Wednesday’s news on ‘George Osborne lays down ultimatum‘ seems to have remained a little quiet. So, was it all hot air, or are there silent runners under the waterline? The situation reminds me of a poster I once saw. It was a photograph of water, with the by-line ‘Submarine racing, a spectator sport!‘ I thought it was quite funny. Whilst scanning for the latest on this event, I find several people mentioning it, but no real update for a day. The Guardian article was quite informative (at http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jan/15/george-osborne-reform-eu-quits-tory-dismantling ). However, I regard the BBC version of it a little better (at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-25740462)
The BBC article does however have two items I do find interesting, but they are slightly debatable.
The first one is “I believe it is in no-one’s interests for Britain to come to face a choice between joining the euro or leaving the European Union.” Why is it one or the other? In my view, the only part keeping the EU from collapsing is because the United Kingdom DID NOT embrace the Euro coin. I will get back to this a little later.
The second part is “The 28-member group also had to do more to ensure economic competitiveness with rivals like India and China, he added.”
I feel that the UK could become a lot stronger if the Commonwealth brethren embrace each other as family and as mutual protectors. This means that the UK should become the centre force in group that includes Canada, Australia, New Zealand and India.
In my view, the issue is that Chancellor Osborne is too adamant to sing-a-long with the American tune. I view this like a game of musical chairs. An iteration game of leave one out! The problem is that this game includes one chair that is only meant for the rear end of America, so it will always have a chair to sit on. They should not even be included in this game, but there you have it, for some reason they are part of the EU game.
So let us get back to the first part as promised. The EU (or EEC if you prefer), has 28 nations. In the GDP rankings the UK is at number three. The issue is that the top 7 has Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands and Sweden (these 7 are 79% of the entire EU GDP). Only Germany is in a good position, The Netherlands is on the thinnest ice imaginable, whilst Sweden in its economic state seems to remain skating on the ice it has (for now). The rest has gone through the ice and are in a bad place. So, why should the UK risk it all and add themselves to a currency that is drowning itself because the local politicians refused to stop spending when they could, they kept on spending when they should have stopped and now they are in that bad place. Many should be thankful that the UK and Sweden are not part of the Eurozone at present.
In addition, Greece, according to Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras does not need any more austerity (Nov, 2013). Spain stated “The budget is based on a forecast that the Spanish economy will grow 0.7 percent next year, up from the government’s previous forecast of 0.5 percent.” (at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/28/business/international/spanish-budget-avoids-austerity-measures.html). Yet Bloomberg noted on September 5th “Spain’s bid to meet its budget-deficit target for the first time in five years is running into trouble, fuelling concerns that increased financial stability is masking deeper economic problems.” So, what is actually happening here? Are we witnessing new waves of creative accounting?
In light of all the bad news, it must also be noted that France is at least still fighting to keep the austerity in place, even though President Hollande is slowly becoming the least popular president in French history. I applaud him for standing firm and I do hope he will not share the fate of Louis XVI (a one-time treatment at ‘La Guillotine’). Italy is for now also on the Austerity track, but internal developments are not good and there are signs that Italy cannot continue the course it currently is going. So out of the 6 (not including UK) one is doing decently well, two are on the edge and the rest is for now in a bad place. This is not the time to switch currency, especially as the UK is slowly recovering, to add their heads to a block whilst the Axeman is spending the night away. It is more than just bad politics to do so.
So, we see percentages all over the place, but in the end, what does it mean? Well, let’s take a look at the numbers (as far as I found them, and a stern warning, the numbers are unverified and not from the best sources). In my defence, the numbers do not seem to be clearly presented anywhere.
Sweden, the smallest and not in the worst state is a little over 1 trillion debt at over 180% of GDP, Spain at 2.3 trillion, which is over 150% of GDP, Italy at 2.4 trillion, but interestingly seems to be at almost 100% of GDP, the Netherlands at 2.6 trillion, however the numbers I found place them at almost 350% of GDP, France is at a whopping 5.1 trillion and like Sweden around 180% of GDP, lastly Germany owns over 5.5 trillion at a ‘mere’ 140% of GDP.
