Rankings and levers

October 12, 2008

Newspapers have been quoting the survey by the World Economic Forum in which business leaders have been rating the solvency of world banks.

The rankings however were compiled just before the recent £50 billion bail-out by the UK, the nationalisation of the Icelandic banks and the larger US bail-out.

The website has the co-authors interviewed from the 3rd to the 7th of October. The report itself was published on the 8th October.

RANKINGS

1. Canada

2. Sweden

3. Luxembourg

4. Australia

5. Denmark

6. Netherlands

7. Belgium

8. New Zealand

9. Ireland

10. Malta

11. Hong Kong

12. Finland

13. Singapore

14. Norway

15. South Africa

16. Switzerland

17. Namibia

18. Chile

19. France

20. Spain

21. Barbados

22. Bahrain

23. Slovak Republic

24. Brazil

25. Estonia

26. Austria

27. Panama

28. Mauritius

29. Kuwait

30. Qatar

31. United Arab Emirates

32. Trinidad and Tobago

33. Senegal

34. Israel

35. Portugal

36. Iceland

37. Cyprus

38. Botswana

39. Germany

40. United States

41. Lithuania

42. Peru

43. El Salvador

44. United Kingdom

45. Greece

46. Benin

47. Costa Rica

48. Malawi

49. Guyana

50. Malaysia

51. India

52. Puerto Rico

53. The Gambia

54. Montenegro

55. Mexico

56. Croatia

57. Czech Republic

58. Jordan

59. Ghana

60. Suriname

61. Brunei Darussalam

62. Latvia

63. Saudi Arabia

64. Kenya

65. Jamaica

66. Honduras

67. Zambia

68. Burkina Faso

69. Slovenia

70. Sri Lanka

71. Pakistan

72. Philippines

73. Republic of Korea

74. Romania

75. Thailand

76. Madagascar

77. Colombia

78. Cote d’Ivoire

79. Italy

80. Bulgaria

81. Hungary

82. Cameroon

83. Georgia

84. Oman

85. Tunisia

86. Paraguay

87. Nigeria

88. Armenia

89. Morocco

90. Dominican Republic

91. Bolivia

92. Malia

93. Japan

94. Tanzania

95. Moldova

96. Bosnia and Herzegovina

97. Poland

98. Nicaragua

99. Venezuela

100. Uruguay

101. Guatemala

102. FYR Macedonia

103. Syria

104. Albania

105. Nepal

106. Mozambique

107. Russian Federation

108. China

109. Uganda

110. Serbia

111. Egypt

112. Ukraine

113. Vietnam

114. Turkey

115. Bangladesh

116. Azerbaijan

117. Taiwan, China

118. Ecuador

119. Mauritania

120. Mongolia

121. Indonesia

122. Zimbabwe

123. Tajikistan

124. Kazakhstan

125. Cambodia

126. Burundi

127. Chad

128. Ethiopia

129. Argentina

130. East Timor

131. Kyrgyz Republic

132. Lesotho

133. Libya

134. Algeria

Yes. That’s right.

The UK lies behind Peru and El Salvador.

Now given this report was a survey of the world’s economists whose advice our banks were no doubt taking; should we believe it?

Are the UK’s banks really behind Peru, El Salvador and Senegal?

Or is it an accurate representation that is slightly out of date, compiled as it was slightly before the bail-outs?

That must depend on whether you believe the bail-outs will work.

If reports are to be believed the Royal Bank of Scotland is next in line to be nationalised tomorrow. If that happens then there will be further pressure on the remaining UK bank’s to be nationalised too. The banking sector could be picked off one by one by the market and the taxpayer forced to pick up the tab.

On that Iain Dale post there have already been comments about the English taxpayer bailing out the Scottish bank.

It must be a pity, to all those who carp, that Scotland is not already independent.

An independent Scotland with a similar oil fund like our neighbour Norway could be similarly insulated from these turbulent times.

It would also have the economic levers to maintain its economy best, not just for the South-East of England as remains the case today. Remember Eddie George, the former Governor of the Bank of England: Unemployment in the north is a price worth paying for affluence in the South!

Although the credit crunch is global, take a look back at those rankings.

Sweden, Luxembourg, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands. All small countries lying in the top 10.

Even Ireland, who have recently guaranteed all deposits in their banks, are sitting 9th.

The argument that Scotland is too small to be financially unstable is farcical! I don’t hear anyone saying that Denmark is too small and should be run from Berlin. (Not since the days of Adolf Hitler and the Second World War anyway!)

As countries large and small struggle with the credit credit crunch from the U.S. and Russia down to Iceland with its 300 000 population, this population argument of independence must be seen to be invalid. Iceland, with a population slightly smaller than North Lanarkshire, isn’t exactly Miramont Gardens in Pimlico!

Passport to Pimlico

What matters now is that we take the right decisions to get out this mess.

Those decisions may be different for each country. They may even be different for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

That’s why its important key economic levers are devolved away from Westminster.

Otherwise the Eddie George syndrome will hamper ‘the North’ recovering for years.

