Friday, October 30, 2009

The Tories in "Europe"

Is it too late for the Tories to return to the European People's Party (EPP)?
I will come back on this subject in a future post.

Some (radical centrist) thoughts on Climate Change and the upcoming Copenhagen Conference

Greenpeace has today accused the EU leaders meeting at the 2 day European Council whay while they back global climate funding for developing countries, they fail to put their money where their mouths are.

The EU leaders agreed that developing nations would need 100 billion euro (150 billion US dollars) worth of help annually by 2020 to cope with climate change and to deal with the consequences of global warming. But they did not agree how much of that money the EU would contribute as well as how the burden would be divided among the 27 member states.

It was argued, by some, that the EU might want to keep those things as "closed cards" for the negotiating tables in Copenhagen.

My first thought was:

Is the essence of solutions to climate change lost in details and negotiation strategies and mandates?

A few minutes before I read the Greenpeace press communique, I was "discussing" via text with a friend on whether GDP is the best measure of progress or wealth.

IMO the whole socio-economic framework of the industrial era has to be re-thought - new era, new fundamentals, new indicators.

Economics and economic indicators have much to do with reality today? Virtual economics in a virtual world? I know, I know, I could be exaggerating, but what if I am not? And the climate change challenge is facing us all, starring in our eyes.

So on GDP vs happiness : I am reminded of the popular aphorism that money does not buy happiness but makes misery more bearable. But are there better ways to do this eg Thinking? See below.

Now, in addressing climate change:

Should the philosophy of progress via industrialisation be challenged and urgently replaced by other philosophies - models?

IMO the solutions are:
1) to make it uber fashionable in developed countries for ppl to lead low carbon footprint lives
2) to convince the developing countries that industrial and other #CO2 "rich" growth is not real growth - progress

Next generations will fry or freeze cause our era lacked the #philosophers needed to show world opinion there's a better way of life

Make Love not CO2 !!

If we do not make radical changes in our way of life, our grandsons will be visiting St. Tropez in ... Sweden !!!

The Hardball - Emergency Option:

Should WTO free trade be put on table of climate talks? In other words, should "free trade" be frozen until climate agreement reached that will save the planet? Because in a Sahara or Ice Age like planet, what kind of free or international trade will there exist, anyway?


A major trend shift towards consumption of intellectual rather than industrial + other tangible products can help save our planet


After all, thinking is a zero carbon footprint activity that can lead to satisfaction and happiness, a cool workout for one's mind's muscles everyday!

Europe needs Britain and vice-versa?

A few thoughts on David Miliband's article in Times Online today:

Mr. Miliband: writes that Margaret Thatcher said in 1975 that Europe “opens windows on the world for us that since the war have been closing” and that she was right!

The EU does indeed need British thinking but with a tad different mentality, IMHO!

IMO problem is many Britons feel un-employable and aliens in the Global and Open Britain model

750,000 British companies are trading in the EU Single Market
60% of UK's trade is with the rest of the EU
The UK gets significant Foreign Direct Investment and other forms on inward investment because it acts as a portal for the EU Single Market for Japanese and other third country corporations.

EU and Eurozone unemployment in September

According to Eurostat: September unemployment (seasonally-adjusted):

EU 9.2% (7.1% Sept08)
Eurozone 9.7% (7.7% Sept08)

Compared to Sept 08, Germany only 0.5 up (7.1% to 7.6%) Belgium 0.6 (7.3% to 7.9%) Latvia 11.6 (8.1% - 19.7%)

NL still uber low rate, only 3.6%, while Latvia 19.7% and Spain 19.3% top the rate list.

Greepeace criticises EU leaders over commitment to climate change funding

According to Greenpeace, "EU leaders back global climate funding for developing countries but fail to put their money where their mouth is"

At a press communique today
, Greepeace adds: "At the EU summit today, European leaders backed funding for climate action in developing countries in preparation of global climate talks in Copenhagen in December. But while Europe has put its weight behind global public funding for the developing world of up to €50 billion per year by 2020, it lacked the nerve to commit to the EU’s share of the funding"

Thursday, October 29, 2009

liberal vs liberal!

a liberal Democrat is US speak is quite different than a Liberal Democrat in UK and European speak in general - so is "liberal" (what a linguistic mess, see also "football")

EU "Cognitive Associations": Lisbon, Maastricht, ...

a) A lovely city,
b) an EU Strategy for Jobs and Growth and
c) an EU Treaty !

Remember Maastricht?

And who wants to remember the Nice Treaty (a product of late night sloppy compromises, the one in force before Lisbon comes into effect)?

working at home, heaven or hell?

IME working from home works best 4 certain types of jobs and for people with a certain mentality towards work + the work they do!

EU's position on climate change negotiation

Does the EU indeed have a strong negotiating position for the Copenhagen Conference on climate change?

The EU has solutions?

The EU has solutions? Made in ....?

Does the EU need a min wage as a balance to inter-state Services?

The socio-political troubles of the EU single market for Services:

How does inter-state provision of services work in the US compared to the EU? Has tone much better.

Does the EU need a minimum #wage (the US has, federal and each state), in order for some CSOs to be less adverse to a Single Market for Services?

EU Spanish Presidency priorities

Spanish Presidency (Jan-June 2010) logo + priorities have been presented, include new economic model. social EU and single voice in world

EU leaders meet with EU employers and trade unions

The EU's "Tripartite Social Summit" was held today (EU Council Troika, Commission President and Employment Commissioner plus the so called "European Social Partners")

Employers and trade unions delegations to the Tripartite Social Summit this morning were coordinated by BUSINESSEUROPE and ETUC

And while the EU leaders and social partners gathered for the Social Summit (Thursday am) and then the European Council, the news that US economy grew 3.5% in Q3 arrived! A jolt bolt for some?

The EU President post and the European Council

Does anyone really think that 27 leaders will let any one person (they choose) "lead" them?

The new President will preside over the European Council that meets 4 times per year. What has European Council really achieved in recent decades other than badly written Treaties products of sloppy late night concessions (eg Treaty of Nice)?

Globalisation then and now

Germany, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore etc and China did not invent or start globalisation, but they have mastered the "game"

Where were the intellectual + academic "hubs" or "clusters" that promoted the ideology of globalization? Paris? No! In the US and the UK.

The same intellectual "hubs" (US, UK) that promoted globalisation are recently promoting "other" models.

Especially now that finance based economic power of the US and UK (NYC and London) has declined due to the crisis?

The game rules are being changed or revoked, led by forces in the US and the UK, 2 economies that have not had a positive trade balance in ages

Fair trade, green tech, emissions trade schemes:
Are they tools 4 curbing the #export power of some of the current export leaders
Are they tools for the ex-champions to regain competitive advantage in world economy?

energy alternatives while facing global warming

More than 50 nuclear power plants currently being built, 20 in China alone!

IMO solar + wind should be the core energy sources + our life styles adjusted to the max energy these sources can offer by a certain year

IMO global warming calls for radical changes in all areas of life and #economy and an urgent need for world unity to address those changes.

German consumer confidence down in October

German consumer confidence inn October down for the first time in 13 months, according to GfK.

House prices in England and Wales in September

House prices in England + Wales rose by 0.9% in September compared to August according to the Land Registry; -5.6% from Sept 2008

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Eurozone bank lending down in September! Why?

While most EUropean governments, including those 16 in the Eurozone of the EU, have spent quite a lot of money to try to help banks and boost lending to consumers, companies and home buyers-mortgage holders, data from the European Central Bank (ECB) shows that Bank loans to companies in Eurozone declined in September at an annual rate of 0.3% after a +0.1% annual rate in August!

The equivalent rates for loans to households was also negative, -0.3%, in September, after -0.2% in August.

Mortgage related lending in the Eurozone declined even more, -0.6%!

Now, why is this? Some seem to argue that these data are a result of lower demand for loans, as companies, households and mortgage holders are tiding up their "internal" finances. Hm!

As as as companies (in the Eurozone) are concerned, I am willing to "buy" this "theory", since Service and micro and small companies do not have as many capital needs as industry does/did.

But I am not sure, who can?

