should set out clear and detailed actions needed to enhance implementation and strengthen enforcement.
Action should start in the services sector. Services now account for almost four fifths of our economy and yet there is much that needs to be done to open up services markets on the scale that is needed. We must act with urgency, nationally and at the European level, to remove the restrictions that hinder access and competition and to raise standards of implementation and enforcement to achieve mutual recognition across the single market. We look forward to the Commission report on the outcome of sectoral performance checks and call on the Commission to fulfil its obligation under the services directive to report comprehensively on efforts to open up services markets and to make recommendations for additional measures, if necessary in legislation, to fulfil the internal market in services.
Second, we must step up our efforts to create a truly digital single market by 2015. The digital economy is expanding rapidly but cross-border trade remains low and creativity is stifled by a complex web of differing national copyright regimes. Action is needed at the EU level to provide businesses and consumers with the means and the confidence to trade on-line, by simplifying licensing, building an efficient framework for copyright, providing a secure and affordable system for cross-border on-line payments, establishing on-line dispute resolution mechanisms for cross-border on-line transactions and amending the EU framework for digital signatures. We should build on the recent proposals of the Commission, without reopening the e-commerce directive, to create a system that balances the interests of consumers, businesses and rights holders, and spurs innovation, creative activity and growth. We must also continue our efforts to build modern infrastructure to provide better broadband coverage and take-up and extend and promote e-government services to simplify the start up and running of businesses and aid the mobility of workers.
Third, we must deliver on our commitment to establish a genuine, efficient and effective internal market in energy by 2014. All member States should implement fully the Third Energy Package, swiftly and in recognition of agreed deadlines. Energy interconnection should be enhanced to help underpin security of supply. Urgent action is also needed, nationally and where appropriate collectively, to remove planning and regulatory barriers to investment in infrastructure to release the potential of the single market and support green growth and a low-emissions economy. We look forward to the Commission’s forthcoming communication on the functioning of the internal market, which should include an assessment of the degree of liberalisation and energy market opening in member States. We also commit to making concrete progress towards the development of a Single European Transport Area and establishing the Connecting Europe Facility.
Fourth, we must redouble our commitment to innovation by establishing the European Research Area, creating the best possible environment for entrepreneurs and innovators to commercialise their ideas and create jobs, and putting demand-led innovation at the heart of Europe’s research and development strategy. We must also act decisively to improve investment opportunities for innovative start-ups, fast-growing companies and small businesses, by creating an effective EU-wide venture capital regime which allows venture capital funds to operate on a pan-European basis, assessing a proposal for an EU venture capital scheme building on the EIF and other financial institutions in cooperation with national operators, and agreeing a new EU-wide programme, modelled on the Small Business Innovation Research scheme, to promote more effective use of pre-commercial public procurement to support innovative and high tech businesses. Reforms to create an effective and business-friendly system of intellectual property protection remain a very high priority.
Fifth, we need decisive action to deliver open global markets. This year we should conclude free trade agreements with India, Canada, countries of the Eastern neighbourhood and a number of ASEAN partners. We should also reinforce trade relations with countries in the southern neighbourhood. Fresh impetus should be given to trade negotiations with strategic partners such as Mercosur and Japan, with negotiations with Japan launched before the summer, provided there is progress on the scope and ambition of a free trade agreement. The deals that are currently on the table could add €90 billion to EU GDP.
But we must go further too. We need to inject political momentum into deepening economic integration with the US, examining all options including that of a free trade agreement; seek to deepen trade and investment relations with Russia, following its accession to the WTO; and launch a strategic consideration of our trade and investment relationship with China, with a view to strengthening our economic ties and reinforcing commitment to rules-based trade. Recognising the benefits that open markets bring, we should continue our efforts to strengthen the multilateral system, including through the Doha Development Agenda, strive for multilateral and plurilateral agreements in priority areas and sectors, and resist protectionism and seek greater market access for our businesses in third countries. Above all, we must reject the temptation to seek self-defeating protectionism in our trade relations.
Sixth, we need to sustain and make more ambitious our programme to reduce the burden of EU regulation. We welcome the commitments made by the institutions to reduce burdens on small businesses but urge further and faster progress across the EU institutions while maintaining the integrity of the single market and the Union’s wider objectives. We should assess the scope for ambitious new EU sectoral targets and agree new steps to bring tangible benefits to industry. We should also make a very clear and visible statement of our intention to support micro-enterprises and ask the Commission to present detailed proposals to achieve this, including possible amendments to existing legislation. We also ask the Commission to publish an annual statement identifying and explaining the total net cost to business of regulatory proposals issued in the preceding year.
Seventh, we must act nationally and, respecting national competences, collectively to promote well functioning labour markets which deliver employment opportunities and, crucially, promote higher levels of labour market participation among young people, women and older workers. Special attention should also be given to vulnerable groups that have been absent from the labour market for long periods. We should foster labour mobility to create a more integrated and open European labour market, for example by advancing the acquisition and preservation of supplementary pension rights for migrating workers, while respecting the role of the social partners. We should also take further action to reduce the number of regulated professions in Europe, through the introduction of a tough new proportionality test set out in legislation. In this context, we ask the Commission to convene without delay a new forum for the mutual evaluation of national practices to help identify and bring down unjustified regulatory barriers, examine alternatives to regulation which ensure high professional standards and assess the scope for further alignment of standards to facilitate mutual recognition of professional qualifications.
Finally, we must take steps to build a robust, dynamic and competitive financial services sector that creates jobs and provides vital support to citizens and businesses. Implicit guarantees to always rescue banks, which distort the single market, should be reduced. Banks, not taxpayers, should be responsible for bearing the costs of the risks they take. While pursuing a level playing field globally, we should commit irrevocably to international binding standards for capital, liquidity and leverage with no dilution, ensuring that EU legislation adheres to Basel 3 standards to ensure financial stability and meet the financing needs of our economies. Banks should be required to hold appropriate levels and forms of capital in line with international criteria, without discrimination between private and public equities. We also call for rigorous implementation of the G20 principles on banking sector remuneration in line with existing EU legislation.
Each of us recognises that the plan we propose requires leadership and tough political decisions. But the stakes are high and action in many of these areas is long overdue. With bold and effective action and strong political will we can recover Europe’s dynamism and put our economies back on the path to economic recovery. We urge you and the European Council to answer our peoples’ call for reform and to help restore their confidence in Europe’s ability to deliver strong and sustainable growth.
We are copying this letter to colleagues on the European Council.
David Cameron, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Mark Rutte, Prime Minister of the Netherlands
Mario Monti, Prime Minister of Italy
Andrus Ansip, Prime Minister of Estonia
Valdis Dombrovskis, Prime Minister of Latvia
Jyrki Katainen, Prime Minister of Finland
Enda Kenny, Taoiseach, Republic of Ireland
Petr Nečas, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic
Iveta Radičová, Prime Minister of Slovakia
Mariano Rajoy, Prime Minister of Spain
Fredrik Reinfeldt, Prime Minister of Sweden
Donald Tusk, Prime Minister of Poland
Greece and the Moneylenders
Today, there appears to be a general sigh of relief in Europe. Stock Markets are climbing , driven by a new banker confidence. Positive noises are beginning to emanate from Eurozone Ministers. They are all looking forward to the approval of the latest Greek bailout. Will Monday 20th February 2012 really be the first day of the rest of our Euro lives?
Is it all over? Are we now scaling a slightly easier cliff to the upper plateau of Euro-prosperity? Will disaffected and now disenfranchised Greek people stay indoors and patiently wait 10 or 15 years while their “Neu” European Masters make things better?
Even Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schauble who finally came came blinking into the daylight a few days ago, appears to have been temporarily muzzled.
Politics are an illusion. The difficulty is in discriminating between the headlines, the expected conclusion and the most likely outcomes.
Today, it looks as if all that Greece has to do is meet the conditions imposed by Germany, Holland and Finland for its latest bailout package to be approved. Furthermore, it also looks as if they may be able to manage to agree both the bond exchange programme as well as Greece’s debt reduction in one fell swoop.
That has been the real progress. During the last week, there was talk of a two-stage approval, beginning with the most important “victims” – the bankers and hedge fund managers being dealt-with first, followed by the Greek people. Most appear to be in agreement that both aspects can now be dealt with together.
However, Germany (one imagines with the full support of the government and Angela Merkel) continues to make those unpleasant macho Teutonic noises.
For instance, Steffen Kampeter the German Deputy Finance Minister: “This coming Monday, we will see whether Greece delivers or whether we will be forced to decide on another course of action, one that is not desired.”
Despite the posturing , the rhetoric and the barely-concealed German instinct to rule Europe, the 14.5 billion euro Greek bond redemption will take place on March 20th. It was always going to take place – whether the entire Greek bailout package was approved or not. Even if it meant the cap being passed round the Eurozone – and we’d probably even find the United States and others making a contribution. Not giving money to the hedge fund managers and bankers was never an issue.
The real issue and rather alarmingly, the one which appears to have become the least important to the Eurozone High Command is the welfare of the Greek people. The Euro rulers have already showed the world that they would be quite happy to destroy Greece if they decided that it was expedient to do so.
Eurozone ministers spooked themselves last week on hearing that Greece would miss its debt-reduction goals.
Last year, Greece’s debt was 160% of Gross Domestic Product. This year , after being told to butcher its economy, Greece will probably deliver a reduced debt run-rate (by 2020) of only 129% of GDP. That is quite an achievement – bearing in mind the collateral damage.
However, Euro Ministers are experiencing the vapours because the set target was 120% of GDP by 2020. So what is the answer? You’ve guessed it. More Austerity.
The other unsavoury aspect of the Greek situation is that in spite of the whole arrangement being presented as a process of great charity, profits are being made. Profits are being generated from Greece’s misery.
The first 110 billion bailout in May 2010 was charged at an average rate of 5% per annum. That’s 5 billion euros! Even that was unsustainable because just like the door-to-door moneylender, Greece would be forced to borrow more, just to repay the interest…..and so on. That rate has now been reduced to 4% per annum – but even so, it seems extortionate.
Euro moneylending is more Shylock than Mother Theresa – plus they do want their pound of flesh – unless of course, they are called Germany , Holland or Finland. They want several kilos of of the stuff.
What European Central Banks should do is simply return their ill-gotten Greek profits or at least direct them at Europe’s crisis programme. This should not be viewed as a profit opportunity.
Too many bankers and fund managers still view Greece only a profit centre.
In keeping with the Eurozone’s habit of creating rules “on the hoof”, there are discussions to fund an escrow account to guarantee that any bailout money goes to where Euroministers decide, thereby removing all management responsibility from Greece and its politicians.
There is one major issue which has not yet been ironed out – the Aladdin Solution – the “New Bonds for Old” proposal.
There are bondholders still resisting a debt-swap , so on February 21st 2012, Greece may be forced to legislate thus forcing those errant bondholders to accept a “new-for-old” arrangement.
What started a year ago as a simple bailout has now taken an unpleasant politico-bureaucratic aspect which becomes more and more complicated with time.
The Greek people are quite rightly embarrassed by the way that they have been portrayed in the word’s media but one thing which they should always remember is that in spite of the fact that all their Eurozone friends have convinced the world that they want to help Greece – they really only want to help themselves.
They are the greedy moneylenders gathering round a desperate family – having seen an excellent opportunity for profit.
I have a feeling that the happy ending will belong to Greece.
Greek party leaders seek deal as bankruptcy looms
By NICHOLAS PAPHITIS
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek party leaders on Tuesday will seek a long-delayed agreement on harsh cutbacks demanded to avoid looming bankruptcy, amid intense pressure from its bailout creditors to reach a deal, a general strike disrupting public services and thousands of protesters taking to the streets of Athens.
Heads of the three parties backing the interim government will confer with Prime Minister Lucas Papademos on new income cuts and job losses, which Greece’s eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund are demanding to keep the country’s vital rescue loans flowing.
A general strike against the impending cutbacks stopped train and ferry services nationwide, while many schools and banks were closed and state hospitals worked on skeleton staff.
Police said up to 14,000 people took part in two peaceful anti-austerity demonstrations in Athens. The separate marches were to converge on central Syntagma Square, outside Parliament, which has been the focus of demonstrations over the past two years of economic pain.
On Monday, Prime Minister Lucas Papademos’ government caved in to demands to cut civil service jobs, announcing 15,000 positions would go this year, out of a total 750,000. The decision breaks a major taboo, as state jobs had been protected for more than a century to prevent political purges by governments seeking to appoint their supporters.
Athens must placate its creditors to clinch a euro130 billion ($170 billion) bailout deal from the eurozone and the IMF and avoid a March default on its bond repayments.
Among the measures the EU and IMF are pressing Greece for is a cut in the euro750 ($979) minimum wage to help boost the country’s competitiveness. This reduction would have a knock-on effect in the private sector – because private companies also base their salaries on the minimum wage – and even unemployment benefits. Unions and employers’ federations alike have deplored the measure as unfair and unnecessary.
“It is clear that there is a lot of pressure being put on the country. A lot of pressure is being placed on the Greek people,” Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said during a break in talks with EU-IMF debt inspectors late Monday.
He called on coalition parties to work more closely together.
“To save Greece … will involve a huge social cost and sacrifices,” Venizelos said. “On the other hand, if the negotiations fail, bankruptcy will lead to even greater sacrifices.”
“No one is as strong as Hercules on his own to face the Lernaean Hydra,” a swamp monster in Greek mythology, he said. “We must all, together, fight this battle, without petty party motives and slick moves.”
A disorderly bankruptcy by Greece would likely lead to its exit from the eurozone, a situation that European officials have insisted is impossible because it would hurt other weak countries like Portugal.
But on Tuesday, the EU commissioner Neelie Kroes, in charge of the bloc’s digital policies, said Greece’s exit wouldn’t be a disaster.
Kroes told Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant that “It’s always said: if you let one nation go, or ask one to leave, the entire structure will collapse. But that is just not true.”
Greece has been kept solvent since May 2010 by payments from a euro110 billion ($145 billion) international rescue loan package. When it became clear the money would not be enough, a second bailout was decided last October.
As well as the austerity measures, the bailout also depends on separate talks with banks and other private bondholders to forgive euro100 billion ($131.6 billion) in Greek debt. The private investors have been locked in negotiations over swapping their current debt for a cash payment and new bonds worth 50 percent less than the original face value, with longer repayment terms and a lower interest rate.
Greek government officials say they expect private investors to take losses of an estimated 70 percent on the value of their bonds.
The EU-IMF bailout will also provide an estimated euro40 billion ($52 billion) to protect Greek banks from immediate collapse. Domestic lenders and pension funds hold some 34 percent of the country’s privately-owned debt.
However, the bailout has to be secured for the deal with private investors to go ahead as about euro30 billion from the bailout will be used as the cash payment in the bond swap deal.
Greece’s coalition party leaders held a first key meeting on the austerity measures on Sunday, and postponed a second round of talks by a day so Papademos could complete negotiations with EU-IMF debt inspectors that ended early Tuesday.
The leaders have already agreed to cut 2012 spending by 1.5 percent of gross domestic product – about euro3.3 billion ($4.3 billion) – improve competitiveness by slashing wages and non-wage costs, and re-capitalize banks without nationalizing them. But the details remain to be worked out.
Creditors are also demanding spending cuts in defense, health and social security.
European Commission spokesman Amadeu Altafaj Tardio said Monday that Greece was already “beyond the deadline” to end the talks.
Also Monday German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that “time is pressing,” and “something has to happen quickly.”
While Greece remains cut off from international bond markets – where it would have to pay interest of about 35 percent to sell 10-year issues – it maintains a market presence through regular short-term debt sales.
On Tuesday, the public debt management agency said Greek borrowing costs dropped slightly as the country raised euro812 million ($1.06 billion) in an auction of 26-week treasury bills. The coupon was 4.86 percent, compared to 4.90 percent in a similar auction last month, while the auction was 2.72 times oversubscribed.
Derek Gatopoulos in Athens and Gabriele Steinhauser in Brussels contributed to this report.
Quaintness pervades British Society – from our cute little village tea rooms, the genetically coded-in inferiority complex of the working classes, Barristers’ wigs to the way we run our Parliament and economy. We wear 21st century clothes which disguise 18th and 19th century thinking.
For instance, India has a Space programme, nuclear bombs and an industrial infrastructure which will leave our economy standing in a couple of years. Yet we still see ourselves as “England Sahib” and attempt to dispense Colonial munificence to the natives by insisting that they accept our charity. They are embarrassed, they don’t want it but we feel that they ought to accept the £200 million-odd per year.
Remember how we felt in 1974 ago when the mad Idi Amin of Uganda launched his “Bananas for Britain” campaign because he’d heard that we were starving ? Mind you, at the time, the UK was in a spot of bother. The oil crisis had sent the economy into freefall, unemployment was rising and industrial strife was worsening. (Sound familiar?).
The following Amin telegram was received in Whitehall:
“In the past months the people of Uganda have been following with sorrow the alarming economic crisis befalling on Britain. The sad fact is that it is the ordinary British citizen who is suffering most. I am today appealing to all the people of Uganda who have all along been traditional friends of the British people to come forward and help their former colonial masters. The people of Kigezi District donated one lorry load of vegetables and wheat – send an aircraft to collect this donation urgently before it goes bad .”
The politicians and Civil Servants both greeted the message with embarrassment and derision.
That is exactly how those millionaire and billionaire Indians feel about the “peanuts donations” (their words) that we keep forcing on them.
But that is the very essence of our collective quaintness. We are oblivious because in our minds, we are still “KING OF THE WORLD!” We appear to be oblivious to the fact that since 1845 (never mind 1945!), the world has changed.
We’re still like a maiden aunt handing a 5/- Postal Order to the nephew with an iPhone.
“But English is the world’s main-language” is the oft-repeated Mantra. Yes, because hundreds of years ago, we could sail boats. That meant that we could travel and steal lots from the natives! Then we’d force-feed them God but more importantly – we taught them the English Language.
We weren’t “quaint” in those days. We were thieving and murdering conquerors with attitude. We used to have balls!
Now we are like the wheezy old duffer draped over a worn-out leather club chair, who likes to reminisce about the “good old days” and when being British “meant something”.
Great Britain consists of 6,289 damp little islands in the North Sea – and only 803 of those have what can be loosely described as a coastline. The rest are rocks sticking out of the sea.
It used to be said that the sun never set on the British Empire – but IT DOES NOW and like a rheumy-eyed old-timer, we should wake up and smell the Earl Grey!
There is one word which we treasure above all other : “TRADITION”. Our mentality dictates thas as soon as we have done something once, it has to become “tradition”.
Everything from the Christmas Turkey to the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace are “tradition”.
Why is there a ribbon on every MPS coat-hook ? “It’s for his sword, Dumbo! It’s TRADITION!”
“We vote Labour in this house -it’s tradition !!”
“You have to drink 10 pints and then be violently sick because…………” You’ve guessed it!!
I am listening to three Royal Commentators being interviewed on the subject of the Queen’s Jubilee. A great demonstration of synchronised obsequiousness borne of our love of tradition. ” The Queen does not see herself as a celebrity, she is far more than that….did you see those new photos of her….she wasn’t just “Hollywood”…. she was….Majestic!!!”
The Brits absolutely worship the Royal family because……it’s TRADITION. It’s tradition personified.
No-one is suggesting that we should start , as the French did, by trashing the Royals. The French are almost as traditionally-minded as the Brits . That is why Monsieur le Président de la République is expected to behave like a king and why he lives in a palace.
Yet, the French have taken that important one step forward from tradition and appear more modern and sophisticated than the Brits. They are NOT quaint. They have struck the right balance between modernity and tradition.
Why do we feel so uncomfortable in Europe? Why do we come across as outsiders? Geography is often blamed. “We’re an island…that’s what it is. We’re British!!”
Geography is to blame but it is not physical Geography. It is our mental, attitudinal Geography.
“We’re BRITISH, for God’s sake!”
Yes – we are British but we continue to treat Britishness as a virtue whilst we sit passively as the world around us grows and changes.
The government is ruled by the Conservatives (yes, even when the Labour Party is running things). They (the Conservatives) are VERY traditional. They are the Establishment.
Her Majesty’s Labour Opposition (see what I did there?) is ruled by the unions who are more conservative than the Conservatives.
Even those vast expanses of white nylon shirt displayed by overweight union leaders have become “tradition”. Their antipathy to any government has become traditional and in its own way…..quaint.
We are all drowning in a sea of tradition and quaintness – but there’s a surprising answer.
The Liberal Democrats are the United Kingdom’s newest and least-traditional bunch of politicians. But traditionally , they are constantly squeezed from the Left as well as from the Right
Liberal Democrats do not make enough of their “Democratic” credentials because they prefer the more traditional (and quaint) “Liberal” – which actually doesn’t mean anything to the average voter.
Liberal has two sets of meanings: Progressive, forward-looking, reformist, radical, libertarian, free-thinking, modern.
The second set of definitions or synonyms is the one with which the Liberals have been traditionally associated: Tolerant, indulgent, unbiased, broad, disinterested, unopinionated.
However, they do have one great advantage. They are neither in the hands of the traditionally quaint Establishment nor the quaintly traditional Unions.
That’s where our answer could be. Not necessarily in the hands of the traditional Liberal-Democrats but maybe in a new fired-up Democratic-Liberal Party ?
The quaintness has to go.
Action points should be very much more than vague statements of unspecific intent. Proper action points should contain elements such as amount or time.
In addition, there has been a noticeable increase in the use of a very strange new language . It has been used by Eurozone leaders during their various pronouncements over the last (many) months.
The rhetoric adopted by current Eurozone Commissars is frighteningly similar to the Soviet-style nonsense spouted by dead-eyed Party apparatchiks of the 1960s. It is the empty “old-school” Party-designed exhortatory language of the minor government Soviet official.
In common with the good old Berlin Wall days, these pre-written Euro-statements appear to promise much but actually, say nothing. They have a smell about them. It is the smell of long-demolished East German Trade Mission offices – a mixture of damp buff-coloured pocket folders, dusty Party rubber stamps, wax floor polish, wet mops and lever-filled fountain pens.
Until very recently, apparatchik-speak was a dead language.
There is ONE significant word which appears to be “de rigeur” because it implies a level of forcefulness and “doing” which is designed to suggest imminent action.
So far, it has fooled most of the people – especially those who plunder the Stock Markets. They crave warm words.
The words are empty but they provide hope – just like the old Soviet insistence on increased wheat production quotas – last transmitted on Short Wave from Radio Moscow.
These are actual extracts from recent Eurozone communiqués and statements:
“Our action must be determined…”
“We must do more…”
“We must modernise our economies and strengthen our competitiveness … This is essential to create jobs and preserve our social models …”
“These efforts must be made in close cooperation with the social partners.”
“The March European Council must pay due attention…”
“EU legislation… must be rapidly and fully implemented…”
“National supervisors and the EBA must ensure that bank recapitalisation does not lead to deleveraging…”
This strange almost admonitory style, detached from any real analysis of the problems has a quaint nostalgia, which those of us who are used to modern management or political idiom do find both unsettling and hollow.
…and the band plays on.
Fred Goodwin in good company!!
Fred Goodwin has never been convicted of anything, he has not been censured by any regulator, yet the very obscure and to most of us, hitherto unknown Forfeiture Committee has recommended to the Queen that he be stripped of his knighthood. This committee (apparently) is non-political and consists of several high ranking civil servants as well as the head Treasury lawyer.
But what motivated this cruel and unusual punishment? Why exactly was Fred Goodwin stripped of his Knighthood?
In the absence of concrete reasons, it seems that Fred Goodwin was tenderised by the media, before being served up to the baying mob. A sacrificial lamb with our howling political leaders elbowing themselves to the front of the queue.
Deputy Conservative Chairman,Michael Fallon says, “Ministers don’t control the timings of the forfeiture committee, this is an entirely independent committee of civil servants.”
So why did these independent free spirits make the decision? What motivated them? Why wait THREE years?
We may well agree that Fred Goodwin is an odious little man who had been promoted to well above his personal level of incompetence but that is nothing unusual within the Financial Services Industry. He was merely one among the many.
He was Chief Executive of a huge bank which was chaired by Sir Tom McKillop – a chemist. Goodwin himself was no more than an accountant who was nowhere near ready to run an international bank. He was not a banker – yet at the time, EVERYONE had decided that he was as close to a banking deity as was possible.
The laughs in this financial farce are amplified by the names of some other Sir Knights who have been unfortunate enough to be stripped of their knighthoods: Robert Mugabe, Nicolae Ceaucescu and Benito Mussolini are just three. Then you add “Fred Goodwin” to the list and suddenly realise that it just doesn’t scan!
In December 2011, the Financial Services Authority produced a report into the RBS failure. There was one section which Fred Goodwin’s lawyers asked to be removed from that report.
It was the bit which criticised his lack of banking experience.
Here is the 450-page FSA report into the RBS collapse. If you scroll down to Page 223, you will see that it is The RBS Board which has been found to be lacking and NOT just Fred Goodwin: http://www.fsa.gov.uk/static/pubs/other/rbs.pdf
There is a very simple rule in management which always applies, especially to the Board of a company: ” If you hired the wrong man and he screwed up, it’s YOUR fault. If you hired the right man and he screwed up, it’s DEFINITELY your fault.”
It is the RBS Board of Directors which ought to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the dock and being stripped of honours. NOT their overpromoted hireling.
So why was Fred Goodwin stripped of his Knighthood?
Petty Political Revenge.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is one of the Euro leaders who appears to be slightly too relaxed about the fact that the Greek government has not yet finalised an agreement with creditors in respect of its Sovereign Debt. Now there is the rumour of a German Government memo indicating that Eurozone Banks are just about ready and able to cope with a Greek default. If that is the case then it would seem that the Greeks have been “played” while Euro reorganisation has been taking place behind their backs. The latest wheeze is the IMF expressing dissatisfaction about Greece’s progress in implementing those draconian austerity measures. That means that Greece’s next tranche of bailout money is nowhere near being agreed. It is now possible that even if Greece does capitulate and agree to everything that the IIF demands, it is still not guaranteed a bailout. Tempus Fugit.
It’s Different Attitudes……….
American father to his son: ” See that man son? That’s Stephen Hester. He’s Chief Executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland. That’s a VERY big bank and the British government hired Mr Hester to put things right after it was left in a bit of a mess. He’s very successful and if YOU study and work hard, perhaps one day you can be as successful and as well-known as Mr Hester.”
English father to his son: “See that man son? That’s Stephen Hester. He’s a fat greedy capitalist bastard who thinks he’s better than us. It’s hard-working people like me who pay his wages. We work and he just sits behind a big shiny desk and gets millions. Make sure that you don’t turn out like him.”
In defence of Stephen Hester!
RBS Chief Executive Stephen Hester has a very challenging job. He has to get to grips with the quagmire of accounting and organisational disorder bequeathed to the taxpayer by his predecessor Sir Fred Goodwin. So far, Stephen Hester does not appear to have put a foot wrong but in spite of that, he is fast becoming as much of a pariah as Fred the Shred.
Why is that?
At the highest levels of the Financial Services Industry, especially Banking, , there is a staggering shortage of REAL management talent.
In 2008, when the Labour government realised (too late ) that the entire industry was in trouble and that changes needed to be made at the highest level, the pool of talent on which the then Chancellor could call, was extremely limited.
Prior to taking over at RBS , Hester had been appointed non-executive deputy chairman of the newly-nationalised Northern Rock. He had been appointed by Chancellor Alistair Darling. Subsequently (in September 2008), he was asked to take a non-executive position on the board of Royal Bank of Scotland.
Throughout his tenure at Northern Rock and right up until November 2008, his “day job” was Chief Executive at British Land. However, the vast bulk of his career had been in banking – 19 years at Credit Suisse First Boston followed by three years as Chief Operating Officer at Abbey. His knowledge of banking and the debt markets was beyond question – although at the time , there was some question as to his political skills – which he would certainly need in his new RBS job.
His job was to turn around what has once been a bank with a share price of 700p, which , at the time of his accession, had tumbled to a mere 50p. That was in 2008 when the British Government bought about £45 billions’-worth of stock, giving it a 84% share of the bank.
The job which he was being asked to do was by far the most daunting and high-profile within the the broken banking industry.
In addition, both the politicians and regulators had begun the process of taking the focus off their own shortcomings and ineptitude by creating the Banker Bogeyman. The Fatcat. The incompetent Greedy Bastard who only cared about his bonus.
Unfortunately, even the white-hatted good guy saviours such as Hester were also tainted.