Whatever some of these so called economists are trying to tell you (they are hoping you do not revolt against additional borrowing), the current nightmare is far beyond the issues you can imagine. the populations of Sweden is almost 10 million, the Netherlands is at almost 17 million, Spain 47 million, Italy 60 million, France 66 million and Germany at well over 80 million. You see, in the end, the taxpayer gets to deal with these trillions. So, a large nation might seem safe, but consider France, where austerity seems unbearable and with that sizeable population, the debt comes to over 74,000 euro per person. The average income for a Frenchmen is almost 32,000 euro a year (before taxation), which makes the debt more than 2 annual incomes from every implied French resident. So, when people get angry, they need to get angry at previous government administrations that had spent to such a degree that the current debt is unbearable! (Something I have mentioned in several previous blogs.)
This is also the danger of UKIP! I am against the UK moving out of the EU for several reasons, yet the changes could be forcing the current British government to consider the one step that UKIP desires most, what a mess that will make!
Part of the issue I am struggling with is actually in another article in the Guardian (at http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jan/15/europe-welfare-spending-george-osborne). I do not agree with parts of it, but the article is well written and the writer Alex Andreou does set out his position very well. So, please do read it for yourself. My issues is with “The fact that as a continent we have embraced values of social security and solidarity, a high standard of education and health for all, and dignity in old age, should be celebrated.” I am all for that and I am in favour of that too, yet governments all over Europe (including the UK) have overspend by such a massive amount that cutbacks in these times are extremely painful. I get it, but previous administrations lived under some umbrella with the picture of a sun, which they took as an eternal summer! Instead of caution, they ignored basic rules and just went all out on a spending spree. Now that all the money is gone, the coffers are instead filled with ‘I OWE U’ notes. When every nation spends more than they are receiving, no one will have any money left, yet governments started to borrow to one another. So, those in debt were borrowing massive amounts to one another, even though no one had any money, is no one catching on? This is my issue! I am all for social security, but if we do not have the money, how can we get it done? In addition, Latvia, the newest member of the Euro states (at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-25567096 ) “The former Soviet republic on the Baltic Sea recently emerged from the financial crisis to become the EU’s fastest-growing economy.” Is that so, in that regard we can read the following at http://www.baltic-course.com/eng/finances/?doc=83279 “The state budget is projected to have a deficit in 2014, 2015 and 2016, according to the medium-term budget framework that Saeima approved in the final reading yesterday, informs LETA.” so the newest member already goes into deficit from day 1? This is quoted in the following way in the article “The medium-term budget framework is based on the following GDP growth forecasts: 3.7% in 2014, 4% in 2015, 4.1% in 2016, 4.1% in 2017 and 3.9% in 2018.” so already above the limits as stated by Brussels. Compared to the top 7, the amounts they refer to seem peanuts in comparison (al 35 billion of them), the issue is moving forward and gaining economic strength, not add to the massive debt. As I see it, the Latvians have plenty to worry about and in my view; the UK and Sweden would remain well warned and not join the Euro.
Time to get back to issue 2!
I stated earlier “the UK could become a lot stronger if the Commonwealth brethren embrace each other“. As the issues evolve, the Commonwealth should revert to a new British Empire, but only in an economic way (undoing the work of Ghandi looks wrong on way too many levels). One of the big dangers is the Trans Pacific Partnership. Australia and New Zealand are in my view to eager to add their names to an approach that is all about keeping America in ‘power’! Why do I have this view?
There are several articles, but at http://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2014/1/14/technology/tpp-trades-us-clout-expense-innovation we see some of the issues that will bug many in the Commonwealth.
The quote that starts to scratch the surface is “in 2009, total patent applications made through the patent co-operation treaty process from applicants in these nations also exceeded those from North American applicants for the first time.”