In any case, the news tend to re-enforce my theory that in this Services - post-industrial era for the US and the EU, economic modeling and policies have to account for the new reality: That the core of the economy are micro and small companies and Services, and that it is their "needs" that policy makers have to understand, first, and then address. And that a key need is better and less regulation, which now suffocates small firms.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Masters of globalisation and of Union making

Consider this:

The UK and US started (even invented) globalisation, but it is others who hav mastered it!

Europe started Union making, will it be others who will master it (Africa, SE Asia, etc)?

For real growth and real jobs (in the UK and EUrope)

IMO business entrepreneurship in the UK + rest of EU needs to spend less time dealing with red tape and more in new ideas and Marketing

Ask yourself:

How many people in the UK and EU have ideas and dreams related to new products and services?

How many people in the UK and the EU try to detect new needs and wants of a niche of the 0.5 bn EUropean consumers?

Consider this:

The EU has 0.5 bn people: consumers, workers, job seekers, entrepreneurs stuck in an incomplete (theoretical) EU Single Market

How many small and micro firms in the EU think of the EUropean Single #Market as "their" market (instead of the local - national one)?

How many EUropeans grow up in one EU member state, go to uni in another and get a job or start a business in a third?

What is the way to a real EU, a real EU Single Market and real growth and real jobs?

Who is really afraid of an EU Single Market for Services?

IMO, in a Services era - economy, micro firms need market access and vital space (ie min red tape) more than they need capital.


Consider the key role of competition law in the EU Single Market in opening up the EUropean market for micro and small firms

Empower the 0.5 bn EUropeans to turn their hobby into a job without red tape killing their joy and you get real growth + real jobs

Globalisation via Regionalisation? ASEAN leading the way a la EU?

Towards an Asian Union, EU style? Asian leaders are discussing such a plan!

Why I am not surprised? Neither should you, if you read my tweets or blog!!!

So, EU type Single Market and possibly Union planned in Asia? Read my post Is globalization dying? How about Regionalization? Sept 6 2009!!

Imagine a World Union with members: USA, EU, African Union, Russia, SE Asian Union, South American Union, etc instead of a G20 or WTO

Imagine a "Globalization via Regionalisation" solution to the imbalance problems of the current Globalisation (food for thought)!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Present day heroes

People who start and run micro companies (0-9 employees) are IMO "heroes"

EU Single Market for mainstream and new media?

EUropeans may generate more e-content than Americans (eg blogs) but a single market for content w/ 20+ languages can work?

Does the #EU have (m)any really EU-wide mainstream media, electronic or print? No! There are alas systemic/fundamental reasons! Can they ever be overcome?

IMO, with 20+ languages, a still deficient Single Market in general (1993-present) and mostly nationally focused ads, where's the EU Single Market for new and traditional media?

economic modeling: What happened to the Irish and Spanish economies?

Ireland + Spain: Both are both experiencing jobless rates reminding of the 80s!
Does it mean that super growth of recent years lacked fundamentals?

More on economic modeling:
Was the Celtic Tiger model that many sought to copy in recent years, faulty in its fundamentals?

Plus: What happens when an economy over-depends on construction (US, subprimes, Spain, etc) or financial services (NYC, London)?

WTO Doha Round: Gloomy week

WTO Doha:
A gloomy week of meetings showing no promise of a 2010 deal in view of the Nov. 30 - Dec. 2 WTO Ministerial Conference

economic policy dilemma of 2009

A economy policy dilemma:
a) brief #recession then artificial growth or
b) longer recession followed by real growth with solid fundamentals?

Compare economic recession and a cold:
Is it better
a) to let the "cold" run its course or
b) use meds to boost the recovery?

UK GDP in Q3: Ouch!!

UK GDP growth is Q3 = -0.4% (6 quarters of negative GDP growth)!

Sir WInston and a "United Stats of Europe"

Was it not sir Winston Churchill who after WWII said there was a need for a kind of United States of Europe?

UK economic modeling (tourism, fin services, etc)

Economic modeling for 2010+: Is the UK tourism industry less important for growth, jobs + payments balance than eg the financial services industry?

Services "Phobia" (intra-EU, US, global)?

IMO the Services + Intellectual products + property parts of the Doha WTO trade talks are the most crucial one for the EU, US and other OECD economies

If the meta-industrial OECD Services based economies are protectionist in the trade of Services, then what do they plan to export?

Who is "afraid" of "foreign" services providers? IMO, many people and professionals and companies, in most WTO countries!

The "fear" of the intra-EU Service providers is IMO a good sign of the pathology of the 50+ yr old EU

EU Single Market's weakness undermines the EU's global power

The EU now has 0.5 billion consumers! But its segmented internal market decreases its negotiation power in the WTO etc

The US may be a labyrinth of federal + state + local regulations but they have a single language and currency. The EU has ...

A more "strategic" EU?

Can the EU decision bodies start making more "strategic" decisions re the EU rather than over produce over-detailed new EU laws?

Can the EU lead?

Can the 50+ yr old EU assume a thought+action leadership in the globalization debates + the future of global trade + immigration?

US messages on trade and globalisation

The intra-US debates re the US's stance on trade and globalization send crucial messages to the rest of the world

EU: Where are we going?

EU has reached a critical point in its history. The next steps will be very crucial IMO

Irrespective of the fate of the Lisbon EU Treaty, it is IMO high time for a major public discussion in the EU re the final destination.

Innovation, R&D and entrepreneurship

IMO, innovation is not necessarily correlated to Research + Development (R&D), it has other, non tech - scientific, sources pr drivers too.

Entrepreneurship is mainly about an idea and a dream, unleashing the creative mind

EU Single Market(s): how real are they?

Almost 17 years since the official start of the EU Single Market for capital, goods, services + jobs. Is it working for you?

By the way, is there an EU Single Market for music and other intellectual products?

better regulation (EU and member states)

The EU seems to be trying for better regulation and administrative simplification - the member states?


20 yrs since the fall of the Berlin Wall - isn't it time we bring down the walls that keep people from free immigration?

(See also "Walls (bis)")

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Time for radical changes, bottom-up?

Time for radical changes in world trade and WTO rules?

The reported lack of intra US (and especially intra-Democratic party) consensus re all existing and on-going trade agreements, including the WTO Doha was IMO to be expected.

Reportedly, some voices in the US (political, activist/trade union) are calling for renegotiation of existing US trade agreements as well as the WTO's!

We do live in interesting times indeed (an Ancient Chinese curse), maybe too interesting and confusing.

"Everything is volatile" ("ΤΑ ΠΑΝΤΑ ΡΕΙ") is an Ancient Greek aphorism. Does that mean that maybe it is time to re-think the whole body of existing WTO rules or even to redefine the role of the WTO?

The anti-globalisation voices re Services are indicative of the pathology of the current dynamics (also see EU problems with its (intra-EU) Services Directive).

Maybe publicly expressed expectations for a WTO Doha agreement in 2010 should cease with a view to waiting until the recession is over. If anything, they are creating public opinion expectations that may lead to a sense of even bigger failure if there is no agreement in 2010, thus making the cost of failure even higher (at least in world confidence/psychology).

Some provocative food for thought:

Consider the following out of the box syllogisms:

A) Maybe a free trade agreement should include a free immigration agreement

B) Maybe a series of Regional Trade Agreements and Organisations instead of global ones and the WTO are a more realistic systemic for the times, or

B) IMO the best solutions are a) much less globalization OR b) much more (+ more balanced one: including services and immigration)!

As I said, we are "cursed" to live in interesting times.

Monday, October 19, 2009

some thoughts on HR, healthcare, entrepreneuship and the value of human capital

Here are some thoughts based on recent events in the US and Europe/EU:

Firstly, IMO the US needs a public NHS type universal health service as badly as Europe needs entrepreneurship!

Now, related to healthcare:
IMO the private sector can do most things better than the public sector, BUT healthcare + health insurance among them!

How can one make private sector offered health insurance mandatory? Defies policy and social logic IMO!!

Based on the evolution of BHO's health reform, the question is inevitable: Would Hillary as President have been more effective in real healthcare reform? IMO her proposals were fuller!

