Month: June 2013

UK 3-dip Recession?????

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Manufacturing output in the UK fell by 1.5% in January 2013, some suggest the its all the fault of the snow.  Well I suppose that some people (small children) believe fairies live at the bottom of the garden and then there are those that believe the earth is flat.

Without wanting to break shocking news to the unsuspecting but you know it does actually snow in winter in the UK.  Not everywhere but most places will get a bit and I really don’t think it comes as a huge surprise to industry who probably have contingencies anyhow.  No, I think its fair to say the economy shrunk and manufacturing particularly did badly.  In fact the whole UK economy reduced by 0.3% in 2012 and since manufacturing is now only a fraction of the overall economy a 1.5% reduction doesn’t seem quite as dramatic when seen in context.

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The UK manufacturing decline is only a continuation from the 1980’s and I’m sure that eventually like water it’ll find a level and pretty much balance out at that.  My view is that manufacturing will eventually polarize; high-end, hi-tech stuff, aerospace, and outer-space kinda stuff and medical at one end then there’ll be the kind of manufacturing that wont travel, low-end, very low price and low volumes at the other.

The UK it has to be said is all about services; financial and education being the most obvious, but I’m sure there are plenty more I could mention.  That being the case then it shouldn’t come as any surprise when the UK struggles with recessionary forces because to put it simply the UK will only do well when the people it’s selling to are doing well.  Unless the UK starts making things, things that people want and at a price that people will buy at; well manufacturing generally aint coming back, not ever!

I’m not suggesting for a moment that the loss of manufacturing should be mourned (even though I work within the manufacturing sector), no I think companies in the UK should be outsourcing manufacturing to emerging economies.  Its the best way to spread the wealth, and they will buy what we have to sell.  In fact I’d go further and say that the UK should be investing in underdeveloped economies for the best advantage globally.

Going slightly off-subject (but I just cant resist on this one) those who say stop the Foreign Aid programs and spend the money at ‘home’, to those I say that’s just soooooo short-sighted.  The world is inter-connected, one way or the other we are all linked and what I do today does affect others, its a ripple kind of thing.  The ripples may take some time coming back, but they will come back.  The UK is still a very rich place comparatively speaking, so stop being peevish and stop with the navel gazing.

Right, back to subject;  Further signs that UK exporters are finding life tough emerged in separate figures on the UK’s trade and goods deficit, which narrowed to £2.4 bn in January from £2.8 bn the previous month.  Total exports in goods decreased by £900 mn (3.5%) to £24.4 bn, while lower consumption meant total imports fell by £1.4bn (4.2%) to £32.6 bn.

In short the UK is spending more than its selling.  A recession?  you bet!

I watch the news, read the news on the internet (I don’t like the printed press) and I’m not convinced that the UK ever got out of recession, I think those in the know are just basically conning us all, the UK continues to bump along (at the bottom, or is there further to drop I wonder?).  My honest opinion is that we never got out of the first recession, never-mind in and then out of a second with a third well on the way.

What the UK really should concentrate on is doing what it does really well, I mean really, really, really well.  Make sure that what it does is what people want as well.

If they want to get back into manufacturing, well they are going to have to invest heavily in technology (the Brits wont work for low-pay even though they think that they are already).  But I don’t countenance this, the Brits are just too far behind, stick to the knitting is what I say.

Innovation on the other hand, now that should be encouraged.  Spend like mad on innovation and then keep it in the UK, and then sell it to the world.

Innovation + Services = route out of recession.

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Gillard v Rudd; what a mess!

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It must, has to be, the most shocking political comebacks of all time, the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has been defeated by Kevin Rudd in a snap leadership election by the man she replaced in 2010, Kevin Rudd.

Frankly I’m amazed that the Aussie Labour Party had the election at all after the previous shenanigans in the Gillard v Rudd push-pull, have an election, don’t have an election soap opera that is the Australian Labour Party.  But Rudd has done it (at last), he’s been smarting since 2010 when he lost to JG and he’s been bitter ever since.

