Author Archives: bombaychatterbox

THE INCREASINGLY PATHETIC, AND INCOMPETENT, SNP

ONGOING FALL IN SUPPORT FOR NICOLA STURGEON

There is strong support across much of the political spectrum for Scottish Tory Leader, Ruth Davidson’s fresh attack on Miss Sturgeon for trying to bully we Scots into ‘yet another fratricidal conflict’. The result of the 2014 Referendum was quite decisive in that the majority of Scots voted to stay in the Union with the rest of the UK. Sturgeon stubbornly refuses to recognise that her aggressive anti-Brexit position now carries even less weight with voters.

There is obviously very little public support for a 2nd independence referendum, with a weekend opinion poll finding just 27% of Scots want another one before Brexit takes place. This is down from 47% in June.

Instead of trying to heal the divisions in the Scottish Nation, Sturgeon continues with phase 2 of her already failed independence rhetoric, with almost daily irrational rants against one or more, or all of the various aspects of Brexit.

Plainly, in her privileged position, can she be aware of the daily pressures with which we ordinary folk have to deal in the Health Service, Education and Transport for a start, as a direct result of her SNP government’s failed policies? What is she doing about the increasing number of Scots failing to find permanent work? The Scottish budget deficit is now 10% of GDP which is the worst of any nation in Europe, including Greece. Does she seriously think that this is an acceptable criterion for entry into the European Union by an independent Scotland?

Everyone knows that the SNP’s strategy for growth is not working and this fact is not lost on the Scottish voter. Hence Miss Sturgeon’s increasing, near-hysterical desperation.

If Prime Minister May has not already done so, she must make it clear to Miss Sturgeon that she cannot call a 2nd referendum without prior UK Government sanction. If we are to be propelled into one at some future date, it must also be made clear that the terms under which it is held will not be the same as under the last ‘Cameron, shoot from the hip’ one : on such a critical issue, a two thirds majority would be required to win.

Under Ruth Davidson’s leadership, there is little doubt that the Scottish Tories will be a real threat to the SNP at the forthcoming local elections.

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NOW TIME TO COME CLEAN MR XI –

THE COMMUNIST CHAMPION OF GLOBALISATION AND OPEN MARKETS !

XI Jinping, the dour Communist Party tyrant, who now imposes his will arbitrarily on 1.3 billion Chinese, supported by the other political thugs in the Politburo, graced the World Economic Forum with his presence last week in Switzerland.

Was it a reward for Xi’s further clampdown on dissent in China, and even greater tightening of internet controls, that the IMF accepted the Yuan (or Renminbi) as a main world reserve currency? Apart from internationalising China’s currency, it helped to further the Asian giant’s global dominance in world trade.

However, the Trump threat of substantial import tariffs and a resulting trade war aside, analysts continue to be worried about the real state of the Chinese economy and think that the country is in big trouble. There can be little doubt that the other so-called ‘world’s business and political elite’, with their snouts in the same big money trough at Davos, were given very little opportunity for critical face to face questions with Xi; a pity.

Many believe that China’s GDP figures, and books, are cooked! The ‘consistent’ yearly GDP growth rate of around 7% is increasingly regarded by some with total scepticism. They think that overstating growth is so embedded in the system that useful information on the economy is no longer being provided.

China’s banks are over-burdened with low quality debt. They extended USD1.8 trillion in loans in 2016 as the government encouraged more credit-fuelled stimulus to meet economic growth targets. The explosive hike in debt has to be a major concern. 

Overall debt is comparable to other developed economies, but corporate debt at 169% of GDP is regarded as far too high. Furthermore, the overheated housing market, which has depended for so long on easy government money, is well overdue to explode. The effect of that on the slowing economy can only be imagined.

We are told that the long-term plan is to re-structure away from investment-intensive industry towards new ‘growth engines’ in services and technology, but there still seems to be a marked inclination to persist with major infrastructure projects ie roads, railways and airports. Many of these are unnecessary and located in sparsely populated areas. They will of course initially produce more GDP growth but the unproductive investment underpinning GDP targets remains a major problem. 