On HR and the real value corporations attach to human capital:

IMO it's high time employers in the US + Europe abandon the carrot + the stick approach in employee motivation, it's so 1900s (or even, 1800s)!

IMO they got it right in sports, when the team is doing badly it's the manager that goes, not the players, in business, it's usually the opposite

Pre-economic crisis, there was loads of corporate lipservice - rhetoric on Human Resources Management and the value of Human Capital, then came the crisis and .....

And lastly:

Why is there so much work related stress in recent years France?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

US Trade Statistics for August 2009 and Jan-Aug 2009

With the release of August 2009 U.S. International Trade in Goods and Services report by the Department of Commerce’s U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis:

  • U.S. exports of goods and services increased by 0.2% in August 2009 to $128.2 billion since July 2009,
  • while imports declined 0.6% to $158.9 billion over the same period.

Thus in August 2009, the monthly U.S. goods and services trade deficit decreased by 3.6% to $30.7 billion when compared to July 2009.

Although the decline in year-to-date figures from 2008 to 2009 has been significant, the monthly figures show signs of stabilization.
On a monthly basis, August represents the fourth consecutive month that goods and services exports have increased, with monthly exports rising from $120.6 billion in April 2009 to $128.2 billion in August 2009.

Export Markets:

The largest export markets for U.S. goods year-to-date through August 2009 were:
Canada ($130.3 billion),
Mexico ($80.9 billion),
China ($41.2 billion),
Japan ($32.9 billion), and
the United Kingdom ($30.2 billion).

Export sectors

In August, U.S. good exports continued to improve, with exports increasing:
  • of pharmaceutical preparations (up $458 million from July 2009),
  • steel-making materials (up $356 million),
  • and passenger cars (up $285 million).


Through the first eight months of 2009 (January – August), U.S. goods and services exports totaled $996.2 billion, a 20.3% decline from the $1,250.5 billion exported through the same period of 2008.

U.S. goods and service imports fell faster than exports, with imports declining 29.1% through the first eight months of 2009 (when compared to the year earlier period).

The Oil effect on imports and exports:

The decline in trade in nominal terms is partly due to the drastic decline in crude oil prices.

Since the peak reached in July 2008 of $124.6, the price of crude oil has declined 48.0% to a value of $64.8 in August 2009.

Imports: The total value of U.S. imports of petroleum have fallen to $152.5 billion year-to-date through August 2009, compared to $330.4 billion from the year earlier period.

Exports: U.S. exports of petroleum have fallen to $30.0 billion year-to-date through August 2009, down 39.4% from the same period of last year.

Trade with developing countries:

Although trade with most of its major trading partners has fallen, U.S. goods exports continue to grow to developing areas.

The effect of Free Trade Agreements:

Free Trade Agreements have also helped the U.S. to maintain a foothold for U.S. manufactured goods exports:
The U.S. manufactured goods trade balance with the US' FTA partners has improved from a surplus of $12.7 billion through the first eight months of 2008, to a surplus of $19.3 billion through the first eight months of 2009.

NAFTA: The most dramatic improvement in the manufactured goods trade balance has been with NAFTA partner Canada, where the U.S. manufactured goods trade balance has increased to a $19.4 billion surplus!

Friday, October 16, 2009

US Retail Sales in September 2009

The U.S. Commerce Department’s Census Bureau released retail sales figures for September 2009.

Retail sales fell 1.5%, led by a 10.4% decline in motor vehicle sales (after the rebate program cash for old cars, expired in August).

The drop in total sales was smaller than the decrease of 2.1% expected by private analysts, noted the Dept.

Gasoline sales rose 1.1%.
Sales excluding motor vehicles and gasoline increased 0.4%.

In the third quarter (Q3) as a whole, total retail sales rose 6.4% at an annual rate, and (or but?) sales excluding the volatile motor vehicle and gasoline components rose 0.6%.

US Industrial Production in September 2009

According to the US Federal Reserve Bank, industrial production rose 0.7% in September 2009 after an (upwardly revised) gain of 1.2% in August.

For Q3 (the third quarter) as a whole, output advanced at an annual rate of 5.2%, which is the first quarterly gain since the first quarter of 2008 and the largest gain since the first quarter of 2005!

Production in manufacturing increased 0.9% in September, and the index excluding motor vehicles and parts rose 0.5%.

Mining output incresed 0.7%, while the output of utilities fell 0.7%.

At 98.5 percent of its 2002 average, total industrial production was 6.1% below its level of a year earlier (Sept 2008).

In September 2009, the capacity utilization rate for total industry increased to 70.5 percent, a level 10.4 percentage points below its average for 1972 through 2008.

EU trade balance details for January to July 2009

According to Eurostat:

EU Trade Balance - detailed results for the January-July 2009 period

The EU's energy trade deficit decreased (-132.6 bn euro in January-July 2009 compared with -227.7 bn in January-July 2008).

The surplus fell for machinery and vehicles (+61.3 bn compared with +90.9 bn), but rose for chemicals (+47.0 bn compared with +45.1 bn).

EU's trade flows with all of its major partners fell.

Exports: The largest decreases were recorded for exports to Russia (-40% in January-July 2009 compared with January-July 2008), Turkey (-30%), South Korea (-24%), Brazil (-23%), Norway (-21%) and the USA (-20%).

Imports: The largest decreases were recorded for imports from Russia (-44%), Norway (-31%), Japan (-29%), Brazil (-28%) and Turkey (-27%).

Trade surplus: It fell with the USA (+22.4 bn euro in January-July 2009 compared with +38.4 bn in January-July 2008), Switzerland (+7.4 bn compared with +10.8 bn) and Turkey (+3.4 bn compared with +6.2 bn).

Trade Deficit: It decreased with China (-75.2 bn compared with -87.2 bn), Russia (-24.5 bn compared with -47.9 bn), Norway (-19.1 bn compared with -31.9 bn), Japan (-11.7 bn compared with -20.3 bn) and South Korea (-6.9 bn compared with -7.2 bn).

The total trade of individual Member States:

The largest surplus was observed in Germany (+73.4 bn euro in January-July 2009), followed by Ireland (+23.3 bn) and the Netherlands (+20.9 bn).

The United Kingdom (-54.4 bn) registered the largest deficit, followed by France (-30.4 bn), Spain (-26.9 bn), Greece (-17.1 bn) and Portugal (-10.0 bn).

EU and Euriozone trade balances in August 2009

According to Eurostat:


The first estimate for the Eurozone's trade balance with the rest of the world in August 2009 gave a 4.0 bn euro deficit, compared with -11.3 bn in August 2008.

The July 2009 balance was +12.3 bn, compared with -4.6 bn in July 2008.

In August 2009 compared with July 2009, seasonally adjusted exports fell by 5.8% and imports by 1.3%.


The first estimate for the August 2009 extra-EU trade balance was a 12.1 bn euro deficit, compared with -28.7 bn in August 2008.
In July 2009 the balance was +0.6 bn, compared with -23.4 bn in July 2008.
In August 2009 compared with July 2009, seasonally adjusted exports fell by 4.2% and imports by 1.4%.

Industrial Production in the EU and the Eurozone in August 2009

According to the Eurostat, in August 2009 compared with July 2009, seasonally adjusted industria production grew:

a) by 0.9% in the Eurozone and
b) by 0.6% in the EU.

In July production had increased by 0.2% and 0.3% respectively.

In August 2009 compared with August 2008, industrial production declined:
a) by 15.4% in the Eurozone and
b) by 13.5% in the EU

EU and Eurozone inflation in September 2009

Source: Eurostat

September 2009 inflation

Monthly inflation was 0.0%.
Annual inflation was -0.3%, from -0.2% in August.
A year earlier the rate was 3.6%Euro area

The main components with the highest annual rates in September 2009 were alcohol & tobacco (4.4%), miscellaneous goods & services (2.3%) and household equipment (1.5%), while the lowest annual rates were observed for transport (-3.7%), housing (-1.6%) and food (-1.3%).

The main components with the highest monthly rates were clothing (6.5%), education (0.8%), miscellaneous goods & services and household equipment (both 0.3%), while the lowest were transport, recreation & culture and hotels & restaurants (all -1.2%).