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Glasgow East and Independence

July 26, 2008

There has been a lot of talk regarding the Glasgow East by-election win for the SNP.

Most commentators seem to agree that it says nothing about the support for Scottish independence.

I disagree:

One report in the course of the campaign struck me.

It said that SNP activists were extremely encouraged by the number of Labour voters in Glasgow East – whether they switched or not – who wanted Scotland to be independent.

It also said that Glasgow East constituents gave the highest percentage of ‘Scottish’ as nationality on their last census return forms:- 96 % ; compared to only 4 % who thought of themselves as British.

People vote for political parties for a number of reasons.

For Labour, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to assume that people who vote for them don’t want an independent Scotland are living in cloud cuckoo land.

(The reverse that all the SNP voters don’t want independence is true as well. Only a vast vast majority want independence! In the Glasgow East election for instance they no doubt picked up votes from unionists wanting the discredited London Labour Government out.

If unionists really believe that the SNP is a single issue party then they would need to believe that all the SNP voters want independence.

If not, maybe those who have actually read the SNP manifesto and discovered it wasn’t just one page long with the single word ‘Independence’ then maybe they would realise that a referendum is probably the best way of finding out true public opinion.

Of course, the convention given by unionists is that the SNP need at least 50% of the Scottish MPs in Westminster or a majority of MSPs favouring independence in Holyrood to make independence happen.

Whichever happens first – by weight of numbers or by referendum – is fine by me!)

Ah but what about the polls they say – clutching to some selective polls that says that Scots don’t want it.

Equally nationalists are just as guilty of clutching to their polls that say Scots do want it.

As with most polls on independence it depends on how the question is phrased. Here’s a guide to the poll results.

The truth is until that question is asked formally in a referendum we won’t even have a real measure of public opinion to go on.

Look at the dodgy polling results for Glasgow East for instance.

The last one from Progressive Scottish Opinion only four days before the result put Labour on 52% and the SNP on 35 %.

As you can see that poll was utter rubbish, given that the SNP have just won the seat!

Polls are wrong a lot of the time. Its a fact. If they weren’t we wouldn’t have expensive elections in this country – we’d just phone up a few hundred folk in the constituency and then appoint the appropriate MP, MSP or councillor. No need for hustings, election budgets, PR etc. but just a small dent in the phone bill.

Glasgow East shows that there is now no safe seat for Labour even in its west central Scotland heartlands.

The fact that residents considered themselves Scottish not British, and that many Labour supporters favoured independence made switching to the SNP all that easier.

For that reason alone, given a bit of good fortune and a SNP impetus to change things for the better in Glasgow East, it gives the nationalists a great chance to secure the seat in the next Westminster election.

Labour must now fear a domino effect in Scotland that could decimate them politically.

One of the reasons the SNP wanted a referendum in 2010 was to show just how well they could govern Scotland. Now that was a prime reason for the vote switch; a popular Scottish SNP Government versus an unpopular London Labour Government.

Now that the SNP have succeeded in Glasgow East, a former Labour stronghold held since 1922, it shows just how popular this SNP Government is.

Part 1 of the plan accomplished.

Part 2 is the referendum.

And all this unionist claptrap of neverendums is just that. Claptrap!

They quote Quebec as a place of neverendums. Quebec has had two referendums for independence in its entire history. Once in 1980 and again in 1995. That’s it. Neverendums? Claptrap!

They quote John Mason when he said “When you are asking someone to marry you, sometimes you have to persist.” on his view on referendums – if – and thats a big improbable if – the SNP lost the 2010 referendum.

What do they think he was going to say?

“Oh well, we’ve lost a referendum, might as well disband the SNP!”

Cloud cuckoo land again by the unionists.

All that would mean is that the SNP and the other independence parties would need to try harder to convince people.

The issue might be kicked into the long grass for a while, but the political football will always return to the field of play so long as there are nationalists on the park.

But that’s all conjecture.

Right now, the nationalists are cruising the political match, banging goals in for fun. Unionist team captain Gordon Brown has done nothing but score o.g.s!

Glasgow East has seen another unionist red carded and time is running out.


SNP win Glasgow East

July 25, 2008

Yes. The SNP have won Glasgow East.

It might be a shock result but is anyone surprised?

I’m not going to go into Labour’s terminal decline in Scotland today.

I’ve already posted quite a bit on Labour’s slapstick election campaign too.

No. Today should be about celebrating the SNP’s magnificient win.

A justified result for the SNP’s brilliant campaign team and candidate John Mason.

A win that delivered the promised ‘political earthquake’. (Yet another SNP promise delivered!)

An earthquake with tremors felt around the world:-

The USA: New York Times and Time magazine
Canada: The National Post
India : Top News
South Africa : News 24
Australia : Sydney Morning Herald
France: France 24
Spain: EITB 24

to name but a few countries coverage.

Now thats what I call putting Scotland on the world stage!

To do it permanently, independence is the next step.

Bring it on!


Wedge Politics

June 21, 2008

Alex Salmond has been accused of using wedge politics over Scotland’s oil revenues.