The sombre President Xi must also front the 5-yearly Communist Party Congress due to be held this Autumn, and convince the other Party bosses by then that his reforms are working. A few changes near the top may not be out of the question.

Meanwhile, spare a thought for those former British Chinese citizens still resident in Hong Kong. Their status as UK subjects was ended by our political elite and so conveniently ‘transferred’ in 1997 to end their days under the current communist dictatorship. Many of them had fled to Hong Kong from communist oppression in China years before. Shame on the British government of the time for not striking a better deal for them. These great Chinese people were among the most hard-working and enterprising anywhere. They are owed much.

NOW FOR A BIT MORE LIGHT –

THE UK TO LEAVE THE SINGLE MARKET AND CUSTOMS UNION –

We hope!

The media and the rest of the chattering classes are all geared up for Theresa May’s big speech tomorrow in which more definitive information on the Government’s Brexit strategy is expected.

The problem of uncontrolled migration from EU countries into the UK was a key factor in the Referendum outcome last June. If the result is to be respected, it follows that the UK must leave the single market and also the customs union. The only way we could stay in both is if we were allowed full and continued access to EU markets on the same terms as we now enjoy, but without being shackled by the freedom of movement requirement, and without the imposition of tariffs. This is the position for which our negotiators should aim. Would the EU countries not benefit from a similar future reciprocal trading situation with the UK, ie an ‘open’ relationship?

Obviously, British markets will remain vital to other EU countries. We should therefore be confident in our attitude to the negotiations to access and operate within the single market, without the freedom of movement and any other conditions. If the EU proves to be obstructive or unreasonable in the negotiations, and all things considered one cannot see why they would want to be, we should waste no time in giving Brussels notice of our intention to leave the EU at a time advantageous to us. Future trade would then be conducted under WTO rules.

Following the PM’s recent comments, it appears that leaving the single market may well be the direction of travel. It would be far from the end of the world. No trade agreement exists between the UK and the USA, for example, yet they are our largest single export market. Free trade deals with other countries facilitate and help to expand existing trading bonds. These ties have been continued by successive generations of British entrepreneurs on a foundation built by their predecessors over many centuries. Our business men and women are the real deal-makers.

With goodwill on both sides, we can retain our current strong trade links with Europe. But we must also re-establish serious trading links with other non-EU countries, unhindered by unacceptable conditions imposed by Brussels. If necessary, and as a matter of priority, the Government must be prepared to introduce radical new measures to make the UK an even more attractive place to do business. Here, inter alia, I refer to significant changes to existing tax and investment rules. In other words, we would change the UK economic model to make us seriously more competitive.

I’m sure Mrs May will not disappoint! 

THE PROSPECT OF A SECOND INDEPENDENCE REFERENDUM 

HAS MS STURGEON LOST IT?
Although a competent enough and shrewd politician in the past, it seems that the leader of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon, is becoming increasingly politically desperate and painting herself into a corner from which she is unlikely to be rescued unscathed. Of course, when you’re at the top of the heap, there’s usually only one way to go after that, and its not higher.

Instead of getting down to the serious business of trying to reunite Scots in the face of the country’s many serious economic problems, the First Minister has done little since the Brexit referendum in June last year, but indulge in non-stop spinning because of the Brexit decision, and frequently threaten us all with the prospect of yet another Indyref which we would all welcome like a hole in the head, except for her most ardent hard-core supporters.

Her latest diatribe came this week when she warned us all that she ‘wasn’t bluffing’ about holding another referendum. She then said that one would not be held this year. The SNP former leader, Alex Salmond, has predicted that a 2nd referendum would be held next year. The former SNP Justice Secretary, Kenny Macaskill, a powerful SNP figure, has just said that the economy now is worse than it was in 2014 when the last referendum was held, and lost by the Yes campaign. He points out that circumstances for another vote are both less favourable and more complicated than during the failed referendum in 2014. 

It should be noted that Ms Sturgeon said she would respect that result. Why doesn’t she? And by the way, who gave her the power to call another referendum?