Monthly inflation was 0.0%
Annual inflation was 0.3%, down from 0.6% in August.
A year earlier the rate was 4.2%.

How to strenthen the EU Internal (Single) Market - EU Competitiveness Council discussion

The EU Competitiveness Council (of Ministers) had a three day informal session (those take place in the member state with the Presidency, ie Sweden).

On Wednesday October 14, the first day, the Ministers discussed how to strengthen EU internal market. The chairperson, Sweden's Trade Minister Ewa Björling presented 6 priorities to her colleagues:

1) Improving coordination on common legislation and ensuring that the legislation is implemented ("transposed" etc) in the same way in each Member State. This also involves raising awareness of the need for a functioning internal market in the EU.

2) The second priority concerns the services sector. Ewa Björling emphasised the importance of the services sector for the EU economy, and said that it is expected to be the fastest growing sector in the EU in the coming years. By the end of this year, the Services Directive must be implemented, but during the meeting today it was decided that more needs to be done in any case.

3) The third priority focuses on EU consumers: developing more active consumer policies and encouraging consumers to look beyond their own country’s borders. Increased trade between the EU countries will, in turn, help to further increase the EU’s competitiveness.

4) Highlighting the ‘fifth freedom’, Innovation, is the fourth priority.

5) The EU’s Community patent.

6) The importance of the relations between the EU and countries outside the European Union

Towards Real Globalisation: Introduction

I have been "studying" and thinking on globalisation, almost daily (part time of course), for at least 7 years now.

I will be presenting two alternative models for real globalisation in the coming weeks.

Of course many other alternative models could exist, but I will be describing two.

Of course, the "fortress" model is also a possibility, but in the other direction.

A basis for my thinking is that the current level and model of globalisation makes at best little if not zero, sense.

A few introductory thoughts:

1) IMO if one wants real globalisation, then a political dimension to it is a must, globalisation only in the economic dimension is IMO not inly unfair but non-viabel as well (un-stable).

2) I challenge the theory that a world government (with its proper institutions, ie World Parliament, etc) would serve the needs of mega corporations and mega capital, on the contrary IMO it's needed for the small firm and the "average man".

IME, multinationals have the skills and size to overcome the legal labyrinth of doing business in many countries, it is small companies that do not! For that reason harmonisation of laws is needed for small business - companies to be able to participate in globalisation and for the ave man to live "globally".

Real globalization and global trade will IMO exist only when small companies can serve (aka access) so called niche global markets.

In the absence of those "conditions", globalization - globalization is a myth or worse, a (bad) joke!

How could these conditions be created or fostered? Well, that is the objective of the 2 models I am formulating, in line as my task as an analyst-thinker (and "philosopher").

After that, I may also design an "anti-globalisation" (a la anti-matter) model, the "Fortress Model".

For some other introductory thoughts on "more or less globalisation", which I taped months ago, pls listen to the audio content on the cover page of my blog:

The case for LESS globalisation: (10 mins, audio only)

Some thoughts on geographical mobility and immigration

Philosophical: Which geo mobility is more important? That of a) products, of b) capital or that of c) humans?

Pollution, weather, birds, viruses, etc know no borders! Capital and products almost none. Then why should humans?

Which factors promote mobility of people within the USA? a) mentality b) single language c) other(s) (which)?

On the other hand: Which factors prevent mobility of people within the EU? a) Conformism b) languages c) red tape (tax and social security) d) other (which)?

Global free immigration and mobility: if we do not institute (and promote it?) it now, the effects of global warming will, in a few decades

US Retail Sales in September 2009

The U.S. Commerce Department’s Census Bureau released retail sales figures for September 2009.

Retail sales fell 1.5%, led by a 10.4% decline in motor vehicle sales (after the rebate program cash for old cars, expired in August).

The drop in total sales was smaller than the decrease of 2.1% expected by private analysts, noted the Dept.

Gasoline sales rose 1.1%.
Sales excluding motor vehicles and gasoline increased 0.4%.

In the third quarter (Q3) as a whole, total retail sales rose 6.4% at an annual rate, and (or but?) sales excluding the volatile motor vehicle and gasoline components rose 0.6%.

modern man is a wimp?

So claims anthropologist Peter McAllister in his book entitled "Manthropology".

He argues that man's physical capabilities have deteriorated greatly compared to not only to the pre-historic man but the pre-industrial revolution man as well!

Assuming he is right, is that one more reason for a less oil, energy, CO2 dependent way of life, other than global warming?

Towards some basic world minima?

Some thought for this World Food Day!

We do like to think that we live in a humanist world, ie a world that values human life and people care, at least a little.

1 bn people are living under "chronic hunger conditions around the world, mostly in developing countries.

In the US, a developed country, many millions of people are without health insurance.

In many developed, there exist homeless people.

One often reads, online and in other media, people express the view that people have to "earn" their healthcare coverage or that homeless people should do something to deserve a roof above their heads.

IMO there is something philosophically and humanistically faulty in this argumentation.

IMO no fellow human "deserves" to die of hunger or have zero food at his/her plate (the minimum), no fellow human "deserves" not to have healthcare. They do not have to "earn" those minima. Our humanism dictates that they do.

Irrespective of one's political ideology, IMO, one cannot object to the provision of certain minima "universally", to his/her co-patriots and to all fellow humans as well.

EU - South Korea free trade agreement

The EU and South Korea have reached a free trade agreement.

Note: The US-South Korea free trade agreement that was reached 2+ years ago has not been ratified in the US!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

World Food Day Oct. 16 - 1 bn people hungry today!

October 16 is World Food Day.

At present, more than 1 billion people are undernourished, according to FAO estimates. due to the combination of food and economic crises that have pushed the number of hungry people worldwide to historic levels.

The sharp spike in hunger triggered by the global economic crisis has hit the poorest people in developing countries hardest, revealing a fragile world food system in urgent need of reform, according to a report released by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

According FAO’s annual hunger report, nearly all the world's undernourished live in developing countries:

In Asia and the Pacific, 642 million;
in Sub-Saharan Africa 265 million;
in Latin America and the Caribbean 53 million;
in the Near East and North Africa 42 million;

and in developed countries 15 million,

The rise in the number of hungry people during both periods of low prices and economic prosperity and the very sharp rises in periods of price spikes and economic downturns shows the weakness of the global food security governance system, according to the FAO.

"We applaud the new commitment to tackle food security, but we must act quickly. It is unacceptable in the 21st century that almost one in six of the world's population is now going hungry"
Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme.

Factors analysis:

Several factors have contributed to making the current crisis particularly devastating for poor households in the developing countriesL

1) the crisis is affecting large parts of the world simultaneously, reducing the scope for traditional coping mechanisms such as currency devaluation, borrowing or increased use of official development assistance or migrant remittances.

2) he economic crisis comes on top of a food crisis that has already strained the coping strategies of the poor, hitting those most vulnerable to food insecurity when they are down. Faced with high domestic food prices, reduced incomes and employment and having already sold off assets, reduced food consumption and cut spending on essential items such as health care and education, these families risk falling deeper into destitution and the hunger-poverty trap.

3) The third factor that differentiates this crisis from those of the past is that developing countries have become more integrated, both financially and commercially, into the world economy than they were 20 years ago, making them more vulnerable to changes in international markets.

Many countries have experienced across-the-board drops in their trade and financial inflows, and have seen their export earnings, foreign investment, development aid and remittances falling. This not only reduces employment opportunities, but also reduces the money available to governments for programmes promoting growth and supporting those in need.

FAO and WFP continue to advocate a twin-track approach to address both the short-term acute hunger spurred by sudden food shortages and the longer-term chronic hunger that is symptomatic of extreme poverty as a way for durable solutions. Small-scale farmers need access to high-quality seeds, fertilizers, feed and technologies to be able to boost productivity and production. And their governments need economic and policy tools to ensure that their countries’ agriculture sectors are both more productive and more resilient in the face of crises.