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Rudd won the vote 57 to 45 and its reported that several ministers have resigned their positions.  Not a big shock since the last (aborted) attempt to have a vote wound-up with JG appointing a number of her supporters to key positions.  The idea being that she would bring stability to the party and stand a (slim – almost nil) chance of winning the General Election in September.

However, with Rudd at the helm the Labour Party looks set for a huge, massive, staggering, crushing defeat at the elections.  Opposition leader Tony Abbott has called on the government to move the election forward to August, because of the “paralysis” in leadership.  Opportunistic? well yes but to be honest I’d do exactly the same in his place.

Leaving the chamber where the ballot was held, Gillard told reporters: “Three years ago I had the honour of being elected Labor leader.  This privilege was truly humbling. I thank the Labor Party for that privilege and I thank the Australian people for their support.  I’m confident I leave the prime ministership having strengthened our relationship with our partners, all of them.”

Rudd defended his challenging JG at such a turbulent time for the party. “For the nation’s sake it is time for this matter to be resolved. We are on course for a catastrophic defeat unless there is change”.  Oh you really think so?  No s__t Sherlock!

Well JG lasted 3-years and I must hand it to her, not only has she had to contend with an opposition looking to exploit every chink in her and her party’s policies but she’s had the constant barracking and competition from within; Kevin Rudd.  Under the circumstances, global economic melt-down, the reduction in the Chinese demand, being the figure head for major mining deals with Chinese companies, the constant threat from the opposition and Kevin Rudd as well as the so-called gender wars; you know what?  I think she’s done well!  In fact I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again I’d vote for her!

The gender thing by the way was (is) a big deal in Australia but don’t let it cloud your views about JG, its significant but not the only thing she should be remembered for, but it was entertaining while it lasted.

Leaving

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Most people at some point in their life will leave a job.  Its nothing to be ashamed of pretty much all of us have done it; sometimes its easy, smooth, relaxed; you know the kind of leaving where you are going to a better place and your employer and work friends wish you well.  But, sometimes it isn’t; sometimes its cause you really need to leave for your own sanity, the right amount of pay, the hours don’t work for you…

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Some thoughts:

Be absolutely sure you need to leave.  The way the boss, (s)he who must be obeyed deals with employees is the biggest influence on employee engagement.  If you think your reasons for leaving could be reversed and you’d like them to be, then steel yourself and have that difficult conversation with your manager.

Give reasons.  Explain your emotions and the facts about why you are leaving.  You may not benefit but your work colleagues left behind might if your manager understands why and then acts to prevent further employees leaving.

Don’t make a mess.  Before you leave you’re still part of the team… so act like it.  Keep disruption down to a minimum, hand-over wherever you can and if possible be flexible on the final date (especially where major clients are concerned).  You want to be missed, not resented for leaving everyone in the lurch (especially those important clients…. you never know).

Stay calm.  If you’re leaving because you’ve been dismissed or made redundant, stay calm, smile (a lot) and keep those negative thoughts to yourself.  You just don’t know you could attract new admirers willing to help if you stay mature.

Had a dispute?  Put it right.  Life is just too short to have grudges (I cant say I personally set a great example on this one but you’ll get the meaning I’m sure).  Take your Nemesis for a coffee and try to leave on good terms; you don’t want them shouting the odds after you’ve gone, you’re not in a position to put the story right at that point.

Be memorable.  Leaving a legacy is a great parting gift.  Pick your most spectacular success and train a new champion.

Damage control.  You get to keep the reputation you make, so if you’re leaving because you’ve screwed-up on a big scale, make a gesture and try and keep what you can of any good reputation you might have.

Respect.  A successful ex-employee, who better to bring back into the fold for that difficult but important now project.  Meet with (important) ex-work colleagues and keep their respect.

Changing the way people think and behave is difficult enough but never more important than when you’re leaving.  You want to leave on good, actually no great terms.  You want your previous employer to wish you’d stayed, and keep on wishing for some time to come.