The respected Recruitment and Employment Confederation – ‘Jobs transform lives’ – has just reported a fall in the number of Scots finding permanent work and that the Scottish economy is underperforming the rest of the UK. While the Brexit vote has had a UK-wide effect on confidence, Scotland has double the uncertainty with the prospect of a 2nd Indyref constantly being threatened.

Obviously, the SNP strategy for growth is not working, and the Scottish budget deficit is now approaching 10% of GDP. Instead of getting down to tackling the serious underlying problems in the Scottish economy, and they now have sufficient legislative powers to do this, the SNP continue to live in their own magical fantasy la la land, still stubbornly cherishing the impossible dream of becoming an independent country within the EU.

Its important to get back to basics. Ms Sturgeon and her SNP wonks must have forgotten that the Scottish budget deficit of some 14.8 billion sterling is the worst of any nation in Europe including Greece. With a deficit level comparable with GDP of 9.5%, this is more than twice the rate of the rest of the UK. Now, unless things have changed dramatically since I last looked, to be a member of the EU you should have a budget deficit of no more than 3% of GDP. We all know that this can be fudged, manipulated, or whatever, but to the degree required in Scotland’s case?

There is also the little problem of Catalonia. Who could doubt that Spain would be determined to vote against Scottish membership, or is this just a minor detail to Ms Sturgeon and her SNP cronies?

So Ms Sturgeon, to qualify for EU membership as an independent nation, would you be prepared to cut your Government’s spending by 10% of GDP – or make all of us living in Scotland pay 20% more in tax?

Dream on!

Goodbye to 2016

GOODBYE TO 2016 and here to just one of the many people making decisions vital to our well-being who continued to disappoint.

Thankfully, we will only have to put up with Barack Hussein Obama ll for the next two weeks. Arguably, the most disappointing leader of the USA in modern times, to almost the very end, he was reaching out to adversaries and alienating long-standing allies. His great failures as President obviously have yet to be fully assessed, but surely Obama’s passivity in the face of the 400,000 deaths in Syria, the wanton destruction of entire cities by the ruthless dictator Assad, the use of barrel bombs, sarin gas and chlorine gas against the civilian population, and countless other atrocities against ordinary men, women and children, must raise questions on his role in the Syrian conflict, and for the consequences to the future global influence of the United States. 

By his inaction, Obama has effectively allowed the tyrants now running Russia, Turkey and Iran to circumvent the interests and influence of the Western allies, and impose a solution on the Syrian people. The USA and even the United Nations have been excluded, the latter again proving to be throughout this major crisis a useless talking shop, good only for the high-salaried, chattering classes who comprise its benches. 

Obama proved time and again that he was either incapable of appreciating, or contemptuous towards, the concept of geostrategic thinking in foreign policy. In turn, his apparent lack of forward thinking on Syria had the most serious repercussions for many European nations, and greatly exacerbated their problems in struggling to assimilate Muslim arrivals from the Middle East/Africa, most of whom arrived on our European shores with totally alien cultural values. 

Furthermore, President Obama will be judged far from favourably by his failure to revive any kind of peace initiative between Israel and Palestine, the extremely controversial Iran nuclear deal, the failure of his policies in Asia, the collapse of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the ineffectual manner in which he sought to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Some may point to Obamacare as a signal domestic achievement in Obama’s presidency. This measure provided some 44 million Americans, or 16% of the population, with basic Medicare previously denied to them for a variety of reasons. At the end of 2015, the percentage of the population without adequate medical insurance cover had been reduced to around 10%. Regardless of the fact that this statistic alone amounts to nothing less than a disgrace for the richest nation in the world, the Act governing Obamacare looks very likely to be repealed with Trump’s arrival at the White House, supported by Republican majorities in both Houses.

During his watch,  Obama oversaw a huge reduction in the influence and status of the United States in the world, with the direct result that all of us now live in a far more dangerous place. Both Russia and China now strut the world stage with a hugely greater expansionist appetite than at any time since the days of Kruschev and his Cuban misadventure. 

And what of relations, always too easily combustible, between the white and black communities in the USA after eight years of Obama? I leave you to answer that one.

Some legacy! 