The "Red Cup" photo gallery:

The Red Cup photo gallery


Pascal Lamy on the importance of Services in global recovery

According to the WTO's Secretary-General Pascal Lamy "continued policy and regulatory reform in favour of services trade will be vital to supporting economic recovery" (at the Global Services Summit on Jobs, Growth and Development, Wash. DC, October 14)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

UK unemployment at 7.9%

According to the ONS, The UK unemployment level in the 3 months to August 09 was 2.47 million, up 88,000 on the previous 3 months and up 677,000 on the year.

Thus, the unemployment rate was 7.9% in the three months to Aug 09, up 0.3 over the previous 3 months and up 2.1 percentage points on the year.

In addition:

The employment rate for people of working age was 72.6% in the three months to August 2009, down 0.3 percentage points on the previous three months and down 1.8 percentage points on the year.

The total employment level was 28.95 million, down 45,000 on the previous three months and down 467,000 on the same period a year ago.

The number of workforce jobs in June 2009 was 31.00 million, down 163,000 on the quarter and down 664,000 over the year.

Comment: Compare the 31.00 workforce jobs with the 28.95 employment level.

Manufacturing base: further erosion

The number of manufacturing employee jobs in the three months to August 2009 was 2.63 million, down 223,000 over the year.

Comment: That means less and less UK manufacturing and related jobs (aka a Services economy).

China's trade surplus Jan-Sept 2009

In the first 9 month of 2009, China's cumulative trade surplus with the rest of the world was $135.5bn, 26% lower than the same period in 2008.

In the same period, China's total trade with the European Union was down 19.4%, trade with the US -15.8% and trade with Japan -20% (compared with the same 9 month period in 2008).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

some thoughts re the LibDems proposal for an annual levy on expensive houses

Here are some thoughts on a LibDem proposal for an annual levy of 0.5% per cent on a property's value above a threshold of £1m which was detailed at the Lib Dem conference in Bournemouth.

This levy would mean additional tax payment of £2,500 a year on a home valued at £1.5m, or £15,000 a year on a house worth £4m.

The cash would be collected by local councils, with some £1.1bn raised from the estimated 250,000 properties worth £1m-plus that would be covered by the tax.

Whereas in principle the policy proposal to tax the rich seems socially fair, I have some concern re its rational and above all, its implementation.

My first point is whether this is a property tax on houses or real estate in general.

The second is whether it would be cover a person's total real estate assets or each real estate asset separately.

The info that this levy will be collected by local authorities leads me to suppose that it will not cover a person's total real estate - land property.

Now, what if a certain property is valued at £4m but is owned by 4 persons at 25% each (or 20 persons, inherited maybe). Would each person be "allocated" the % value, thus £1m each, thus no levy, or will the property will be taxed as a whole (not per person), thus a 15,000 a year levy to be paid by 4 (ie 3,750 a year for each co-owner)?

IMO, instead of this proposal, a higher levy would be preferable but for properties valued at more than £2-3 million. Because assuming that a person who lives in a house worth more than 1 mil is a) also otherwise rich and b) rich at present, are not 100% valid assumptions. The assumption - correlation IMO becomes more valid the higher the value of the property owned. Some people may live in expensive properties and still be "poor" (in terms of income or even other assets).

Taxes such as the proposed one do exist in other countries, but that does not mean they are "fair tax" or "proportional" or simple to implement or calculate.

Inter alia, the value of a property is after all theoretical unless an action transaction occurs (see eg capital gains tax, when the two values come from actual transaction, one when the asset is bought and then when it is sold).

IMO the best way (policy-wise) to tax the rich is on their revenues, be they from work, profits, dividends, etc etc. not on assets. Taxes on assets are a sort of retro-active tax on past revenues (that were used to purchase a property) or a retro-active increase in the inheritance tax (if they were inherited).

UK inflation (CPI and RPI in September)

According to the ONS:

In September 2009: CPI inflation +1.1% (+1.6% in August), RPI inflation -1.4%

According to the ONS, the largest by far downward pressure came from housing and household services, mainly due to average gas and electricity bills, which were unchanged between August and September this year but were high a year ago when some of the major suppliers increased their tariffs.

There were further large downward pressures from:

Food and non-alcoholic beverages, where prices fell overall by 0.9% between August and September this year compared with 0.3% a year ago. The largest downwards effect came from meat, with average prices falling by 1.2% this year but rising by 0.8% a year ago. There was a small downward effect from fruit, particularly from bananas, and a small upward effect from mineral waters, soft drinks and juices

Restaurants and hotels, where prices were largely unchanged this year but rose a year ago. The downward effects came from restaurants and cafes, and from accommodation services where the price of hotel accommodation fell this year but rose a year ago

Recreation and culture, where the effect came mainly from recording media (particularly pre-recorded DVDs) and, to a lesser extent, from games, toys and hobbies. Partially offsetting these effects were small upward pressures from photographic equipment where prices of digital cameras rose this year but fell a year ago, and from books where prices of non-fiction hardback books rose this year but were little changed a year ago

The largest upward pressure affecting the change in the CPI annual rate came from transport, in particular from fuels and lubricants and second-hand cars where prices rose between August and September this year but fell a year ago. The average price of petrol rose by 2.4 pence per litre this year to stand at 106.2 pence, compared with a fall of 1.7 pence a year ago. Diesel prices rose by 2.5 pence per litre this year compared with a fall of 2.3 pence a year ago. Partially offsetting these upward pressures were downward effects from sea and air transport where seasonal price reductions were larger than a year ago.

There was also a large upward pressure from clothing and footwear where prices rose by more than a year ago across a range of items.


In the year to September, RPI annual inflation fell by 1.4%, compared with a fall of 1.3% in August. The main factors affecting the CPI also affected the RPI, however the different methods used to measure the price of new cars in the CPI and RPI resulted in a larger upward contribution to the RPI (compared with the CPI) from the purchase of vehicles.

RPIX inflation – the all items RPI excluding mortgage interest payments – was 1.3 per cent in September, down from 1.4% in August.

UK trade balance in August 09

According to the ONS (Office of National Statistics), the UK’s deficit on trade in goods and services was £2.3 billion in August.

Compared with a revised deficit of £2.6 billion in July (originally £2.4 billion).

In Services, the surplus was £3.9 billion in August 2009, compared with the surplus of £3.8 billion in July 2009.

In goods
, the deficit was £6.2 billion in August 2009, compared with a revised deficit of £6.4 billion in July (originally £6.5 billion). Exports fell by £0.1 billion and imports fell by £0.3 billion.


The deficit with EU countries widened to £3.2 billion in August, compared with a deficit of £2.5 billion in July. Exports fell by £0.1 billion but imports rose by £0.5 billion.

UK-rest of the world (minus EU26)

The deficit with non-EU countries narrowed to £3.0 billion in August, compared with the deficit of £3.9 billion in July. Exports were unchanged from July, while imports fell by £0.8 billion.

Ie the deficit with the rest of the EU has risen while the deficit with the rest of the world has decreased in August compared with July.

The rich in Asia

The number of persons in Asia with USD 1 million or more in invest-able assets experienced a double digit decline in 2008 (approx. -15% according to one source).

On the (bumpy) road towards a Copenhagen climate agreement: state of play

The European (EU) Commission has issued a public memo, "The Copenhagen climate agreement: EU positions and state of play" - MEMO/09/445

It says that scientific evidence shows that, to put global emissions on a trajectory that is compatible with respecting this temperature ceiling of +2% compared to pre-industrial levels/times, industrialised countries need to cut their greenhouse gas emissions to 25-40% below 1990 levels by 2020 while developing countries should limit their rapid emissions growth to around 15-30% below projected businesss as usual levels in 2020.

And that global emissions need to peak before 2020 and then be cut by at least 50% of 1990 levels by 2050.

State of Play:

According to the European Commission's public memo:

"The informal negotiating session held in Bonn in August finished with a negotiating text under the Convention track of more than 250 pages, poorly structured and full of brackets. At the last meeting in Bangkok, Parties achieved a streamlining, rationalisation and restructuring of large parts of the negotiating text and have increased understanding of various proposals on the table. However, negotiations have not lead to any major substantive compromises nor convergence of views. Looking beyond Bangkok, the amount of substantive technical and political work in the 8 weeks ahead of the start of the Copenhagen conference presents a formidable political challenge."