At no time did a politician stand up in his defence and point-out that Hester was a government hireling and was on their (our) side.
The Labour government of the 2000s, as well as the unfit-for-purpose Financial Services Authority had failed in their duty and had all but lost control of the banking industry. The bankers had involved themselves in products that not-only they but even the Bank of England did not understand. Chief Executives such as Fred Goodwin had begun to believe in their own infallibility and the government believed that the good days would roll-on forever.
This highly combustible scenario was overseen by a collection of Bank Directors who had developed lack of understanding and incompetence into an art-form. Most of them have been quietly retired when, in actual fact, many should have been prosecuted for not doing their job.
For those of you who may not understand, in the average bank boardroom, there is a culture of what can best be described as that of self-congratulatory Gentlemen’s Club Machismo . When a Chief Executive breezes into a Boardroom – especially a highly-technical accountant CEO such as Fred Goodwin, there are dangers. Not to him – but to the directors.
The director is expected to question him but he knows that he has no real idea of what the CEO talking about. The director also knows that the CEO could expose his total lack of knowledge to the other directors. There is an unspoken understanding: ” Try to f*** me over in front of the Board at your peril!”
Exactly the same applied (still applies) to the politicians.
Credit Derivative? The Zero Lag Stochastic Indicator? The Abnormal Earnings Valuation Model? What do they all mean? Best not to ask……………………..
So it was in this post-Lehman atmosphere of surprise, shock and ignorance that Stephen Hester was headhunted by Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown. Although details are not in the public domain, he (Hester) negotiated himself a legally-binding contract – and along with it, a remuneration agreement. (If any politician feels the urge not to honour that contract, one suspects that by the time the matter had been dealt with by the Courts, it would have been far cheaper to have maintained the status quo.)
In late 2008, the bankers had already “spooked” the politicians and obtained a total bailout of £450 billion. Because the politicians were still in shock, Hester would have been able to name his price – and who could blame him? He was on a shortlist of ONE.
Meanwhile, the politicians needed to take the pressure off themselves – so very soon a campaign was started. Its primary purpose? To vilify all bankers. The most visible aspect and most populist aspect to focus on was the “unacceptable level of remuneration” – and so the headlines and political bleating began.
The fact is that banks are NOT the Civil Service – they are constituted as companies which issue shares. We, the taxpayers are NOT shareholders.
A bank such as RBS is a shareholder-owned company but none of them have any legal right to demand when, how or what a Chief Executive is paid. That is between the CEO and his Board.
Shareholders can be as unhappy as they want to be but the best that they can do is to make their views known. A Bank Board is under no obligation to take any notice of moaning shareholders.
That, in fact is the only reason why senior politicians such as Cameron, Clegg and Cable can do nothing but whinge.
Finally, the government did not “bail out the bankers”. It bailed out the banks in order to ensure that you and I did not lose any money. Hopefully they also hired competent people to sort-out the mess and effectively, start again.
Stephen Hester is part of that renewal process. He is paid what appears to be an obscene amount of money primarily because of his technical know-how but also for his scarcity value.
Therefore it is most unfair for him to be referred-to as a “fat-cat” or any other derogatory label that we have been brainwashed into applying to all bankers.
Had he said on Day 1 : ” My fee to unravel this multi-billion pound mess will be £20 million. Take it or leave it,” the politicians would have snatched his arm off!
This year, he has received a bonus of £1 million and the political bandwagon is beginning to creak as they all jump on to criticise his “greed”. (The bandwagon is creaking particularly enthusiastically now that Boris Johnson has also joined the moaning political posse!!)
To add some perspective to the incredible complexity and scope of Hester’s task, you may be surprised to hear that the RBS annual legal “spend” is about £200 million!!
Stephen Hester deserves every single penny that he has managed to screw out of RBS and its carping political custodians.
Central Bankers – The Fifth Estate.
Nowadays, the bank to government to Central Bank and back to bank cross-border flows of money (both real and imaginary), the constant borrowing and re-borrowing , the bond auctions etc. appear to be behaving as if controlled by a separate, non-governmental , non-economic entity.
Sovereign bond auctions have now become a weekly sport, generating the sort of interest formerly reserved only for TV soap operas.
European banks gather around the European Central Bank like pigeons at feeding time.
Rather worryingly, this new pseudo-economic essence behaves as if it is more-or-less dislocated from what we call “the Global Economy”.
It is the Macro Banking System. The FIFTH ESTATE.**
It is behaving as a totally separate, self-perpetuating, high-level mutant economy which exists for its own sake and is presided over by senior bankers and financiers with politicians merely fetching and carrying.
One of the symptoms which we are currently witnessing is the demise of democratically-elected officials. Their status seems to be diminishing day-by-day, to the extent that their job is simply to row the boat according to the drumbeat set by very senior bankers – the New Rulers.
The very people who created this financial crisis four years ago have gradually created a brand-new debt-fuelled edifice which has become anchored both in the economy as well as in our collective psyche. We have come to see the Debt Mountain as our Saviour with Central Bankers in the role of its High Priests.
The concept has become so embedded, that we have grown to believe that only they (the High Priests) can save us.
This new entity appears divorced from the old-fashioned concepts of growth, production and distribution and now only needs sovereign economies to feed it occasionally.
This gradual power-shift has only occurred in the last year-or-so and so, imperceptibly, we have entered an age where politicians have finally become subservient to the bankers.
The jury is still out as to whether the development of this new ruling financial class is good or bad or even sinister. The Conspiracy Theorists have notions of Bilderbergers, a New World Order and all sorts of other conspiracies – I do NOT subscribe to that view.
Politicians have shown that they do not have the intellectual or technical capacities to deal with a multi-causal, multi-faceted, vastly complicated economic crisis, borne more out of greed-conceived chaos, rather than the usual rules of Keynesian economics.
We have to take a leaf out of the politicians’ book.
Heads bowed, we wait.
** First Estate – Clergy. Second Estate – Nobility. Third Estate – Commoners. Fourth Estate – the Press.
In January 2011, French President Nicolas Sarkozy proclaimed that by the end of the year, France was ready to implement a financial transactions tax (FTT) to help poor countries. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, also expressed her support.
Sarkozy promised: “My conviction has always been that the FTT is the best form of innovative financing…. France is prepared to implement innovative financing mechanisms even if other countries should choose not to join. Because there is a moment in time where you have to go from discourse to setting an example.”
But, surprisingly, no agreement has yet been reached.
It’s urgent that France and Germany take concrete action to drive this joint proposal forward and to ensure that the revenues will be used to help reach the Millennium Development Goals.
France’s and Germany’s generosity is to be admired and we should do all we can to encourage this initiative, especially in the wake of such momentous upheavals within the Eurozone.
One trusts that our Prime Minister takes the time to gently remind the French and the Germans of this more-than-generous gesture.
The petition is here: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/825/474/357/
Kim Jong Ill-judged?
Kim Jong Il’s death in North Korea will inevitably shift the focus of Western disdain to his son and president “elect”, Kim Jong Un. Here in the West, his PR will very soon become as colourfully sneering as that enjoyed by his dead father.
Through no fault of ours, we have never really understood either the dead dictator or his people but, the North Korean cult of uber hero-worship appears to be so infused into Korean Society as to look totally genuine.
To us, Kim Jong with his bouffant hair and pigeon posture was a comedy figure but to his people, he was a god. Did EVERYONE really love and revere him? Was he REALLY, like the Catholic Pope Ratz – an infallible near-deity?
We may well have mocked the small man with the big ego whose pronouncements were sacrosanct – but was he really any different to the Man from the Vatican with his pointy hat, red slippers and gold dresses? Was he any more ridiculous or ridiculed? Was he any less dangerous?
At least he didn’t claim to have a hotline to God or to perform miracles or accept the ramblings of the feeble-minded who believed that by simply being touched , they had been cured.
We would argue that you cannot fool ALL of the people ALL of the time but the fact remains that we do all need our heroes and the North Koreans’ hero was their leader.
Some may say that he was a “manufactured” hero – but doesn’t that apply to MOST heroes? Our own heroes are sportspeople and singers – in fact anyone who can have the word “celebrity” appended – no matter how tentatively.
Kim Jong was a political and spiritual celebrity. He gave his people focus.
OK, so he had bought into his own image and had travelled the well-worn celebrity route of believing his own publicity but so what?
Was the publicity of his making?
The sad fact is that he presided over a beaten-down, brainwashed nation where dissent results in Stalinist-type reprisals. The Gulag Culture is alive and well.
Perhaps the comparison with the Vatican was NOT altogether fair. After all , the Vatican does not have Nuclear weapons. North Korea is now a potentially unstable country with REAL weapons of mass destruction and the ability to deliver them. Even its neighbour China will be hoping that the North Korean Generals can return their country to comatose and malnourished stability as soon as possible.
There has always been some suspicion that Kim Jong Il’s personality cult was mere window dressing for a sinister totalitarian military administration – just as Iran’s Ahmandinejad is the fluff and window-dressing for spiritually malevolent turbaned puppet masters of his own.
Today, there was footage of North Koreans wailing in their “grief” for their lost leader. Two things were very striking – there were no real tears and every single frame contained at least two military people in uniform, apparently standing about to ensure acceptably adequate grief.
Here’s a fine example of Korean “sincero-grieving” as practiced by the Korean Central News Agency:
Pyongyang, December 19 (KCNA) — Leader Kim Jong Il, the great father of the Korean people, passed away too suddenly.
The DPRK is overcome with bitter sorrow at the demise of the father of the nation who had energetically worked day and night for prosperity of the socialist homeland and the happiness of people all his life.
Its army and people’s loyalty and sense of obligation to him are now growing higher than ever before.
They are resolutely rising up to change their sorrow into great strength and courage with the noble sense of moral obligation and immovable faith and will to hold Kim Jong Il in high esteem forever and glorify his feats for all ages.
The hearts of all servicepersons and people are replete with the pledge to hold in high esteem the great Kim Jong Il forever and make neither concession nor delay on the road of the Juche revolution, the Songun revolution true to his behests.
The Korean people have suffered the great loss but are decisively rising up as they have Kim Jong Un, great successor to the revolutionary cause of Juche and prominent leader of the party and the army and people of the DPRK who is standing in the van of the Korean revolution.
He is another great person produced by Korea who is identical to Kim Jong Il.
Quote Source: Korean Central News Agency: http://www.kcna.kp/goHome.do?lang=eng
The Merkozy Love-in.
This week sees yet another meeting of Eurozone leaders. On previous form, I would bet that the only outcome will be a series of half-measures and promises which will be primarily designed to reassure fund managers, investors and to placate the banks. The fate of the Euro will yet again, be postponed as millions of Europeans continue to stand in the fast-growing unemployment queue.
Theoretically, Euroleaders (or should I say Frau Merkel) will be deciding not-only the fate of the Euro but the fate of every economy in what used to be known as the “advanced industrial world”.
Austerity has become the new growth with the INEVITABLE result of ever-lengthening unemployment queues and increasingly turbulent currents of social unrest.
Received wisdom is that deficit reduction is more important than job creation through fiscal stimulus. The downside is that for countries which have already launched themselves on a deficit reduction programme, it is beginning to look as if there can never be quite enough deficit reduction because of rapidly decreasing tax revenue.
There will always be that no-man’s land between deficit reduction and fiscal stimulus. Not a single economy has arrived there yet.
However, what is even more worrying, is that there isn’t a single politician, banker or economist who can even begin to put a time frame on the process. Currently, it looks like an open-ended arrangement.
One thing that the average punter does NOT realise that there are initiatives and money movements within the banking system which he knows nothing about – unless of course, it is such a big move that the banking authorities decide that would be prudent to go public. Last week’s sudden announcement by central banks that they would “assist” European banks which needed US dollars was a case in point.
The coordinated move was so huge that the most likely cause was that one or two major European banks must have made THE phone-call to their own Treasury to say that they were about to go under. The U.S. Federal Reserve Bank, the European Central Bank, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan, the Swiss National Bank, and the Bank of Canada lowered their rates for borrowing dollars from each other by a 0.5 percentage point to “ease strains in financial markets.” (a meaningless phrase).
They went on: “At present, there is no need to offer liquidity in non-domestic currencies other than the U.S. dollar, but the central banks judge it prudent to make the necessary arrangements so that liquidity support operations could be put into place quickly should the need arise,”
Even China took steps to stimulate domestic demand by lowering its central bank interest rate.
Make no mistake – there was a crisis.
Every action so far by central banks and politicians has been a temporary fix. They are still trying to figure out the cure – if indeed there is one.
Last week, the central banks merely threw a rope for Eurobanks to cling onto – but that does NOT solve – or even begin to solve the still-spreading sovereign debt crisis.
This week, communiques are being written, meetings are being conducted and financial horse-trading is taking place as under-qualified politicians attempt to put together a package which, in one fell swoop should solve the global financial crisis.
The whole circus will culminate in a December 9th Brussels summit ( another one) during which the 17 Eurozone leaders will be joined by the 10 non-Euro-participants and a series of agreements will be promulgated.
The ONLY agreement that they really need to pull out of the hat is a “contract” to coordinate Eurozone fiscal policies.
Merkel’s dream of a Federal Europe will have taken its first faltering step.
So far , the Markets have tended to play ball with the floundering politicians but even those eternal optimists are fast running out of patience.
The latest rally has no legs because the current assumption is that somehow (for the first time ever), Eurozone leaders will provide a solution.
So, what is the likelihood of a TARP (Toxic Asset Relief Programme)? What is the likelihood of a coordinated programme to recapitalise ALL the banks? What is the likelihood of Germany changing its mind on ever-increasing austerity programmes which are driving weak Euro economies to Depression (these days, mere Stagnation seems like an attractive alternative – an aspiration!)
So far, the Eurointransigence has been destructive: Unemployment, demotivated and desperate countries, amplifying hardship, collapsed governments.
The evidence so far suggests that those believing that this week will provide the Miracle in Brussels will be disappointed.
The weeks events began with today’s meeting between Chancellor Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy – The Merkozy Meeting. The output was predictable with an early hint of further postponement.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called for “structural changes” after the keenly-watched meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris today. The two leaders said that they had agreed on a “comprehensive” agreement to be proposed on Friday at the summit. (What he meant was is that he had agreed with everything that Frau Merkel had proposed)
“This package shows that we are absolutely determined to keep the euro as a stable currency and as an important contributor to European stability,” said Merkel.
Among the proposals were that the European Court of Justice will have a say when countries break the legally established limit for public debt of 3% of GDP. Also, both leaders rejected the need for the joint issuance of European debt by member states, adding that socialising debt burdens is no solution. (Another Merkel victory).
Sarkozy has added that he expects all of the necessary negotiations to be finalised by March (no surprises there!) and that changes to the Treaty will be ratified in France, following the next national elections in March.
The pair indicated that it is yet to be seen if the changes will be adopted by all 27 European nations or simply the 17 Euro states.
Lastly, they also made it clear that it is their intention to continue working with the International Monetary Fund and to bring forward the implementation of the permanent rescue fund by a full year, to 2012.
Here in the United Kingdom, where politicians have recently voiced concerns on how EU treaty changes could affect Britain, Downing Street has said that there will be no referendum on the EU treaty changes.
A spokesman for Prime Minister said, “What is being talked about is a new set of rules for the Eurozone and how those countries that are members of the euro organise themselves on fiscal policy. There is no proposal on the table for a transfer of powers from the UK to Brussels. That is not what is being talked about…No-one has put that on the table and I don’t think it is likely to be on the table.”
At the end of the first day, it seems that we are about to be served-up yet another portion of bland European procrastination – but what an object lesson in Blatant Brinkmanship from the Germans!
World Markets Rally!!!!
A move to boost lending by six central banks including the Bank of England has triggered a rally on world markets.
The banks, also featuring the European Central Bank and US Federal Reserve, agreed to lower interest rates on US dollar loans, which should encourage lending and help to stave off another credit crunch.
The FTSE 100 Index surged as soon as the measure was announced, rising 3.3% or 176 points to 5513.
In the US, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up by a similar level in early trading, while the Dax in Germany rose 4% and the Cac-40 in France was 3% higher.
Before the announcement was made London’s leading shares index saw gains of up to 1%, amid hopes European leaders would make headway expanding the region’s bailout fund to help shore up confidence in the eurozone.
Banks led the charge despite some of the sector’s biggest UK players suffering a credit ratings downgrade from Standard & Poor’s.
Lloyds was ahead 7%, or 1.6p at 24.8p, Royal Bank of Scotland was 1.4p higher at 20.9p and Barclays rose 11p to 179.9p.
Miners also surged on the news, with South American copper miner Antofagasta topping the risers’ board, up 96p at 1180p.
Cairn Energy was the biggest faller after it reported more disappointing results from its exploration activities in Greenland. Cairn shares were 8.3p lower at 266.9p, a drop of 3%.
The Edinburgh-based firm said it had failed to find oil in two more wells, following the closure of three other wells earlier this year.
Copyright © 2011 The Press Association. All rights reserved.
United Kingdom and Miracle-Gro?
“Growth” is a word which is used far too rarely in all the messages and communiques which we have become accustomed to hearing emanate from the million-and-one Euromeetings.
Consequently, it is refreshing to see something (anything) written-down which indicates some intent from our own government.
On the face of it, a raid on Pension Funds (see below) does not look like a good plan and none of the goals (below) have dates attached to them. If they did have dates , we would probably realise that this is not a plan for an immediate growth-explosion but something which first needs to be created, drawn, discussed, re-discussed before the first spade is ever sunk into the ground. Neither is it an integrated plan – on the contrary, it can best be described as a series of disparate initiatives.
These projects will NOT make the country any richer, because they represent a “spend” rather than an “earn”, that is to say, they are not something which we can exchange for goods or cash with other countries. These are job-creation schemes which are often confused with proper growth.
Nevertheless, it’s a start. We have lift-off!
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, and the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, have announced a wide-ranging package of more than 140 reforms to build a stronger and more balanced economy. These measures include actions from the second phase of the Government’s Growth Review Phase II and the National Infrastructure Plan.
These measures are supported by an infrastructure package of £30 billion. This includes unlocking up to £20 billion of private investment through signing a Memorandum of Understanding with two groups of UK pension funds, an additional £5 billion of infrastructure spending in this Spending Review period, and commitments to £5 billion of capital projects in the next Spending Review period. In addition, the Government is supporting around a further £1 billion of investment by Network Rail.
To make the UK’s infrastructure fit for the 21st century, the Government has published its National Infrastructure Plan 2011. The plan sets out a critical analysis of the state of the UK’s infrastructure and sets out a pipeline of over 500 infrastructure projects. It commits to clear ambitions to address the key challenges in each major infrastructure sector – energy, transport, telecommunications, waste and water.
The key measures in the National Infrastructure Plan include:
- introducing a new approach to financing infrastructure, by leveraging £20 billion of private investment from pension funds;
- giving local authorities more flexibility to support major infrastructure by considering local borrowing to fund the Northern Line extension to Battersea, and exploring new sources of revenue, such as options for tolling on the A14.
- investing over £1 billion to tackle areas of congestion and improve the national road network, including £270 million for two new managed motorway schemes at congested times on the M3 and M6.
- investing more than £1.4 billion in railway infrastructure and commuter links, including £270 million for a rail link between Oxford and Bedford and £390 million on enhancement and renewal works to improve stations and infrastructure.
- investing £100 million to create up to ten ‘super-connected cities’ across the UK, with 80-100 megabits per second broadband and city-wide high-speed mobile coverage.
- The Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, will chair a new cabinet committee on infrastructure, to push through the delivery of the top 40 priority projects and programmes that are critical for growth.
The second phase of the Government’s Growth Review has been led jointly by HM Treasury and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). The Autumn Statement announces a set of further reforms building on this, including:
- creating a £20 billion National Loan Guarantee Scheme, to lower the cost of loans to small businesses, and a £1 billion Business Finance Partnership, which will lend to mid-sized businesses and small and medium sized businesses in the UK through non-bank channels.
- increasing the Regional Growth Fund by £1 billion to provide ongoing support to grow the private sector in areas currently dependent on the public sector.
- an extra £600 million to fund 100 additional Free Schools, and an additional £600 million to deliver an additional 40,000 school places.
- introducing a new build mortgage indemnity scheme which will help up to 100,000 families to buy their own home, and launching a new £400 million Get Britain Building investment fund to progress stalled developments.
- providing £45 million of support to UK firms wishing to export, doubling from 25,000 to 50,000 the number of SMEs supported, and making similar support available to 500 mid-sized businesses.
- making 100 per cent capital allowances available in six Enterprise Zones (Black Country, Humber, Liverpool, North Eastern, Sheffield, and Tees Valley).
- making available around £250 million from 2013 to support energy intensive industries manage the costs of electricity, including increasing the relief from the climate change levy on electricity for Climate Change Agreement participants to 90 per cent.
- an additional £200 million for science capital investment.
- investing £55m into the Strategic Rail Freight Network to help deliver schemes that remove bottlenecks and improve capability and longer term connectivity to the UK’s major ports.
- giving a bigger role to businesses in purchasing vocational training programmes. In the New Year employers will be invited to bid for a share of a new £250 million government fund. This will route public investment directly to employers.
- taking decisive action to remove barriers to hiring by making reforms to streamline employment law.
- investing £10 million over five years from 2013-14 in Project Enthuse, matched by investment from the Wellcome Trust, to improve the quality of science teaching in schools
- announcing how the Government will maximise the value of public sector data.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, said:
“We are committed to making Britain the best place to start, finance and grow a business. The measures I am announcing today will help us to achieve this by creating an environment in which businesses are easy to set up, have access to credit when they need it and are able to grow without being held back by red tape. This action supports our deficit reduction plan and the Government’s monetary activism as we build a balanced economy.”
Business Secretary, Vince Cable, said:
“These measures are an important element of the Government’s work to create the right conditions for business to start up, invest, grow and create jobs. They sit alongside our deficit reduction plan and work to increase the supply of credit.
“I attach particular importance to infrastructure and Government capital spending, including that on innovation and science, and the credit easing initiative. Speedy and effective implementation is now required, building on the major progress that has been made implementing phase one.”
The first phase of the Growth Review was published in March 2011. Work has started on all 137 commitments and substantial progress has been made. The Government has published an update on every single measure announced in The Plan for Growth.
Chancellor’s Autumn Statement – just the facts
“We will do whatever it takes to protect Britain from this debt storm” in Europe.
Office for Budget Responsibility does not predict a recession in UK.
OBR forecast: GDP growth estimated at 0.9% in 2011. 0.7% in 2012 (down from 2.5%).
Borrowing falling but not as fast as forecast.
OBR sees additional borrowing of £5bn in 2011/12, £20bn in 2012/13 and £30bn in 2013/14.
Public sector pay awards set at average of 1% increase after the pay freeze ends next Spring.
NHS and schools budgets protected.
Deal on public sector pensions is “fair”.
Basic state pension to rise by £5.30 next April. Pension credit also uprated by £5.30.
In 2026 – state pension age will rise to 67.
Benefits uprated by 5.2% next April.
Credit Easing to help small business – ceiling of £40bn. National Loan Guarantee Scheme to use country’s record low interest rate to ease interest rates charged to firms who borrow from banks.
Country’s low rate to benefit families too through mortgage indemnities. Will reinvigorate “right to buy” to also help construction sector.
Bank Levy rate to rise from January 1st.
National Infrastructure Plan to get Britain building to improve roads, bridges, rail, schools etc. It will be paid for through”British savings for British jobs.” £20bn to come from pension schemes.
£5bn of additional Government spending on infrastructure plan – 90% of homes will have access tosuper-fast broadband.
Regional Growth Fund for England to get extra £1bn.
£0.5bn for science projects.
Health & Safety red tape to be cut further for small firms.
Corporate tax rate to fall to 25%.
Business rates holiday extended until April 2013.
8.7% unemployment rate forecast for next year by OBR.
New Youth Contract to offer work experience and assistance getting into private sector to help ease youth unemployment.
Extra £1.2bn to schools with 100 extra ‘free schools’. Maths Free schools to help UK’s science industry.
Free nursery places for 40% of the country’s 2-year olds (260,000)
Planned 3p per litre fuel duty increase in January is cancelled. August’s planned increase to be reduced.
Rail fares capped at 1% higher than CPI inflation
EFSF Accounting Gymnastics.
Last night , Eurozone finance ministers (sort of) agreed a deal to increase the firepower of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF).
Unfortunately, this time it really IS a case of too little too late or perhaps, someone didn’t get his sums quite right. Some of the €440 which the EFSF has to play with has already been allocated to help Portugal and Ireland. There is also the small matter of the EFSF contribution to the next Greek bailout.
Nevertheless, it was agreed that the EFSF will guarantee 20 to 30% of the value of any bond issued by a Eurozone member, allowing the fund’s “assets” to be “leveraged”. That, in effect means that say, €1 billion of EFSF assets can underwrite about €3 billions’ worth of Eurobonds. A dangerous game – especially as the EFSF’s real apacity is so limited.
In reality the EFSF’s capacity might only be between €500 and €700 billion, which is not really even big enough to bailout Italy and Spain. Meanwhile, Greece will run out of cash in two weeks’ time and is already standing in the wings, hands out, awaiting its next €8 billion bailout.
Also embedded in the backdrop to all this accounting wizardry, is a secret Euro report which states that Italy will need to beef-up its austerity measures , otherwise it will soon become insolvent.
The ECB has its own issues, centering around its difficulty in securing support from banks in respect of balancing its sovereign bond purchases. Because banks are so unsure of what is going to hit them next, they wish to maintain liquidity. That means that they are no too keen on even depositing short-term money with the ECB.
When agreeing such initiatives, it is quite normal to “test the water” by soliciting the views of investors. Chris Frankel CFO and Deputy CEO of EFSF said ‘Following extensive discussions with investors covering all types and geographical regions, “a number of them” have given their positive views and signalled their willingness to participate.’
That simply means that institutions which are already government-underwritten will invest in lower-risk bonds as a result of centralised underwriting. Consequently, they will be willing (in theory) to accept lower bond yields.
All of the above is being promulgated as a “done deal” but others believe that the whole arrangement is far to complex and too difficult to understand. It certainly smacks of desperation.
What is really needed is a fund which can operate quickly and simply.
In spite of very strong opposition from Germany, it would seem that the only eventual way forward will be not-only for the ECB to start printing Euros. but to become European lender of last resort.
One thing is definite – the whole thing is hanging by a thread and just one more “Eurosurprise” would be devastating.
And the IMF? Another statement declared: “The 17 Euro Finance Ministers have agreed to work on boosting the resources of the IMF so it can “cooperate more closely” with the European Financial Stability Facility.” Make of that what you will.
One thing is for sure, everything MUST be done to boost the EFSF’s effectiveness and for the “stop-gap accords” to stop. So far, all the temporary “fixes” and retro-crisis-management have failed to protect Italy and Spain from surging bond yields and both Standard and Poors as well as increasingly cynical investors now have France in the crosshairs.
Today is a big day for the Eurozone.
The uncertainty is not helped by statements such as the one from EFSF Chief Executive Officer Klaus Regling who said “It is “impossible to give one number” for the total firepower of the EFSF because market conditions change over time.”
Or ECB President Mario Draghi saying that the ECB’s 18-month- old bond-buying program is “temporary and limited.”
In spite of all the meetings, organisational complexity and communiqués, there are still two vital ingredients missing – a coherent strategy and leadership with direction.
A Cunningly Disguised Bank Handout?
- £1 billion subsidy scheme to get young people jobs.
- Small Business Finance Scheme offering up to £1 billion of bank lending, guaranteed by the Government
- £1 billion guarantee facility to support bank lending to small exporters from the Export Credit Guarantee Department
- £50 million fund to convert businesses’ debt into equity
- £25 million regional loan transition fund to help businesses over the next six months.
BUT it’s not growth. It’s an allocation of money. Easy mistake.
(What about all the unemployed people who are over 24?)
Send for the taxpayer!
In those long-gone antediluvian years before electronic calculators, personal computers, Subway sandwiches, alcopops , female managers and the morning-after pill, there were dusty institutions with mahogany desks, huge ledgers, pound notes and dour-looking men in shiny suits with fountain pens in the breast pocket.
Those venerable institutions were called Building Societies.
They took money from their saving members and lent it to their borrowing members who wished to purchase a home. That’s what they did – and they did it all with real money. Leveraging (borrowing), Gearing (borrowing) and Bonds (borrowing) had not been invented – and if they had, it wasn’t the sort of thing that they needed (or wanted) to know about. Life was simple plus there was the bonus of a typing pool full of straight-backed sexy young typists whose drumbeat was set by the old crone at the front!