DONT BE HASTY MRS MAY

BRITISH PM AND THE SCOTTISH FIRST MINISTER’S PROPOSALS ON BREXIT

DR FOX WOBBLES

Contrary to the constant moaning from her critics, Mrs May is slowly lifting the lid on her Brexit thinking, obviously without too much detail. Over the past day or two, in a statement to Parliament, and before the imperious and rather grand Mr Andrew Tyrie, and his select committee, we have been allowed an insight into some of her thinking. We hope that her promised further statement to Parliament in early January will provide more substantive fodder. 

While there can be no way that Mrs May can accede to the Scottish Nationalists demands, as outlined by the Scottish First Minister Ms Sturgeon today, it would be quite wrong for them to be dismissed out of hand. Certainly, much of what is in Ms Sturgeon’s latest shopping list is nothing but a thinly-disguised attempt to gain further substantial devolved powers, ie  de facto Independence.

Nevertheless, the majority of Scots voting to remain in the EU at the referendum was substantial. As much as one may admire and support Mrs May, and while we may agree that the proposals put forward by the SNP are unrealistic, the UK Government must be seen by all Scots to work with the Edinburgh administration to ascertain what common purpose they may be able to unite on in the Brexit negotiations. It is therefore gratifying that the UK Government has welcomed the publication of the SNP proposals and that they will be fed into its overall thinking on the British case to be put to the EU.

Put simply, Scotland’s perceived problems as a result of the UK leaving the EU may require a series of unique solutions, not necessarily those advocated by Ms Sturgeon, and many will hope that these matters will receive a more sympathetic hearing in London than has hitherto seemed to be the case.

Furthermore, while one may not disagree with the Scottish Tory leader Ms Ruth Davidson’s remarks on Ms Sturgeon’s proposals, these should not be based on the political opinion that the SNP could not win another independence referendum. We all know that polls are fickle and can change almost overnight. Most Scots, even Unionists, are nationalists at heart and have a marked affinity with the European continent which may not be shared to the same degree  by the other countries comprising the UK. What are Ms Davidson’s solutions to protect Scottish interests?

Many of those who watched the UK Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox’s interview on Sunday’s Andrew Marr show will be left wondering whether he is in the process of changing his stand on the single market and customs union. Rightly or wrongly, this seemed to be a no contest position for Fox, but many were left with the distinct impression that he may now be wobbling. Could this be down to the realisation that certain business sectors may be greatly disadvantaged otherwise? He wasn’t giving too much away.

Following Chancellor Philip Hammond’s lead, ‘Transitional’ arrangements are now being referred to by various ministers. Mrs May and her Gang of 3, Messrs Davis, Fox and Johnson, should avoid this scenario at all costs. According to those who seem to know, such a deal could cost us some 250 million pounds per week, and just as importantly, any transitional agreement could take longer to arrange than a conclusive final treaty. Other resources such as manpower, which we all know is in short supply, should be used more profitably to secure a final deal.

After all the political humbug of the past few days, it was really refreshing to see Mrs May so expertly put Mr Tyrie in his place!

DAVID CAMERON

SELF-DELUSION OR JUST SELF-OPINIONATED ??

Despite having lost his job over his bad judgement in calling a referendum on Great Britain’s membership of the European Union,  apparently Mr Cameron continues to cling to the notion that he knows best, and that he lost both the referendum and his premiership to the ‘rise of populism’!  As he reportedly and somewhat grandly put it, ‘to the rise of a populist movement of unhappiness that also led to the election of Donald Trump and the downfall of the Italian premier, Matteo Renzi’.

In his recent speech to university students in the USA, in what some would regard as a wide-ranging egotistical rant, Mr Cameron stated that he ‘stands as a great optimist on how ‘we’ can combat populism’!  Do you mean democratic choice, Mr Cameron?

It seems he has only now become aware that the Euro could collapse as a result of the EU’s economic problems, and that some member countries have lost decades of economic growth! Furthermore, while a single currency, the Euro, was in place, there was no single fiscal system or single tax system.

You dont say Mr Cameron?  No doubt the undergraduates at DePauw University in Indiana will take all this hype in their stride, but we must ask where Mr Cameron has been all this time. 

