9 Months, 12 days, still sober
Noo’s nine year old son has been with us since last Sunday for the half term school break so she has been quite occupied during the past few days entertaining him.
He is a lovely, very well behaved kid and every morning he rises at the crack of dawn and cleans the house and garden, as instructed by his mum.
I took them both to Tesco on Tuesday and we stocked up on some food shopping and few clothes for him and then I drove them down to Tuk Com and bought him a Sony Play station. It took this old codger quite a while to figure out how to get it going, but once I finally succeeded in putting game up on the TV screen, he was up and away.
I’ll never understand how these kids seem to instinctively know how to play these games, as I can’t figure them out at all, and they are all in English – of which he can’t read a word. But I knew that he wouldn’t find it a problem and it now has the desired effect of keeping him occupied and nice and quiet for several hours of the day.
His mum has told him that he cannot take it back to Nong Kai with him as she is worried that he would spend too much time playing with it and neglect his homework. Sounds sensible to me.
Made in Britain
Over the last few days I have been watching a three part documentary made by the BBC for the Open University entitled ‘Made in Britain’, which was written and presented by Evan Davies, of the BBC’s Money programme.
I would recommend this documentary as compulsory viewing for anyone who seriously wishes to understand how national and world economics work, and how the economies of countries like Britain have succeeded in the past, and what they need to be doing in the future, to effectively ‘pay their way’ in the world.
It was a bit of an eye opener, if I say it myself, for this reasonably well read commentator who has always tried to keep abreast of world economics.
Firstly, let’s take a look at a few facts about the history of Britain’s economy and where we are today, much of which was referred to during the course of the programme.
In the 18th century, the UK was the first country in the world to industrialise, and during the 19th century held a dominant role in the global economy.
From the late 19th century the United States and Germany presented an increasing challenge to Britain’s role as leader of the global economy.
The costs of fighting both the First World War and Second World War further weakened the relative economic position of the UK, and by 1945 Britain had been superseded by the United States as the world’s dominant economic power.
However the UK still maintains a significant role in the world economy
The UK is one of the world’s most globalised countries and London is the world’s largest financial centre alongside New York. As of December 2010 the UK had the third-largest stock of both inward and outward foreign direct investment.
The aerospace industry of the UK is the second- or third-largest national aerospace industry. The pharmaceutical industry plays an important role in the UK economy and the country has the third-highest share of global pharmaceutical R&D expenditures.
The UK is currently ranked fourth in the world (and first in Europe) in the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ Index
The economy of the United Kingdom is the sixth-largest national economy in the world measured by nominal GDP and seventh-largest measured by purchasing power parity (PPP), and the third-largest in Europe measured by nominal GDP (after Germany and France) and second-largest measured by PPP (after Germany).
There has been a sharp decline in Britain’s manufacturing output in the past 60 years, dropping from around 70% of its GDP in 1951 to 30% in 1971 and to around 12% of its GDP in 2011, with the UK’s so-called service sector now accounting for some 78% of GDP.
But, before we throw up our hands in horror, the plain fact is that Manufacturing, at 12% of GDP in the UK, is little different from the share in other advanced economies, with the notable exception of Germany, where it is about 24pc. But in France, their manufacturing share of GDP is about the same as in the UK, and in the US it is actually lower.
All advanced countries have experienced the same phenomenon. Nor is this all about losing manufacturing to emerging economies in Asia and elsewhere, where costs are lower. The simple fact is that as people get richer they tend to want to spend a higher proportion of their incomes on services rather than on goods.
Even at 12%, manufacturing still accounts for a surprisingly large amount of the British economy – a larger share than the UK’s much vaulted financial services sector, which stands at 9pc. People find this surprising, because they do not come across many UK-manufactured products in their daily lives.
By contrast, they cannot fail to notice the dominance of German and Chinese producers in many fields. The UK has quasi-dominant positions in only two large manufacturing sectors, namely pharmaceuticals and aerospace, but we have many niche producers spread over umpteen sectors which means that the UK is still the world’s sixth-largest producer of manufactured goods, measured by value of output.