Here’s how money was lent and how they managed to lend MORE than the 70% maximum that Banks are currently lending. In those days, banks weren’t even allowed to lend for house purchase (just washing machines and refrigerators).
The mortgage underwriter (in those days, they he was called the mortgage “assistant” ) would decide on whether the “basic” maximum loan that the Building Society was willing to lend was 70% or 75%. Simple! (In very extreme cases – for instance, for properties which were only standing because the woodworm were holding hands – the maximum could be as low as 65% of the valuation).
However, there were MANY occasions when a borrowing member would be granted a mortgage of 90 or even 95%.
“How did they manage that?” I hear you ask.
Let us say that the borrower wanted to buy a nice big five-bedroomed house for £10,000 but could only find a 10% deposit. That meant that the Building Society needed to lend him £9000 (90% of the valuation).
The valuer would recommend a basic loan of say 75% which was £7,500. If the Building Society wanted to lend the borrower the full £9000, it would lend – but only after arranging a form of insurance for the difference – in this example £1,500. In this way, the risky top-part of the mortgage was insured by the Building Society.
So, if the mortgage went wrong, the insurance company would stump up any shortfall if the Building Society needed to dispose of the property in a forced sale.
It used to be called the Insurance Guarantee or I.G.
Why all this rheumy-eyed nostalgia?
David Cameron has just announced a new scheme in which banks will be able to lend more than they are comfortable with – and presumably, borrowers will be able to borrow more than they are comfortable with.
The risky top-part of the mortgage will be insured but, in keeping with modern ways, it will be the taxpayer (who else)? and not an Insurance Guarantee company who will accept the risk.
( I wonder who is advising Cameron these days? I bet he has a couple of fountain pens in the breast pocket)
Virgin on the Ridiculous.
“Bend over, George”
A huge slice of the financial services industry is under taxpayer control – or so we all thought. The truth is that a phrase such as “owned by the taxpayer” is a nonsesnse. “
“Bailed-out with taxpayer cash” is the only truth.
The Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Bank, as well as Bradford and Bingley have been bailed-out using taxpayer money but in truth, there is nothing that we, the taxpayers can do , even if the Treasury decides to sell all of the the taxpayer bank holdings to say, Poundstretcher – for a pound.
The Eurozone is about to go “pop” so it must be a good idea for the government to take steps to remove the taxpayer from what promises to be a bloodbath and to put all the bailed-out banks back into private hands – at the same time remembering that demutualisation and placing bank ownership into private hands is what caused the problem in the first place.
The Chancellors USP appears to be that the sale of the good part of Northern Rock to the Virgin Group will inject much needed new competition into the banking sector.
No it won’t.
If Branson has any sense (which he undoubtedly has), the new Virgin Bank will be tarted-up and floated within a few years. No matter what Branson does, the fact remains that “the taxpayer” has been royally screwed to the tune of of up to £700 million. Once again, an example of professionals negotiating with politicians and Civil Servants.
As far as “injecting competition into the High Street” is concerned – that is no more than a tacit admission by the government of its failure to control the banks during their 20-year gorge-fest. Even now, banks continue to profit while economies “tank” and they do it with taxpayer money PLUS a government guarantee! The classic “We win, you lose because we cannot lose” scenario.
The remaining piece of Northern Rock – the quaintly-named Northern Rock Asset Management (NRAM) is still “owned” by the taxpayer. The pattern is as follows:
The Treasury gives away the profit-making bits and is forced to keep the remaining dross, ultimately taking yet another “hit”. Companies such as NRAM, Bradford and Bingley with their very poor mortgage books will deteriorate and become moribund as a result of their customers’ increasing unemployment and the consequent accelerating mortgage delinquencies. A classic “lose lose” situation.
Here’s something to spell out to all governments: There is no such thing as a profitable exit from taxpayer-funded government interventions in the financial sector. (As the Eurozone is beginning to find out.)
Politicians don’t “do” profit. Otherwise they wouldn’t be politicians. Ask Gordon Brown and his gold sale.
The Chancellor is patting himself on the back that (subject to FSA approval) he has managed to extract £747 from Virgin and that, in addition, he appears to have been paid 90% of the book value of Northern Rock (the bank’s assets minus its debts). Once the ink has dried on the contract, just watch Virgin Money revalue those assets – if they haven’t done so already!!
There are supposed to be a few additional payments to the government from Virgin. For instance – another £50 million by the middle of 2012 and a similar amount if the company is sold-on within five years. Best keep an eye on that!
Northern Rock used to be a great Newcastle-based Building Society – so it is a great shame to see yet another former fat northern lass stripped and screwed in such an undignified way.
Not-0nly has the Government lost at least £400 million on the deal (that’s in less than three years) but the mortgage delinquencies within the remaining piece of our former Geordie Giant will ensure further mega-losses for the hapless taxpayer.
No doubt, the government will soon want to do some more “businessing”.
For instance, our 83% stake in RBS plus our 40% stake in Lloyds add up to a cool £40 billion.
(Lloyds is currently the MOST likely bank to experience something akin to the 2007 run on the Northern Rock – especially as it is increasingly reliant on the rapidly seizing-up wholesale money markets. Its share price has dropped by over 15% in the fortnight since its CEO, Horta-Osório took stress-related sick leave. One to watch closely!).
It is only a matter of time before the Chancellor will appear on our screens to tell us that his sale of RBS and Lloyds at a £20 billion loss was a “good deal” for the taxpayer.
The Band Plays on………and on………
Markets are continuing to gyrate quite wildly and it will not be long before they finally wake up and pluck up the courage to realise that the nth solution to the Sovereign Debt crisis is not going to work any better than the (n-1)th solution or even the (n+1)th attempt next week. Greece is still bogged-down in a political and fiscal mess – in fact EVERY SINGLE DAY it is sinking further into the mire. Italy and its change of main players is also becoming unhinged, while everyone else in Europe is keeping their head well below the parapet, cringing in horror at the thought of having to produce increasing amounts of bailout money which DOES NOT EXIST. Countries such as the United Kingdom take scant comfort from changes in growth and forecasts measured in no more than a few basis points. Meanwhile bankers are bracing themselves for the tidal wave of “sell” orders which are about to swamp their offices. Suddenly the Christmas Holiday seems such a long way away.
Politicians and economists are hailing the apparent fact that the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) has fallen to 5.0% for the year ending October 2011. However what many (including politicians) do NOT understand is that this type of result can be caused by one of TWO factors.
It may well mean that prices have decreased from the previous month but by the same token, it can also mean that prices may have spiked in October 2010, giving an apparent October decrease one year later. So, rather than percentages, let us have a look at the ACTUAL CPI figures for September and October.
The CPI was fixed at 100 in 2005. That simply means that a basket of prices was manipulated to produce an easy starting point. So, for instance, if the basket of prices added up to say £510.20, that figure would have been divided by £510.20 and multiplied by 100. This “factor” is then applied to all future baskets of prices.
In September 2010, the CPI was 114.9 and in the next month (October 2010, it was 115.2)
In September 2011, the CPI was 120.9 and in the next month (October 2011, it was 121.0)
So, you can see that between September 2011 and October 2011, the CPI is continuing its upward trend, although the month on month annualised percentage figure tells a completely different story.
PRICES ARE ON THE INCREASE ALTHOUGH THE GOVERNMENT IS PATTING ITSELF ON THE BACK AS IF SOMETHING HAD BEEN ACHIEVED!!!!!!!!!!
These are the figures which the government uses: CLICK HERE (and the government’s own (ONS) figures will appear in a pdf format. Look in the Right-Hand Column).
The moves by both Greece and Italy towards a Technocratic -style government are both reassuring and frightening. The increased complexity of global economics has really exposed elected politicians as being incapable of making the right decisions, except at the most superficial level. The worrying thing is that Austerity Economics has become a modern Mantra and so has come to be viewed as a modern divine truth. In fact, Stimulus Politics is what is needed. Currently, the cure is killing the patient. The United Kingdom experience is an excellent example of a policy which clearly demonstrates that austerity measures gradually KILL economic growth but that political dogma always wins out. Greece has been an extreme example where austerity has done little more than accelerate economic collapse. Italy has followed and now French austerity economics are set to cause even more economic havoc.
Gaddafi dead? Or Alive?
We don’t need any more sanctimoniously hypocritical nonsense about whether or not Gaddafi was “murdered in cold blood” or whatever….
Admittedly, because Gaddafi was not taken alive, the legal profession has missed-out on yet another Lawyer Bonanza – this one would have lasted YEARS. So perhaps a gunshot to the head was the best way to have dealt with old Muammar.
The fact is that when, on August 24th 2011, a Benghazi businessman offered a reward of £1 million for Gaddafi “dead or alive”, there was little chance of the Old Dictator ever having an Idi Amin-type retirement in Saudi.
I remember thinking at the time of the reward announcement, that it was a tad undignified and not very statesmanlike of Mustafa Abdel Jalil, Chairman of the National Transition Council of Libya, to endorse the reward for Gaddafi’s head. Especially as Jalil used to be Libya’s Minister of Justice.
Mind you, Jalil had been the very first senior Libyan politician to resign from Gaddafi’s gang (February 2011). That resulted in The Gaddafi regime offering a bounty of $400,000, for his capture.
Two days before supporting the “dead or alive” approach to Gaddafi, Jalil had said that people must “not take justice into their own hands”. He had also said that he hoped the dictator would be “captured alive.”
THAT will be Jalil’s big problem – how to prevent Libyan citizens from taking justice into their own hands.
Most will be pretty neutral on the “Democracy – no Democracy issue”. What they really want are the trappings of Western-style affluence.
So, once the big guns have been unbolted from the Toyota pickups and the AK47s handed-in and all 150 Libyan tribes decided to live in harmony – all will be well.
Otherwise, there will be a quite sudden slide into Iraq-type chaos as fundamentalists in oversized vests start going “boom” in crowded places.
(Looks as if Libya is about to receive its very first lesson in Western-style Democracy. The United Nations Human Rights office has called for an “full investigation” into Gaddafi’s death. Their very first Inquiry! Witnesses, statements, cross-examinations……..not a bad consolation prize for the Lawyers!)
José Manuel Durão Barroso is a very able, bright and distinguished politician. He is the lawyer-economist who is President of the European Commission.
His speech of 12 October 2011 to the European Council was going to tell the world what was going to be done about an issue which for the past two years, even during Middle Eastern revolutions, earthquakes and hurricanes , has consistently been one of the TOP THREE news items: The European Economic Crisis.
During that time, politicians, economists and bankers have adopted a strange general, non-specific tone, laced with metaphor and euphemism and we have all become seduced by this new trick of being told nothing, yet imagining that we have been told everything.
Last week, I analysed Bank of England Governor Mervyn King’s latest statement and found that true to form, it was flooded with generalisations and platitudes with a sprinkling of occasional metaphor.
Mr Fact has become a stranger and fear appears to have driven away the the art of realistic economic ambition and goal-setting.
Most of us have come across the goal-setting model S.M.A.R.T.
A goal has to be structured as follows. It has to be SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, AGREED, REALISTIC and TIME-BASED.
So, if a politician says that “something will be done as soon as possible”, it fails on all counts. However, if a politician says (and the figures do not matter!):
” It has been agreed with all members of the Eurozone as well as the IMF and the ECU that the European Central Bank will hand-over $250 billion to the Greek Government on November 1st 2011 with an additional $50 billion on March 31st 2012″, then we have a definite statement of intent – a goal.
If a Chancellor said “The Austerity programme is NOT an open-ended precaution. On January 1st 2013, the VAT rate will be reduced to a zero rate until the end of the First Quarter 2014 and every viable SME with a turnover of less than £100,000 will be given a grant of £20,000” would also be a goal.
“Boosting Capital”, “Rebuilding Balance Sheets”, “Banks have to lend more” etc. are further examples of empty non-goal-based rhetoric.
The text of Mr Barroso’s speech is reproduced below. I have highlighted certain phrases.
Brussels, 12 October 2011
Presidency in office of the Council,
The European Council of 23 October will be held against a backdrop of urgency over the threat of systemic crisis now unfolding. There are many issues on the European agenda. The Minister of the Polish Presidency mentioned most of them. I will not of course go into detail of the many important challenges, from the conference in Durban to very important external items. I will today focus on the urgent response needed to the financial and economic crisis.
To break the vicious cycle of uncertainty over sovereign debt sustainability and over growth prospects, we need comprehensive solutions now.
In my State of the Union address to this Parliament two weeks ago I promised responses. Today we are delivering. I can announce that the Commission has just adopted a roadmap to stability and growth. And we have set out concrete terms and timelines to implement it. You are the first to whom I communicate the main elements of this roadmap. I am sending to the President of the European Parliament the document that we have first adopted some time ago.
Over the last three years, the European Union has come out with specific responses to different aspects of the crisis. Now is the time to bring them all together. To once and for all meet the depth of the crisis with a full comprehensive and credible response.
The elements in this roadmap are interdependent. They must be implemented simultaneously. They must be implemented immediately. This is the only way that the European Union can convincingly:
- Give a decisive clear response to the problems of Greece;
- Enhance the euro area’s backstops against the crisis;
- Make a coordinated effort to strengthen the banking system including through recapitalisation;
- Frontload stability and growth-enhancing policies and;
- Build a more robust and integrated economic governance.These are the five points of the roadmap I put before this House today and that I will take to the European Council on October 23rd as a coherent and comprehensive plan for Europe that embodies a Community approach.
Here is how.
First, on Greece, we need a decisive solution. Doubts and uncertainties over Greece’s future jeopardise stability in the entire euro area and beyond. The time has come to definitively remove these doubts. This means three immediate and sustained actions:
- paying the sixth tranche of the loans to Greece. The result of the Troika mission has sent a positive signal in this respect;
- deciding a sustainable solution for Greece within the euro area. This should be through an effective second adjustment programme, based on adequate financing through public and private sector involvement, backed up with robust implementation and monitoring mechanisms;
- We also understand that Greece must fully carry out its programme in a timely manner, with continued support from the Commission’s Task Force and maximised disbursement of structural funds focused on growth.
But there is a more general problem in the euro area.
Despite the assurances given by Heads of State or Government on 21 July to support countries under programmes, and despite their assurances that private sector involvement would be strictly limited to Greece, contagion risks have not been contained. To decisively put a stop to this threat that is hampering all our efforts, we must strengthen the euro’s firewalls. We must have credible, stronger instruments.
At the European Council I will strongly urge Heads of State and Government of the euro area to complete and complement the measures they agreed on 21st July.
This is crucial to give a much-needed injection of confidence to market participants.
It means making operational the agreements taken to increase the flexibility and effectiveness of the EFSF and the future ESM, to allow for precautionary programmes based on conditionality, on which the Commission and ECB should be consulted in advance. Stronger monitoring and surveillance could be included as part of the Stability and Growth Pact.
But, the EFSF must be more than just a firewall.
It should have real firepower. We should maximise its capacity.
And, to further cement the expression of unity and responsibility inherent in these crisis resolution mechanisms, we must accelerate the adoption and entry into force of the permanent ESM – preferably to mid-2012.
We must trust that the European Central Bank will continue to provide the background of financial stability necessary for all this to be done.
The strengthened and more flexible EFSF is in the interest of all euro countries, including the Slovak people. Our common currency plays a crucial role in investment decisions, in growth, in jobs, all over Europe. I commend those in Slovakia who have risen above partisan attitudes and voted in favour of what is important for all Slovak citizens, for the euro area and for the European Union as a whole. And I call upon all parties in the Slovak Parliament to rise above the positioning of short term politics, and seize the next opportunity to ensure a swift adoption of the new agreement.
The third element of the roadmap is the need for a coordinated approach to strengthen the banking system. Let us be clear – over the last three years huge efforts have been deployed to this end. Billions of euros in aid and guarantees. An overhaul of banking supervision. Boosting capital requirements and protecting citizens’ deposits.
However, all this has not yet been sufficient to lift the weight of uncertainty hanging over the banking system, or to halt the volatility and pressure on the European banks. While these doubts persist and spread, sufficient confidence cannot be restored to allow liquidity to flow again and to oil the growth that our economies so badly need. For confidence to return we need to fix the sovereign debt problem, which can only be done through a coherent package.
We must therefore urgently strengthen the banks, because in fact those two issues – the sovereign contagion and the banks are now, whether we like it or not linked. This must be coordinated through the Member States, the European Banking Authority, the ECB and the Commission. The strategy should comprise 5 key steps:
- It should include all potentially systemic banks identified by the European Banking Authority across all Member States;
- It should take account of all sovereign debt exposure in full transparency;
- It should involve a temporarily higher capital ratio after accounting for exposure;
- Banks that do not have the required capital should present and then implement plans to have it in place as swiftly as possible. And until they have done so, they should be prevented from paying out dividends and bonuses by the national supervisors.
- Banks should use private sources of capital first. If necessary the national government should provide support as a next step, as a last resort, drawing on a loan granted from the EFSF. Any public support should be compatible with the state aid rules. The Commission intends to extend the existing state aid framework for bank support beyond the end of 2011.
Naturally, details on capital ratios and evaluation methods should be proposed by the EBA with national supervisors, who are best placed to judge on this.
At the same time, the ongoing work on a new financial regulation system should be completed as swiftly as possible. To that end, the Commission will present its remaining proposals to implement the full G20 commitments by the end of this year. We also urge rapid adoption of the Financial Transaction Tax I presented to you two weeks ago.
The fourth element is to frontload policies that consolidate stability and boost growth.
We all know that most Member States do not have much room for fiscal stimulus. Those who have should use it. However, all Member States do have at their disposal means to implement structural reforms, to focus spending on priority areas, and to remove obstacles to growth.
As I said to you in my State of the Union address, growth is within our reach if we can break down the barriers that stop money, services and people flowing through our Union as they should.
This means first – getting more out of what has already been agreed at the – European level.
I am talking about implementing for instance the services directive, delivering on the digital agenda. I’m talking about maximising our trade agreements.
These are measures we can take today, that don’t require significant additional investments or budgetary effort, but that can have immediate and significant benefit for our companies, for our citizens, for our economy.
This means second – accelerating adoption of what is on the table. There are many proposals on the table that we can fast-track for adoption. I am talking about unitary patent protection. I am talking about the energy savings directive. I am talking about concluding ongoing trade agreements.
And it means third – fast-tracking the most urgent growth-boosting proposals. I am talking about the Single Market Act, about forthcoming proposals to facilitate access to venture capital because today there is a lack of venture capital in Europe and this is especially felt by SME’s. I am talking about the Young Opportunities initiative to increase youth employment.
And where agreement on fast-tracking proves difficult, we should be able to use enhanced cooperation so that those who want to move forward are not held back. Frankly dear members of the Parliament it is time to say that the speed of the European Union should not be the speed always of its slowest member. We need sometimes to use reinforced cooperation.
All this should be done in conjunction with targeted investment at European Union level, such as through the Europe 2020 Agenda where we propose also our Project Bond Initiative, the Commission will propose it next week, and will maximise the resources of the European Investment Bank so that it can lend to the real economy.
So reforms, implementation of everything we have agreed and also try to fund some of these efforts through new sources of investment using the appropriate instruments we have and some we can create like the Project Bonds.
The fifth and final element of the Commission’s proposed roadmap to stability and growth is the pursuit of sound economic policies by the Member States, especially of the euro area, reinforced by stronger Community governance.
We now have the six pack– and I thank you for your support in getting the ambitious proposals approved. We have the European Semester and all that it entails in strengthening governance. But we must go further to match the ambitions of our monetary policy with those of our economic policies. As we have said we have to complement the monetary union with a real economic union. The future of the single currency also depends upon it.
In its roadmap, the Commission is proposing a much stronger euro-area dimension in planning, implementing and assessing national policies. This dimension is backed up by strict constraints enforceable at the Euro-area level and is based on an enhancement of the Community approach, which will reinforce the role of the European Parliament in economic governance. We will further reinforce the role of the Commissioner for economic and monetary affairs in full respect of the Treaty.
There are other actions we can take very quickly, without change in the Treaty:
- We must improve working methods and crisis management between the European Commission, the European Council and the Eurogroup. Proposals to this end will be made soon, in line with the agreements of 21 July, by the President of the Council, Commission President and President of the Eurogroup and the aim is to have a more streamlined process between the Euro area summit, the Eurogroup and the Euro area working group.
- Second, we should streamline and reinforce the instruments we have. Not only by rapidly implementing the six-pack, but also by strengthening the European Semester by intensifying surveillance and integrating the Euro Plus Pact into the Semester – hence reinforcing the Community method in the Union.
- And we must also go further than the measures set out in the six-pack, by setting out provisions for strengthening the economic and budgetary surveillance of Euro area Member States requesting or receiving financial assistance from the EFSF, ESM, or other institutions. The Commission will make a proposal to the Council and the European Parliament under Article 136.
- We must monitor the national budgetary policies of Member States in excessive deficit procedure or countries under programmes through a Commission-Council procedure which will enable the European Union to intervene. For example, in serious cases it could request a second reading of draft budgets, to suggest amendments in the course of the year and to monitor budgetary execution. The Commission will make a proposal to the Council and the European Parliament under Article 136 setting out the graduated steps and conditions that should apply in such cases. You see, honourable members, that we are really speaking seriously when we mention we urge for more discipline, more integration. It means more Europe that, I think, should be the goal of all of us.
- All this is in addition to the proposals on a more unified external representation for the Euro area and options for ‘stability bonds’ the Commission will bring forward by the end of this year.
One final point on governance – In the State of the Union address I said the Commission would present a single, coherent framework for better economic governance based on the Community method. We are developing that right now.
The proposal will ensure the compatibility between the euro area and the Union as a whole. It will be done in a way that aims to integrate the Euro Plus Pact because coordination and integration must be carried out on a single, Community level. How can we speak about coordination and integration in a disintegrated manner. It is obvious that we need a Community approach to do that. Yes, we need stronger governance. Yes, we need the Euro area heads of government to meet more frequently. But no, we do not need to create yet more institutions or yet more titles, when we already have the structures in place to do the job.
It is essential that we do not create a division between the 17 members of the euro area and the 27 members of the European Union – most of whom wish to join the euro. Such a division could deeply harm the European Union as a whole, put in question the Single Market, be an invitation for renationalisation of Community policies. That is why we need to have stronger governance for the countries that are in the euro area, but have it in full compatibility with the rules and the acquis for the European Union as a whole. This is why it is essential to keep the Community institutions – this European Parliament, the European Commission – at the core of the process of coordination and integration.
The role of these institutions is also to guarantee this link, to guarantee that no Member State is jeopardised, to guarantee that Europe remains strong and united.
The solutions to Europe’s crisis, I believe, are known by most of us. But to grasp them requires courage and political will. To do so is to fully acknowledge our interdependence and to take a bold leap towards further integration. The problem of Europe is not too much integration. It is in fact a lack of a European approach. Such changes to the nature of our Union may need to be enshrined in changes to the Treaty. Changes that must keep the Community method at their core.
But one thing is for sure – as the crisis narrows in on us, I see no other option but to act now, so the fact that we are considering for the future more ambitious changes should not be an excuse not to adopt the decisions now and this is why we need to act together in a unified and coherent way.
This crisis is not partial. The response cannot be partial. Our responses cannot be piecemeal. That is why this roadmap is a single, comprehensive approach and all its elements must be implemented in parallel.
This is the message I intend to take to the European Council on 23rd October and for which I would like to have your support – the support for a united and stronger Union.
Thank you for your attention.
You know when an organisation, government or even a collection of governments is in trouble. The directors, senior management – the leaders – instead of thinking strategically, concern themselves with day-to-day issues.
Some call it Crisis Management.
That’s exactly the zone in which Eurozone politicians are currently operating.
I share the frustration of many others who have been watching the painfully slow process that Eurozone leaders have embarked upon in respect of the terrible and complex financial mess which currently envelopes Europe. In spite of their rank, it would seem that many high-level politicians are incapable of reaching decisions within an appropriate time-scale. Hence the sudden appearance of the ” kicking the can along the road“, ” into the long grass” and the other modern economic metaphors.
We are all frustrated.
The decision-making processes at National and pan-National level are based on the depersonalised mechanistic value system of bureaucracy-based thinking.
However, we live in a very turbulent environment in which many activities – especially those affecting economies have become both differentiated as well as interdependent. In addition, there has been a subtle change in organisational values which have become more based on humanistic-democratic ideals.
Political decision-making is now lagging behind and, under the guise of “democracy”, refuses to become more adaptive and integrated in order to meet the rapidly changing economic and political environments which, from now on, will remain in a constant state of flux.
To put it simply – by the time politicians have provided a solution to a problem, they have been overtaken by the next issue which makes their initial solution redundant.
Decision-making groups should be thinking along organic rather than mechanical lines and leadership and influence should fall to those who seem most able to solve the problems rather than to pre-programmed role expectations – especially those tainted by various flavours of political dogma.
We need adaptive temporary systems of diverse specialists, co-ordinated through say, non-political civil service link-pins to replace the current theory and practice of political bureaucracy.
Imagine, say our current economic issues being solved by individuals who are differentiated not according to rank or role but according to skills.
Certainly NOT politicians.
Currently, the same politicians who decide how often our bins are emptied or the number of hospital beds, are the same ones who make multi-billion economic decisions.
So, hopefully someone somewhere will have the will and the strength to realise that our present decision-making processes at “Macro (international) level” are outdated and ineffective.
The future is with more “Organic-adaptive” structures.
In addition, a combination of centralised and decentralised control mechanisms needs to be adopted – control mechanisms which recognise that , for instance, the various Euro states are significantly different from each other and therefore require different methods of both management and control.
Half-hearted attempts at control such as the largely discredited occasional bank stress-tests or toothless financial “authorities” are just that – cosmetic attempts.
The solution to the flaky political decision-making process is not intellectual – it is organisational.
Might as well make it £200 billion, Merv .
Below is the statement issued yesterday by the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee. It defies comment because it runs out of facts after Line 2 of the first paragraph.
Paragraph 2 is no more that the usual retrospective “No shit, Sherlock” statement which has become the Bank of England’s trademark.
Within the statement, I have highlighted the words which give a clear indication of the overall wishy-washy tone which Mervyn King and the Monetary Policy Committee have made their own.
The £75 billion which is being pumped into the system is more-or-less an arbitrary figure and purely cosmetic – because it was deemed time for someone to take action.
Why Quantitative Easing? Because this is the only item remaining in the monetary toolbox.
Politicians and Central Bankers are out of ideas. This latest initiative is the Bank of England’s own version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey.
An increasing number of individuals who understand the mechanics of the global economic system agree that we are rapidly approaching a time when governments should simply guarantee bank customers’ deposits and allow certain banks to finally fail and introduce a more direct form of QE to stimulate production and encourage consumers to consume.
Attempts to stimulate an economy by filtering cash into moribund banks merely pushes the recovery horizon further into the distance.
MPC STATEMENT 6TH OCTOBER 2011:
The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee today voted to maintain the official Bank Rate paid on commercial bank reserves at 0.5%. The Committee also voted to increase the size of its asset purchase programme, financed by the issuance of central bank reserves, by £75 billion to a total of £275 billion.
The pace of global expansion has slackened, especially in the United Kingdom’s main export markets. Vulnerabilities associated with the indebtedness of some euro-area sovereigns and banks have resulted in severe strains in bank funding markets and financial markets more generally. These tensions in the world economy threaten the UK recovery.
In the United Kingdom, the path of output has been affected by a number of temporary factors, but the available indicators suggest that the underlying rate of growth has also moderated. The squeeze on households’ real incomes and the fiscal consolidation are likely to continue to weigh on domestic spending, while the strains in bank funding markets may also inhibit the availability of credit to consumers and businesses. While the stimulatory monetary stance and the present level of sterling should help to support demand, the weaker outlook for, and the increased downside risks to, output growth mean that the margin of slack in the economy is likely to be greater and more persistent than previously expected.
CPI inflation rose to 4.5% in August. The present elevated rate of inflation primarily reflects the increase in the standard rate of VAT in January and the impact of higher energy and import prices. Inflation is likely to rise to above 5% in the next month or so, boosted by already announced increases in utility prices. But measures of domestically generated inflation remain contained and inflation is likely to fall back sharply next year as the influence of the factors temporarily raising inflation diminishes and downward pressure from unemployment and spare capacity persists.