This is the fear America has, which is why they are so eager to get all the autographs. You see, as I see it, Americans became (or were in the eyes of some) complacent, lazy and greedy (the American industry, not the people). For example, as I see it, the IT industry took a page from the arms industry and stopped true innovation and replaced it with iteration. A disastrous step as you will soon see. The powers at IBM and Hewlett Packard, as I see it, decided to listen to military giants like Raytheon and Northrop Grumman. So, America went from the innovation based, which brought the leaps from the 386 through to the Pentium II, and we ended with iterations like I3, I5 and I7. Newly coated computers, which now move forward in stepwise motion. The issue is that Asia had a huge delay keeping up and this all changed as their comprehension improved, in addition, it is for technology insiders relatively easy to learn the path of an iterative technology. This is the first step of fear as America is now facing it. Asia has its own group of innovators and in my personal view the passing of Steve Jobs took away one clear path of innovation. When Apple moves in that same iterative path, the last true American innovator will be lost! Now Asia has a massive advantage and as such America needs to clamp down on whatever they can, with the massive debt and no clear future path their world will all be about Intellectual Property! The article touches on it with the following quote “But what if the real motive of one or more parties was to isolate, control, enrich, deprive, penalise and stifle? In effect, to put a toll on the drawbridge.”
This is at the centre, but not at the core of all this. That is why we see the mention that India is seen as a competitor, because for America, they truly are the new competitor. That deadly error was made by the American administration in 2011. Forbes tells us about it in http://www.forbes.com/sites/henrychesbrough/2011/04/25/pharmaceutical-innovation-hits-the-wall-how-open-innovation-can-help/. They published it in April 2011. That story shows only part of it. The quote “The patents granted to these drugs last for 20 years from the date of filing, and since most drugs take 7-10 years to get to market, the pharma companies have known that this moment was coming for the last 10-13 years. It is the logical outcome of a deeper problem, which is that pharma R&D spending has been less and less productive for many years.” gives us two parts. One is that there are clear indicators that the pharmaceutical industry has been working on borrowed time. The second is that the ROI has been dwindling down and that these corporations will face the horror of generic medication as several patents hit the end date in 2015. That means in just over a year, the largest maker of generic medication (India, in case you were wondering) will get to have a go at several extremely lucrative prescriptions. Perhaps you remember news messages on how the FDA was so against Canadian medications. I personally considered that entire issue to be a joke, but the underlying horror for America was already there. I mentioned in other blog articles on the issues I have had with the Dow Jones index (‘Start making sense’, 11th march 2013). Now consider that the three large pharmaceuticals Johnson & Johnson, Merck and Pfizer represent 10% (3 out of 30) of this index, so America is plenty nervous here. Now take into account that these three will have several expiring patents by December 2015 and that means that within months India could have a quality generic alternative, which is likely to be more than 70% cheaper. Now, be aware that a generic medicine is often less effective than the original. Still, the price difference is huge. It is not just the US; the UK has its own share of pharmaceutical makers, so the knife does cut in two ways in this case. Still, when we need to cut back again and again, India could be a good thing for the Commonwealth at large. So, even though some see the TPP as an option, there is implied evidence that the TPP could strongly block innovation.
How does this link to the Euro? No matter how we twist or turn it, the hard times America will face as it has been facing them for the last few years will intensify as innovation remains absent. That will hit Europe in several ways. The Netherlands already saw that as Merck shut down activities like Aspen Pharmacare. The intertwining of corporations on that level are all over Europe, and as such as American Pharmacies are hit, their European links will suffer a lot more because of it. So, yes, India is a competitor there, but the UK together with Canada and Australia could look for a cooperative solution with India and not see them as the competitor (as America currently does).
So is this all linked to the end of the Euro? Yes! It does however depend on the actions of the UK. If is stops membership, the run on the markets and the panic Germany faces could be catastrophic for the Euro, especially as Germany cannot rely on the pillars named France, Spain and Italy. The other nations are either too weak or too small.
Could George Osborne be wrong?
That depends on your point of view and your allegiance. The latter is implied as I noted the reference to the musical chairs with the one reserved seat. News messages like “the call to end austerity by ‘insiders’ from Brussels”. Yet, in the other light governments must reduce their spending and they need to get clever about it fast. The UK non-working military recruitment solution at 1.3 billion is just one clear example. Pretty much every EU country has its own skeletons. I see that the UK could be stronger as the Commonwealth nations take a route of preference to strengthen their economies, it is clear that such a path in Europe would remain stagnate until late 2015. That does not make George Osborne right, it only means that a European route might work, however it will be a long term path and switching to the Euro (at present) does not seem to be a stable solution for the UK to implement.