He has asked the UK treasury for a slice of the unexpected profit that the treasury has gained, given the high oil prices recntly.

Wedge politics is issuing controversial issues to split the opposition support.

In this case, for example, the wedge issue would be oil.

Many people around the UK have been complaining about the high price of oil. The SNP have suggested a fuel duty regulator – as the Treasury earns more money from the high oil price, it cuts other fuel dutys on oil slightly, thus giving our oil-dependent economy a bit of breathing space.

This idea has been taken up by several Labour MPs, chief among them Stephen Ladyman – mentioned before in this blog on The English Labour Party – the former Transport minister.

The other idea Alex Salmond has been promoting has been an oil fund for Scotland, much like the Norwegian model – again mentioned before on this blog Arc of Prosperity. This idea is not new, and again Labour MPs were supportive; Malcolm Wicks, UK Energy minister, speaking in October 2007:- “If you could replay history, the idea as in Norway of building up a national [oil] fund is actually quite an attractive one.” Of course now that Alex Salmond has once again raised the issue, the Labour Party is trying to backtrack on the issue.

The idea of an oil fund was first suggested by Gavin McCrone in his report of 1974. See my blog End Game for more on that.

Wedge issues or not, they prove that it is not just the public that is swayed by sensible ideas. Even opposition MPs can be swayed.

Wikipedia has these four aims of wedge politics when used against other political parties:-

1. A debate, often vitriolic, within the opposing party, giving the public a perception of disarray.
2. The defection of supporters of the opposing party’s minority faction to the other party (or independent parties) if they lose the debate.
3. The legitimising of sentiment which, while perhaps popularly held, is usually considered inappropriate or politically incorrect; criticisms from the opposition then make it appear beholden to special interests or fringe ideology.
4. In an extreme case, a wedge issue might contribute to the actual fracture of the opposing party as another party spins off, taking voters with it.

I would suggest that here only the first point is valid, although in this case the Labour Party were already perceived to be in disarray before the oil issue. Various disastrous election results and the ill thought 10p tax issue has already proved the point.

Politics like this have always happened the world over. The name Wedge politics and its formalising as a political technique, is based on an Australian immigration issue of 2001.

At the time, Australia was the target of shipbound asylum seekers. A distressed ship’s passengers were picked up by the Norwegian ship MV Tampa and 460 asylum seekers boarded.

The governing Liberal Party wanted to look tough on asylum seekers, the opposition Labour Party were largely in favour of more lenient policies. With public opinion on the side of the Liberals, the Labour Party leader Kim Beazley changed tack and also favoured the tougher policies. The Labour Party appeared split and thus lost many voters.

Wedge politics have also been used in the United States, where the Democrat party managed to split the Republicans on immigration issues in 2007; and in Canada where the Conservatives try and split the Liberal Party on gay marriage policies, and the Liberals try and split the Conservatives on bilingualism.

I suspect though that the SNP policy is not formulated by wedge politics. Scratch under the skin of the SNP’s policies and they all come down to one single thing. It was highlighted in Alex Salmond’s first speech as First Minister in the Scottish Parliament.

“I commit myself to leadership wholly and exclusively in the Scottish national interest”

It’s SNP policy to stand up for Scotland. Every issue, every time.

For the unionist parties, thats a tough one to wedge.


Broadband take-up

June 14, 2008

These are the latest World Broadband ratings by ITIF:-

I’m going to concentrate this blog on the first column. That of broadband penetration; what percent of the countries population has access to broadband internet at home.

A recent Ofcom study found the UK’s figures slightly higher than ITIF, sitting at 57%. I hope this is indeed the case. I’ll use the Ofcom figures as accurate for the UK and the ITIF figures as accurate globally. Where the Ofcom figures match in the case of Belgium and the US, I’ll put the UK behind both countries as a low ranking 57%.

Sorting the ITIF list purely on Broadband takeup we get:-

1. South Korea 93
2. Iceland 83
3. Netherlands 77
4. Denmark 76
5. Switzerland 74
6. Norway 68
7. Canada 65
8. Finland 61
9. Australia 59
10. Belgium 57
11. United States 57
12. United Kingdom 57
13. Luxembourg 56
14. Japan 55
15. Sweden 54
16. France 54
17. Spain 49
18. Germany 47
19. Republic of Ireland 46
20. Austria 45
21. Portugal 44
22. New Zealand 42
23. Italy 41
24. Czech Republic 30
25. Hungary 29
26. Poland 23
27. Turkey 23
28. Slovakia 22
29. Mexico 20
30. Greece 18

I think that broadband takeup is the more relevant figure posted by ITIF. Speed and price are market factors, but the takeup figure roughly shows the percentage of people that use the internet and roughly shows your market audience. (Obviously countries with extremely large populations with lower takeup are not on the list e.g. China, India, Russia.)

Now regular readers might suspect that I’ll be analysing the UK figures in detail, and breaking them down to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. They would be right!

As this blog already is on the long side though, I’ll refrain from the compare and contrast – till later.

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