In 2009, the UK manufacturing sector generated approximately £140 billion in gross value added and employed around 2.6 million people and of the £16 billion spent on R&D, approximately £12 billion was by manufacturing businesses.
In 2010, Britain’s exports amounted to £428 Billion and its imports were some 478 billion, producing a trade gap of some £50 Billion. In simplistic terms, In order to ‘bridge this gap’, i.e. pay for the shortfall in our imports over exports, we have to borrow on the world markets. It is the size of this borrowing, and our ability to repay it, which is a good, rough and ready guide to the country’s ability to pay its way in the world and to assess the overall health of its economy.
At present Britain still has a triple A rating from the credit agencies, unlike our cousins across the sea who have been down -graded to a double A, but there is no doubt that if we fail to do even better in bridging that gap – i.e increasing our exports, then we may eventually follow the USA in a downgrade of our credit rating.
But if you watch the programme, you will see that the direction of the British economy is by no means all doom and gloom, but that we will have to continue to get up early in the morning to keep ahead of the chasing pack.
The message that comes through loud and clear from the programme is that an advanced economy must always adapt and change and can never afford to sit back on its laurels for one moment, and that by land large, despite a number of worrying setbacks over the past 60 years, Britain has succeed in doing just that.
The programme investigates a number of wide ranging business sectors, including low-tech garment manufacturing (in which we led the world 50 years ago) to hi-tech manufacturing industries such as aerospace, and super-fast-cars for the super-rich.
It traces the demise of traditional manufacturing, such as the garment industry and follows its resurgence in low labour cost countries such as China. Yet amazingly, the programme shows us that even though we no longer manufacture clothes in the UK, some major UK clothing companies now make more money, relatively speaking, from their clothing businesses, including exporting them across the world, to a higher value, than they did in the 1950’s.
This is because the low value end of the production is done in China at a cost we could never compete with; but this ‘Chinese cost’ ends up being a small percentage of the total cost of the product. The majority is all ‘added value’ and is retained by its British owners.
Furthermore, from clothing, to electrical consumer goods to almost anything made in cheap labour countries, the prices for the UK consumer are lower than they have ever been which means more are sold than ever before and wherever the British have retained involvement in these products, they have made handsome profits.
Throughout our lives we have heard the universal screams of woe every time a high profile UK manufactured product leaves our shores to be made in a ‘cheap-labour’ country in the third world. Politicians try to intervene to stem the tide, but history has shown that they are never successful. Whenever they attempt to pump government money in to rescue some dying industry, or put restrictive measures in pace to protect such industries, they have always failed miserably.
Free markets will always triumph over the interference of ignorant governments and the world’s businessmen have long learned that you make your products at the place where it is the most economical.
So the low-value, labour intensive industries go to the developing, low labour-cost countries, and the high-value, low-labour industries spring up in the more developed economies.
It is the way of the word – adapt or die, and Britain seems to have done just that; whether it is producing hi-tech aerospace components, or producing the latest drugs in sophisticated factories where one man can now do the job of dozens, or to launching and running worldwide satellite navigation systems, or microchip technology – which is used in virtually every mobile phone and computer in the world – or the export of highly skilled services, (yes even our services are exported), to places like Dubai where Britain has earned billions in designing and project managing the massive development in that country , or to making specialised glass that is used in almost every skyscraper in the world, or to the financial services sector and the related ‘add-on’ services that generate massive foreign earnings, or to the tourist industry, which is effectively an export industry as it brings in foreign currency and even to the thousands of foreign fee paying students in our universities who contribute millions annually to the exchequer, (The UK is second in world, behind America, in attracting foreign, fee-paying students to its universities).
The foregoing are all British achievements and I could go on and on as the list is long and astonishing.