The deterioration in the outlook has made it more likely that inflation will undershoot the 2% target in the medium term. In the light of that shift in the balance of risks, and in order to keep inflation on track to meet the target over the medium term, the Committee judged that it was necessary to inject further monetary stimulus into the economy. The Committee therefore voted to increase the size of its asset purchase programme, financed by the issuance of central bank reserves, by £75 billion to a total of £275 billion. The Committee also voted to maintain Bank Rate at 0.5%. The Committee expects the announced programme of asset purchases to take four months to complete. The scale of the programme will be kept under review.
THIS is yesterday’s letter from the Governor of the Bank of England to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Perhaps the letter-writing ceremony, together with ribbons on MPs’ coathooks into which they can hang their swords, ought to be consigned to the poubelle of history!
This statement about the British: ” Crap food but such LOVELY manners” should be rewritten: “Crap economic policy but such LOVELY letters and statements”
Cameron’s Speech – the Tevez Way!
Yesterday, during David Cameron’s Speech to the Conservative conference, I took off my microphone and left it in front of the radio . Unfortunately, I forgot to switch-off the mic.
The mic was still connected to my voice-recognition software which as some of you may know, is tuned just for my voice.
Below is the result. The scary thing is that it makes perfect sense – with a twist of Tevez (and Stanley Unwin).
I have not included the whole speech ( for health reasons!)
This week’s Liz Barclay at show discipline the unity and that is that is a lot of classy. I’m proud of my team and I are members and gradually the art but most of all I’m proud to you made this week the success that I believe it. Then run on it and run people have very clear instructions. The site of this economic is a way that is fair and right as you don’t please build something worth while for us and our children. Clear instructions clear objectives and really a clear understanding that any times is leadership and to get are probably get our society works at Hay.
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I will never pretend there are shortcuts to success. Success will come with the right idea right to write leadership. Leadership job to set the direction was taken and the choices you must make but you should also do for the end that will read another success of our politicians. Or double if the people and the spirit of some people say that to succeed in this world we need an eye on the approach I will still I say to you by us the real us hard-working high end and yet optimistic carried out as a spirited and I’m thinking it’s a small country that does read it while boasting a successful history.
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Everyone wants to build it, but are working on taking responsibility will be well rewarded and Solaris project the pessimism that rebel group is this some energy at right I’d better get your rock country rate in Britain. It wasn’t so it will we should do it is the right as you it was that so many people actually written could do something like that and any of your fellow passengers the economic future of social and political system our best days are behind is where I’ll certain.
I’m here to tell you at Sydney is true because they said around and hope the best the rest will need a spot in a cell with raw network society and our children which will give ourselves we can get these things at black corrected us states that fronting best interest they’ll likely as well and you put in thethat’s desirable at a meeting in Manchester the threat to the world the following and written is as serious as in 2008 when world recession the Eurozone is in crisis threat even people finds the normally require.
You were this time it’s not like people to know that the good times so long in coming the answer it’s straightforward about this was in session the things will work with you to get the clear understood into recession.
Greece and the Deutschebond
Hopefully, Europe is NOT relying on yesterday’s conference call between Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy and Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreou.
Lets not beat around the bush. The Greek government lied in order to gain entry to the Eurozone. It did it with the connivance of Goldman Sachs who were paid $190 million for their trouble. CLICK HERE.
Euro auditors ought to be in Athens performing Due Diligence in order to make sure that the numbers stack-up and more importantly, that Athens really is making progress and reducing its budget deficit.
The days of “My word is my Bond” are over.
Greece is an economic Basket Case which will be a drag on the Eurozone economy for ever. Historians will also know that Greece tends to make a habit of going bust and defaulting.
The destructive influence of Greece is now causing rifts within Europe and there is now a very real danger of the German government disintegrating.
Finally, empty pronouncements by senior European officials which are designed to manipulate Stock Market prices MUST stop.
The ONLY morsel of common sense was delivered yesterday by Guido Westerwelle, Germany’s Foreign Minister. He said: “….we believe you can’t fight debt in Europe by making it easier to take up debt.”
We all know that economic GROWTH is the answer. That’s something that Greece will not be capable of for years – if ever.
I pointed out a few days ago that it seemed as if there was an orchestrated effort by politicians and bankers to put-out weekly or bi-weekly “Statements of Intent” — purely in order to placate the Markets as well as to postpone the inevitable collapse of the Euro. That means NOT actually doing anything but promising to do something, sometime in the future. It’s the new “Weapon of Choice” for politicians whose ideas have run out.
THIS week is shaping up as a very special example of this comparatively new phenomenon.
Today, the Markets have responded well to yet more wind and wee from a politician. So whose turn was it THIS time?
None other than European Commission President himself – Jose Manuel Barroso!
Let’s have a close look at what he said and maybe ascertain whether his statement actually contains any “doing” words.
He said that he will put forward moves to tackle the Eurozone crisis. “Put forward”? “Moves”? What moves?
He will urge the Eurozone countries to issue joint bonds. “Urge”? “Joint Bonds”? How will he “Urge”?
Unsurprisingly, Italian Finace Minister Giulio Tremonti supports Eurobonds. Italy is vastly over-borrowed – to the extent that its attempt to borrow even more from China was given very short shrift by the Chinese – even though the Italians were offering security.
The fact that George Soros (no less) has backed the concept of Eurobonds was weaved into the equation. Ancient George’s ONLY motivation is to save Uncle Sam – not Greece or Italy.
The main player in the Eurofarce , Germany, is NOT even remotely interested in the Eurobond because, effectively, it with be the “Deutschebond”. German Charity.
Barosso wants a United States of Europe. Pure and Simple.
He went on:
“I want to confirm that the Commission will soon present options for the introduction of Eurobonds.” Soon? How “soon”, Jose? “Options”? WTF?
Jose does NOT give up easily: “Some of these could be implemented within the terms of the current treaty, and others would require treaty changes.” “Treaty changes“, Jose?
That’s lots of meetings and could take years. That might just keep the markets interested!
He really declared his hand when he said that “the measure” on its own was not enough to solve the Eurozone debt crisis. (What “measure”, Jose? So far,we’ve only heard Eurobullshit)
He said Europe needed a “Federalist Moment” to rescue it. He argued that the solution to the crisis would have to involve the “Community method” which presumably, like the Rhythm Method involves someone being screwed. For instance: the Taxpayer and the Investor?!
( Isn’t it amazing how few NUMBERS there are in a statement about fiscal deficits?)
Dans la merde or in der Scheiße?
I just have a look at the European stock markets and on the surface everything appears to be quite normal.
The banks are doing especially well!
Today’s showing in the markets is the most clear indicator so far, as to the utter confusion generated by the intransigence and incompetence of senior politicians.
Today President Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Chancellor Angela Merkel are involved in pointless discussions with Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou. Why pointless? Because they probably all began their telephone conference chat with this afternoon’s communique already written.
Chancellor Merkel has expressed the schizophrenic views of the Eurozone. She has stated that the Eurozone will not allow Greece to default but on the other hand Greece will not secure access to the next 8 billion euro bailout unless new budget cuts are made.
Greece will be running out of cash in about three weeks.
Everyone, understandably, is beginning to feel frustrated and impotent at the pace of the so-called rescue package.
If the Eurozone is serious about the Greek bailout, the cash should be handed over today. That more than anything will placate the markets which must by now be feeling as if they’re on a bad acid trip. The current situation is certainly a candidate for the old 1960s hippie slogan ‘Stamp out reality’.
In reality though, the politicians will wish to leave all options on the table rather than make a move which could be catastrophic. The fact is that whichever move they make, there is bound to be either a national catastrophe or a pan-European catastrophe. More likely both.
That in turn will generate an American catastrophe ; the U.S has been teetering on the edge for many months.
There is only so much time that we can all just stand staring into the abyss.
Currently we are all keeping an eye on Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve, because we fully expect them to start printing money at any minute.
In fact we should be looking at the French because it cannot be too long before they make a similar decision – and they will probably ink their printing presses well ahead of the Americans.
If the French go ahead and print money in order to provide a cushion for the French banks against a Greek default and the Greek default overhead anyway, it will be the equivalent of them having unnecessarily dumped billions of euros.
Unfortunately, that’s the ONLY plan which the French government has.
Today, the United Kingdom has announced another 80,000 unemployed between May and July. That is NOT the sign of an economy in recovery. THAT is the sign of an economy still in recession. The official unemployment figure in now in excess of 2.5 million. In fact, the actual number has probably been in excess of 3 million for quite a while.
In recent months there has been a bit of Schadenfreude-induced gloating from the United Kingdom’s senior politicians and commentators in respect of the Eurozone’s woes. That will stop very soon – as our meagre exports dry up because no-one in Europe has the cash to pay for them.
It is not just the Eurozone which is crumbling, it is EUROPE.
It is NOT just the European Economic Class System which is going to be everyone’s downfall. It is NOT because the “HAVES” dictating to the “HAVE-NOTS”.
On a macro level, the vast socio-economic differences within the Eurozone do no more than reflect socio-economic differences within individual states.
They tried an experiment whereby the poor (countries) were expected to compete with the rich and as we should all know by now, this type of “Faux cross-border Socialism” can never work.
There can always be “liberté” and “fraternité” between such disparate states but there can never ever be anything even vaguely resembling “égalité” between the rich and the poor.
In the Eurozone, some are definitely more “égal” than others.
Currently, the more equal are terrified that the less equal will take them down.
(Personally, I believe that Greece will be allowed to default. Glad I kept those Drachmas!)
The Greek Entry.
Last week I predicted that it was Sarkozy’s turn to deliver yet another mealy-mouthed statement. Looks as if it’s this afternoon!
The question is CAN he save the French Banks whilst convincing an increasingly cynical public and sceptical markets that it’s all about saving Greece?
Money Market Funds have been selling French Bank Shares for about a year, during which time they have reduced their holding in French banks by about 50%.
After Sarkozy (or Angela Merkel) tells us that Greece is “doing the right things” or that ” it is making good progress“, it will be interesting to see what the markets make of it all.
The MOST likely outcome of today’s meeting between Sarkozy, Merkel and Greek Premier Papandreou is a statement indicating that Greece needs more time.
The Euro and the Eurozone both need time – another commodity which is fast disappearing.
Today’s summit has an interesting sub-plot. Rating agency Moody’s has just downgraded France’s two major banks. Credit Agricole has been busted down from Aa1 to Aa2 and Société Générale from Aa2 to Aa3.
Once again, this has come as both a surprise and relief to the experts because the downgrades were “not as bad as expected“. It seems that these days, NOTHING is as expected.
For politicians and most economists, these are indeed The Days of Mystery!
The seriousness of not-only the Greek but the entire Eurozone situation is exemplified by the fact that The US treasury secretary, Tim Geithner, will be attending Friday’s meeting of EU finance ministers.
Even the Americans can see that Greece is the No1 domino!
The hard fact is that Greece ought never have been allowed to join the Euro. It was a predictable accident waiting to happen.
As many politicians will attest – especially those who attended boarding school, the “Greek Entry” was always going to be painful.
After three years, the scales have fallen from our eyes and finally, the light has flooded in. It has been long time coming but suddenly – an Epiphany!
The politicians, bankers, economists and even the Central Bank astrologers have absolutely NO IDEA as to how to deal with the gradually building waves of a massive economic crisis which is about to sweep the world. They’ve been gambling that random fiscal and economic measures would somehow provide a solution and make everything well again!
Money has been printed and distributed, bonds have been issued, promises have been made, false political visions have been shared and yet the self-amplifying problem continues to self-amplify.
Some of us finally realised that the Eurozone had run out of ideas when the German authorities temporarily banned “naked short selling” of Eurobonds. The action had absolutely NO effect. However, it did demonstrate that the politicians (who initially blamed the bankers for the pit of shit that they had help to create) were now turning a rheumy eye on everyone’s new bête noire – the SPECULATORS!
Bankers were greedy bastards with large bonuses but now it was the turn of the “casino-banking” speculators. Spit!
In any crisis, it is always a good idea to look for the root or initial cause. In the case of the Euro and the Eurozone it was an ill-conceived plan which , without tighter integration of fiscal policies between states was doomed to failure.
Make no mistake, the increasingly pathetic bleating of the French and Germans in respect of the looming Greek collapse and default has absolutely NOTHING to do with Greece.
It is all about their joint delusive attempt to prevent the inevitable collapse of their banks – which are holding billions in Greek IOUs. Nothing at all to do with Franco-German altruism.
As the French and Germans intertwine, hug each other and panic, their assault on the “speculators” and the markets , although understandable is also ironic. Why? Because eventually, the Western-European begging bowl will be waved at the markets and the “speculators” – in the vain hope that they will lend the impoverished Eurozone BILLIONS so that the sacred Euro cow can be reprieved.
Biting the hand that could feed you is never a good plan but currently, the markets are dealing with increasingly desperate politicians who have painted themselves into a Euro corner with absolutely NO way out.
Euro and Western economies in general are in debt – both in the public and private sectors. Several countries are bankrupt.
The only REAL solution is GROWTH which unfortunately is NOT achieved by insisting that the weakest economies attempt to restore growth through the unusual and meritless medium of The Austerity Plan.
Austerity gains you a lot of points with the rating agencies, makes it easier for you to borrow more but in the long-term, it is NOT a sustainable strategy – as we in the West are ALL about to discover. Overborrowing is what caused the problem in the first place.
The economic affliction is the mire of public and private sector debt and uncompetitiveness into which the weaker economies of southern Europe have sunk.
The cure should be to create an atmosphere for economic growth.
Unfortunately, the generally accepted (unproved but imposed) speculation is to force broken countries to try and balance their budgets and restore economic growth whilst slashing expenditure and demotivating taxpayers through increased unemployment, inflation and the resultant decimation of tax-revenues.
It will NOT be long before the inevitable wake-up call is heard!
Casino economics does not work.
Wondering where real decisions are made? This is a list of attendees at this year’s Bilderberg Conference.
The conference is held annually with about 140 participants. This year the conference was on 11th June at the Suvretta hotel in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
If you scroll down the list, you will see familiar names. The Great Britain delegates’ list is particularly interesting. George Osborne was an attendee for a few years before he became Chancellor.
The list is incomplete because certain delegates requested anonymity.
· Coene, Luc, Governor, National Bank of Belgium
· Davignon, Etienne, Minister of State
· Leysen, Thomas, Chairman, Umicore
· Fu, Ying, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs
· Huang, Yiping, Professor of Economics, China Center for Economic Research, Peking University
· Eldrup, Anders, CEO, DONG Energy
· Federspiel, Ulrik, Vice President, Global Affairs, Haldor Topsøe A/S
· Schütze, Peter, Member of the Executive Management, Nordea Bank AB
· Ackermann, Josef, Chairman of the Management Board, Deutsche Bank
· Enders, Thomas, CEO, Airbus SAS
· Löscher, Peter, President and CEO, Siemens AG
· Nass, Matthias, Chief International Correspondent, Die Zeit
· Steinbrück, Peer, Member of the Bundestag; Former Minister of Finance
· Apunen, Matti, Director, Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA
· Johansson, Ole, Chairman, Confederation of the Finnish Industries EK
· Ollila, Jorma, Chairman, Royal Dutch Shell
· Pentikäinen, Mikael, Publisher and Senior Editor-in-Chief, Helsingin Sanomat
· Baverez, Nicolas, Partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
· Bazire, Nicolas, Managing Director, Groupe Arnault /LVMH
· Castries, Henri de, Chairman and CEO, AXA
· Lévy, Maurice, Chairman and CEO, Publicis Groupe S.A.
· Montbrial, Thierry de, President, French Institute for International Relations
· Roy, Olivier, Professor of Social and Political Theory, EUI
· Agius, Marcus, Chairman, Barclays PLC
· Flint, Douglas J., Group Chairman, HSBC Holdings
· Kerr, John, Member, House of Lords; Deputy Chairman, Royal Dutch Shell
· Lambert, Richard, Independent Non-Executive Director, Ernst & Young
· Mandelson, Peter, Member, House of Lords; Chairman, Global Counsel
· Micklethwait, John, Editor-in-Chief, The Economist
· Osborne, George, Chancellor of the Exchequer
· Stewart, Rory, Member of Parliament
· Taylor, J. Martin, Chairman, Syngenta International AG
· David, George A., Chairman, Coca-Cola H.B.C. S.A.
· Hardouvelis, Gikas A., Chief Economist, Eurobank EFG
· Papaconstantinou, George, Minister of Finance
· Tsoukalis, Loukas, President, ELIAMEP Grisons
· Almunia, Joaquín, Vice President, European Commission
· Daele, Frans van, Chief of Staff to the President of the European Council
· Kroes, Neelie, Vice President, European Commission
· Lamy, Pascal, Director General, World Trade Organization
· Rompuy, Herman van, President, European Council
· Sheeran, Josette, Executive Director, United Nations World Food Programme
· Solana Madariaga, Javier, President, ESADE
· Trichet, Jean-Claude, President, European Central Bank
· Zoellick, Robert B., President, The World Bank Group
· Gallagher, Paul, Senior Counsel; Former Attorney General
· McDowell, Michael, Senior Counsel, Law Library; Former Dep. P.M
· Sutherland, Peter D., Chairman, Goldman Sachs International
· Bernabè, Franco, CEO, Telecom Italia SpA
· Elkann, John, Chairman, Fiat S.p.A.
· Monti, Mario, President, Univers Commerciale Luigi Bocconi
· Scaroni, Paolo, CEO, Eni S.p.A.
· Tremonti, Giulio, Minister of Economy and Finance
· Carney, Mark J., Governor, Bank of Canada
· Clark, Edmund, President and CEO, TD Bank Financial Group
· McKenna, Frank, Deputy Chair, TD Bank Financial Group
· Orbinksi, James, Professor of Medicine and Political Science, University of Toronto
· Prichard, J. Robert S., Chair, Torys LLP
· Reisman, Heather, Chair and CEO, Brookings Institution
· Bolland, Marc J., Chief Executive, Marks and Spencer Group plc
· Chavannes, Marc E., Political Columnist,Professor of Journalism
· Halberstadt, Victor, Professor of Economics, Leiden University
· H.M. the Queen of the Netherlands
· Rosenthal, Uri, Minister of Foreign Affairs
· Winter, Jaap W., Partner, De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek
· Myklebust, Egil, Former Chairman of the Board of Directors SAS
· H.R.H. Crown Prince Haakon of Norway
· Ottersen, Ole Petter, Rector, University of Oslo
· Solberg, Erna, Leader of the Conservative Party
· Bronner, Oscar, CEO and Publisher, Standard Medien AG
· Faymann, Werner, Federal Chancellor
· Rothensteiner, Walter, Chairman of the Board, Raiffeisen Zentralbank
· Scholten, Rudolf,Board of Executive Directors, Oesterreichische Kontrollbank AG
· Balsemão, Francisco Pinto, Chairman and CEO, IMPRESA, S.G.P.S.
· Ferreira Alves, Clara, CEO, Claref LDA; writer
· Nogueira Leite, António, Member of the Board, José de Mello Investimentos
· Mordashov, Alexey A., CEO, Severstal Schweden
· Bildt, Carl, Minister of Foreign Affairs
· Björling, Ewa, Minister for Trade
· Wallenberg, Jacob, Chairman, Investor AB
· Brabeck-Letmathe, Peter, Chairman, Nestlé S.A.
· Groth, Hans, Senior Director, Healthcare Policy & Market Access, Pfizer
· Janom Steiner, Barbara, Head of the Department of Justice
· Kudelski, André, Chairman and CEO, Kudelski Group SA
· Leuthard, Doris, Federal Councillor
· Schmid, Martin, President, Government of the Canton Grisons
· Schweiger, Rolf, Ständerat
· Soiron, Rolf, Chairman of the Board, Holcim Ltd., Lonza Ltd.
· Vasella, Daniel L., Chairman, Novartis AG
· Witmer, Jürg, Chairman, Givaudan SA and Clariant AG
· Cebrián, Juan Luis, CEO, PRISA
· Cospedal, María Dolores de, Secretary General, Partido Popular
· León Gross, Bernardino, Secretary General of the Spanish Presidency
· Nin Génova, Juan María, President and CEO, La Caixa
· H.M. Queen Sofia of Spain
· Ciliv, Süreyya, CEO, Turkcell Iletisim Hizmetleri A.S.
· Gülek Domac, Tayyibe, Former Minister of State
· Koç, Mustafa V., Chairman, Koç Holding A.S.
· Pekin, Sefika, Founding Partner, Pekin & Bayar Law Firm
· Alexander, Keith B., Commander, USCYBERCOM; Director, NSA
· Altman, Roger C., Chairman, Evercore Partners Inc.
· Bezos, Jeff, Founder and CEO, Amazon.com
· Collins, Timothy C., CEO, Ripplewood Holdings, LLC
· Feldstein, Martin S., George F. Baker Professor of Economics, Harvard
· Hoffman, Reid, Co-founder and Executive Chairman, LinkedIn
· Hughes, Chris R., Co-founder, Facebook
· Jacobs, Kenneth M., Chairman & CEO, Lazard
· Johnson, James A., Vice Chairman, Perseus, LLC
· Jordan, Jr., Vernon E., Senior Managing Director, Lazard Frères
· Keane, John M., Senior Partner, SCP Partners; General, US Army, Retired
· Kissinger, Henry A., Chairman, Kissinger Associates, Inc.
· Kleinfeld, Klaus, Chairman and CEO, Alcoa
· Kravis, Henry R., Co-Chairman and co-CEO, Kohlberg Kravis, Roberts & Co.
· Kravis, Marie-Josée, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute, Inc.
· Li, Cheng, Senior Fellow and Director of Research, Brookings Institution
· Mundie, Craig J., Chief Research and Strategy Officer, Microsoft Corporation
· Orszag, Peter R., Vice Chairman, Citigroup Global Markets, Inc.
· Perle, Richard N., Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
· Rockefeller, David, Former Chairman, Chase Manhattan Bank
· Rose, Charlie, Executive Editor and Anchor, Charlie Rose
· Rubin, Robert E., Co-Chairman, Council on Foreign Relations
· Schmidt, Eric, Executive Chairman, Google Inc.
· Steinberg, James B., Deputy Secretary of State
· Thiel, Peter A., President, Clarium Capital Management, LLC
· Varney, Christine A., Assistant Attorney General for Antitrust
· Vaupel, James W., Founding Director, Max Planck Institute
· Warsh, Kevin, Former Governor, Federal Reserve Board
· Wolfensohn, James D., Chairman, Wolfensohn & Company
Neo Mushroom Management
The standard of senior management in the United Kingdom appears to be deteriorating at an alarming rate and it seems to be a comparatively new phenomenon.
It all started about four years ago.
Bank Directors had no idea that their banker-underlings were dealing in financial products that neither they nor their employees understood.
Lords as well as senior politicians were blind to the fact that fraud was rife in Westminster .
Senior Newspaper executives did not have an inkling that their reporters were resorting to criminal methods in order to obtain a story.
For a while, Government has not felt able to make a major decision without the involvement of lawyers and inquiries. Gordon Brown started THAT craze and it appears to have caught on.
Elsewhere, politicians continue to dance between the shower-drops because they have NO IDEA when something horrendous is coming down the economic pipe.
Senior Military officers don’t know that squaddies are brutalising and murdering prisoners.
Once a month, the Bank of England soothsayers come blinking into the sunlight to deliver their traditionally mysterious but fallacious prophesies.
Directors are directing but they cannot be doing it efficiently because they do not have the information or even the knowledge.
A Stygian blackness has descended.
We have what can only be described as a “Reverse Mushroom” management problem.
Nowadays, it is not just ordinary people who are kept in the dark and fed shit.
We sit shoulder-to-shoulder with our leaders.
The above is representative of the perennial management dilemma – especially after the solids have come into contact with the air-conditioning. Does a leader :
A. Admit that he or she DID know what was going on and accept responsibility?
B. Allow the self-preservation instinct to kick-in i.e. plead ignorance, deny everything, apportion blame and live with the impression that they’re a lousy leader.
MOST OPT FOR OPTION B.
Bend Over, America!
We have all known for some time that the ongoing banking crisis was originally started by some sort of banker-naughtiness and what we have in common with the vast majority of Bank Directors is that we don’t really understand WHAT happened. But we do know that someone somewhere is guilty and needs to be spoken to very severely.
It was good to hear that the US government via its regulator (Federal Housing Finance Agency), has filed suit against seventeen financial institutions. Specifically, they want answers as to why $200 billion in bad mortgage-backed securities was sold to mortgage companies Fannie May and Freddie Mac.
They made their announcement just as the Stock market closed last Friday afternoon – their timing was exactly what you would expect but nevertheless totally wasted. Today will be the day when their proposed action will shake out on the markets. Fortunately for the stock prices, the Swiss have moved to protect their own currency which has had a small positive impact on equities.
So what did the bankers do?
Imagine that a bank grants a $100,000 mortgage which results in the borrower repaying say, $1000 per month. Now imagine 1000 such mortgages. If the mortgages were pooled , you’d have a “product” which generates an income $1,000,000 per month. Then you sell shares in the product to investors such as other financial institutions. Here comes the good bit: You omit to tell the institutions buying shares in your new product that the mortgagors (the borrowers) have absolutely no chance of making the $1000 per month repayments. Thus, the banks sold and also invested in worthless products because they could not generate any income.
These were the famous Sub-prime Bonds. The term “sub-prime” describes the borrowers – the so-called NINJAS to whom the banks lent billions. NINJAS? No Income, No Job or Assets.
(That was a very simplified explanation but it does demonstrate the principle of dealing in debt – you create debt by lending and then sell shares in it).
Embarrassed financial institutions then either sold-on these “investments” and/or attempted to hide their mistakes through the medium of creative accounting, by keeping these items “off balance sheet”.
The US Government’s move on the banks is perfectly justified but any legislation will take years and so leave the banks with permanently damaged balance sheets and income.
The other downside will be that banks, having been bitten once by their OWN greed are unlikely to ever lend money for house purchase as aggressively ever again.
The Fed now fully expects the banks to pay for mortgages which they granted five or six years ago.
Fannie May (Federal National Mortgage Association) and Freddie Mac (Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation) guaranteed most of the dodgy mortgages and are currently the subject of a Federal takeover and have been placed into conservatorship, which in US law is a form of temporary nationalisation
US banks have so far benefited from a $700 billion Federal bailout but nevertheless both Obama as well as the Federal Reserve have been accused of being too easy on the banks.
In fairness to the American banks, most of the money that they were handed by the Fed has been repaid. However, the rescue of Fannie and Freddie could cost the government as much as $350billion.
To add to the banks’ headaches, they are not only being sued by the US Government but also by many private investors who have also lost money.
So, at a a time when the banking industry is trying to rebuild whilst at the same time being urged to lend, it is having its share values decimated. Then there’s the inevitable and customary Lawyer Bonanza which could add BILLIONS more to their expenses.
The principle of the legal actions is simple: The banks screwed-up through near-fraudulent activities and pushed all Western economies into recession.
Someone HAS to pay.
The FHFA claims that banks were negligent and misrepresented the mortgage-based bonds they were selling because of sloppy underwriting, that is to say, they did NOT carry out proper checks on the people to whom they were lending money.
That is going to be a very difficult defence for the banks.
The FHFA further argues that the Sub-Prime Bonds should NEVER have been marketed because the underlying “assets” did not conform to normal investor criteria. Yet another difficult position to defend.
Meanwhile, some bankers are attempting to shift the blame to Fannie May and Freddie Mac, while others are hoping to settle the claims in order to limit litigation. Our own RBS intends to fight any action. RBS is being sued for over £30 billion.
The most sensible outcome will be for all lawsuits to be settled. That would generate another outflow of cash from the banks but would also draw a firm line under the shenanigans leading up to the 2008 crash.
In the United States, the banks are not just being sued by the government for marketing questionable financial products. They are also being sued in respect of bad foreclosure practices and evictions as well as lawsuits over mortgage debt losses.
Such bank payouts will reduce and weaken their capital levels – further harming banks’ ability to lend.
With politicians everywhere pointlessly (and theatrically) screaming for banks to enable economic growth as well as stimulate housing markets, the road to full economic recovery looks more impossible than ever.
Over here in the UK, we are still awaiting ANY indication from the government of ANY litigation.
So far, the best that we can do is PPI – but even after being TOLD to pay out, our banks continue to drag their feet and not distribute refunds as fast as they might.
It seems that here in the UK, the promise and lure of fat post-Westminster banking directorships is far too strong – as well as the rather ambiguous relationship between our bankers and politicians.