Put simply, everything Mr Cameron now appears to belatedly acknowledge has been well known to most of us for a very long time. He is the man on whom many in this country relied to bring at least one or two concessions back from his negotiations in Brussels. The fact that he completely misread the mood of the British people, and that, for example, he was oblivious to the degree to which we Brits were greatly concerned about the lack of proper control over immigration, and the powers of the European Court of Justice over our British Courts in EU matters, was much resented.

What he gave us in Brussels instead, was a series of late night dramas and messing about with no finale. He failed to convince the other European leaders of the gravity of the British situation, and thus failed to divert them from their self-destruct mission. This is how many of us will remember him. The first step in the break-up of the EU may well be his legacy, because one cant readily think of a more signal achievement.

Let us also not forget that David Cameron is the man who unnecessarily agreed to the failed Scottish Independence Referendum, the consequences of which are still with us, and which could have lead to the break-up of the UK.

 

ITALY DOES A BREXIT ! 

This is the headline many Italians will be looking for after the Referendum tomorrow.

Officially, the Referendum has been called by PM Renzi to decide on whether the constitution should be changed to limit the powers of both the Italian Senate and Regions in the country’s bicameral parliamentary system. This was set up in 1948 by the allied powers and specifically engineered to prevent a return to Fascism. 

There is genuine opposition to Renzi’s plans based on the fear that it would lead to a centralising of power. However, the establishment are greatly apprehensive that the electorate will seize this opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with the way business is conducted in the Eurozone.  Many are also unhappy that Renzi seems to have made the vote about himself. This miscalculation may therefore provide voters with the ideal opportunity to punish a serving prime minister.  Renzi has made a commitment to resign if he loses the vote. If he goes, a number of anti-establishment parties like the Five Star movement has promised to hold a referendum on retaining the Euro. This would send the rest of the Eurozone’s leaders into very dangerous territory.

Undoubtedly, the wave of popular unrest globally which swept Cameron out of power in the UK, and  lead to Trump’s victory in the USA, is about to engulf Europe. The EU is a war zone fighting off disintegration and economic collapse from within. The Right is on the march everywhere and both France and Germany face critical national elections next year where incumbent leaders face unprecedented challenges from powerful Eurosceptic movements. 

Furthermore, if the Austrians on Sunday choose as their president the gun-loving populist and Islam critic, parliamentary speaker Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party, this would further exacerbate the mood in Europe. While Hofer has not threatened to leave the EU, he is committed to a referendum if Brussels moves to further centralise EU powers.

For Italy itself a No vote on Sunday will not only lead to dangerous political instability, but to massive problems for the country’s banking sector for a start. Italian banks hold huge bad non-performing loans which are reported to total some Euros 360billions which are unlikely to ever be repaid. Obviously, this will have a huge effect on the Eurozone’s other banks. There are serious legal and financial constraints which would prevent a bank bailout by the Italian Government. These constraints are imposed by the Eurozone’s banking regulator. So the cherished Eurozone project of closer banking union may be doomed before it’s off the drawing board.

It seems that British PM May has everything to gain by playing a long cool Brexit game. The later she leaves invoking Article 50,  perhaps the more amenable the other EU leaders may be to her exit strategy, considering the other huge and potentially insurmountable problems they may have on their plate!

INDIAN DEMONETISATION – come back Man Mohan Singh !

THE country’s economy is now on a knife edge.

In the Lok Sabah yesterday, former Prime Minister, and Oxford Economics Professor Man Mohan Singh, described current PM Modi’s clampdown on cash held by individuals in India as ‘organized looting and legalized plunder’. Incredibly, as he spoke in the Chamber, Mr Modi was seen sitting nodding his head wisely as if in agreement with Mr Singh as he made his blistering attack on the Government! 

More than 80% of India’s banknotes are now out of circulation. The sudden withdrawal of 500 and 1000 rupee notes was introduced to supposedly fight corruption and forgery and has resulted in a massive shortage of cash.  People have been queuing outside bank branches for days with half the country’s ATM’s still empty. Insufficient numbers of new rupee notes were printed.  Indians are being forced to exchange their old notes without sufficient notice, or lose them. Trucks are stranded, workers are not being paid, and millions of jobs are at risk. 