Why Copenhagen?

Key provisions of the Kyoto Protocol will expire in 2012. International negotiations were launched in December 2007 to draw up a UN agreement on tackling climate change for the period after 2012.

The negotiations are due to be concluded at the Copenhagen climate conference on 7-18 December 2009. Three negotiating sessions at official level have been held so far this year, all in Bonn, Germany. The second last preparatory sessions for Copenhagen has taken place in Bangkok from 28 September to 9 October and the last one will be held in Barcelona from 2 to 6 November.

What is more, IMO:

According to the memo:

"The window of opportunity to prevent global warming from reaching dangerous levels of 2°C or more above the pre-industrial temperature ..... is closing fast. The average global temperature is already almost 0.8°C higher than in pre-industrial times and some research indicates that past and present emissions may have already made a further rise of as much as 1°C inevitable."


It is October 13, 2009 in the Southern side of the Northern Hemisphere, and the temp reading says 75F already at 11:19 am! With an expected daily high of 77F, in mid-October!

UK Retail Sales in September

According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC)- KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, UK retail sales values in September 2009 rose 2.8% on a like-for-like basis from September 2008 (when sales had fallen 1.5%, due to turmoil in financial markets hitting consumer confidence and very wet weather).

In addition, Bank Holiday Sunday and Monday fell in the September trading period in 2009 but not in 2008.

On a total basis, sales rose 4.9% against a 1.0% gain in September 2008.

Stephen Robertson, Director General, British Retail Consortium, said that "for some customers confidence is trickling back. These are the best total sales growth figures since January 2008" but "we mustn't get carried away" he warned. "They are compared with a weak performance last September."

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Schwarzenegger for President (of the EU)

Blair for EU President? Why not an American political figure with a European passport or ancestry? One could think of a few!

Why not Schwarzenegger for President of the EU?

politics vs policies

Politics may be more interesting and info-entertaining than policies, but it is policies that affect people's lives!

Russia GDP in 2009

Russia's GDP will shrink 7.5% in 2009, according to President Dmitry Medvedev

local or global, production vs transportation

Produce local, transport global
Produce global transport local (or regional)?

Which is better for the environment?
Which is more rational, in general?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Financial Illiteracy

I am finding that retrospection is an interest exercise. Looking back at things I wrote or jotted down or observed 1, 2, 3 or more years ago and see how they relate with 2009 reality.

This is one of them. A text I wrote 22 months ago, December 18, 2007, ie right at the beginning of the current crisis.

"Financial Illiteracy"

December 18, 2007: Russia's MICEX published a report today on stock and other financial investing by Russians. It estimates that 0.5 million Russians invest in the financial markets, compared to a figure of 88 million in the US.

In my opinion, the most interesting part of the report is the notion of "financial illiteracy" that the authors of the report use to describe the level of financial knowledge that most Russian investors possess and its effects on the financial markets and their investing success!

Which makes me think:

1. How "financially literate" are most individual investors around the world?
2. The institutional ones?

How "financially literate" was the decision of the major and reputable and allegedly savvy financial institutions that over-invested in the US subprime instruments? Did they not "realise" the default risk they were undertaking that was embedded in these high yield promising (in return for high risk) financial instruments?

Rationality, Literacy, Greed, etc.

Which brings us to the following questions, food for thought:

  • Can the mere/generic/vague notion or concept or factor of "greed" explain these over-exposures?
  • How "rational" are not only the individual but the institutional or other "professional" investors?

The decision of the US president, the US Capitol Hill, the US Central Bank (the Fed) and many other central banks (eg the European Central Bank (ECB), the Bank of England, to offer either:

a) Some facilitation to some of the mortgage holders
b) Low interest "facilitation" to commercial banks (for helping borrowng and lending between them) and other private institutions to help them weather the storm and avoid major failures (in the interest of their image and trust value, as well as in the interest of avoiding banking crises and a nasty cascade of major economic and social effects)

How policy rational, how policy literate, how ideologically capitalist or free market are they?

The rush to invest in these fundamentals lacking subprime mortgage instruments, by both the borrowers and the lenders (and the subsequent holders of those instruments, almost all over the world, eg England, Europe, Germany, etc.), what "symptoms" does it show for the US, European and global financial system, capitalism, global entrepreneurship, etc?

In my personal opinion:

  • The subprime crisis does show a serious structural fault in the financial capitalist system, but one that is not serious enough to bring the whole system down or call for philosophical or systemic re-thinking of the whole.

  • But it does call for some major thinking on these "local" (in the financial world) systemics.

  • Does it call for policy or regulatory action? I do not think so. But while I am ideologically opposed to the idea of the bailing out of profit making, non state, businesses (banks and other financial institutions) by Central Banks, I must admit that practically the action is justifiable.

But that leads us, in my opinion, in the path of enlightenment re a much wider "literacy" problem, one of the average citizen of the world, including the citizens of the US, EU countries, etc:

  • What is the level of Economics, Political and Policy literacy?

  • Plus of literacy on the rules and theory and practices of the capitalist system?

The capitalist system could, IMO, survive the potential "failures" of major financial and banking institutions! The low interest rates subsidies can even be considered unfair "state aid" to the businesses that over-invested in subprime, vs the ones that were prudent or sage or risk-adverse or un-greedy enough to not over-invest or pull out on time!

The moral of this "story" IMO, is that the capitalist world has a literacy deficit in Economics and Capitalism knowledge and understanding and that that is part of the problem that forces certain "money and investment" managers of other peoples' savings or investment moneys to try to impress their (how literate?) cliens that they are "better" managers than their competition!!!!

In the words of one of my Finance Theory professors at INSEAD, when one compares performance of funds, one cannot compare ex post facto (realised) Returns on Investment, one has to take into account the risk that was undertaken in making those investment decisions!!

And that means that the main illiteracy problem is related to the inherent trade-off made between "expected return" and "expected (associated) risk" when one makes an investment or any kind of decision that has uncertainty incorporated into it: that means most decisions by all people and organisations in life!

Plus, is the financial and capitalist system today based/relying too much on confidence and trust? Instead of knowledge/literacy and rationality?

Communism thought that by eliminating the private sector from almost all functions of the economy and life, one could eliminate the effect of greed and/or ambition. It failed in that, because it, IMO, did not understand the human nature of greed, inter alia.

IMO, Capitalism is the best available economic system, much like Democracy is the best available/possible political one. But in the same way that Democracy has many version and "updates", the same IMO applies to capitalism.

The fundamental problem IMO is that most people today suffer from literacy re civics/politics/citizenship and economics, finance and "economic citizenship". Education in the fundamental principls (at least) of Probability and Statistics being one of them.

Which takes us back to the issue of quality of basic education (primary, secondary) in most countries, including the OECD ones. And that is for sure a policy issue (education policy) in most countries.

22 months after I first wrote these thoughts, I am amazed at how more relevant they seem today.

The problem with political ideologies and economic theories in our era

IMO, ideologies (+ economic theories) are too simple to capture the complexity of the global reality of our era

Ideologies today is that cannot withstand the test of reality (global as opposed to national in past)


How many people, politicians, commentators understand what real capitalism is supposed to be (definition)?

Interesting times: curse or blessing?

Philosophy - economy - life:

Can people embrace uncertainty?

"May you live in interesting times" was an ancient Chinese curse not a wish!

According to the trade union CGT, 300-400 people a year commit work related suicide due to pressure and stress in France.

Eurozone growth in 2010

The IMF expects Eurozone GDP growth of 0.3% in 2010

US trade balance in August

In August, the US trade deficit USD was 30.7bn (USD 158.9bn imports, USD 128.2bn exports) compared with $128bn in July.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Retrospection: Are the American people more capitalist than ..... ?

In April 2008, while the US and world economy were only at the beginning of the current crisis, I wrote the following thoughts, following my participation to an international online discussion forum.

"In effect we are selling ourselves to other nations" wrote a participant from the US in a recent discussion I participated in.