Life is about opportunities and if you’re leaving you’ve decided that opportunity lies elsewhere but sometimes things just don’t work out how they were supposed to.  So keep those bridges in-tact, keep the baby not the bath water and stay in-touch if you can.  The opportunity might just prove to be where you’ve come from.

Manage Office Politics to the Max

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  1. Be Professional right from the outset (don’t lapse it will bite you at some point!)
  2. You are the example so do your job well, really well! No exceptions!
  3. No back-stabbing!  But if you plan to blame someone then stitch them up really tight because blame will encourage the back-stabbers and you’re gonna be the target.  If not … admit to your mistakes…
  4. You are gonna have to know who are the movers and shakers, not the ones officially in-power but those who wield the unofficial power
  5. Really obvious one this one (but easily forgotten when the pressure is on) but… treat the office members as you would like to be treated
  6. Let those around you know what your agenda is and stay on message
  7. Team moral!  No substitute for this, great team moral is like having an extra pair of hands in the office; especially when the work is piling high and dead-lines are looming
  8. Big picture – minute detail is important, but Office Politics should always be seen through the lens of the big picture
  9. Try not to be nasty, network but don’t gossip
  10. Keep a record!  Never believe that you can trust anybody, at some point you will need a contingency, a shield, a shelter, a defence

How ignorant Britain sneers and sniggers at the threat from Iran | Melanie Phillips

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I am a huge admirer of Melanie Phillips, I don’t agree with all of her analysis but on certain subjects (the threat of Iran being one where I am probably in full agreement) is spot on the money.

I watched the edition of Question Time she speaks of in her blog post and I must say that the audience was baying almost before she had spoken about Iran and its new (moderate?) leader.  Of course her views are well known but on this subject she couldn’t be more right.  Maybe because she happens to be a Jew and she has an opinion about Israel where she isn’t criticizing the state of Israel, she isn’t self depreciating; that people find her difficult to agree with.  I’m sorry to say but watching the programme made me feel as if there is a dirty little line of antisemitism running through some sections of British society.

Iran expressly wants the state of Israel to be wiped from the map and the Jews who live there to be pushed into the Mediterranean Sea.  The new leader may be perceived as a moderate, the mood music is soothing for the Yanks but make absolutely no mistake that if they get the chance they will support Terror (Hesbolah) and they will strike against Israel.  Iran, based on the evidence in the media is a de-stabilizing force in the region.

Read the blog-post and watch the show, you should find it uncomfortable.

How ignorant Britain sneers and sniggers at the threat from Iran | Melanie Phillips.

1967 Borders are Defensible

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I read with some interest this morning comments made by former Mossad Head Meir Dagan who at the Presidents Conference said Israel needs to start “serious” negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, in which the Arab League should be involved.  He claims Israel could pull out of the Jordan Valley; its much less important than it was in the 1990’s.

Dagan speaking on Wednesday at the Presidents Conference in Jerusalem says that Israel needs to recognize the present upheaval in the surrounding Arab States and the Middle East more generally.  There are processes taking place that will continue to develop and that nobody really knows where they are going.  But nonetheless the results will mean dramatic on-going change.

He went on to say that he believes Israel can pull back to the  Green Line (pre-1967 Borders with Jordan) and still be able to defend itself.  “The Jordan Valley had importance in 1991,” Dagan said. “At that time, there was a threat from Jordan, Syria and Iraq, but now it is of less importance.”  His view is that the withdrawal, which he proposes would form part of the peace process with the PA.

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Dagans comments come in contrast to statements made two weeks ago by Tourism Minister Uzi Landau, who called the 1967 borders “Auschwitz Borders.”  Dagan also said that the current situation in the region provides “unique opportunity for Israel to seek different alliances” and asserted that renewing peace negotiations with the PA is necessary.

Dagan qualified his comments “I don’t like every aspect of the Arab peace initiative, but the need to negotiate is crucial,” Dagan said. “The Arab League today is less hostile to Israel. The Arab initiative should form the basis of renewing negotiations. We have more opportunities than we realize. If we don’t take initiative, the change might be imposed on us and the price will be heavy.”

However, Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin (Likud) said Dagan was behaving irresponsibly, and that the former Mossad chief had backed the disengagement from Gaza.

As an interested outsider I think Dagan brings experience to the table and has some valid contributions.  I will continue to watch with real interest.

Franken-Food; GM Crops

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Right so I think its probably fair to say from the title of this post right from the off you can guess where I am on the GM Crop debate.

British Environment Secretary Owen Patterson is about to re-open the debate in Britain with a bias toward allowing these crops to be commercially planted, harvested and sold into the food-chain.  Paterson, who has previously expressed his backing for GM, will say that government, scientists and industry “owe a duty to the British public to reassure them that GM is a safe, proven and beneficial innovation” for farmers and consumers.

Well they may, off this reassurance; but frankly I DON’T BELIEVE IT IS!!!!!  I don’t believe they are anywhere near safe to be absolutely clear on the point.

Patterson will claim that there are potentially significant economic and environmental benefits to growing GM produce, including increasing yields, protecting crops from disease and reducing the use of pesticides and chemicals.  I think he might just be blinded by the initial economic benefits but this waffle about environmental benefit I really don’t know how he’s going to sell that one.

The thing with GM is that farmers are forced to buy the fertilizer and pesticides from the same company that sells them the crop seeds and that’s the economic benefit (for the Agi-Chemical business that is).  The intensity of the farming practices will deplete soil quality and structure leading inevitably to more extensive use of fertilizer and pesticides.  Its basically a way of exhausting the soils which can only lead to eventual crop failures or more likely small farm failures.  It will lead to super-farms, homogenized food stuffs, low prices, but high profit margins for the producers and sellers.

The claim is that GM will help in combating the effects of climate change (whether you think its man-made, natural or a combination of the two climate change theories).  He will further suggest that the intensity of GM will allow land to be left undeveloped for wild-life.  If you swallow that one I think they just won the argument, it ain’t gonna happen I assure you!

Patterson says Europe is “missing out” on the technology, which is now used on 12% of arable land around the world, and which globally farmers are growing, governments are licensing and consumers are buying.  “While the rest of the world is ploughing ahead and reaping the benefits of new technologies, Europe risks being left behind.  “We cannot afford to let that happen.”

He will call for the UK to be at the forefront of developing GM technology.

There is just one site in the UK where GM is on trial but many of our livestock are fed on grain and foods from around the globe so GM is in the UK albeit disguised as animal feed.

Friends of the Earth’s head of policy, research and science Mike Childs has said: “Despite decades of research, there are still no miracle crops to tackle the challenges agriculture faces, such as climate change, soil degradation, water shortages and growing demand.”

BASICALLY IT DOESN’T WORK, so I’d say stop doing GM crops and concentrate on something that is worth doing.  The argument is not made, in-fact I’d go so far as to say the argument is lost.  Ask those cash crop farmers in Eastern-Africa how they fair with the Agri-Chemical Businesses.

My bet is the story goes along the lines of:

  1. Had to stop growing real food for local consumption
  2. Got a big cash pay-out up-front (this is the bribe bit really)
  3. Started growing GM cash crops – it was okay to start with
  4. Then had to get fertilizer and pesticides but could only get them from the Agri-Chemical supplier
  5. Fertilizer and pesticides are really expensive
  6. Commodity values of my cash crop have dropped so I don’t get paid what I used to
  7. I sold my land to survive and now I rent the land I used to own
  8. I’m now poorer than ever, my neighbors are starving and cannot afford the imported food prices they now have to pay

Can I suggest that we drop the idea of GM, go back to farming real food locally and feeding the people that live in our nation with good honest food.  The government could help by encouraging the unemployed to learn how to grow food, tax could be reconfigured to make home-grown food more advantageous to buy.  Link these ideas up with other government initiatives and we begin on the route to self-sustainable food supply.

The planet benefits from not being quite so stressed.

People benefit from good, healthy, fresh, affordable food.

The unemployed benefit from having something to learn, do and earn from.

This might sound a bit like a Kibbutz attitude but heck it could work you know.