Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

So another 100 billion euro was placed on “euro to win”

That’s the problem with the euro situation at the moment: it really is placing a bet on it surviving.

Spain is being given another 100 billion to bet on it’s banking system surviving the crisis. Greece, unless they elect a far left or right government, will probably be given a similar amount to bet on it’s banking system and not too long from now Italy and Portugal will follow with equally large bets.

All this is just fine if the bets win. If they don’t that money will need replaced and the amount remaining in the kitty will be rather low at that point. Moreover, if the bets don’t win there’ll be a whole bunch of real-world things needing financing at the same time that the bets are written off which is a nightmare scenario for everyone in Europe and none too good for anyone anywhere else for that matter.

Either way, it would appear that we’re in for an interesting second half of 2012.


Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

What way now for the euro and Europe?

An awful lot of people are now taking it for granted that Greece will be parting ways with the euro later this year. The only question now seems to be whether it’ll be an orderly exit or a total fiasco. Either way, it seems sure to be something of a roller coaster ride for everyone.

But, whether or not Greece exits the euro, there remains the question as to what to do in the rest of Europe. There are just too many major economies in trouble and needing to grow their economies at the same time as cutting their deficits. One country trying to do one of those choices is difficult but several countries trying to do both simultaneously seems an incredibly unlikely prospect. The result seems likely to be a little of one, a little of the other and overall nothing much happening that’s in any way positive.

In the midst of this the European central bank president sees the future as him taking over the position of the central banker for all the Eurozone countries. That would have been the sensible way to go 10 years back when the euro began. Now it brings forth the vision of Bankia writ very, very large: not the merger of seven lame-duck regional banks this time to create one bigger failing bank but rather the merger of a number of lame-duck central banks to create one bigger failing central bank. Even if he had the time and there were the political inclination to do it, it seems just a means of postponing the inevitable break-up of the Eurozone and, just as the collapse of Bankia will be more painful than the collapse of the individual banks that created it would have been, the collapse of the super central bank would be much, much more painful than the collapse of one or two smaller ones would (will?) be.

Painful as it may well be, it would seem that the best way forward would be to recreate the drachma, lire, peseta and perhaps the punt.



Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

To strike or not to strike for public service pensions

Pension payments for all but the lowest paid in the public sector are going up (mostly doubling) and they’re going to have to work longer before they are entitled to the maximum pension. Surely it must only be right that the well paid public servants in secure jobs pay more for their gold plated pensions? Why should the rest of us pay for their pensions anyway?

The snag with public sector pensions is that the employer is the government so therefore, yes, the rest of us do have to pay for their pensions. Unless you’d rather that they get no pensions at all (in which case, I hope you don’t mind doing without schools, hospitals, etc.) then the government (ie taxpayers) must act as responsible employers and pay for those pensions. The other snag is that, unlike private sector pensions, the public sectors operate on a pay as you go system which means that the current workers pay for the pensions of the current pensioners or rather taxes do (that’s how the normal retirement pension operates too).

OK, so we should pay them a pension, but surely we shouldn’t be paying the well-paid public servants gold plated pensions? Actually, well-paid public servants are very much in the minority with a considerable number getting close to the minimum wage. Courtesy of a number of changes in recent years, that “gold-plating” is looking distinctly tarnished with three separate schemes being introduced over the last 10 years, the prior schemes being closed to new members and each new scheme being markedly poorer than the one before. The latest offering is a lurch towards an average salary rather than the current final salary scheme which will be a major, major drop in the pensions that people will be eligible for though, as usual with pensions, a magnitude of a drop that most people wouldn’t realise until it was far too late.

In some ways it could be a good thing. The net effect, for public servants who realise it, is that their lifetime earnings is being cut quite dramatically so it might encourage more to leave for the private sector. The only snag with that is that we need those public services that the people most likely to leave provide. On the whole, those most likely to leave would be the higher earners. Do you really want to have an exodus of teachers, nurses, etc.? What about the well-paid Whitehall people perhaps? Surely they can be done without? Certainly, if you’re happy to have poor advice given to the government on all kinds of matters, you could do without them.

Should you strike? Despite being what I’d say was one of the most right wing union representatives ever, I think, yes, this is a time to show that you support your union negotiators.

Should you support the strike as a taxpayer? I think yes too as it’s really going to impact on the quality of public servants and hence public services that you get over the years to come.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Tidying up the finances when someone goes into a nursing home

Mum’s journey into a nursing home was largely unplanned for and constantly suffering from delays on the part of social services but she’s been there for several months now. That’s created a much greater involvement with social services and social security than we’ve had up to now and it’s something of a nightmare on the whole.

First off, the financial assessment people want a whole bunch of information about her finances. That sounded like it would be simple when they demanded it (“ask” isn’t in their vocabulary) but in fact it isn’t. Even getting information from their colleagues in social security proved extremely difficult. In fact, that difficulty should really be obvious: you’re phoning up to ask about someone else’s financial situation. Naturally, the answer is along the lines “we can’t provide that information to you”.

On the other side of the coin their colleagues in social services are concerned about protecting her finances. Well, protecting them for themselves really as their view is that all her assets were built up to pay for nursing home fees. However, there’s a conflict in their demands and those of the financial assessment people.

Then there’s the matter of transferring numerous direct debits built up over a period of time. Not quite so simple really although that at least appears to be doable for the most part with the exception, so far, of Sky who can’t get their head around needing to cancel Sky because the person using and paying for it has moved into a nursing home. I look forward to their demands for payment now that I’ve canceled the direct debit. Well, actually, I won’t get them as they insist on speaking to the bill payer, who ain’t here any more.

Anyway, I think I’m on the home run with moving the bills to appropriate places.


Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Recession or depression?

Nobody is openly calling it a depression but then it’s a difficult call to say whether you’re in a depression or not when you’re actually in the midst of one.

Aside from the obvious financial difficulties that a growing list of countries are finding themselves in, signs this time around are seemingly all around on the smaller scale too. The list of bankrupts seems to be growing although that’s not really a terribly reliable sign in these days of financial engineering.

What’s perhaps more obvious is the number of small shops gradually disappearing. The smaller shops are more dependent on the local economy than the large chain stores and they tend not to have a large financial cushion to help them ride through the bad times either. Indicative of this too is the rise in the number of charity shops which can operate through financial difficulties as they don’t pay their staff nor do they pay for their stock. Thus in difficult times, charity shops tend to replace small shops.

Slightly strangely in some ways is that the chip shops and home bakeries are closing up. Two different reasons are working here with the chip shops suffering as they’re popular as cheap food outlets and thus have a fall-off in trade when those at the bottom end of the income levels have to make cuts. To some extent that affects the home bakeries too but there’s also the element of their products being a bit of a treat and that “treat money” is in shorter supply these days.

Will we all look back on this period ten or fifteen years from now and call it a depression? Somehow I suspect that the answer to that will be yes and that there are even more difficult times lying ahead.



Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.