This was my reply (I have added some parts, in blue):

It is not as simple as that. The Americans IMO did not "sell themselves" to other nations, not per se. Most nations have major investments from private or institutional investors. And no non-American can have control of private companies in key areas such as airlines.

The issue IMO is that most Americans are NOT capitalists in practice, although they live in a capitalist country, because most do not (at least directly) own stocks in US "multinationals" or even US companies with mostly US operations and listed in US stock markets. Plus they over-invested in land, which is old capitalism (pre-industrial age) IMO plus they consumer on credit rather than save.

Plus, the US multinationals that have been selling their products an services to other national markets, especially since the 1950s, were bound one day to become "multinational" in ownership too.

In capitalism, what goes around, comes around: The rest of the world learned how to play the capitalist game and now the competition is fierce and Americans are complaining. Like the British are complaining because call centers are being outsourced to India, a former colony whose citizens speak good English BECAUSE they are a former colony! The pendulum goes both ways now.

Now, in globalization, which was a US/UK "invention", letting "non market based" investors invest is not in many analysts' opinion such a good idea, because the investment comes with geopolitical "influence" attached to it. I am not going to mention cases, some very recent, not only in the US but in Europe too. All I am going to say is that the decision to let into the WTO "centrally planned economies" was not IMO such a good idea. It is "unfair" competition. Guess who pressured for that, though, back in 2001!

IMO, the US is suffering from an identity crisis and needs to decide on a model for economic, social etc for the 21st century. It has all the gurus, who even export their theories and philosophies via books and expensive conferences and seminars to many other countries (that is part of the 75% Services US economy). Are these ideas "for export purposes only" (like the "Bon pour l' Orient" French exports of times past)?

All Americans have to do to "buy back" "their" companies and the US bonds is simply come up the money to buy them back via the stock and bonds markets. As simple as ABC! Who has the money to put where his/her mouth is though, these days, though?

And my (somewhat provocative) syllogisms, 18 month ago, concluded with:

One of the key "drivers" that keep the US economy going is the "almost" "eternal confidence of the US consumer" and that is an "asset" not many economies have. Look at the German consumer, for example! That US confidence is worth "gold" and it must be protected/cared for.

Today, October 9, 2009, we can see how the German citizen, via his/her savings, contributed to the re-bounding of the German economy out of recession in Q2. And how the US economy is still struggling, under a new President, via stimulus plan with not so free trade "Buy American" clauses, car scrapping schemes with cash rebates to promote car sales (others have done that too), to get out of recession.

I insist: The US desperately needs a new socio-economic model for competitiveness, growth, employment and happiness. One that is based on real traditional American values but is suitable for the times!

Plus the provocative question, aiming at shocking or (shaking) the still waters in socio-economic thinking and modeling:

Who are more "capitalist" a) The American or b) the Chinese or c) other (specify nationality or region, eg Asia or EU, etc) people these days?

Tough questions, I know. For tough, complicated, volatile, too interesting times.

Reminder: "May you live in interesting times" was an Ancient Chinese curse, not a wish!

globalization vs national reliance in staple foods: lessons from 2008?

One year and a half ago I was jotting down in my then diary/notes:

"Monday, April 7, 2008:
* The World Bank estimates that 33 countries face potential social unrest because of rising food and energy prices.
* Rough rice for May delivery has hit an all time record price of $20.26 per 100lb!
* Export restrictions are currently in place in major rice producing countries including India, China, Vietnam and Egypt.
* The prices of corn, wheat and soybeans are also near all time highs.

Thursday. April 3, 2008:
Does the current turmoil in the global food and agricultural products markets, and especially the export bans imposed by some developing countries partly (or to what extent) justify the unwillingness of the EU and the US to open up their markets to those products and maintain some sort of partial "self reliance" on food?"

Now, 1.5 years later, let me pose the same philosophical, policy, strategic question again:

Does last year's turmoil in the global food and agricultural products markets, and especially the export bans imposed by some developing countries partly (or to what extent) justify the unwillingness of the EU and the US to open up their markets to those products and maintain some sort of partial "self reliance" on food?

And how can this affect the potential for a Doha Round agreement in 2010?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

UK and EU central banks keep their interest rates unchanged

The Bank of England and the European Central Bank (ECB) decided to keep their interest rates unchanged at 0.5% and 1.0% respectively

9.9% of GDP!

According to the US Congressional Budget Office, the US budget deficit for the year ending Sept. 30 2009 reached USD 1.4 trillion or 9.9% of GDP (triple previous year's).

9.9%! Wow. If the US was a member of the EU, it would be receiving a note from the EU's Finance Commissioner (18 EU member states have in 2009 so far for exceeding the EU convergence and stability criterion of annual budget deficits of no more than 3% of GDP).

Agreement in the Doha WTO talks in 2010: Wishful thinking?

Recently it has again become fashionable for many political leaders, alone, during bilateral meetings or in groups (eg G20) to declare their support and intent for a conclusion of the current round of trade talks that was kicked off by the so called Doha Declaration in 2001.

While not an expert on trade, I have been keeping up with the news reports and analyses re the talks since at least 2003 and the failed WTO Ministerial Conferences in Cancun, Hong Kong, Geneva, etc over the years since.

A few comments - observations:

1) After so many failed attempts, one can ask whether there is something fundamentally - systemically faulty in the method WTO Doha has been - is being negotiated.

2) Has the US Congress granted Obama the Fast Track trade negotiating authority (TPA)? Bush's expired July 1, 2007. With Fast Track the US President can negotiate trade agreements that Congress can approve or reject but cannot amend. Without .....

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

My memories are all about you

Song (romantic)
My memories are all about you, my memories are you, you are my memories ..

Not exactly USE: thoughts on the representation of states in the US and the EU

Institutional philosphy and systemics (USA - EU):

In the US, the House of Reps. has proportional representation of each state based on state pop, the Senate not (2 per state).

In the EU both the European Parliament + The Council have somewhat proportional representation - votes.

Hence the EU's model is not a US of Europe, is it?

If it was, then smaller member states (most of the 21 medium or small ones) would be better represented in the legislative bodies. Eg each would have the same votes in the Council or an EU Senate Upper House with 54 members would exist/be established.

policy philosophy: regulating dilemmas

policy philosophy:

Should a regulated activity have the option to "shop around" among eligible oversight bodies?

US policy: regulating derivatives: dilemmas

US policy (swaps etc):
Has the House Financial Services Committee learned the lesson not to split the oversight of various financial services?

Policy Dilemma (US, EU, etc): Do the benefits of a single oversight body for all financial services of any kind outweigh the risks/cons?

other EU Council meetings in October

other October EU Council meetings (Luxembourg):

19-20 Agriculture & Fisheries Council
21: Environment
23: Justice & Home Affairs

EU Competitiveness Council

EU informal Competitiveness Council next Wed-Fri
day 1: The Single Market of the Future
day 2: conversion to an eco-efficient economy
day 3: R&D

EU Transport Council

Friday's EU Transportation Council will seek to reach political agreement on draft regulation on the rights of sea + inland waterways pax

Q2 GDP in the US, Japan, EU and Eurozone based on the latest data

Compared with Q2 of 2008, Q2 of 2009 GDP is down:

a) 3.8% in the US (-3.3% in Q1 2009),
b) 7.2% in Japan (-8.4% in Q1),
c) 4.8% in the Eurozone (-4.9% in Q1), Eurostat
d) 4.9% in the EU (-4.8% in Q1) Eurostat

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

bad decisions in daily life and potential causes

are bad decisions in many aspects of daily life a result of deficient primary education (esp. math + logic skills) in many countries?

policy: economic lessons from Australia?

Australia's central #bank first among G20 to raise its main interest rate

Australia stimulus only USD 35bn! Cash handouts 2 pensioners + low-middle income families + some infrastructure projects > lessons?

How did Australia manage to limit negative GDP growth 2 only 1 quarter? to spend only USD 35 bn on stimulus? Lessons for others?

EU: The European Commission has approved the French and Dutch short-term export-credit insurance schemes

The European Commission (EC) of the EU has authorised the French measure until 31 December 2010. The French measure is aimed at limiting the adverse impact of the current financial crisis on export firms.