But as a nation we cannot afford to slow down. The rest of the word is only a few steps behind and we must continue to use our brains, our know-how developed in our world class universities, our renowned problem solving abilities, our entrepreneurial spirit and our work ethic to remain ahead of the pack and seek out new business and export horizons.
Obama would do well to watch this programme. I sincerely believe that he has absolutely no real concept of what really drives the world economy and in particular the American economy. He can’t have, or he wouldn’t keep banging on about losing American jobs overseas, accusing the Chinese and others of unfair trading practices and try to inject vast amounts of money into dying manufacturing industries in a desperate attempt to increase production and provide jobs for the unemployed.
He doesn’t understand that the American economy, like Britain’s, has to change to meet the challenges of the world in the 21st century. It cannot compete with the Chinese on low cost labour, low-value production and they must move on to produce high value things that the Chinese and other developing nations are currently unable to do.
Nothing demonstrates Obama’s total ignorance of what drives the world economy more than the recent Solyndra scandal. His administration insisted in ploughing over 500 million dollars into a manufacturer that could never compete with its Chinese competitors. The Chinese were able to produce wind turbines at a fraction of the cost that Solyndra was able to do. Simple research would have told them that, but politics got in the way.
And what did Obama say when the company went bust? Words to the effect that the decision was correct ‘in principal’, and that there will always be some failures. I actually feel sorry for you guys over there.
Back in the UK, despite all the pessimism that has been propagated by countless so called economic experts over the years, to the effect that Britain is in terminal decline, that it has lost its manufacturing base and cannot survive on a service based economy, I say that they have completely misunderstood the changes that had to happen and failed to see what actually did happen to the British economy.
And further, I would ask them how on earth do they think that a population of some 60 million people have been able to enjoy such a relative high standard of living for decades if the Britain had been going downhill ever since its 19th and early 20th century industrial heartland started to vanish from the skyline?
Even now, in the midst of one of the biggest economic setbacks ever to befall this nation, nobody is starving, nobody is living rough (except by choice), there is still universal education and free access to health services, even the poorest still have central heating, televisions, DVD players, fridges and hot water in their home, and have money in their pocket to spend on small luxury items, have mobile phones in their pockets and have access to free sporting and recreational activities, libraries and so forth.
Again, I could go on and on. Yes, the folk are upset, and with some justification, as the world’s bankers have a lot to answer for, but if you listen to their list of grievances, it is mostly along the lines of having to cancel their holidays abroad, having to cancel their kids private swimming or horse riding lessons, having to spend more time at home as they can’t afford to go out to the pub more than once a week, having to keep their old car as they can’t afford to trade in for a new one, and so on and so forth.
In the year that I was born, the national health service was still two years away and the only benefit provided by the state was free schooling. We had none of the other social services that everyone now takes for granted as a right, including free health care, and I spent the first 12 years of my life in a dilapidated old house with no fridge, no TV, no central heating and no hot water, and believe me, I was by no means the only one.
When I was twelve years old, my family – my mother, father brother and sister and me, Mobi – were thrown out onto the street by the court appointed bailiffs as my father had failed to pay his rent arrears. We were homeless and nobody in authority cared.
For the next two months the family was scattered to the far corners of the UK in different homes provided by our friends and relatives who were kind enough to take us in.
So I think you can probably see why I have little sympathy for the teachers and other workers who have been striking to protest cuts in their pension rights and other benefits.
A famous British Prime minister, Harold Macmillan, once said about his fellow countrymen in the early nineteen sixties: ‘Let’s be frank about it; most of our people have never had it so good’
How much more true is that today, despite all the recent economic setbacks?
We all know that there is huge illegal immigration problem in countries such as the USA and the UK, as people from poorer, third world countries aspire to migrate to richer countries where benefits and opportunities are much greater than in the countries of their birth.
There was a time in the history of both countries when immigration was welcomed, but those days are long gone and there is general acknowledgement that enough is enough and that the tide of illegals must be stopped for once and all.