Nowadays, even on the world stage, politicians become bankers and bankers become politicians – especially in Europe.
It’s the ONLY logical reason for our politicians to sanction not-only immunity to our bankers but even after such catastrophic failures, to continue rewarding them with the glittering prize of the over-inflated, stock-market-generated bonus.
Between Gold & a Hard Place.
2011 will be remembered as the year when the gold price really took off. It will also be remembered as the year of the PIIGS.
That’s Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain.
So what would happen if we combined the two? What would happen if the PIIGS decided to sell their gold in order to clear their debt? (As recently suggested by Germany’s Vice Chancellor).
And while we’re at it, let’s get away from expressing sovereign debt in percentages of GDP. No-one understands that anyway.
Let’s be different and look at it all in cash terms:
The total gold holding of the PIIGS is about 3250 tonnes. At current prices that’s worth about 132 billion euros. That’s 132,000,000,000 euros.
Unfortunately their combined outstanding sovereign debt is about 3,300 billion euros. That’s 3,300,000,000,000 euros
For instance, Portugal has about 390 tonnes of gold, currently worth about 15 billion euros. That is about 20% of its latest bailout package.
The biggest Eurozone gold hoarder is Italy. It is also the world’s fourth-largest owner of the metal . Italy’s 2,450 tonnes is worth about 95 billion euros at today’s prices. That’s 95,000,000,000 euros.
Italy’s government has $2.45 trillion dollars in debt. That’s 2,450,000,000,000 euros.
It is estimated that as a result of inevitable defaults, banks will LOSE £200 billion euros. That’s 200,000,000,000.
Hence all that nervousness around bank shares.
It’s all theoretical anyway because gold is not the property of the PIIGS’ governments to sell. Gold is part of a country’s Foreign Exchange Reserves which are managed by central banks and cannot be used to finance the public sector – except apparently, in certain Middle Eastern states.
What a mess!
Finally, in case you’re still wondering why the politicians have not actually put into place a plan to sort-out the debt-related issues, it is because they don’t really know what to do. Plus, they are playing the NOMW game.
NOMW? Not On My Watch.
President Sarkozy has an election to fight in 2012 and Bundeskanzlerin Merkel has one in 2013.
Can they possibly keep it all going until then?
Syria and Hilary.
The reason NATO is showing no interest in direct assistance to Syrian rebels is because they have requested NO foreign interference.
They’ve seen the results in Afghanistan, Iraq, Croydon and now Libya. They are obviously very happy to trash their own country without NATO’s help.
Statement from Hilary Clinton:
We’re in the Shapps!
House building in the United Kingdom has slumped to a 90-year low. Home ownership is predicted to slump to approximately 65%. The proportion of people living in owner-occupied homes is forecast to fall to 63.8% by 2021, down from 72.5% in 2001 and from the mid-eighties high of 74%.
According to economists, house prices are set to soar by 21.3 per cent over the next five years whilst rents are set to rise by up to 20%.
In some parts of the United Kingdom, 16% of home owners owe more on their mortgage than their property is worth.
Housing minister Grant Shapps said: “The trebling of house prices in the 10 years from 1997 has locked too many out of owning their own home.
“I want to see a period of house price stability so that more homes become affordable, but I am also determined that we pull out all the stops to give hard-working first-time buyers the help they need.
“That’s why I’ve held summits with lenders to encourage them to do more to help people take their first step onto the housing ladder, and I’ve launched the First Buy Scheme as a valuable alternative to the Bank of Mum and Dad for those struggling to get together that much-needed deposit.
“But we also need to get Britain building again. That’s why I’ve announced plans to release thousands of acres of public land for housebuilding.
“Despite the need to tackle the deficit we inherited, this government is putting £4.5bn towards an affordable homes programme which is set to exceed our original expectations and deliver up to 170,000 new homes over the next four years.”
Phrases from Mr Shapps such as: “I Want to see”, “Pull out all the stops”, “The help they need”, “We need to get Britain building”, “Announced plans”, “Set to exceed” all indicate well-meant sentiments – a “politician’s intent”. Even the “170,000 homes over the next four years” is preceded by the phrase “set to exceed” and not “WILL exceed”.
Incidentally, the ONLY thing that Mr Shapps promises to exceed are his own expectations – which have not yet been delivered anyway.
Yes, there is a shortage of housing but the ROOT CAUSE of this dire situation is not being treated.
Once again, I shall put it in plain English: The reason why the housing market is in a moribund state is because the banks are NOT lending money to building companies and they are NOT lending money to first time buyers – who incidentally are becoming a near-extinct species.
Mr Shapps may well have held “summits with lenders” but he has not yet given us any indication of any positive outcomes. Meetings do NOT solve issues – only outcomes. So, Mr Shapps, what have the banks promised on this occasion? Amounts? Terms ? LTV? Underwriting Criteria? Perhaps The Big Society Banks can help??!
So far, we have The Big Society, Enterprize Zones and now the The First Buy Scheme.
The first is still a mystery, the second contributes little more than mass relocations of existing businesses and First Buy-type shared equity schemes do little more that frighten first-time buyers by the morass of bureaucracy into which they are suddenly plunged.
Once again, the REAL solution is in the hands of the BANKERS.
p.s. I am surprised by the fact that the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors is still allowing itself to be pushed about by the banks. They used to be a very powerful organisation which played its part in controlling house prices. The boom times prior to the 2008 crash turned the RICS into followers. They USED to be leaders. CLICK HERE
Go for Gold!
Eighteen months ago, I predicted that during 2011, gold would hit $2000 per ounce. So far, it has I topped-out at just over $1900 and then pulled back to about $1750
There was a 10% price drop in three days! That appears to have frightened some but has also done a lot of good because gold has been hugely overbought in the last few months and was due a correction.
This correction is likely to continue to well below $1500. I am therefore no longer predicting $2000 per ounce.
It will rise to above $4000!
Within a few months, Ben Bernanke’s “do nothing , wait and see” policy will no longer be viable and the American economy will begin to crumble, closely followed by a mega-slide in Euro stocks.
At that point, those who do not become jammed in the exits will once again rush for gold – at the point when Bernanke and other Finance Ministers begin to oil the money-printing presses for more empty Mickey Mouse “quantitative easing” money!
Although we are already in a Bear Market, there will still be unexplained rallies, falls and adjustments but thanks to politicians who have lost the art of decision-making, gold is still the way to go.
p.s. this is a fitting time to once again pay tribute to our former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.
Morton’s Fork lives!
Post-Saddam-type chaos in Libya will NOT be avoided. That’s nigh-on impossible.
One of the overlooked plans of the Iraq campaign was the Exit Strategy. Well, bugger me, the West has done it again in Libya.
The next major initiative will be the customary “Humanitarian Assistance” which is as good an excuse as any to maintain a military presence to ensure that the fuzzy-wuzzies keep in line.
THAT is going to be the most impossible task. The average Libyan’s loyalties are like this: 1. Family 2. Tribe 3. State Flag…….. In that order.
NOTHING but a totalitarian state can keep tribal factions in line. Government by Brutality appears to be the only way to stop tribes from killing each other. Saddam demonstrated that in Iraq and every other state in the Middle East continues to suppress its people – but for very valid reasons.
Democracy is an anathema to tribal people. It is an alien concept.
In Libya’s case, the theory is that a fiefdom which has controlled many tribes through the medium of suppression can be turned into a democracy. Politicians may not have yet noticed that such a thing has never been done. It’s been tried on many occasions but so far, without success.
The most likely outcome in Libya is either the emergence of another authoritarian leader or the breakup of a country which was a western construct in the first place. It is a politically barren place with no political parties or constitution.
Meanwhile, the rebels are heading for Gaddafi City – SIRTE. One hopes that they all remember that the Tahoura Research Centre near Tripoli houses (or housed) the remnants of Libya’s nuclear programme. There are stocks of nuclear material which could easily be turned into a “dirty” bomb.
There has already been a half-hearted attempt to launch a Scud missile so hopefully, the rebels do not, once again find themselves on the receiving end, should Gaddafi supporters decide to surprise them.
Luckily, the BBC’s John Simpson has finally arrived in Libya – so all should be well. We don’t yet know whether he travelled across the desert with the Tuaregs or whether he is wearing the customary tea-towel on his head but after hearing of his exploits in Afghanistan, it’s possible. He’ll know what to do.
Meanwhile the next battle that into which new Libyan Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril will have to lead his people will be the rather unedifying soon-to-be-fought campaign for Libyan reconstruction.
The cue for the Western invasion is the phrase “Humanitarian Catastrophe”. Look out for that one.
p.s. The politicians appear to be surprised by the fact that, in spite of the announcement that the war in Libya had been won, the fighting appears to be continuing. Just like Iraq.
There appear to be more and more self-appointed “GURUS” on the Internet: Finance Guru, Lifestyle Guru, Management Guru….the list is endless.
I used to be one of those but luckily managed to extract my head from my ass before it was too late.
Please don’t do it.
I now prefer the more modest “Messiah”.
Yesterday, I was listening to the BBC World Service when I was surprised to hear a presenter use the word “Asyla” as a plural of Asylum. WTF? People who do that are nothing but pretentious scrota.
Tomorrow, if Ben Bernanke announces that the Fed is going to print yet more “empty” dollars, he will be introducing yet more inflation into the US economy. Markets will recommence their downward slide and investors will all rush-off in the direction of the Bullion Markets.
If however, there is no further printing of dollars and QE3 does not happen, the likelihood is that the American economy will collapse as investors all rush off in the direction of the Bullion Markets.
Either way, gold is the safest bet.
Meanwhile in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel is also between a rock and a hard place. If she agrees to fully support lame-duck Euro economies through the issue of the Euro Bond – so that countries such as Greece are able to enjoy unlimited credit at reasonable rates, she risks a rebellion back home from the Christian Democratic Party as well as from an electorate which does not wish to donate any more to broken Euro economies.
However, if there is no mechanism to support poorer Euro states, the Euro could collapse, together with the German economy.
By the way, it is time to start worrying about the world’s Stock Markets. Starting tomorrow.
Today, Liberals are UP(!) 4% in the latest opinion poll. Does that mean that there may be a change of plan in Nick Clegg being handed a sexy European Parliament job as a consolation prize after the 2015 General Election?
In response to emails concerning my dog…
I am sick and tired of receiving questions about my dog who mauled an illegal immigrant, two rappers, a hoodie-looter with hanging-past-the-crack tracksuit bottoms , three Sub-continent customer service clerks speaking broken English, one Member of Parliament, two policemen, three flag burners and a taxi driver.
FOR THE LAST TIME…THE DOG IS NOT FOR SALE !
Press release from HM Treasury: http://bit.ly/oIgJbo
Record results! Congratulations kids – another record year. You must have worked SOOO hard.
Here’s something for the cleverer ones to colour-in:
Survival of the Weakest?
Usually when there is any battle between two factions, the stronger of the two wins. It triumphs because there are more of them, they are better organised or have better equipment.
This is NOT the case in Libya. Without the NATO intervention, there is absolutely NO WAY that the so-called rebels would have conquered Gaddafi’s army. NATO had to provide air support and effectively fight most of the battle as the rebels careered up and down the road in their Toyota pickups firing their guns into the air and posing for macho pictures.
So what happens now? Does NATO continue to hold the rebels’ hands? Once NATO backs off and the Gaddafi supporters wake up, they will soon realise that it would not take much of an effort to overwhelm the former rioters.
There are scores to be settled, relative seniorities to be re-established and government coffers to be plundered.
Tribal leaders will want to make sure that their people are heard at government level. Women will want to continue to be heard and respected.
For instance, it is only since 1969 that women’s rights have been on the agenda. Under Gaddafi’s predecessor King Idris, even the education of women was frowned upon and positively discouraged.
Without NATO, the rebels who appear to have Allah (but more importantly, NATO) on their side are a bit like the bespectacled playground wimp who has been adopted by the school bully. He can say and do whatever he likes to his enemies but only for as long as the bully is behind him. Otherwise, he’s in big trouble.
If , like me, you have always had a feeling that there has been something missing from the whole Get-Gaddafi production – apart from hubcaps – it was a total lack of any expression of idealism, binding ideas, political concepts or the future.
The rebels do not have common political beliefs. All that they have is a common enemy. THAT is what has been holding them together for six months.
Once Gaddafi is gone, the glue which held the rebellion together will be gone. There’s no stronger bond than that provided by fear or hatred of a common enemy. Then, new enemies will be sought. Unfortunately the new enemies will be former neighbours.
As I have said before, this has NOT been about the D-word (democracy). This has been about power.
Power is OK if you genuinely want to do something with it – but it looks increasingly as if the Libyan Islamists are becoming the most influential group within the National Transitional Council. That does not bode well for “democracy and freedom” – especially for women.
It looks as if the school bully may have to stay-on much longer than has been anticipated.
Even post-euphoria, the “conquering” rebels will have over-high expectation levels. Within weeks, we should fully expect to see demands for better living conditions, more income and lower prices. The D-word will be consigned to the slogan drawer from which it should never have been taken and the Mullahs will slowly seep even further into Libyan society.
Those flags that everyone in Libya seems to be waving – the plain green Socialist Arab Peoples Gaddafi-supporters’ flag, versus the rebels’ 1951 Independence tricolor – where have they all suddenly appeared from? It’s as if boxes of flags magically materialised out of thin air!
Now what was it I spotted on one of the flags? It looked like a maker’s name…must have stood for Created In Algeria.
Can’t be! What a coincidence!
They’ll know what to do once the post-Gaddafi explosions start.
Jittery Markets make small gains.
European markets have made nervous gains despite lingering fears that the world economy is heading back towards recession.
The FTSE 100 Index in London gained 1.5% as traders decided that shares represented good value after the index fell 5% last week. The CAC 40 in France and the DAX in Germany also pushed higher.
However, markets remain jittery after last week’s poor economic data from the US and eurozone created fresh panic about the prospect of a global recession.
The glut of bad news caused London’s blue chip index to suffer its biggest daily loss in nearly three years on Thursday, wiping £62.3 billion from the value of the UK’s 100 biggest companies.
In another session of volatile trading on Monday, London’s leading shares index slid nearly 1% at the start of the session – taking it below the 5000 mark – but it bounced back shortly afterwards.
Gold continued to hit new record highs, rising to 1,895 US dollars (£1,151) per ounce, because it is seen as a safe haven amid the market turmoil.
Oil prices fell more than 2%, on speculation that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s 40-year rule in Libya is on the edge of collapse, which traders think could reopen supplies from the war-torn country.
The gain for European markets was despite the Dow Jones Industrial Average in the US falling more than 1.5% on Friday.
Markets have swung wildly in recent weeks as figures revealed the pace of economic growth in countries such as the US and Germany has slowed, leading to fears that the global recovery is running out of steam.
Fears about the strength of the world’s biggest economy were heightened by a rise in the number of jobless claimants and weak manufacturing and home sales figures. There are also unresolved worries about the eurozone debt crisis after French president Nicolas Sarkozy and German chancellor Angela Merkel failed to back eurozone bonds to fix the current problems at an emergency meeting.
Copyright © 2011 The Press Association. All rights reserved.
Libya: Freedom or Democracy?
Democracy is comparatively easy. Democracy, self-determination, having a say in the decisions which affect your life or whatever else you want to call it – can all be arranged comparatively easily. But there’s the much grander concept of freedom – for citizens of both sexes.
Freedom is NOT a “Pick and Mix”. You either embrace it or leave it alone.
Democratic, educational, secular, political, economic, entrepreneurial, medical, scientific, technological, environmental, artistic, philosophical are just SOME freedoms.
So, apart from being ruled by a self-obsessed maniac, what was wrong with Libya?
Libya used to have a higher GDP than Russia plus free education and healthcare. The oil was about to be nationalised so that the Libyan people rather than the West would profit. Their national central bank operated in such a way so that it could NOT be exploited by the West. As far as the West was concerned, those were all very worrying developments which needed to be controlled.
Yes, Gaddafi was a thug whose main purpose was to amass riches for his own family and yes, there is poverty in Libya. There are hungry dispossessed people who feel that they were being unfairly treated by their rich, privileged rulers. But those people exist all over the world. They still exist in Libya and will continue to exist long after Gaddafi becomes a mere memory.
Poverty, deprivation? Sometimes it would be a good idea for the USA, United Kingdom, France , Germany etc to have the mirror held up to themselves. Just before they lecture others on inequality and deprivation.
Some say that it was the CIA which started the Benghazi unrest as a result of Gaddafi’s proposed economic “adjustments”. Whoever was responsible is now an irrelevance. Suffice it to say that suddenly, Gaddafi went from being rewarded by the West for Libya’s “excellent human rights record” and being practically ravished by Tony Blair, to a despot who “slaughtered his own people”.
(That particular phrase was thrown at us so often that it became fact).
The West’s selective memory, illusion-mongering and propaganda are standard components used to excuse what has just been happening in Libya. It was always meant to be a war-by-proxy.
Gaddafi had to be deposed and no-one from the West needed to get their hands too dirty! (William Hague: “It’s up to the Libyan people”. Yeah. Right! What he meant was “We can get those Libyans in their Toyota pick-ups to do all the dirty work on our behalf”).
Gaddafi was right in one very important aspect of the whole sordid affair. It was all orchestrated for the sake of self-interested domination by others – both inside and outside of Libya.
(Make no mistake – it was right that Gaddafi should “retire” but the handling of the whole affair did not exactly cover the West in glory).
So here we are : 22nd August 2011 – The Libyan people are (hopefully) about to taste democratic freedom – just like ours. They will become proper free taxpayers and voters – just like us.
Eventually, they’ll become voters and taxpayers who pay to carry their economy to the point of mind-numbing distress – but that’s OUR kind of freedom.
When I say OUR kind of freedom, I am of course not referring to those really “free” people who have knowledge of subsidies, tax deferrals, loopholes and non-registered tax havens.
They already have those – just like us!
Usually, that sort of freedom takes a while to develop.
Proper freedom and democracy won’t come to our Libyan friends until their oil runs out.
So much to look forward to!
Politicians? Self-interest? Surely not!
The world’s economic problems will not be solved by politicians. Firstly because they do NOT have the skills to deal with a multi-causal, muti-faceted and highly technical international phenomenon. Secondly, their decision-making is always impaired and affected by the very ugly spectre of self-interest and their primary preoccupation: re-election.
If you look at the very front-end loaded “austerity programme” here in the United Kingdom, it is no coincidence that so much has been concentrated into the beginning of the government’s new term in office. The hope is that if all the bad stuff is dealt with at the beginning, then the year or eighteen months leading up to the 2015 election can be a time of faux-plenty with give-aways and maybe some unravelling of the incredibly draconian measures which have been thrust upon us in this last year.
The government could have “phased” the introduction of its programme of economic destruction but its other agenda was to please the euro bankers and money lenders – certainly NOT the electorate. The bankers (as usual) demanded immediate gratification.
There is a good argument for only ever allowing a government a single-term. Unfortunately , after 4 or 5 years, many leaders demand squatters rights over their job with some having extended their tenure for decades.
It would be MOST refreshing for a political leader to say ” We are in deep trouble and at the moment we do not have all the answers, so we are going to try a few random things in the hope that some of them work”. THAT is the truth because THAT is what is happening.
The politicians REALLY have NO idea what to do next. They have joined us peasants in the gallery as mere observers while the Global Economic Tornado gathers strength and velocity.
The first thing that should be done is for that most sacred of sacred cows, the world’s banking system to be reappraised. Once again, self-interest and re-election prevent the politicians from doing anything but complain and maybe introduce small doses of irrelevant pseudo anti-bank legislation. More window dressing.
Banks should be a service industry which supplies and redistributes money and not the Black Hole which it has become. The billions that banks generate in profits is NOT money which has been generated by production or even work – it is “profit” which takes money and value OUT of the economy. Bank profits are profits which commerce would have generated if banks did the job that they were supposed to do.
So that’s Number One on the agenda.
Now who has the guts to take that first step?
The Petulant One
“I condemn you, Gaddafi!!”
William Hague briefly came out from behind America’s voluminous skirts a couple of days ago to announce that the Libyan embassy was to be cleared of pro Gaddafi officials and that they would be replaced by rebels.
Has there ever been a more puerile sign of frustration from a grown-up politician?
The thwarted Western powers, represented by NATO have made little progress since the initial Benghazi protests and riots six months ago. The protesters shouted “democracy” and as usual, the politicians came running. Most neutral observers have learned that any Middle Eastern protest is absolutely nothing to do with democracy, free speech or any of the other Western indulgences that we have become used to.
It has always been about power and economics. The poor, the impressionable young and the students riot, whilst the intelligentsia and the military plot behind their king’s back. They are the ones who enjoy the spoils of war. Life doesn’t really change for the poor and the young. Life rarely changes for the poor.
Decisions made by politicians in respect of Libya seem to have been made with one eye on the oil with the other on the opinion polls. In spite of the rhetoric, this has never really been about “The Libyan People”
President Sarkozy of France had hoped to make a victorious announcement on Bastille Day because all that he’s thinking about at the moment is re-election. Hopefully he will soon accept that it is not going to happen for him and that although he somehow made it to the top of the greasy French political pole, his grip has never been that strong and he has been sliding back down ever since. His involvement in the Libya bombing should help him along on his journey south.
William Hague on the other hand has been handed the Foreign Office as a bit of a consolation prize, following the disaster of his leadership and the years spent in comparative obscurity . Rather worryingly though, he remains one of the more talented members of the Cabinet. From the beginning he has looked not only out of sorts but out of his depth when dealing with a soldier-politician as slippery as Col Gaddafi.
Obama has much bigger things on his plate at the moment and his own re-election chances may also have been dealt a fatal blow by Libya – although his advisers seem to have foreseen Gaddafi’s intransigence. A small blessing for Obama is that America went into reverse gear on Libya a few months ago. He had little choice in the matter.
We’ve had sanctions, we’ve had “no fly” zones, we’ve had bombing and we have had strong words. Libya’s assets were frozen, the Gaddafi family’s assets were stolen but still, the mad Col continues to elude all attempts to oust him. Surprisingly, to some, it was predictable from the very beginning. Unlike Mubarak, Gaddafi sees himself as Emperor of Libya – the first of a dynasty. Imperator Muammar l.
One wonders what ever happened to the “that’s up to the Libyan people” mantra? It seems that everything is up to the Libyan people apart from who rules over them. That appears to be in the gift of the West. Even if two-thirds of the 6.4 million population of Libya have abandoned Gaddafi, that still leaves him far more support than Obama, Sarkozy or Cameron enjoy back home.
The propaganda machine has convinced us that Gaddafi is a BAD person. However, it is not Gaddafi who is dropping high-explosive on someone that he does not approve of.
Why is it that whenever we see any sort of conflict, we feel that we (United Kingdom) have to elbow our way nearly to the front of the queue, stand behind the the muscled bully-boy friend that is the United States of America and jump out occasionally to yap like a toothless, castrated old Jack Russell.
This so-called “Arabs Spring” is a headline writer’s nonsense. It is no Solidarność and it is no knocking down of the Berlin Wall. It started with a bunch of vandals and students waving placards believing that the mere act of defiance would be enough to remove Gaddafi. They chanted the “D” word. D E M O C R A C Y!
What they would prefer is a box of food and a TV set.
Yes, they fooled us into thinking and believing that what they want is democracy. In fact all they want is a fair share of the oil spoils, more money in their pockets and a State which cares about them.
There is little doubt that Gaddafi has gone way past his sell-by date and that he’s no longer even fit to run a British Nursing Home. Unfortunately, it usually takes a country a few years to realise that things are better than they were but not as good as they could be.
Gaddafi used to be a hero as he had liberated “his” people from the oppression and the years of Stone Age “nothing” under King Idris. As has been shown in many other states from France to Iran, deposing one set of royals invariably results in a temporary euphoria, followed by the installation another set of unelected “royals”.
Gaddafi ( just like a French President) has developed into their new King, his children are his heirs and his primary method of ensuring the faithfulness of those who matter, is through the medium of the bestowal of money and favours. Nothing unusual in that! That what kings do!
Six months ago, the West’s initial reaction to the Libyan friction was the usual formulaic stuff. It had recently been practiced on Mubarak. Our governments “condemned” Gaddafi’s actions. One day the United Kingdom and others will realise that words such as “we condemn” or “we call upon……” no longer frighten “the natives”.
We fell into a trap similar to the one that Saddam inadvertently sprung (on himself) when he appeared to exaggerate his own military prowess.
Gaddafi, on the other hand, threatened to “kill his own people”.
That is the “Way of the Dictator”!
Dictators always seems to end up behaving just like the has-been heavyweight boxer who craves recognition and needs to reassert his rapidly diminishing masculinity and popularity. It’s “Dictator Trash Talk”. It’s plastic defiance and paper posturing. It’s NOT real!
And we fall for it every time.
Murdoch, Fox and 9/11
Up to now, we, the British public have had our share of fun and entertainment at News International’s expense. However, the whole circus is about to move into a new and darker phase. The only brief piece of theatre (or should I say “farce”) will be the performance of the Parliamentary Culture, Media and Sport Committee as it attempts to bamboozle the Murdochs into incriminating themselves. Or even better-still, to self-flagellate in front of the British population. I have news for them – it ain’t going to happen.
Not one of the Committee has any “big company” experience. Therefore there is a definite danger that they will not understand that in spite of the fact Rupert Murdoch ostensibly runs the whole corporation, he probably was NOT aware of the fact that certain rodent reporters were behaving illegally. In the same way that a Prime Minister would not be expected to know that certain MPs were submitting expenses claims for duck houses and batteries for their wind-up torches.
Murdoch sits at the very pinnacle of a very large corporate pyramid which employs tens of thousands of people. Consequently, his only contact with the “shop-floor” is via several layers of management. That means that the information which he is fed is extremely selective. Plus, if any part of an organisation is performing “to-plan” or even exceeding targets, the questions asked by management tend to be of the gentler variety. Possible naughtiness is rarely on the agenda.
Directors and very often CEOs do NOT micro-manage; their focus is NOT on the day-to-day running of a department . They look towards the horizon. The weekly focus is provided by the supervisors, the monthly focus by the managers, the quarterly view by senior managers and so on, up the pyramid. The Directors tend to devote themselves to the long-term strategic stuff.
Just like Army Generals, they have no idea that Private X screwed Private Y or that Private Z ran out of bullets.
A few years ago, I chaired a Citibank meeting and took to the stage with the UK board. I was the question-master and referee. Prior to this momentous and unique staff meeting, I had asked employees to let me have written questions well before the event because I have always believed in a “no-surprises” management culture.
The meeting progressed very well as I invited ready-primed, chosen members of staff to ask their pre-submitted questions. That enabled board members to demonstrate their “I can think on my feet” abilities, without the staff necessarily suspecting that it had all been well-rehearsed.
The meeting went so smoothly that we finished ten minutes early. The Chairman , who was sitting next to me turned to me and whispered, “As we have some time, why don’t we take a few random questions from the floor?” I whispered back, “Mr Chairman – I don’t think that’s a good idea. I’m sure that they’ll all appreciate leaving the meeting a few minutes early.”
“Nonsense!” bellowed the Chairman. He stood up, grabbed the microphone and announced to the assembled staff “We have a few minutes…so…. are there any further questions on maybe a few things which we have NOT covered? … Anything at all?” I could see a hand shoot up at the back of the hall.
“Fuck!” I thought.
Harry was a 65 year-old post boy who thought that management was “the enemy”. His moment had come. His 15 minutes! The Chairman had no idea who this person was. He pointed towards a smiling Harry.
I could see Harry pull out what appeared to be a ream of folded A4 from his inside jacket pocket.
“Mr Chairman. Are you aware that there are no bandages in the 5th floor First Aid box and that is contrary to……..” Harry went on an on…and on…., clearly demonstrating that this oversight by “the management” was yet another clear manifestation of the management’s and indeed the directors’ total lack of care or respect towards the staff. Harry was an ex-union man and made a very impressive speech which all but destroyed all of the goodwill which we had created in the previous 90 minutes.
When Harry had finally exhausted himself and had sat down to tumultuous applause, the Chairman turned to be and said: “Why the bloody hell was I not briefed on this?”
Chairmen have NO IDEA of what goes on within a business. They are interested in RoI, RoE, 5 year forecasts, cash-flows, share price etc. They don’t know or even give a shit about day-to-day operations.
That makes me suspect that Murdoch will be asked questions that he genuinely will not have the answers to. That is because his interrogators have neither the background nor the “feel” to understand exactly what goes on within a huge organisation such as NewsCorp.