The EC found the measure to be in line with its Temporary Framework for state aid measures to support access to finance in the current financial and economic crisis (see IP/08/1993). According to the Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes "the French short-term export credit insurance scheme provides the appropriate balance between supporting exporters in areas where the market is temporarily not functioning properly and limiting distortions of competition."

"Ensuring effective export credit insurance is vital for building the basis for a strong economic recovery", she added.

In alia, the premiums charged under the public scheme are aligned on those of the private market, as stipulated by the safeguard clause in the Commission's Communication on short-term export-credit insurance. The premiums are set at a level that provides an incentive for exporters to have recourse to private insurers as soon as sufficient cover will be available on the private market.

Plus: The measure includes safeguards so that financially unsound transactions and counterparties that would not obtain cover even under normal market conditions do not unduly benefit from the measure.

The same rationale explained that approval of the Dutch measure 3 days earlier.

EU and Eurozone retail sales in August 2009

Eurozone volume of retail trade in August 2009 down 0.2% compared with July, down 2.6% with August '08 (source: Eurostat)

In the EU as a whole (27 states) the volume of retail trade in August 2009 was down 0.3% compared with July - up in 4 states, down in 13 - and down by 1.8% when compared to August 2008.

In August 2009, compared with July 2009:
a) “Food, drinks and tobacco” rose by 0.5% in the Eurozone (16) and by 0.3% in the EU (27)
b) the non food sector fell by 0.6% in both zones.

In August 2009, compared with August 2008:
a) “Food, drinks and tobacco” fell by 1.3% in the Eurozone and by 0.3% in the EU (27).
b) the non food sector fell by 3.2% and 2.1% respectively.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Remember: It's a Services economy now (US, UK, etc)

US and UK Services show indications of rebounding! It makes sense, these are Services economies, like many OECD ones! Services and SMEs

Thinking "Economy" in industrial age terms is IMO Ancient History in the US, UK and other OECD post-industrial member countries

Reminder: policy makers in US, UK + other OECD countries must think Services, SMEs + intellectual products when they think Economy (and design policy and expect growth and jobs).

Sovereignty in the era of alleged globalisation: philosophical considerations

IMO harmonisation of even the personal tax and social security systems are needed for real EU Single Market, one that works for the SMEs (and people)


IMO common or single markets or even trade lead inevitably to political union between participating countries


1) WTO (World Trade Organisation) membership should lead in eventual political union between member countries, same for the EU

2) the only way IMO to preserve national sovereignty is to abstain from trade (economic fortress model)

3) the other way is "shared sovereignty" via effective representation in EU, WTO, etc etc thus, again, political union

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Is Russia's new stance re WTO membership a sign of waning WTO importance?

I have been arguing for weeks if not months now that WTO is losing importance. For many reasons.

One, is the failure of its members to reach agreement on the so called "Doha Round" of world trade talks.

A second one is the proliferation, in the last 4-5 years of "hedging" tools by many countries, not only the US and the EU, of bilateral trade agreements that IMO undermine the value of WTO agreements/rules and increase the complexity of the global map for trade and its rules/constraints/factors.

A third is the increased appeal of Free Trade Areas, such as Mercosur, ASEAN, and many others that either have progressed or been established in the last 4-5 years (NAFTA not being a successful example nevertheless, but that is an interestng case study). Or even ambitious projects such as the "African Union".

A new, recent one, is the expansion of the G8 to G20 (or, more precisely, the focus on G20 rather than G8).

With all those in mind, the alleged change of policy, over the summer, of Russia's top political leasership re WTO membership (Russia is still not a member, note that China joined in 2001) makes, IMO, lots of sense.

Assuming then that indeed Russia is not as keen in joining WTO as before, at least at present, let's consider why that makes sense:

1) Russia is a global powerhouse in energy, both oil and gas, and its main compant pans to become a world leader in the export of both in the coming years. Couple this with current developments in the field of energy in the world, and then you realise that Russia can feel that its energy card gives it enough negotiating power to sign bilateral trade deals with any country it so wishes. Why mess with the WTO plenary of 152 or so members? 20 seem enough, and after all, they represent more than 70% of world GDP or trade. Simply, WTO is not as important as it was some years ago and Russia is in a position to see that and why not, think, "why join, after all (at least for now)"?

2) Russia has receltly formed, together with Kazakhstan and Belarus, a customs union, of strategic importance to Russia and it says, well, why not enter WTO as a group-customs union, instead of the traditional way. If this may delay entry, well what harm is in that?

3) Because of its non-membership of WTO Russia was more free than other countries/economies to deal with the world recession. For example, it was free to stamp very high customs taxes to foreign cars in order to help its own car manufacturing base. WTO member countries such as Germany, the US, Italy, France, etc, could not do that, they offered the replacement incentive instead, putting out thousands of USD or Euros instead as an incentive to buyers.

4) According to many sources in China, China rushed its own entry in the WTO in 2001 and "gave up" too much. It may have opened foreign markets for its products but also created many constraints. Russia, not a member, has none of those.

Would be make sense for other countries to not be contrained by a WTO membership, at least the way WTO is at present?

IMO, yes.
Which ones?
Well that is a good topic for a future post.

(tip: think EU and US for example, even as a theoretical exercise in world and country systemics)

policy attention: real economy for real growth and real jobs

IMO until small companies around the world see economic structures + rules that are made with them in mind, real growth + jobs ...

Back to basics: in business, it is the ideas that count and the dreams !!!

Philosophy: Small company owners and staff around the world are heroes of our era

the social fairness of simplification

How many new business strategies are not feasible due to regulatory and legal constraints? Many, IME.

How well do companies incorporate legal and regulatory constraints into the strategic plans?

Regulations for many small companies the main problem is not compliance but understanding what they mean!!!

"Social fairness" lies in simplicity, proportionality, consistency, etc of policy, regulation, law? IMO, yes!

Germany: post-election policy challenges

Does Germany need more a a) fair or b) simple tax system? How are the two correlated? Which is more crucial for people and SMEs?

FDP proposes overhaul of the public sector healthcare system. Tricky, very tricky, will it cut services or merely improve efficiency/mgt?

a new US and EU policy mindset for growth and jobs needed

USA + EU (pop 300 + 500 mil) have approx. 37 mil unemployed (USA 15.1 in Sept, EU 21.9 in August)

Will industrial jobs losses in the US + EU ever be recovered? Time for a major new strategy based on Services, intellectual products + SMEs (small and mid size companies) IMO.

IMO it's time for policy makers to realise that US and EU (and other OECD) economies "are" Services (and intellectual products) and small companies and thus shape appropriate policy mindset.

US job market situation in September

263,000 jobs lost in September (non-farm payrolls figures)

Thus since December 2007, the unemployed have risen by 7.6 million, from 7.5 to 15.1 million (100%)!

The unemployment rate is thus at 9.8% (August: 9.7%) the highest since 1983!

Note: Less than 5% of collage graduates are unemployed!

21 consecutive months of job losses

Thursday, October 1, 2009

economic policy: the real challenges begin NOW!

Economic fundamentals may be better in many countries but how many companies, especially small and mid size ones, have the skills to adapt to the new conditions + grow + hire?

IMO a radical decrease in the indirect costs of employment is needed and health financed via tax revenues not contributions but many governments spent their budget money on banks and backbone sectors thus cannot afford to relieve SMEs from this burden!

Thus IMO the real challenges to economic and other policy makers start now, the banking crisis was only a prelude to the real challenges of the REAL economy (small companies and Services)!

How many political parties in Europe + the US and elsewhere need to formulate a comprehensive all policy areas inclusive manifesto - platform, a new socio-economic "model" to propose to voters?

EU and Eurozone jobs situation in August

The EU 27 unemployment rate in August (seasonally adjusted) was 9.1% = 21.9 million jobless

Spain 18.9%, Latvia 18.3%. (highest) Netherlands only 3.5%!

Policy: Should politicians + policy makers in Europe and the US etc study how the Netherlands manages to have only 3.5% unemployment rate?

Eurozone 16: 15.2 million jobless in August!

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