So just taking the USA for a moment, how about introducing laws along the following lines to stem the rising tide of illegal immigrants:
- Make it a crime for an illegal immigrant to solicit work.
- Make it a crime to knowingly transport or harbour an illegal immigrant.
- Allow individuals, companies or government entities to file discrimination lawsuits against companies that dismiss legal workers while hiring illegal immigrants.
- Require public schools to check the immigration status of students.
- Allow authorities to hold suspected illegal immigrants without bond.
- Ban state courts from enforcing contracts involving illegal immigrants.
- Make it a felony for an illegal immigrant to get drivers licences or do business with the state.
- Make it an offence for an illegal immigrant not to have immigration papers.
- Ban illegal immigrants from attending public colleges and junior colleges.
- Prohibit businesses from claiming tax deductions for wages paid to illegal immigrant employees.
- Require federal verification of legal status in court proceedings.
- Make it illegal for motorists to stop on streets or roads to hire temporary workers.
These kind of laws would surely create a climate whereby potential illegal immigrants would think twice before attempting to cross the borders in the future and would send a chill fear of deportation amongst those who are already there.
Well folks, believe it or not, a set of such rules was recently introduced by the State of Alabama and similar rules have been enacted in neighbouring US States. But they are now being challenged in the courts by the federal government who insist these rules are discriminatory and encourage racial profiling, and in any event, State governments have no right to pass such laws, as all matters relating to immigration are a preserve of the Federal government in Washington.
Furthermore the US liberal lobby has now got into the act and have suggested that Hispanics, even those with with legal status or U.S. citizenship are moving from such states. They claim that the immigrants believe that the hostile climate oppresses the entire Hispanic community? They say: Why stay when the government launches an assault that splits Latino families and opens the door to racial profiling?
The liberals further claim that there are ‘unintended consequences’ that The lawmakers failed to take into account, especially the contribution immigrant labour was making towards rebuilding areas devastated by this year’s storms. Contractors in Tuscaloosa say Hispanic workers have left and they can’t find replacements to repair the tornado damage.
Republican lawmakers assured sceptics that American workers would be only too happy to step in and take the jobs that immigrants left. Farmers in Alabama and Georgia are still waiting.
Georgia tried giving farm work to prison inmates, until they lost their appetite for backbreaking 10-hour workdays at minimum wage. If inmates were willing to work that hard, they wouldn’t be in prison to begin with.
According to Georgia farm officials, $140 million in crops has been lost because of the state’s labour shortages since the law began in July.
To all those bleeding heart liberals, I say stop confusing the need for temporary, cheap labour with the need to stop illegal immigrants staying in your country and becoming a burden on the State.
If you really have a need for TEMPORARY foreign labour, then organise a visa system to accommodate this need.
If the rules, as enacted by Alabama, were in force then it would be a simple matter for the police and employers to check on the immigration status of temporary workers and allow them to stay until the expiry of their visas. Upon expiry they would be obliged to leave the country as the new so-called ‘hostile’ laws would soon catch up with them if they didn’t.
As for ‘unintended consequences‘ on the new State immigration laws – I reckon that the regular law-abiding Americans should all be over the moon if all the Hispanics decide to take off.
Surely it is good riddance to them and their illegal families, friends and drug dealers, and can someone tell me why Hispanic families, who have nothing to hide and are 100% legal, should wish to leave? The simple answer is that they do indeed have something to hide – they are probably the centres for the aiding and abetting of illegal activities.
Any Hispanics who do decide to stay would be the legal, law abiding element, and as such could be welcomed into the community.
And if the Yanks haven’t the wit to organise a temporary visa system and can’t find enough white trash or convicted criminals to do the manual work then in this writer’s humble opinion, its tough shit!
It’s time for everyone to wake up and learn that the world doesn’t owe them a living – lazy bastards!!!
I doubt whether there is another country in the world where the government tries to stop the police from weeding out illegal aliens. The American immigration policies are completely insane!!!