Here in the UK, after more corporate obfuscation, a tsunami or PR, several newly-created lawyer millionaires and an inquiry, Murdoch will be rehabilitated, some of his ex-management team will be banged-up and by 2020, life will return to normal. THAT is how we do things.
The United States – that’s another matter. They have a darker tinge to the way that they operate.
Over here, the politicians have rolled out the Dowler family, Gordon Brown has made his assault on recent history and a few celebs have been upset. Nothing that a few quid, a bit of political sincero-talk and a good old-fashioned grovel from Murdoch won’t sort-out. Even Max Clifford should score a few grand.
In the States, it looks as if certain NewsCorp journalists tapped and hacked the phones belonging to family members of 9/11 victims. That was a VERY bad sin! “Distraught” relatives of the dead are making public statements with accusing fingers already pointed at Fox News.
Anyone in America who lost a relative on 9/11 has a special exalted status – that of a latter-day martyr-saint-by-association. You cannot and should not mess with those people.
If Fox News – that video-comic of the American Right is shown to have abused this precious sainted group, it will lose its broadcast licences. THAT’s how serious life may become for the Murdoch Dynasty.
So at worst, next week’s questioning by Tom Watson MP and the Gang will be a mild entertainment – not just for us but for the Murdochs too!
Compared to what could be awaiting them in the States, this will be a walk in the park.
p.s. Rebekah Brooks has gone. In spite of the Murdochs wishing to retain her services and possibly persuade her to “take the bullet”, we have to remember that although Murdoch claimed that she was “one 0f the family”, she never was and never could have been. She was the hired help and as such, she was and remains expendable.
Government Pension Scam?
There has been talk recently about the ridiculously high salaries that some Local Authority employees are enjoying. There is another issue which, because of its somewhat technical nature , is not often discussed. It is the way that Local Authority pensions are administered.
Most of us have heard about the so-called Final Salary Pensions – they are also sometimes known as Defined Benefit schemes. They are called that because an employee knows how much pension he or she will obtain or retirement and how it will be calculated.
The amount of pension depends on the salary in the last year of service – the year leading up to retirement. It is paid as a proportion of that year’s salary and depends on the number of years service.
What is not generally known is the fact that pensions are very often artificially boosted by two main methods – the first may be construed as “naughtiness with intent” and the other one seems quite OK but is sometimes abused.
Let us assume that the final year’s salary (in the year before retirement) of the Head of Meetings at Smallville City Council is £150,000 and that his pension, based on service should be £75000. The first scam is that in his last year he is given a couple of spurious additional jobs and job titles which increase his final year’s salary by say, £30,000. His final year’s salary becomes £180,000, thus making his pension £90,000 per annum.
Secondly, an employee can purchase “added years”. That simply means that if he has worked for say 30 years , for a small outlay, he can buy fictitious years which make his length of service look longer for the sake of the pension calculation. That 30 years can become 36 years! If he or she opts to purchase “additional years” and then suddenly retires through ill-health, then that benefit is preserved in the pension calculation even though it has not been fully paid for. There is also the scope to add these years for the sake of a pension calculation when an individual is made redundant.
(Have you noticed the high number of “ill health” retirements among public sector workers?)
The rules are changing very soon but instead of added years employees will be able to boost their pension by as much as £5000 per year.
I think that it would be an excellent idea to look into how public sector executives’ salaries increase in their final year of service.
Strange how private industry is having difficulty in funding this type of pension whereas the Public Sector employees have a seemingly bottomless pit funded by tax and local rates payers.
For all the talk of reducing departmental budgets by 25% or even 40%, the area that will really cripple this country if left unchecked is public sector pensions.
Lord Hutton has produced a report that has given the following recommendations:
Pensions should accrue benefits at one 80th of final pay for every year an employee is a member of the scheme, not 60ths. This would cut the cost by £10bn a year. In fact, some public sector pensions are already 80th schemes.
(Any scheme which is expressed in such fractions is very simple to explain – although it does look quite technical. an 80ths Scheme is one where a member (employee) is awarded a pension of 1/80th of his final salary for each year that he or she has been a member of the scheme. For instance, if the last year’s salary is £50,000 and that person has been in the scheme for 20 years, the pension will be 20/80ths (a quarter) of £50,000 which is £12,500.
Public Sector salaries are too high and people are living too long for the taxpayer to fund this type of scheme.
Lord Hutton recommends an increase of the pension age for all members. That is calculated to save £5billion per year. He also recommends a short-term option of increasing employee contributions. That will raise up to £2bn a year.
The government is also considering hybrid schemes – a mixture of defined benefit and defined contribution pensions. Defined contribution means that a pre-defined percentage of salary is paid into a pension fund and this money is invested on behalf of the member. The amount of final pension depends on factors such as Stock Market performance. Most private pensions are defined benefit (sometimes called Money Purchase Schemes). Monthly contributions are paid into a fund, the fund is invested on the member’s behalf and the amount of pension depends on how much is in the fund on retirement.
The downside is that we are all too aware of what can happen to a pension if you happen to be retiring when share prices have crashed, although Pension Fund Managers are supposed to invest in less risky sectors as a member is approaching retirement. This does NOT always happen.
This is the area of reform which is most fiercely opposed by the Unions.
Some experts believe that the government has been “spooked” into unnecessary action and has announced the proposed changes prematurely. According to the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies, pensions are set to fall in relation to the size of the economy over the next half-century from 1.8 per cent of national income to 1.4 per cent).
So the “burden” will shrink.
The REAL problem for future governments will be caused by public sector pensions being “unfunded”. That simply means that there is no pension “pot”. That in turn means that the Government must pay the bill however large it gets. In other words, successive governments have not been “saving” in order to provide their employees’ future pensions.
(One question which the Unions ought to be asking the government is “How much of our pensions have you got left?”) The fact is that for years now, governments have been deducting pensions contributions from public sector employees and spending the money.
That is why the government is now asking its own employees to make an additional payment of 3.2% of salary by 2014, with an exemption only for those on less than £15,000, and a rate of 1.5% for the £15,000 to £18,000 salary range.
Everyone will be asked to work longer. At present public servants can retire at 60. This will gradually be brought up in line with the age when people become eligible for the state pension – age 66 for everyone by 2020. The armed forces, police and fire service would, however, be exempt.
Finally, the “Final Salary” will not be used to calculate a pension. Instead, it will be based on a “career average”.
Of course, new pension rules will mean that the government will have to fight hard in order to control public sector salaries because , in order to maintain decent pension levels, the public sector unions will want to ensure higher salaries. That will undoubtedly and inevitably lead to further Union/Government conflicts.
In spite of all of the above, it does seem that the government is in too much of a hurry and appears a little too keen to adopt Lord Hutton’s recommendations without proper consultation.
It has also made the mistake of adopting an over-officious tone and has not bothered to “sell” the changes to those affected.
The British don’t like that. There will be blood.
Direct Sales? No thanks!
We have imported many things from the United States – some good and some not so good. One of the most popular American business activities which we seemed to embrace in the 1950s and which is only now dying out, is “cold-calling”. That is to say, knocking on someone’s door and then attempting to sell whilst at the same time not quite hearing the word “No!”. Ask the “God sellers” – the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons – they’re the real experts.
Remember the old encyclopaedia and vacuum cleaner salesman of the fifties and sixties? Then of course, we had the Life Assurance salesman of the seventies and eighties, followed more recently by the double-glazing salesman of the eighties and nineties. Now we have the door-to-door “energy” salespeople who want to save you money by showing how to switch your gas and electricity bill.
“Foot-in-the-door” selling used to be great fun if you were a good professional salesman – and a nightmare if you were not. The more advanced “foot in the door” technique was the “head in the door” – which meant that when the door was slammed, you could carry on talking until you passed out.
Our real problem though, is that Brits are lousy salespeople and our natural shyness and inability to close a sale made cold-calling excruciating – both to the salesman and to the prospective customer. We are not genetically programmed for sales. We do not possess the “good” bullshit gene – only the pretend one.
Sadly, direct salesmen are a dying breed and nowadays, most initial contacts with clients are made either by telephone or possibly email. Nevertheless, it is still tempting for some amateurs to try their hand at the old art of door-knocking………..
If you have ever been a door-to-door salesman, what is written below may rekindle some old memories. If you are not yet a Direct Salesman but are thinking about it and have been promised unimaginable riches – don’t you wish that you’d paid more attention at school?
The rust-encrusted Vauxhall Nova with a very old “Tax in Post” sticker rattled past the seemingly endless handkerchief-sized front gardens. The single remaining wiper blade was having difficulty in coping with the solid sheet of sleet that appeared horizontally reflected in the dim headlights.
He tapped the petrol gauge nervously. He’d become used to the gauge reading ‘empty’ and he could now read it to the nearest half-millimetre. Almost instinctively, he knew that he had enough fuel for another 8.6 miles , as long as he did not drive above 45 mph in third gear. The Manager had made him promise that he would knock on fifty doors tonight and then meet him at a pub just round the corner at 9 o’clock.
Unfortunately he had been late starting because he could not find a friendly-looking door. (Only those who have “done it” will understand that reference).
Eventually, after driving up and down six more streets, he saw the door! Its porchlight beckoned to him! This was the one! He was drawn to the light like a moth to a flame. He could smell a deal! He would show them back at the office. At next Monday’s sales meeting, he would be the star. He would be the one who would be handed the bottle of cheap red wine. He would bask in the warm applause of his peers and tell them how he had pulled the deal off! They would look up to him and then it was just a matter of time before he was the top salesman. As he parked the Nova, he dreamed of drunken sales conventions in the sun and paid-for weekend breaks in country hotels…..and sex. Lots of it!
He parked the car on a slight incline away from the house – just in case the starter motor jammed again and wedged the front wheel against the kerb because the handbrake was not working properly.
As he stepped out of the car into the rain, his mouth felt dry, although his bladder felt strangely full. He needed the money! That commission cheque was his! Tomorrow there would be a sale against his name! He was a superstar!
As he stepped into the road, he turned up the collar of his cheap Topman suit jacket. He clutched the already soggy business card in a trembling hand. The combination of the streetlight and the warm glow from the porchlight cast a macabre shadow behind his shambling frame as he bent against the sleet on the short trip to the front door.
He paused at the door, straightened the business card and with a short intake of steaming breath, lifted the heavy brass knocker and smashed it on the peeling door. There was a loud silence immediately followed by a commotion and some shouting. He imagined that he heard something about a “ King Salesman”. Well, he was certainly one of those!
The light in the hallway lit a bit suddenly and the startled Salesman twitched in anticipation. SHOWTIME!
The door swung open and It stood before him.
“It” appeared to be a large biped clad only in a grey vest plus what had once been boxer shorts and It appeared not to have the full complement of chromosomes. It did not speak. It only looked.
“GOODEVENINGIREPRESENTCRAPENERGYCANIINTERSETYOUINCHEAPERFUEL..! choked the Salesman as he tried to control his bowels and wave his business card about.
The man looked him up and down, smiled, said “No thanks. Fuck off” and slammed the door in his face.
Ten minutes later, the merriment and banter in the Dog and Duck were briefly interrupted by the entrance of a young man with crazed-looking eyes and wearing what appeared to have once been a cheap Top Man suit. It now looked like a dishcloth with the collar turned up. It and the pathetic figure it contained slipped and slid up to the bar and stood very close to a man in an Yves St Laurent suit who was wearing a chunky gold bracelet on one wrist and a fake Rolex on the other. He spoke too loudly, having just consumed his fifth Scotch.
“ How did you get on then? How many sales did you get then? Bet you didn’t manage fifty doors.”
The Salesman faced his Manager, melting sleet running down his face and back. He moved one more step forward. He was now so close that he could smell the stale Paco Rabanne on his Manager’s quizzically quivering jowls.
Swiftly he brought his knee up.
Recently, military men and politicians have been talking about “mission creep” in Libya. There is a certain inevitability about conflict escalation, yet in spite of tons of historical evidence, politicians ignore the phenomenon – at their peril. Mission Creep occurs when an invading power has only ONE overriding objective. It begins immediately after it has taken that first stride towards its military goal.
That first step is followed by a series of incremental shuffles which are driven by the failure to secure an early result. In Libya, warnings to Gaddafi were superseded by a “no-fly” zone, then bombing, then military advisors, then the deployment of helicopters, then the supply of arms to the rebels. As soon as the first NATO helicopter is shot-down and Gaddafi holds a few NATO hostages, the next step will be justified. “The situation has changed” reasoning will be deployed.
A single focus on just ONE end-game results in the protagonist doing anything to achieve his ambition because politico-military “tunnel vision” kicks-in. Western politicians believe that they have painted Gaddafi into a corner but in having done so, their inflexibility has meant that they have done exactly the same to themselves.
NATO views the Libyan end-game in very simple terms – a dead Gaddafi. Some may say that there’s nothing wrong with that very laudable ambition but there are alternatives. There are always alternatives.
Meanwhile, Gaddafi’s focus is equally intense – to stay alive. The “big picture”, i.e Libya’s future is largely ignored because there is a dictator to be killed.
President Obama has been advised by his own people to “back off” in order to allow minnows such as the United Kingdom and France take the lead in the Libyan “mission”. Why? Obama is essentially a man of peace and he knows that there are alternative end-games in Libya but it is not politically expedient for him to explore the other options. His and the American government’s stance is further driven by public opinion and the rather flaky state of the US economy as well as the relative unimportance of Libya as a strategic jumping-off point.
Nevertheless, cigar-chomping generals are in the driving seat – and once they have a taste of blood, they are notoriously difficult to control. They do NOT understand the concept of “reverse gear”.
European jets and helicopters are busy dropping explosives over Libya with an abnormal concentration having been dropped on Tripoli – specifically in the vicinity of Gaddafi’s compound – all in the name of peace and protection of civilians.
Their lack of success and increasing frustration caused by the failure of their “Kill Gaddafi” objective will create battlefield escalation and a constant reinterpretation of UN Resolution 1973. That means that the military invasion of Libya is a forgone conclusion. It is merely a matter of “when” and not “if”.
Lords minority groups (Is it ‘cos I is Black?)
I’m not sure why, but the conviction and imprisonment of Lord Taylor has made me uncomfortable. He is obviously NOT a crook and if we accept that Westminster expenses fiddling was a pretty ancient sport, his prosecution seems a bit extreme. Deep-down we also perceive that many of Their Lordships have got away with it.
At £65K, our MPs are underpaid and I cannot think of a worse honour than becoming a Lord on a daily attendance allowance of £300 per day. If those incomes are annualised the actual hourly rates are probably somewhere approaching the minimum wage.
The “forced” demographic profile of both Houses is another aspect of modern government which is beginning to look more and more ‘token’ and more decorative than practical. Why? After many years of the “Let’s get some Johny Foreigners and coloureds in”policy, ethnic minorities continue to be under-represented at senior political level. It’s a national disgrace.
However, that does NOT appear to be the case as far as Lords who have been ‘busted’ in the expenses scandal. That is a list where minority groups are over-represented.
The whole expenses affair (Lords and Commons) is symptomatic of the British unaccomodating and obdurate attitude towards money and commerce.
THAT’S why we are unable to turn the occasional blind eye and why we continue to elect governments which allow their drumbeat to be set by the media.
THAT’S why we failed in our World Cup bid and that’s why we’re still moaning about Sepp Blatter’s election as President of FIFA.
THAT’S why we will never again win the Eurovision Song Contest.
THAT’S why appearances continue to matter more than pragmatism and success.
THAT’S why enjoy national self-flagellation and the ruining of public servants’ careers because ‘it’s the right thing to do’. (Is it right to break an individuals career for £15K?)
Admittedly, the Brits do not have that Jewish, Middle Eastern, or even Far Eastern ‘merchant mentality’ in which the goal is the deal and the deal is the goal, where financial ‘flexibility’ or ‘an understanding’ wins the day.
NOT a po-faced inflexibility, commercial rigor mortis and constant accusation of dishonesty, misappropriation and banditry in others.
We are Victorians who have yet to awaken. Until then, the United Kingdom will move from having been a country which 100 years ago made things happen to a country which will soon be wondering what happened.
Here is the list of the Lords who were busted (note the ‘ethnics’):
Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, LABOUR
Yorkshireman Clive Brooke pocketed more than £140,000 of overnight subsistence allowance in seven years by claiming for his mortgage-free house in Brighton instead of his £700,000 townhouse in Battersea, South London.
Viscount Falkland, LIB DEM
Hereditary peer Lucius Edward William Plantagenet Cary registered a two-bed house owned by his wife’s aunt near Maidstone in Kent as his main residence, paid no rent but spent most of his time at £500,000 townhouse in Clapham, South London.
Lord Rosser, LABOUR
Former union man Richard Andrew Rosser received £50,000 in overnight subsistence allowances since buying a flat in Chippenham, Wiltshire, in 2007 and ‘flipping’ his main residence from £750,000 four-bedroom home in Uxbridge, West London.
Baroness Neuberger, LABOUR
Rabbi Julia Babette Sarah Neuberger claimed £80,000 overnight subsistence allowances in five years by designating £237,000 flat in Leamington Spa instead of family’s £2.3million townhouse in Regent’s Park, central London.
Lord Taylor of Warwick, TORY
John David Becket Taylor, who is of Jamaican extraction, claimed £70,000 over six years by saying his main residence was his dead mother’s house in Solihull – which had been sold – then his nephew’s friend’s house in Oxford, all while living in family home in Ealing, West London.
Baroness Goudie of Roundwood, LABOUR
Mary Teresa Goudie claimed £150,000 over eight years by saying her main residence is a Glasgow flat she bought for £200,000 in 2001, not the £1.5million mews house in Belgravia she shares with her husband.
Lord Paul, LABOUR
Indian-born Swraj Paul claimed £38,000 in less than two years by telling the Lords his main residence was the one-bed manager’s flat attached to a hotel owned by one of his companies in Chesterton, Oxfordshire, not his central London family home.
Lord Sheldon, LABOUR
Robert Edward Sheldon Claimed £130,000 over six years whilst owning a £1.3million mortgage-free flat in central London, he told authorities his main residence was a house in Manchester, which he in fact gave to his son in 2003.
Lord Bhatia, LABOUR
Tanzanian-born Amirali Alibhai “Amir” Bhatia claimed more than £20,000 in two years by flipping main residence from £1.5 million family home in south London to a two-bed rented flat in Reigate, Surrey, occupied by his brother.
Lord Clarke of Hampstead, LABOUR
Former union man Anthony James Clarke claimed up to £18,000 a year despite often staying with friends for free or going back to his home in St Albans, Hertfordshire.
Baroness Uddin, LABOUR
Bandladesh-born Manzila Pola Uddin claimed £125,000 between 2005 and 2009, second home allowance on her London property, claiming that she lived in Maudstone.
Lord Hanningfield, Conservative
Paul Edward Winston White has been found guilty of fiddling his House of Lords expenses and will be sentenced within six weeks.
Ratko Mladic, Srebrenica and Lawyer benefits
POSTCARD FROM SREBRENICA
The International Court of Justice sits at the incongruously named ‘Palace of Peace’ at the Hague.
The whole process within the Palace of Peace is controlled by lawyers for lawyers.
Whilst making MILLIONS in legal fees and boosting their retirement funds, the lawyers should investigate Euro Law in order to establish whether the International Court of Justice could register as a charity in order to formally establish its charitable status as a ‘Lawyer Benefit Organisation’.
Currently, it takes YEARS to convict a war criminal. Some of the “accused” die before the end of their trial.
The death of an accused war criminal is no doubt treated as a great tragedy by the legal profession because when the flow of taxpayer ‘big bucks’ ceases, the lawyers find that their regular ‘nice little earner’ has died with the deceased.
Here’s a suggestion: Instead of trying to indict war-criminals on EVERY SINGLE CRIME that the legal profession can think of – they should be tried ONLY on their MAJOR crimes. Forget the minor murders and parking tickets. Try them for the crimes that matter.
Just for starters, Ratko Mladic should be indicted for the Srebrenica massacre. Once convicted, he should be dancing at the end of a rope. If found innocent, the lawyers can move down his portfolio.
That approach certainly will NOT produce the customary lawyer-revenue but will certainly generate a result within the accused’s lifetime.
Adopting the simple approach would mean that war criminals could be charged and convicted (or otherwise) within months, rather that years – or possibly never.
Then, we can show them the mercy that they showed their victims and move on.
That way, scumbags such as Ratko Mladic would not relish a taxpayer-funded future of five, ten or more years whilst enjoying a Holiday Inn living standard which they could only have dreamed-of when they were slaughtering innocent fellow countrymen.
Obama at the No 10 Barbecue
Large men wearing shades, wires dangling from cauliflower ears and overcoats neatly folded in front of them stand very still. They are watching a little man running about putting the last touches to the seating arrangements. Sweat is pouring down his pink face. He looked quite neat when he arrived with the milk at 4.00 a.m. Now he looks like a sweating anaemic blood orange in a crumpled grey suit.
At last his master summons him. “Clegg!”
The Prime Minister, looking very casual in his white shirt, navy blue suit trousers, black brogues, pulls off his tie and hands it to the hapless Clegg. “Get rid of this. Don’t lose it. When my bestest chums Barack and Michelle arrive, take their coats and put them somewhere safe. Can you manage that? I don’t want any more fuck-ups. Speaking of fuck ups, how’s the Huhne thing going?”
“Well, your Highness……….”stammers Clegg, “I…..I…..I. Sorry your Eminent and Serene…..Highness….”
“Just shut the fuck up and get rid of the tie, Make sure that you fold it properly.”
Clegg scuttles off pausing only to be searched and for the tenth time, have a metal detector waved over him by a gorilla in RayBans.
He runs into No 10, through the French windows, up a short flight of stairs, into the lavatory. He decides to have a quick pee but in his blind haste, he wets the Prime Minister’s tie. “Fuck!” he mutters. Another bollocking.
Imperceptibly, the mood in the Rose Garden changes. The Special Service psychos suddenly stand a bit straighter whilst the biggest one – the one with shoulders like an overstuffed sofa speaks into his sleeve. They’re here!
An immaculate and very cool Obama sweeps through into the garden . Michelle, looking casual yet expensively glamorous follows discreetly.
The “Mwwwah! Mwwwah” ceremony between the Camerons and the Obamas is quickly concluded as the rest of the Cabinet lines up for the handshakes. Hague is looking especially resplendent in his New York Yankees baseball hat, multi-coloured Hawaiian shirt, khaki shorts and Argos trainers. Cameron looks across at Hague, just as the Foreign Secretary says to Michelle ” Hello, Nice day”.
“Twat!” thinks Cameron as he watches Sam fuss over the pre-cooked, pre-tasted, Texan burgers on the grill .
” Would you like a burger, Barack?” he shouts over to the President who at that moment stands shaking hands with the Home Secretary who once again is wearing her leopard print “Fuck me” shoes.
The President is relieved to have finished the gladhanding , grabs Michelle by the hand and returns to the comparative sanctuary of the blazing-hot barbecue.
Cameron repeats: ” Burger Barack?”
Barack pulls a sheet of paper from his trouser pocket.
“As the white-hot fingers of the London sun caress the pale face of this momentous day in this Rose Garden, I would ask something of you – my fellow human being and servant of the people…Mr Prime Minister………..something that I am not just asking of you. It is something that I would ask of anyone. Take your wooden tongs , and reach…………yes, reach for that burger bun ( Yes we can!) and having split it with the ice-sharp steel of your artisan knife – thrust into it one , just one onion-laced beef patty and hand it to me – for I am like you . I am your brother and I know that you also feel my hunger and the hunger of the people, your people, my people……OUR PEOPLE! The people of the world! We are the people! And when you have handed it to me, I will endeavour to accomplish what has been instituted by families up and down this great land of Ingerland since the mists of time parted. They parted to reveal our forebear – the common man ( Yes we can!). I am not asking for anything more that a bite – or if it pleases you, my dear and gracious Prime Minister Cameroon – just the opportunity of a bite. Now if that bite seems unpleasant or offensive in any way – we neither make nor demand apology – we simply ask the one question that matters – ketchup or none? Cheeze or no cheeze I do not yet know the answer but…..we shall begin our journey, this barbecue journey together and we shall find out! It will be our quest! We may not get it right first time but one day soon we will know! Maybe even before the end of this great day! God Bless the County of Ingerland and the United States of America!”
Cameron and Sam are now beginning to look quite ill-at-ease. Sam turns to her husband who appears to have gone into “shut-down”. “What the fuck was that all about. Does he want a fucking burger or not?”
Just as President Obama pauses for applause an embarrassed Michelle steps in. The only person clapping, jumping up and down, waving an American flag is Clegg. One of the Secret Service gorillas looks as if he is about to shoot the Limey faggot with the wet stains down the front of his trousers.
Michelle helps the Camerons ” He means ‘yes please’. Can you please give him a burger in a bun. Sorry about that but I’m always having to do this. He does get carried away”
Clegg approaches the great man. He is clutching a worn schoolboy autograph book.
“Can I have your autograph, please?” He is barely managing to hold back the tears of joy.
” Of course, Clegg. Should I do it ‘to Nick’ ?” Clegg is so overcome, all that he can do is nod.
Cameron signs his name. “Now piss off and help with the washing up.”
What?! Mandelson for the IMF?
The Chinese have asked if Prince of Darkness, Peter Mandelson would be interested in THE job at the International Monetary Fund!
Does a Pope crap in the woods? Is the bear a Catholic?
It is difficult to understand the qualities that the Chinese admire in Western politicians. If you recall, they were great fans of President Richard Nixon, even after the Watergate bust. They’re obviously seeing something that is invisible to the Westerner.
As well as having been EU Trade Commissioner, Mandelson is our former Business Secretary and he is known as an excellent manager, administrator and shrewd political operator. So he does have (with apologies to Dominique Strauss-Kahn) previous form.
If the oleaginous Mandelson were to be handed the job ahead of sexy Christine Lagarde or bumbling Gordon Brown, many, including our own Prime Minister would be reasonably happy – after all, Mandelson, in spite of his many foibles is a very smooth international wheeler-dealer.
Mind you, ‘ la cerise sur le gâteau’ would be that not-only the French but more importantly, Gordon Brown would throw all of their toys out of the pram.
French President Sarkozy is still developing his neo-Napoleonic image by having elbowed his way to the front of the NATO queue in order to enhance his recently acquired ‘decisive international statesman’ image by bombing Gaddafi. For balance, he and his wife are expecting a child. He has literally worked his nuts off in order to create a new shiny voter-friendly image for the forthcoming 2012 French presidential election. Make no mistake, the alleged DSK-rape affair is a massive bonus to his campaign.
Now he has the opportunity to install his “protégé” Christine Lagarde at the IMF. That will be yet another feather in his ‘chapeau’ plus Christine will be out of the way, charming bankers and politicians, thus removing herself from the local (French) political scene. Currently, Christine Lagarde is so popular in France that if she decided to run for the French presidency, she would doubtless win.
Gordon Brown needs a job and when interviewed, he didn’t rule himself out – after all it’s £320,000 tax-free – he just tried to sound serious and statesmanlike. He’s definitely making a low-key play for the job. For instance, he had wasted no time in flying out to South Africa, where he was launching a new High Level Panel on Education. Today’s interview had a backdrop of a classroom full of nicely polished black kids. That always goes down well with the media.
When asked about his candidature for the IMF job, he replied in his usual sparkly way “Any candidate to head the IMF needs to be appointed on merit”. When he said that, he probably didn’t realise that in that single sentence, he’d ruled himself out.
David Cameron would probably settle for anyone, as long as it wasn’t Gordon Brown – and for valid reasons. There is little doubt that Brown the Bully would try and ‘lord it’ over our Coalition Government. After all, it is barely a year since he suffered his very public humiliation. Plus he does not possess the urbanity or chic of any of the other candidates. Management by Shouting does not go down well in the IMF environment and Brown has proved more than once that he is a natural backroom boy and not a figurehead.
Nowadays, the Chinese tend to get what they want. After all, even the mighty United States is in hock to them.
Right now, the Chinese want Mandy.
This is going to be a very interesting summer.
(While we’re waiting, Greece will just have to sign a few more IOUs.)
Christine Lagarde or Gordon Brown?
The bookies’ favourite for the suddenly vacant IMF Managing Director’s job is the very bright, willowy 55 year-old Christine Lagarde. The only obstacle in her way is the fact that she’s currently French Finance Minister. President Sarkozy needs her.