In India’s cash economy, 40% of people still do not have access to the financial system, so cash is king and is used in an estimated massive 78% of transactions!

The situation is now alarming and scary for the country, so PM Modi needs to act fast to alleviate the situation or it could cost him dear with state elections looming. Observers say the current desperate state of affairs could lead to a major political backlash against him at the polls. It is vital that he gets the new cash out quickly into the real economy so that peoples’ livelihoods are not affected. 

Mr Modi has undoubtedly started from a position of strength and has a lot of public support in principle in his attempts to crack down on corruption. However, what is seen as the incompetent manner in which this whole experiment has been handled, could seriously derail India’s reform drive. It is said that it will take 6 months at least to supply the cash India needs, in which time massive damage will be done to the economy and to its people resulting in scars which will be long lasting.

International comment has been adverse. Most observers emphasise that the rich will not suffer as corruptly acquired fortunes have largely been converted to shares, gold and real estate. Only the poor will end up losing out. Many think that the measures have much in common with the failed experiments of dictatorships and consider them to have been a dangerous miscalculation by Mr Modi. 

In a shocking comment alleged to have been made by Mr Jaitley, India’s finance minister, he is quoted as wondering aloud as to how many poor people would even have 1000 Rupee notes.  If true, surely this should have been considered before a potential shut down of the Indian financial system which, incidentally, has always been one of the most resilient in the world. There is little doubt in the minds of many that heads should roll!   

CUBA ¬†– GOODBYE FIDEL

AND, from many, good riddance !

Over the next few days we shall all be swamped no doubt with the usual humbug tributes from the loony left, certain academics and entertainers,  and other fellow travellers,  particularly from those in the so called ‘non-aligned’ nations, and former Soviet satellite states, over the death of Fidel Castro.

Nearly all of them will ignore the fact that Castro, who died earlier today after a long illness, was nothing short of a narcissistic, brutal dictator who betrayed the Cuban Revolution. He executed and imprisoned thousands of Cubans in order to enforce upon the country his brand of Soviet-type Marxism-Leninism. He forced many thousands more of his countrymen to flee the beautiful island nation in order to escape his ruthless totalitarian rule. With great risk to their lives, most of these Cubans fled just 90 miles away across the sea to Florida where many of them and their descendants took to the streets today in excited and jubilant celebration on hearing the news of his death. 

Castro, who was born into a wealthy land-owning family, took only two years to oust the criminal regime of the then incumbent President Batista. After his army of revolutionaries took Havana, and chased Batista out of the country, he announced publicly on New Year’s Day 1959, the establishment of a ‘representative democratic government’ which he categorically stated would be neither Communist nor Marxist. In a very short time, it was not only one of the most repressive Communist- Marxist regimes anywhere, but his brutal excesses were at least equal to those of any committed by Russia or its eastern European allies.  

Thousands of democratic political opponents were executed and jailed. Even under Batista, opposition newspapers had been allowed to operate within certain limits. However, Castro banned these entirely and no political dissent was allowed under his rule. In 2006, Castro handed much of the day to day running of Cuba to his younger brother, Raoul, who went on to assume the presidency two years later. While some liberalisation has taken place over the past ten years, Cuba is still run on totalitarian lines by what can now be called an ‘autocratic family dynasty’.  Raoul Castro still reigns. 

Fidel Castro will also go down in history as the man who brought the entire world to the brink of nuclear catastrophe in 1962, by allowing the former Soviet Union to station nuclear missiles in Cuba. A third world war was averted by President Kennedy’s strong stance on the issue and his ultimatum to the then chief Soviet mischief maker, Nikita Kruschev, to remove all Russian missiles from Cuba forthwith. Kruschev blinked first and in a few days all the nuclear weapons were returned to Russia.

There is little for a Westerner to admire over the 49 years of Castro’s rule. However, for the record, it should be acknowledged that the regime has two remarkable factors to its credit. In education, a very high literacy rate has been achieved by even Western standards, certainly comparable to that attained in the South Indian state of Kerala under the communist government of E M S  Namboodripad.  The other is in health care which is amongst the best in the world.