In England, as you will see below, the Prime Minister is asking everyone to be a ‘whistle blower’ and turn all the illegals in. They are bleeding the country dry. Yet in the USA, they give them free education and social security and often give them greater rights than ordinary American citizens. Somewhere along the line they have completely lost track of reality…. no wonder the country is on its knees with nowhere to go but down.
Back in the UK, as mentioned above, David Cameron recently appealed for the public to “shop” illegal immigrants as he pledged to reclaim Britain’s borders.
The Prime Minister said he wanted the whole country to help the Government tackle the issue by reporting suspicious individuals.
Note, no ridiculous suggestions of racial profiling on this side of the pond…..
He also insisted that the citizenship test for legal incomers would be rewritten to include questions on British history and signalled a fresh crackdown on forced and bogus marriages.
The moves were revealed as Mr Cameron delivered a keynote speech setting out plans to control immigration.
In future, individuals applying to come to the UK for family reasons will have to show that they can speak English and have the financial means to support themselves as well as genuine family links in Britain.
Family migration made up almost a fifth of non-European Union (EU) immigration last year, but a survey suggested that more than 70% of UK-based family sponsors had an income of less than £20,000 after tax, creating “an obvious risk” that they may become dependent on welfare.
Mr Cameron said the Migration Advisory Committee would consider whether the minimum level of financial support should be higher and whether a “bond” from migrants could be demanded in some cases.
There will be closer checks on claimed relationships between spouses to weed out sham marriages for immigration reasons, including cases where couples divorce immediately after obtaining permission to stay and then make fresh applications relating to different partners.
“We will make migrants wait longer, to show they really are in a genuine relationship before they can get settlement,” Mr Cameron said.
“We’ll also impose stricter and clearer tests on the genuineness of a relationship, including the ability to speak the same language and to know each other’s circumstances.
“We will also end the ridiculous situation where a registrar who knows a marriage is a sham still has to perform the ceremony.”
He added that he wanted the coalition to “go further and be even tougher” on immigration.
“For our part in government, we are creating a new National Crime Agency with a dedicated border policing command which will have responsibility for safeguarding the security of our border,” he said.
“But I want everyone in the country to help, including by reporting suspected illegal immigrants to our Border Agency through the Crime stoppers phone line or through the Border Agency website.
“Together we will reclaim our borders and send illegal immigrants home.”
He said he would rewrite the exam for migrants wishing to take on UK citizenship to ensure that British history and culture – rather than EU institutions and the workings of the benefit system – are at the heart of the tests.
He said he recognised there was “discomfort and tension” in some communities over the arrival of large numbers of migrants and insisted that the Government was not “powerless” to deal with it.
He promised to deliver “fairness for people already living here, working here, contributing here, who worry about finding work, getting a good school for their children and affording a good house”.
“For too long, they have been overlooked in this debate. And it’s time to do right by them,” Mr Cameron said.
The PM also signalled that forcing someone to marry against their will could become a criminal offence.
He announced he was making it illegal to breach an order issued by the courts to prevent a forced marriage and has asked Home Secretary Theresa May to consult on whether the practice should be criminalised in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
So while I don’t pretend for one minute that the current immigration laws will stem the tide of illegal immigration in Britain, it is at least clear that the government is trying very hard to do something about it, by make it increasingly difficult for people to circumvent the system and to send the illegals back to their countries of origin. There is an understanding that the ordinary British folk are very unhappy with the situation and their grievances deserve to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
But not so in the USA, where it seems to this observer that there is no will whatsoever by the Obama administration to stem the tide. The rights of illegal Hispanic immigrants seem to take precedence over the rights of long established Caucasian citizens who live in the border sates.
Why? Because the Democrats depend on the Hispanic vote to get them back into office whereas the vast majority of the unhappy Caucasian Americans in the most affected areas will vote Republican.
BUTT…BUTT…BUTT…I don’t give a hoot…