By training, Christine Lagarde is a lawyer with a Masters in Politics. She has spent time working in America, speaks perfect English and has been voted the best Finance Minster in a G8 country ( Financial Times).
If given the IMF job, she will bring some much-needed glamour and grit to what is arguably the world’s top banking job. She is more of an economist- politician than banker but but has the sort of no-nonsense rod of steel running through her which will doubtless help a worried world through the current economic upheavals.
She is well-liked by the international political and banking communities and has the credibility to talk to them as an equal.
Gordon Brown is an academic, an analytical and a history graduate. During his short tenure as unelected British Prime Minister he demonstrated a total lack of management and organisational finesse. He continues to delude himself that the ‘led the world’ out of the economic wilderness. Here in the United Kingdom, he left a trail of economic destruction which continues to look like the inspiration for the recent Japanese Tsunami – but with a longer recovery time. Brown’s legacy of incompetence and intransigence will continue to reverberate for at least another two generations.
His popularity within his own country plummeted and remains somewhere below the baseline. At the age of 60, he continues (wisely) to exist below the public’s radar. Unlike the roguish but still likeable Tony Blair, Gordon Brown’s name is never mentioned. He has morphed into the Voldemort of British politics.
In his favour though, he is very unlikely to attack a woman in a hotel room – because he comes across as someone who is frightened of women and was extremely lucky to have been chatted up by the sainted Sarah, otherwise, he’d still be ironing his own shirts.
The International Monetary Fund gig requires what one can describe an Economic Showman – a Personality – a ‘Sophisticat’ – a ‘Name’. An economist with a personality. (Sorry, Gordon).
Former Turkish Finance Minister Kermal Dervis, South African Trevor Manuel (we cannot possibly have someone named “Trevor” running the IMF! It’s alomost as bad as “Mervyn”!) and even Singaporean Tharman Shanmugaratnam are in the frame.
Off-stage, the Chinese, Brazilians and Turks are making anti-european noises . (Turkey has competed in the Eurovision Song Contest since 1975 but failed to qualify for this year’s competition)
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pushing for former Bundesbank head Axel Weber.
Christine Lagarde is odds-on!!
Goldman Sachs strikes again!!
It was GS who helped Greece to cook their books before Greece’s bid to enter the Euro. They were paid a very large fee for their economic culinary skills. We can all see the fallout of the GS ‘advice’ as Greece is exposed as a Third World economy which is only surviving because of IMF handouts.
Goldman Sachs wields an unfeasible amount of power in the United States Economy: CLICK HERE
Dr Ben Broadbent has just been confirmed as an external member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee. His employer? He is senior European economist at Goldman Sachs.
Does the Goldman Sachs strategy include world domination?
That would be surprising, considering the mess that they managed to get themselves into in 2008.
Double Agent Kim Philby had the distinction of being tasked by MI6 to catch himself.
The Governor of the Bank of England, Mervyn King appears to have managed the same trick.
His Quantitative Easing programme has created too much cash in the markets. That cash has been used by the speculators to zero-in on commodities.
Consequently, commodities have risen in price to ridiculous levels.
Governments appear to believe that it is mostly demand which is fuelling the commodity price rises – it is not – it is rampant speculation by City screen monkeys.
The rise in commodity prices has fuelled inflation which Mervyn King and his Monetary Policy Committee are supposed to control through the increasingly blunt and redundant instrument of the Bank Base Rate.
Create inflation and then be paid to control it. Nice work – if you can get it.
(Meanwhile in the USA, Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve continue the economic equivalent of pouring more petrol on a rapidly dying fire)
There is a rarely-printed saying in politics: “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups”
……. Do they mean us?!
For those voters who do not quite understand local politics, it may well be worth describing that most council chambers are organised along Westminster lines. There is a Council Leader (he is the equivalent of a Prime Minister), a “cabinet”, disciplined Westminster-style voting (so that most councillors only have backbencher status) and various committees. Plus, the whole thing is supported by a permanent civil-service-like bureaucracy.
Since the gradual separation (at local level) of economic and political leadership, the calibre of local councillors has fallen. Nowadays, individuals who are economically important within a community do not necessarily have an interest in local government. Whereas years ago a typical councillor may have been a land-owning or business-owning member of a well-established local family, nowadays, individuals who run substantial local businesses are very rarely long-standing locals.
Nowadays, local companies often “import” senior managers and directors. They arrive from other parts of the country or even abroad and although they may have the skills to manage and govern, they do not have any particular interest in local goings-on, because they know that their job-tenure will be short-lived. In addition, they know that it is central government policy and not local government which is crucial to their company’s profitability. They tend NOT to stand for election – which is a shame, because they have organisational skills which are often lacking in elected local politicians.
In 1967, the Maud Committee on Management in Local Government stated that “many councillors see council work as a supplement to their lives”. Some of the reasons which have been given for becoming a councillor – prestige, recognition, seeking a better social life, vanity, stepping-stone to a career in Westminster, self-improvement. (Yes, I KNOW that I omitted the “to serve” mantra).
Luckily though, there are still people out there who are local, feel strongly about local issues, want to serve the local community and are not on a power-trip or an imaginary (in most cases!) practice-run for Westminster.
In local politics, the “management classes” have largely given way to the “talking professions” because the ability to debate has become a more precious skill than the ability to manage large amounts of money and to organise. The old-fashioned free-thinker has given way to the party pack-animal who will normally vote as the party tells him – the ideology of the party has displaced the common-sense of the independent individual.
In spite of all this, we do need local government . The usual voting turnout during a local election (below 40%) gives strength to the “centralist” argument which is in favour of power being taken away from local councils. That is just one of the reasons why it is important to vote. If we do not vote, we give the impression that we do not care about or want local government. THAT is one of the most important reasons why we should all vote in the local elections.
However, if you do decide to participate in the local election, make sure that you do not waste your vote.
There was a time when party politics had nothing to do with local elections. Hopefully, one day local politics will return to choosing individuals who are best-suited to manage and control local issues and budgets.
Every party has individuals who are good at what they do. “Comeback Kid” Ken Clark (C) has to be admired for his no-nonsense political skills and tenacity. Harriet Harman (L) is universally liked and respected and is a very skillful Westminster operator. Norman Baker (LD) is an outstanding MP who is doing an excellent job on behalf of his constituents. Their abilities have nothing to do with political allegiance. They are good at what they do.
We should not be voting for Liberals because we have a good Liberal MP. We should not be ignoring any able Conservatives because we’re temporarily unhappy with the Chancellor. For those with long memories – the Labour handling of the Iraq problem or the apparent ineptitude of the last administration should not influence us if we have a Labour candidate who looks as if he or she has a contribution to make.
What should influence us at local level is simple – which INDIVIDUAL do we believe can be entrusted with the responsibility of representing us most effectively on the Council.
Blind partisan voting will only give us a random chance of voting-in the finest. At best we will elect a few good people – at worst, we will vote-in a single party, many of whom will just be “ballast”. Remember Blair’s Babes? They sit, nod or shake their heads like Muppets while those with proper views do the talking and decision-making.
There is too much political posturing at local level. Too much energy is given over to political in-fighting rather than concentration on the needs of the rate-payer. Many of our local councillors appear to be playing “Westminster” – consequently a local election result is now considered to be a vote either for or against the Government.
Finally, remember that not all Liberal candidates are vegetarian lecturers or white-collar public-sector workers. Not all conservatives are barristers, middle-managers or skinheads and not all Labour candidates are teachers, media people or union members.
Sun and Drink….the sunshine reminded me..
The late Seventies and early Eighties were my Hemingway days. My home was a dark-blue John Bain-designed pointy barely-floating box called MV Silver Bird. The 30 foot motor cruiser was parked, or should I say it “leaned” near the capitainerie in Port Vauban, Antibes.
Occasionally, mocha-faced Tuna fishermen in their borderline-seaworthy wooden boats would pull-up alongside and throw a dead tuna onto my foredeck in exchange for a simple non-tuna meal and lots of pink wine. At other times my neighbours might be a couple of Scandinavian lovelies pulling in for the night in the old man’s ketch. The scenery was constantly changing and evolving.
We could spot the tourists because the ladies would shriek and fuck up the charter boat decks with their silly high heels. They liked to wear silk turbans and what was often a cross between a sari and an evening gown. They always had too much make-up and jewellery plus they were up for it. Gagging. We all stayed well away from them, their too-shiny fake Rolexes and their orange-streaked faces.
The wine we used to drink in those days wasn’t the poncy stuff that tourists drank. It was the rough stuff, no cork but a plastic cap. Mind you, after the Pastis aperitifs, wine of any quality would have been wasted on our Gitane-cured tongues.
There were times when four or five languages sat around the table – but that was not the point as I had already learned the difference between language and communication. We communicated through the medium of Pradel or Listel.
My deckhand and friend was on the run from the British police. He had spent several years in an Isle of Wight establishment and claimed that he had often played chess with one of the Krays who, apparently was “a good bloke”. I didn’t argue in spite of the fact that Crazy Chris and I had developed a “special” relationship – that of a master and Rottweiler-on-Prozac. He was the type of Rottweiler that I would only have taken for a walk on a very long length of scaffold pipe. Too dangerous. He loved me and probably wanted to lick my face because I had given him a job without references, actually paid him at the end of every day and even gave him advances.
Eventually his dependence on me became complete. It became so total that one day he asked me NOT to pay him but to keep it until he “needed it”. I ended up giving him pocket money.
Occasionally, he would cadge a lift back to England on a borrowed passport to “do a job”. His very first offence had been for car-stealing and from what I recall, he had been a good old-fashioned “wheels” man. It was not something that he liked to talk about.
Early each morning I would saunter into the Bar du Port looking for temporary deckhands at Fr100 per day. In those days you could have a very good time for £10. Some of them would be drinking black coffees but most were clutching bottles of Kronenberg whilst the “sophisticats” would already be on their second or third Fernet Branca and croissant. (If you’ve never tasted Fernet Branca – imagine liquidising mushrooms in vodka and then straining the mixture through your grandmother’s gusset.)
Many of the rogues looking for work were ex-public school – only because the vast majority of British plebs didn’t really know about the Cote d’Azur as buses didn’t come that far. Some of us remember when both Antibes and St Tropez were fishing villages – before the tosserati arrived and Peter Mayle wrote that ridiculous book which encouraged even more tosserati – this time with white villas and sovereign rings.
One morning, I had been looking for five or six people to rub-down the paint on the hull of a very large yacht. After I had hired three regulars, I clapped eyes on Chris who was to become my personal bodyguard/psycho/helper/enforcer etc. He was sitting hunched over his coffee and baguette in the classic prison manner, that is to say, with his arms around and in front of his food. He didn’t look up. I shouted to him “Oi, do you want a couple of days work?”
Eventually, he looked up. His eyes were soft-grey bullet holes. He nodded.
Chris’s first day was uneventful apart from when one “hooray”, when on being handed a “Skil” sander said to Chris: “Oh I say. I prefer a Black and Deckah!” Chris threw him over the side. The electric lead had not been quite long enough to reach into the sea, so unfortunately, the boy avoided electrocution by about six inches. I only stepped-in when I believed that Chris was going to damage the idiot after he had been pulled back on board.
Lunch would be either in the Bar du Port or very occasionally at Chez Felix which was opposite – and this is the important part of the story. Lunch would always be accompanied by wine – usually ice-cold Provencal pink or possibly a beer-or-two.
Lunchtime drinking was not a big deal and it certainly was not what is known in the UK as a “session”. It was lunch and it could take two or three hours.
The Brits tend to lose the point about three-hour lunches. We would start work at 6 a.m and often finished after 7 p.m. We did not work when the sun was high.
Here in Britain, alcohol has always been a “big deal” and it is treated by many as a drug rather than a foodstuff.
Among Brits, there is an inordinate amount of snobbishness and pretentiousness attached to wine-drinking. Who gives a shit about ‘southern slopes’, 1947, brandy barrels, Chateau-bottled etc?
British children are warned off drink, so by the time they’re 15 and old enough to drink, they know all about “units”, liver-damage and the theory of binge-drinking. Their parents have already made drinking a big-deal – which is handy for when they start work and can afford to get REALLY pissed. Even in school they are shown examples of “what alcohol can do”.
The Brits find alcohol a useful drug because they are a naturally shy race which needs booze in order to be interesting. The saying “In vino veritas” should be modified for us Brits. It should be “In vino, fiducia” – “In wine , there is confidence.”
Most of the British population has probably been conceived with the aid of alcohol during some stage of the process. On the plus side, a lot of art has also been conceived the same way.
There is another point which should be cleared up. Here in the UK, there is an urban myth which states that French parents give their children watered-down wine from an early age. They do not such thing.
I’d heard the same myth and when I tried to give watered-down wine to my young sons, they spat it out and asked for a Coke.
So, we Brits think of the French as a bunch of quite hard-working drunks who take long lunches. They see the Brits as lazy part-time bingers and drunks who eat crap sandwiches either at their desks or in the street and need to be pissed to have a good time.
Which is better? I’ve done both so it’s not a difficult choice.
What of my friend Chris? Unfortunately on my return to the UK, he also came back. I went “corporate” but no-one would give him a job. So he stole a car, was nicked and helped the crime figures by allowing the court to “Take Into Consideration” lots of crimes that he could not have possibly committed (“The coppers asked me to TIC a load of stuff, so I thought what-the-hell”). As far as I know, he is still an occasional guest of the Crown.
I was reminded of Chris because he was the only teetotaller I ever knew. He screwed his life up without alcohol, so there’s hope for all of us.
p.s. A week after my return to the UK, I was sitting in a London restaurant with a French friend. The waiter came over and asked which wine we would like to order. My friend pointed to the “carte” and said, “Thees one. Ze Peenk”. The waiter smiled and helped my friend. “We call it Rosé, sir,” he sniffed. I ate my napkin.
(Life expectancy in France is 81.5 years. In the United Kingdom, it is 79.5 years.)
King Gaddafi and Machtpolitik
What is it about monarchical and family rule that makes it all the rage these days? Single-party regimes seem as common as democracies but their development into family businesses is a new development – or is it? What has kept these families in power?
The simple answer is geography, massive Western subsidies but mostly – OIL.
Since the discovery of huge volumes of oil in the last 80 years-or-so, formerly impoverished states had the cash to develop huge bureaucracies which were essentially on the ruling family’s payroll. Add to that their armed forces and you have an apparently immovable edifice.
Political parties and unions were superfluous because brand new welfare systems and employment created a hitherto unexperienced sense of national pride and well-being. Tribal rivalries were forgotten and in general terms, citizens rubbed along quite nicely.
Initially, the monarchs took on the mantle of modernisers but they also purposely slowed the process down because in reality, they did not particularly want to spend the money. It was all done on a promise which, for a very long time kept the masses under control. That meant that the rulers did not even have to consider involving the people in governance. Whenever dissent reared its ugly head, promises of political modernisation would be made – but eventually, both the monarchs and their imitators – the commoner dictator-rulers, overplayed their hand. The people began to call their bluffs.
The Monarchs did not claim their kingships by divine right – as is the custom in Western monarchies. Very few gave themselves the title “King” – Jordan, Morocco and Saudi being the exceptions. The rest used titles which resonated with the locals. They were Sheikhs, Amirs and Imams. Their behaviour, however was strictly that of Kings.
The Kings of Jordan and Morocco claimed direct descendancy of the prophet Muhammad but the others would create their own mystique by a combining claims of noble lineage and (sometimes) mythical, often miltary deeds.
Succession was by primogeniture. This is a model which has since been adopted by what you might call non-Royal ruler-kings such as Muammar Gaddafi.
In spite of his military posturing, in his mind, Gaddafi sees himself as King of Libya with his firstborn as natural successor.
Having said that, other Middle Eastern rulers , for example Saudi Arabia have evolved their laws of succession so that it is not always the first-born who will rule but the ruler’s first “capable” male relative. On that basis, perhaps Gaddafi sees his high-profile son Said as the Crown Prince.
Most Middle Eastern and African “Crown Princes” are British-trained or educated.
Traditionally, sons and cousins whose destiny is to rule are given high-ranking military posts or very senior posts in the country’s bureaucracy. They are also funded in order to create their own fortunes.
Wealth-distribution is carefully controlled. Traditionally, the ever-expanding oil income is primarily distributed within the royal family. The powerful and potentially troublesome merchant classes are given more-or-less a free rein to create as much wealth for themselves as they can. In return, they do not become involved in national politics. They are kept sweet.
The only constant cloud on the ruler’s horizon is the relationship with the military. There are two models which have been adopted to prevent military dissent.
The first is to have a small army which is populated by a large number of foreign mercenaries , in other words, those who do not have the faintest interest in the country’s internal politics. This type of army is always commanded by a relative of the King.
The other method relies wholly on the King’s image and personality – whether he be Royal or aspirational commoner. Quite simply, the ruler is Commander-in-Chief of the military. He is constantly visible and more often than not, dressed as a soldier. Gaddafi was a prime example.
Psychologically, a soldier finds it easier to pledge himself to an individual rather than to an abstract concept such as a republic. It has to be personal. Even in the United Kingdom, soldiers pledge allegiance to the Monarch. The Monarch always holds a military rank and the various high-visibility parades, processions and pageants etc always enjoy the Monarch’s patronage and participation – purely to maintain that bond between soldier and ruler. Soldiers fight – not for their country but for their King.
In preparation for his reign, the Crown Prince will always become an army officer.
Another aspect of a ruler’s legitimacy is delivered by a close tie with the State’s main religion. This bond is reinforced by the royal family’s control of religion through funding and the appointment of clerics and church leaders. This aspect is particularly important in the Arab states.
So , the ruler and his family control the military, the religion, all of the important Departments of State as well as the legal system. Often, they are the legal system.
That means that when this type of government collapses, the work needed to rebuild has to be from the bottom-up. If the ruler is deposed, so is the bureaucracy , together with the legal and religious structures. It is a total collapse. The delivery of a few truck-loads of ballot boxes coupled with vague promises of the Nirvana of democracy are never enough.
The gap between an Arab-style Kingdom and a Democracy is vast. Here in the UK, we have a Kindom married to a democracy but this quite unnatural mutation has taken hundreds of years to achieve “Steady State”.
Libya used to be a legitimate Kingdom but troubles began for King Idris soon after the discovery of oil in the 1950s. One of the King’s dissident relatives killed a senior adviser so in retribution, the King “downsized”. He limited the succession and deprived many of his relatives of Royal titles. He also became “lazy” and very quickly became less and less apparent to his subjects by not participating in parades and other public performances which are needed to reinforce a king’s legitimacy.
A Monarch has to show himself to his subjects at appropriate times.
The gradual disassociation from the masses was a great error – an error which would be repeated in the 21st century by the man who deposed him in 1969 – Captain Muammar Gaddafi.
Libyan King Idris failed to exercise control over his relatives who were engaging in the absolute rulers’ offspring favourite dual sports of corruption and unacceptable behaviour. Another error which was to be repeated by Gaddafi.
In the 1960s, both Americans and British had military bases in Libya. Consequently, King Idris was perceived as the West’s puppet. His ties to the West were not approved-of by either his subjects or the military.
Idris paid the price for his lack of control over the military , his relatives’ excesses and his closeness to the Americans and British. In 1969, he was deposed in a Gaddafi-led coup.
Over the last ten years, Colonel Gaddafi has made almost exactly the same mistakes. He has become more and remote from his subjects but as a soldier, has largely managed to retain the trust and allegiance of the military – apart from a few over-ambitious senior officers.
Gaddafi’s sons have been trained to continue the Gaddafi dynasty and that , in essence, is what Muammar Gaddafi is fighting for. His kids’ inheritance.
While Gaddafi was practicing Machtpolitik, blowing up planes, selling explosives to the IRA and all the other terrorist atrocities which have been laid at his door, he was perceived by his people as an independent strong leader. His threats to the West allowed him to maintain the myth of the warrior-leader. It was his perceived fearlessness and independence which carried the most currency and kept him in power.
Today he faces a sad but inevitable closing of the family business.
Like any out-of-touch ruler, he is genuinely surprised and disbelieving of the fact that his subjects are revolting. He is probably offended as well.
His dalliances with Western leaders and apparent mellowing into a Kafkaesque effigy of a world statesman have weakened his grip on the Libyan people.
As NATO-sponsored jets strafe his kingdom, Gaddafi will have one big regret – that he did not pay enough attention to his own country’s recent history.
USA to stop shooting
THIS IS DIRECT FROM ASSOCIATED PRESS:
The Pentagon is about to pull its attack planes out of the international air campaign in Libya, hoping Nato partners can take up the slack.
The announcement drew incredulous reactions from some in Congress who wondered aloud why the Obama administration would bow out of a key element of the strategy for protecting Libyan civilians and crippling Muammar Gaddafi’s army.
“Odd, troubling and unnerving” were among critical comments by senators pressing for an explanation of the announcement by Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs chairman Admiral Mike Mullen that American combat missions will end on Saturday. “Your timing is exquisite,” Republican Senator John McCain said sarcastically, alluding to Gaddafi’s military advances this week.
Mr Gates and Adm Mullen, in appearances before the House of Representatives and Senate armed services committees, also forcefully argued against putting the US in the role of arming or training Libyan rebel forces, while suggesting it might be a job for Arab or other countries.
The White House has said repeatedly that it has not ruled out arming the rebels, forced to retreat this week under a renewed eastern offensive by Gaddafi’s better-armed and better-trained ground troops.
“My view would be, if there is going to be that kind of assistance to the opposition, there are plenty of sources for it other than the United States,” Mr Gates said.
Adm Mullen and Mr Gates stressed that even though powerful combat aircraft like the side-firing AC-130 gunship and the A-10 Thunderbolt, used for close air support of friendly ground forces, will stop flying after Saturday, they will be on standby.
Adm Mullen said this means that if the rebels’ situation becomes “dire enough”, Nato’s top commander could request help from the US aircraft.
As of Sunday, France, Britain and other Nato countries will handle the task of conducting air strikes on Libyan military targets, Adm Mullen said. The remaining US role will be support missions such as aerial refuelling, search and rescue, and aerial reconnaissance.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham suggested the pullback might jeopardise congressional support for the Libya mission.
Copyright © 2011 The Press Association. All rights reserved.
It has just been announced that a NATO plane which was attacking a munitions convoy has killed seven civilians and injured 25. The seven dead were aged between 12 and 20.
The raid which was in Eastern Libya in the village of Zawia el Argobe hit a truck carrying ammunition. The explosion destroyed two houses.
Perhaps it’s time for NATO and its politicians to stop talking about the needless slaughter of Libyan people.
Cameron, Sarkozy and Obama see themselves as custodians & saviours of democracy.
The Arab States (again) see Christians bombing Muslims.
Presumably, for the sake of consistency, the West/USA/The Coalition/NATO/United Nations – or whichever hat it happens to be wearing at the time, will bomb any leader that it disapproves of. Luckily, that is something which Middle Eastern leaders have just realised in the same “nick of time” that Cameron, Sarkozy and Obama “saved” Benghazi.
The “bomb to protect” strategy is flaky. Blair and Bush were criticised for not having an “exit” strategy in Iraq. Now it seems that The Coalition has made exactly the same mistake with Cameron citing the Law of Unforeseen Consequences in mitigation. What he’s saying is “There’s little point in planning ahead because we have no idea what’s going to happen.”
Today, we are showering Gaddafi with Cruise missiles at about £1 million each (that’s without even factoring-in the generals’ and politicians’ pension schemes or the £35,000 per hour-cost of keeping a plane in the air) – and the Americans are onto a very good thing. They make the missiles, sell them to us and we drop somewhere in North Africa. All in the name of democracy.
Within a few days, The Coalition will have destroyed all of the Libyans’ communications capabilities and airstrips. By then, they will also have damaged Gaddafi’s military capability by blowing-up arms dumps, tanks etc.
That will do and the time to leave will have arrived.
(If Libya’s internal issues continue to bother its neighbours, the neighbours are very well placed to assist them both militarily and economically. After all, we armed them and they will be spending the billions which we gave them for the commodity which is definitely (according to the politicians) what this war is not about.)
One of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s sons has died
in a Tripoli hospital after suffering severe burn wounds.
Khamis, aged 32 and Gaddafi’s sixth son, was allegedly injured on Saturday when a Libyan Air Force pilot, Muhammad Mokhtar Osman deliberately ploughed his jet into a compound in Tripoli where Gaddafi and some of his family were staying. It is rumoured than another Gaddafi son, Saadi is critically injured.
Condolences. That shouldn’t happen to anyone. However, Gaddafi is not new to family tragedies which involve the Americans.
In 1986 Ronald Regan gave the order for USA planes to bomb Tripoli, the Libyan capital as well as the Benghazi region. The strikes were directed at key military sites but reports suggest that missiles also hit Bin Ashur, a densely populated Tripoli suburb.
Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s residential compound took a direct hit and at the time, it was claimed that his adopted daughter Hanna Gaddafi was killed.
Gaddafi has eight biological children, seven of them sons with many of them embracing the Western values that their father hates.
The Gaddafi Resolution
Gaddafi and friend…….
Colonel Gaddafi is NOT a target for the “coalition” (USA, UK and France). You may have heard about the United Nations Resolution 1973.
Some commentators as well as politicians are suggesting that the resolution is ambiguous. The ambiguity seems to be provided by the phrase which I have highlighted in red -paragraph#4 under the heading “Protection of civilians”. Paragraph #4 also prevents invasion: “……… excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory”.
Some are interpreting the red-highlighted phrase as permission to kill Gaddafi.
UN security council resolution 1973 (2011) on Libya
The Security Council,
Recalling its resolution 1970 (2011) of 26 February 2011,
Deploring the failure of the Libyan authorities to comply with resolution 1970 (2011),
Expressing grave concern at the deteriorating situation, the escalation of violence, and the heavy civilian casualties,
Reiterating the responsibility of the Libyan authorities to protect the Libyan population and reaffirming that parties to armed conflicts bear the primary responsibility to take all feasible steps to ensure the protection of civilians,
Condemning the gross and systematic violation of human rights, including arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, torture and summary executions,
Further condemning acts of violence and intimidation committed by the Libyan authorities against journalists, media professionals and associated personnel and urging these authorities to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law as outlined in resolution 1738 (2006),
Considering that the widespread and systematic attacks currently taking place in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya against the civilian population may amount to crimes against humanity,
Recalling paragraph 26 of resolution 1970 (2011) in which the Council expressed its readiness to consider taking additional appropriate measures, as necessary, to facilitate and support the return of humanitarian agencies and make available humanitarian and related assistance in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,
Expressing its determination to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian populated areas and the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian assistance and the safety of humanitarian personnel,
Recalling the condemnation by the League of Arab States, the African Union, and the Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference of the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law that have been and are being committed in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,
Taking note of the final communiqué of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference of 8 March 2011, and the communiqué of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union of 10 March 2011 which established an ad hoc High Level Committee on Libya,
Taking note also of the decision of the Council of the League of Arab States of 12 March 2011 to call for the imposition of a no-fly zone on Libyan military aviation, and to establish safe areas in places exposed to shelling as a precautionary measure that allows the protection of the Libyan people and foreign nationals residing in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,
Taking note further of the Secretary-General’s call on 16 March 2011 for an immediate cease-fire,
Recalling its decision to refer the situation in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya since 15 February 2011 to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, and stressing that those responsible for or complicit in attacks targeting the civilian population, including aerial and naval attacks, must be held to account,
Reiterating its concern at the plight of refugees and foreign workers forced to flee the violence in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, welcoming the response of neighbouring States, in particular Tunisia and Egypt, to address the needs of those refugees and foreign workers, and calling on the international community to support those efforts,
Deploring the continuing use of mercenaries by the Libyan authorities,
Considering that the establishment of a ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya constitutes an important element for the protection of civilians as well as the safety of the delivery of humanitarian assistance and a decisive step for the cessation of hostilities in Libya,
Expressing concern also for the safety of foreign nationals and their rights in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,
Welcoming the appointment by the Secretary General of his Special Envoy to Libya, Mr Abdel-Elah Mohamed Al-Khatib and supporting his efforts to find a sustainable and peaceful solution to the crisis in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,
Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya,
Determining that the situation in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya continues to constitute a threat to international peace and security,
Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,
1. Demands the immediate establishment of a cease-fire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians;
2. Stresses the need to intensify efforts to find a solution to the crisis which responds to the legitimate demands of the Libyan people and notes the decisions of the Secretary-General to send his Special Envoy to Libya and of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union to send its ad hoc High Level Committee to Libya with the aim of facilitating dialogue to lead to the political reforms necessary to find a peaceful and sustainable solution;
3. Demands that the Libyan authorities comply with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, human rights and refugee law and take all measures to protect civilians and meet their basic needs, and to ensure the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian assistance;
Protection of civilians
4. Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, and acting in cooperation with the Secretary-General, to take all necessary measures, notwithstanding paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011), to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory, and requests the Member States concerned to inform the Secretary-General immediately of the measures they take pursuant to the authorization conferred by this paragraph which shall be immediately reported to the Security Council;
5. Recognizes the important role of the League of Arab States in matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security in the region, and bearing in mind Chapter VIII of the Charter of the United Nations, requests the Member States of the League of Arab States to cooperate with other Member States in the implementation of paragraph 4;
No fly zone
6. Decides to establish a ban on all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in order to help protect civilians;
7. Decides further that the ban imposed by paragraph 6 shall not apply to flights whose sole purpose is humanitarian, such as delivering or facilitating the delivery of assistance, including medical supplies, food, humanitarian workers and related assistance, or evacuating foreign nationals from the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, nor shall it apply to flights authorised by paragraphs 4 or 8, nor other flights which are deemed necessary by States acting under the authorisation conferred in paragraph 8 to be for the benefit of the Libyan people, and that these flights shall be coordinated with any mechanism established under paragraph 8;
8. Authorizes Member States that have notified the Secretary-General and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, to take all necessary measures to enforce compliance with the ban on flights imposed by paragraph 6 above, as necessary, and requests the States concerned in cooperation with the League of Arab States to coordinate closely with the Secretary General on the measures they are taking to implement this ban, including by establishing an appropriate mechanism for implementing the provisions of paragraphs 6 and 7 above,
9. Calls upon all Member States, acting nationally or through regional organizations or arrangements, to provide assistance, including any necessary over-flight approvals, for the purposes of implementing paragraphs 4, 6, 7 and 8 above;
10. Requests the Member States concerned to coordinate closely with each other and the Secretary-General on the measures they are taking to implement paragraphs 4, 6, 7 and 8 above, including practical measures for the monitoring and approval of authorised humanitarian or evacuation flights;
11. Decides that the Member States concerned shall inform the Secretary-General and the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States immediately of measures taken in exercise of the authority conferred by paragraph 8 above, including to supply a concept of operations;
12. Requests the Secretary-General to inform the Council immediately of any actions taken by the Member States concerned in exercise of the authority conferred by paragraph 8 above and to report to the Council within 7 days and every month thereafter on the implementation of this resolution, including information on any violations of the flight ban imposed by paragraph 6 above;
Enforcement of the arms embargo
13. Decides that paragraph 11 of resolution 1970 (2011) shall be replaced by the following paragraph : “Calls upon all Member States, in particular States of the region, acting nationally or through regional organisations or arrangements, in order to ensure strict implementation of the arms embargo established by paragraphs 9 and 10 of resolution 1970 (2011), to inspect in their territory, including seaports and airports, and on the high seas, vessels and aircraft bound to or from the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, if the State concerned has information that provides reasonable grounds to believe that the cargo contains items the supply, sale, transfer or export of which is prohibited by paragraphs 9 or 10 of resolution 1970 (2011) as modified by this resolution, including the provision of armed mercenary personnel, calls upon all flag States of such vessels and aircraft to cooperate with such inspections and authorises Member States to use all measures commensurate to the specific circumstances to carry out such inspections”;
14. Requests Member States which are taking action under paragraph 13 above on the high seas to coordinate closely with each other and the Secretary-General and further requests the States concerned to inform the Secretary-General and the Committee established pursuant to paragraph 24 of resolution 1970 (2011) (“the Committee”) immediately of measures taken in the exercise of the authority conferred by paragraph 13 above;
15. Requires any Member State whether acting nationally or through regional organisations or arrangements, when it undertakes an inspection pursuant to paragraph 13 above, to submit promptly an initial written report to the Committee containing, in particular, explanation of the grounds for the inspection, the results of such inspection, and whether or not cooperation was provided, and, if prohibited items for transfer are found, further requires such Member States to submit to the Committee, at a later stage, a subsequent written report containing relevant details on the inspection, seizure, and disposal, and relevant details of the transfer, including a description of the items, their origin and intended destination, if this information is not in the initial report;
16. Deplores the continuing flows of mercenaries into the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and calls upon all Member States to comply strictly with their obligations under paragraph 9 of resolution 1970 (2011) to prevent the provision of armed mercenary personnel to the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya;
Ban on flights
17. Decides that all States shall deny permission to any aircraft registered in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya or owned or operated by Libyan nationals or companies to take off from, land in or overfly their territory unless the particular flight has been approved in advance by the Committee, or in the case of an emergency landing;
18. Decides that all States shall deny permission to any aircraft to take off from, land in or overfly their territory, if they have information that provides reasonable grounds to believe that the aircraft contains items the supply, sale, transfer, or export of which is prohibited by paragraphs 9 and 10 of resolution 1970 (2011) as modified by this resolution, including the provision of armed mercenary personnel, except in the case of an emergency landing;
19. Decides that the asset freeze imposed by paragraph 17, 19, 20 and 21 of resolution 1970 (2011) shall apply to all funds, other financial assets and economic resources which are on their territories, which are owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by the Libyan authorities, as designated by the Committee, or by individuals or entities acting on their behalf or at their direction, or by entities owned or controlled by them, as designated by the Committee, and decides further that all States shall ensure that any funds, financial assets or economic resources are prevented from being made available by their nationals or by any individuals or entities within their territories, to or for the benefit of the Libyan authorities, as designated by the Committee, or individuals or entities acting on their behalf or at their direction, or entities owned or controlled by them, as designated by the Committee, and directs the Committee to designate such Libyan authorities, individuals or entities within 30 days of the date of the adoption of this resolution and as appropriate thereafter;
20. Affirms its determination to ensure that assets frozen pursuant to paragraph 17 of resolution 1970 (2011) shall, at a later stage, as soon as possible be made available to and for the benefit of the people of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya;
21. Decides that all States shall require their nationals, persons subject to their jurisdiction and firms incorporated in their territory or subject to their jurisdiction to exercise vigilance when doing business with entities incorporated in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya or subject to its jurisdiction, and any individuals or entities acting on their behalf or at their direction, and entities owned or controlled by them, if the States have information that provides reasonable grounds to believe that such business could contribute to violence and use of force against civilians;
22. Decides that the individuals listed in Annex I shall be subject to the travel restrictions imposed in paragraphs 15 and 16 of resolution 1970 (2011), and decides further that the individuals and entities listed in Annex II shall be subject to the asset freeze imposed in paragraphs 17, 19, 20 and 21 of resolution 1970 (2011);
23. Decides that the measures specified in paragraphs 15, 16, 17, 19, 20 and 21 of resolution 1970 (2011) shall apply also to individuals and entities determined by the Council or the Committee to have violated the provisions of resolution 1970 (2011), particularly paragraphs 9 and 10 thereof, or to have assisted others in doing so;
Panel of experts
24. Requests the Secretary-General to create for an initial period of one year, in consultation with the Committee, a group of up to eight experts (“Panel of Experts”), under the direction of the Committee to carry out the following tasks:
(a) Assist the Committee in carrying out its mandate as specified in paragraph 24 of resolution 1970 (2011) and this resolution;
(b) Gather, examine and analyse information from States, relevant United Nations bodies, regional organisations and other interested parties regarding the implementation of the measures decided in resolution 1970 (2011) and this resolution, in particular incidents of non-compliance;
(c) Make recommendations on actions the Council, or the Committee or State, may consider to improve implementation of the relevant measures;
(d) Provide to the Council an interim report on its work no later than 90 days after the Panel’s appointment, and a final report to the Council no later than 30 days prior to the termination of its mandate with its findings and recommendations;
25. Urges all States, relevant United Nations bodies and other interested parties, to cooperate fully with the Committee and the Panel of Experts, in particular by supplying any information at their disposal on the implementation of the measures decided in resolution 1970 (2011) and this resolution, in particular incidents of non-compliance;
26. Decides that the mandate of the Committee as set out in paragraph 24 of resolution 1970 (2011) shall also apply to the measures decided in this resolution;
27. Decides that all States, including the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, shall take the necessary measures to ensure that no claim shall lie at the instance of the Libyan authorities, or of any person or body in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, or of any person claiming through or for the benefit of any such person or body, in connection with any contract or other transaction where its performance was affected by reason of the measures taken by the Security Council in resolution 1970 (2011), this resolution and related resolutions;
28. Reaffirms its intention to keep the actions of the Libyan authorities under continuous review and underlines its readiness to review at any time the measures imposed by this resolution and resolution 1970 (2011), including by strengthening, suspending or lifting those measures, as appropriate, based on compliance by the Libyan authorities with this resolution and resolution 1970 (2011).
29. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter
Euphoria on Planet Bank!
Yesterday, the Governor of the Bank of England suggested that the banks have slowly returned to their bad habits – but why should that have happened?
Just over two years ago, senior bankers were standing around in draughty Treasury corridors willing to sacrifice anything for Government help in order to avoid the prospect of a banking meltdown.
Yet now, all seems well on Planet Bank.
J K Galbraith said “the financial memory is brief”. The fact that even now, those living in broken economies are piling into the stock markets and making speculative investments reinforces his view.
Investors fall into only two groups. Firstly, we have those who believe that markets will rise for ever – at least for as long as they are investing. Secondly, we have the more experienced group which thinks that it can ride the “ups” and climb out just before prices begin to dip. What they don’t seem to realise is that they are all as vulnerable as each other.
By rights, stock markets should have crashed by now. All that has held them at reasonably healthy levels is the abstract money that has been generated by central banks. No doubt the central banks imagine that they are doing their governments a favour but once again, they appear to have forgotten one immutable fact: investment euphoria (which on this occasion, they have helped to create) is always followed by a crash.
The trials and tribulations of 2008 have largely been long- forgotten. Speculators, traders and fund managers are riding the tiger once again with no obvious plan to dismount. They have returned to that state of false-euphoria which may well be generating “winnings” today but tomorrow will inevitably herald the collapse.
Those who really do manage to avoid the fall will do so more by luck than by judgement.
Regrettably, those who are making money and experiencing all that goes with it believe that they deserve their new-found riches. Their bosses tell them that they deserve their rewards – as if it is they who are creating the wealth. That belief spawns another very dangerous banker “syndrome”:
It is a super-assurance which carries an ominous presumption of invincibility. (Other sufferers are some hospial consultants and many politicians)
It is that belief – that blinkered uber-vanity which grips them in an ever-faster spinning vortex of blind euphoria.
When economist Roger Babson forecast the Crash of 1929, he was vilified because he was encroaching on the speculative madness which had gripped a nation. He had said that there would be a 60 to 80 point drop in the Dow and that many would lose their jobs and money and that there would be a depression. At the time, everyone was investing. The majority borrowed the money to invest because they believed that they could not lose.
Fast-forward to 1986 ; the time of leveraged buy-outs, merger and acquisition mania and Gekko-style corporate raids. Once again, euphoria came to rule the world. That year, J K Galbraith himself was asked by the New York Times to write a piece on this “new” phenomenon. He recognised the investment euphoria symptoms and predicted a stock market crash. The New York Times declined to publish but The Atlantic printed Galbraith’s article in early 1987.
Black Monday was on October 19th 1987.
Currently, we are in the midst of yet another one of those speculative episodes but this time it is mired in the economic fallout created by bailed-out bank debt. Plus we have that added “Chaos Theory” element provided by disruptions in the Middle East, various sovereign debt crises, commodity inflation and propped-up currencies…and yet…The Investment Euphoria is alive, smiling and in extremely good health.
Some may say that the investment banking fraternity has lost touch with harsh economic reality. The economy is outside their bubble.
The world’s indices are highish but still don’t seem to be in quite the right place. Speculators appear to be making money as stock markets rise and fall daily like a tart’s knickers.
There are some outsiders who have a sense of foreboding because bankers’ and politicians’ policies appear to be doing no more than postponing an inescapable economic destiny.
Investment bankers, fund managers and speculators count their profits and bonuses as speculative euphoria grips them. The downside is that whereas past amateur investors would pile into the equity markets out of greed, the modern version has taken to buying equities out of necessity.
The returns that private investors can obtain from the retail banks are so low that inflation is now eroding their money. One of the few places available to them nowadays which can produce a reasonable return is the Stock Exchange.
So how will the end-game pan-out?
That depends on the will of Central Banks such as the American Fed and the UK’s Bank of England. Their current status has deteriorated to that of the mildly interested but totally impotent but anxious observer. That suits the banks. They’re filling their pockets before the shutters come crashing down – and who can blame them?
Meanwhile, the central banks should prevent retail banks from investing OUR money in anything vaguely risky – i.e. allow only a very small percentage to be invested in equities.
If legislation decreed that Retail Banks should invest say 90% of their (our) money in Fixed interest or Gilts and a maximum of 10% in Equities, we could breathe a collective sigh of relief.
So what if the banks are pulling-in returns of 10%+ on their investments? We don’t care – all that we need is a return that beats inflation. Currently, the banks cannot even manage that – inspite of the super-human skills that they claim of their investment experts. (You know, the experts who are SO good that they have to be bribed to remain in place though the medium of the 7-figure bonus but can only leave the bank saver with a net-return of less that 1% p.a. on their savings)
Banking itself should be a very simple process.
The Retail Bank is a box into which we put money and the bank pays us a small return for the privilege. If we need a loan, and the bank believes that we ‘ll be able to pay it back, it lends us the money and we pay the bank a small return for the privilege.
But it doesn’t quite happen like that.
Instead, we have a monster which pays us a negligible amount for the use of our money and should we need the bank’s help, we are ripped-off with eye-watering repayments and outrageous interest rates. Plus, the banking “industry” is the only commercial activity which can sell you something (a loan) and then at any time in the future, increase the price.
Can you imagine buying a bunch of bananas from a greengrocer who then contacts you to say ” Have you finished those bananas yet? No? Well, the price has just gone up on the uneaten ones. In fact, we’re going to charge you more for the ones you’ve already eaten.”
The other self-pertetuated myth is that banks “create wealth”. They do not create wealth – they simply redistribute it.
However, the function of an Investment Bank – the one which does play with equities, is to help industry and commerce to create wealth. The Investment Bank is supposed to do that by raising money. Instead, it has evolved (some say “mutated”) into an organisation whose raison d’etre has become profit creation – for itself and its shareholders.
Bankers and politicians are confusing external wealth-creation (for others) with profit creation (for themselves).
Think about it. The banks don’t actually make anything -they merely redistribute it. Imagine an economy which consisted of nothing but banks – it would not work because no-one would be producing anything.
Banks cannot function without a steady money supply which is generated outside the banking system.
Mervyn King is right – until there is a major re-think of the banking system and it returns to carrying out those simple functions which augment an economy rather than leech funds away from it – we’re heading for another major fall.
Forget all that dramatic nonsense about “breaking up” the banks – it’s a straightforward accounting exercise with a “firewall” between the Investment and the Retail Bank.
What the banks need is a fundamental rethink of their function as well as another major reminder of their own fallibility.
I have a feeling that the lesson will manifest itself sooner than many “experts” believe.
Gaddafi – mad, bad or “fitted-up”
Politicians are pack animals and their chosen mode of transport is the bandwagon. They have now gathered around Gaddafi and individually are beginning to bite lumps out of him and then scuttling back to the pack in order to give the next one the opportunity to rip-off another strip. The name of the game is isolationism.
The United Nations is busying itself condemning Muammar Gaddafi while simultaneously, the UN Human Rights Council is about to adopt a report which praises Libya’s human rights record. The report extols Libya for improving its education and constitutional framework. Several countries have made a special mention of the new legal protections which Libyan citizens now enjoy and the report praises Libyas efforts in making human rights “a priority”.
The report was put together as a result of the Council’s November 2010 session but now, because of recent and ongoing events in Libya, it seems that it was all a collective “mistake” ( by 47 countries).
UN Watch, a Geneva-based quango, is demanding that the report be withdrawn and “the truth” be printed. It seems that in a matter of days, Gaddafi has gone from hero to zero but more importantly, the principle of “doublethink” exposes the United Nations as an organisation which deals in expediency rather than truth.
A few days ago, with encouragement from the United States, the Human Rights Council council passed a new resolution condemning Libya’s abuses in response to the latest unrest. The Council has called for an international inquiry and has recommended that Libya’s membership of the Council be suspended.
We have accepted that Gaddafi is “mad”, “deluded” and “isolated”. But that seems to be at odds with the rather unedifying sight, just a few years ago of Tony Blair trying to get Gaddafi in a clinch and the unbounded joy as BP signed a deal with Libya. Then we had the rather speedy release of Al Megrahi from prison because of his yet-to-be-terminal prostate cancer.
Gaddafi seemed to have been fully rehabilitated and the propaganda machine painted him as maybe a bit eccentric but definitely doing his best towards his people.
Yesterday, when Jeremy Bowen, the BBC’s Middle East editor interviewed the Libyan leader, Gaddafi confirmed that the people “loved him” and that his security forces had been ordered NOT to shoot at his people.
Elsewhere, the Americans are talking about Gaddafi “slaughtering” his people.
In propaganda battles of this type, the truth is often the first casualty. So where is the truth hiding?
The reportage from Libya is biased against the Libyan leader and most will say “and quite right too”. However, in the interests of balance, let’s look at another scenario – probably ficticious and purely an illustration of another view.
Imagine a leader who lives an isolated life whilst at the same time, delegating the day-to-day running of the country to his family and trusted aides. He is an ex-soldier and not even remotely interested in the more mundane aspects of administration. He sees himself, not as a dictator but as a figurehead. He is a titular Head of State, such as we have here in the UK . He does not manage – he reigns.
One day, his subjects hear and see demonstrations in adjoining countries and think “We can do that. That democracy lark looks good”.
The street activities in Egypt and Tunisia gave the ordinary voiceless Libyan confidence and resolve, courage and hope. They prepare placards and go out onto the streets because they too want “democracy”. What they all REALLY want is the affluence which so-called democratic countries appear to enjoy and a fair share of the oil billions which their leader mistakenly continues to confuse with his own money.
An air force general and a head of security services both see an opportunity. The air force general orders one of his planes to make a couple of low passes and shoot a few rounds into the gathering crowd. He then orders a couple of pilots to fly abroad and denounce the leader. The air force general then resigns and calls a press conference, blaming his leader for giving orders to kill protesters.
The Security Chief is persuaded by a well-known secret agency belonging to a big Western power. He orders troops to shoot a few more protesters, then resigns and denounces the leader.
Meanwhile, the leader is in his bunker, being fed good news by his flunkeys. After all, people who once gave the leader bad news mysteriously disappeared.
Ambassadors, diplomats and other senior people all over the world suddenly withdraw their allegiance and denounce the leader. They resign for a variety of reasons, ranging from self-preservation to being participants in a bigger oil-conspiracy.
Meanwhile, the leader is wondering what all the fuss is all about. After all, he loves his country and specifically requested that his people should not be harmed. He continues to be fed good news and (not unreasonably) declares that the people all love him.
However, his son (who was once very popular among London’s tosserati) then blows his democratic credentials by waving a gun in front of a crowd and declaring that they will fight “to the last bullet”.
Although it is very likely that the leader’s supporters are still measured in millions, Western media continue to only interview individuals who are anti-leader. Close-ups of burning vehicles and bodies in the streets give the impression that many thousands of the country’s citizens have been “slaughtered”. In fact, the big Western power now openly uses the s-word.
The world’s political pack closes the air-space over the leader’s land and his country’s money is stolen by the politicians who by now, sense that the leader is blissfully oblivious of the fact that he is terminally wounded and has no escape.
He has been totally encircled. The politicians have closed ALL the doors and then paradoxically, tell him to “get out”. Understandably, the leader feels very let down and betrayed because a few days ago, the same openly aggressive politicians used to be his friends.
The politicians are already slavering over the prospect of rebuilding contracts, mining, oil and of course….more oil.
So what of the bruised and battered “truth”? Well, that’s purely relative.
A few days ago, the United Nations were about to publish a report praising the truth of Libya’s new approach to human rights. Now, the truth is that they are dealing with a deluded murderer who kills his own people. A genocidal maniac.
The truth always depends on where you are standing.
….and here are a couple of reminders from the family album:
and of course:
The Halo effect.
I have dealt with politicians for many years and one of the first things that I learned was to distinguish between real ability and perceived ability. The Halo Effect.
Most politicians (except close chums of the PM) – have to go through a selection and an election process. Once they are elected and become a Member of Parliament, nothing changes, except that they have a new job. Their abilities remain exactly where they were the day before the election but many seem to believe that they have become “canonised” and for some, “The Venerable” would fit far better than the pedestrian ” Hon member”.
So what is the Halo Effect? It is simply our mis-perception of someones abilities and traits, based on other abilities or traits. For instance, when you see a photo of a particularly attractive woman, you make a perceptual decision about her voice, her personality etc – all based on one small item of information.
We assume that tall people are more intelligent. We assume that someone wearing a Barbour and holding a Purdey shotgun will talk in a certain way and has a certain amount of money. We assume that if someone has one quality, we can load them with others.
If you have a child, you will understand that he or she assumes that dad or mum can do anything, from dressing a wound to mending Thomas the Tank Engine. To your child, you can do anything. Your halo is the biggest that it will ever be. To your baby, you are ALL halo!
In management and politics, many organisational mistakes are made – more so in politics because of the perceived attributes and skills of those who engage in politics. The motley mixture of ex-union men, solicitors, barristers and teachers who attend Westminster tend to play with a very narrow skill-set, yet in many cases, they imagine that have suddenly been blessed with the lot!
In politics, because someone is eloquent, he or she can be imbued with an amazing array of skills. The sad fact is that important skills such as negotiating , organisational and management skills are NOT acquired through osmosis but have to be learned and trained.
I have met politicians who are embarrassed to be trained in ANYTHING because their ego and self-perceived status hold them back. That’s purely because of their belief in their own immortality and omnipotence. On too many occasions, they are promoted to fail – and very often, they do. Hence the rather blunt instrument that is the Cabinet reshuffle.
If you think about it, the Cabinet Reshuffle is no more than a Prime Minister’s admission that he is not very good at recruitment and selection. I have often said to senior executives: ” Either you promoted the wrong man, recruited the wrong man or have failed to manage him properly. So whose fault is it that there has been a screw-up?”
When a Prime Minister promotes someone to a key job, he cannot do so purely on ability. Not-only have promises been made, advisers consulted, friendships cemented and length of service considered but there is also the question that president Johnson coined:
“Do I want him outside the tent pissing-in, OR should I have him inside the tent, pissing out?”
ACTUAL ability and the correct set of skills for the job is way-down a long list. Many boxes have to be ticked before something as mundane as “fit for purpose” is considered.
Which brings me neatly to William Hague. He is an excellent speaker and as a result of making himself look a prat at the 1976 Conservative Party Conference, he became a “face”.
Now, 35 years later, all that he has behind him is a long political career without ever having had the benefit of having had to manage his way out of the sort of crisis that he was presented when British subjects needed to be repatriated from Libya.
But because he is a nice man, a good speaker and because of the title of Foreign Secretary,we assumed that he could complete the simple task of sending a plane to Tripoli without his boss having to apologise for what looks like a major screw-up and PR disaster. William is not ruthless enough to be a leader. He’s proved that once already – and that includes leading the United Kingdom’s Foreign policy.
The “reciprocal” of the Halo Effect is the Reverse Halo Effect. Once someone screws-up one thing, we assume that everything else that he touches will be a disaster. That happened to Gordon Brown.
Mind you, he was a History graduate, ex-University lecturer and was totally and utterly unsuitable for a management job. He would have been stressed to breaking point and this manifested itself in his total ability to make a decision. Once we found out what he was really like, his fate was sealed. Once he’d acquired the “indecisive” sobriquet, no amount of PR could help him. That’s the power of the Reverse Halo.
Again, Brown was a thoroughly decent man but like Hague, not fit for purpose.
In the same way that Hague’s halo manifested itself during his 1976 speech, the Reverse Halo is now in place – then it’s down to nothing more than David Cameron’s humanity, loyalty, patience and judgement.
Meanwhile, William has to be careful. Some of us haven’t forgotten the hat. Or the hair:
In the steps of Jesus?
Henry Bellingham, (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Africa and the United Nations), Foreign and Commonwealth Office, made a statement last week about the expenses incurred by the taxpayer as a result of Pope Ratzinger’s visit to the United Kingdom.
This was just a four-day visit and was promulgated as not-only as a visit by a religious leader but because the Vatican styles itself as a sovereign state, the holy junket doubled as a State Visit. That meant the men in frocks not-only delivered a bit of spiritual sustenance to the clamouring flock but broke bread in the company of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.
For hundreds of years, Popes have lived in the gilded Renaissance splendour of the Apostolic Palace. They don’t immerse themselves in the daily travails of their “subjects” so they become strangers to both earthly humility and the economic limitations known to their flock – until the very end – when they are buried.
Only then does it dawn on the Catholic church that the faithful need to be reminded of the Pope’s humanity. Consequently, he is placed in a simple cedarwood coffin. The coffin of a humble artisan. That modest box which always manages to look so incongruous when it’s the focal point of the memorial service within the breathtaking majesty of St Peter’s Basilica. Much like the incongruity of old men in gold-threaded dresses telling us about a modest and poor Jesus who was sent “to save us” through the bizarre medium of the triple whammy: self-sacrifice, death and resurrection.
By the time our present pope lies in state, he will have completed his last costume change , been eased into his last designer dress , tilted his last handmade pope-chapeau and struck his last vaingloriously holy- heroic stance. The only real reminder of his primped popegotism will be a pair of immaculate red leather papal slippers. The peacockery will truly be over.
Pope Ratz will have lived the life – not of a humble shepherd or carpenter – but that of a full-on Rock Star. That is the spirit in which he met his British groupies (known collectively as CATHOLICS) when he flew in on the Popejet last year.
So what about the numbers for this four-day visit?
The total cost was in excess of £9 million, one third of which was towards media facilities. The cost of the aforementioned munch-out with the Queen was over £66,000 with a low-key supper with the Foreign Secretary coming in at a parsimonious £19,000.
The Taxpayer contributed £1.67 million for the open air beatification mass which honoured Cardinal Newman – after the required miracle had finally been identified.
An American trainee deaconnamed Sullivan who suffered from Stenosis, says that his condition was cured after he offered up a prayer to Cardinal Newman. (Coincidentally, Pope Jean-Paul ll was beatified after a French nun was cured of Parkinson’s disease after she had prayed to him).
The Catholics (and God) truly do look after their own.
The full cost of Cardinal Newman’s Birmingham beatification was well over £4 million but the balance was picked up by the church.
In spite of the Popemobile (transportation costs £34,000) and security, insurance premiums added-up to nearly £147,000. Although police and security costs were provided from existing budgets, the Metropolitan force forked-out £300,000 more than had been budgeted-for.
Airport costs were £60,000 and official baggage cost £34,500 to transport.
The pope’s entourage accumulated hotel, minibar and other accommodation costs of £17,500
The £6.98 million costs of the state elements are being met by the public purse with the Catholic Church asked to reimburse the taxpayer by £6.35million for pastoral events.
Direct costs already met by UK Catholic churches are estimated at around £3.8million.
An estimated 500,000 people attended events during the pope’s four-day visit – but was it all worth it?
As a Public Relations exercise, it was worth a fortune to the Vatican because in spite of Richard Dawkins’ attempt to portray Pope Ratz as a cross-dressing baby-eating monster, the pontiff’s image was boosted.
He left the UK as everyone’s favourite uncle – after having arrived as a paedophile-harbouring Nazi Panto dame.
The Pope and his entourage could never understand the caricature that is the German accent – that is only for those with English as their first language. So, when Ratz addressed the great and good in Westminster Hall -in English – we were all waiting for the inevitable: ” Your Papers pleess!”….but sadly, it never came and even for us godless ones, he came across as a gently-spoken gentle-man.
There is little doubt that much of what the public saw was staged and the work of a good PR team. In other words, it was largely a fiction.
Purely on that basis, the Catholic church showed great consistency as its politics, pronouncements, ambiguities, image and beliefs all have that smoke-and-mirrors quality which – even after such a sumptuously bravura performance – paints Pope Ratz as a puzzle – a compelling but somehow emotionally-sterile enigma.