Friday, November 21, 2008

Addressing the nations Energy Needs

It's amazing how easily Mr Rudd and his 07 revolution have duped the public. With their large, headline gathering announcements and their future plans and investigation committees, but when it comes to actually doing anything productive, they debate, hold think tanks and summits, then stall for a period and then formulate plans and policy that don't address core problems. If your having a heart attack, its no help giving the patient a towel to wipe off the sweat. In a country where we are facing massive energy and water shortages, the feds are doing nothing but commisioning expensive reports and cuting back on vital funding to promote modern technological development to move into a greener energy producing future.

Monday, November 10, 2008

What we need: Jobs? Cash? Growth?

With the economic growth slowing, with a recession looming and consumer and wholesale spending decreasing, governments have been hard-pressed to find a solution to the financial madness that has spread from the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Having over-leveraged investment loans, governments and financial entities have found themselves in a unprecedented situation where they cannot liquidate their assets (as no one wants them at the price they would like to sell for), nor can they borrow from each other as the inter bank trust and credit ratings for most companies have fell as they revealed mismanaged debts and exposure to foreign markets that have failed them. Consequentially, major governments have sought long term solutions by "creating jobs" for trade-related workers, investing in infrastructure and manufacturing is all well and good, as they make up a large proportion of the money-spending population, but true economic stimulation requires that the whole economy gains from changes in monetary policy and government plans. Most, if not all changes in Australian monetary policy has resulted in the population tightening their back-pockets, putting the extra dollars that they save( via interest rate cuts and tax savings) in their bank accounts instead of doing what the government wants them to do, go out and spend it. Creating jobs for some sectors, e.g. their funding the production of Eco-friendly cars here in Australia, planning water infrastructure(desalination plant, piping to aid farmers/crop growers) and roads, isn't taking care of the whole picture. "Opening the coffers" for such extravagant, long term projects is good for nation-building, one of Kevin Rudd's election promises, but in the current financial climate, where the Government's future fund is loosing money, and the budget surplus of $22bn. is in threat of becoming a deficit, one must ponder whether the amount short term loss can be regained in the future.

Even before the "global credit crunch" and the "sub-prime mortgage write-offs" many sectors of the Australian workforce were being cutback and displaced as jobs were flying overseas to lesser economies as companies outsourced non-essential service jobs and the nations balance-of-trade swung to the side imports. Although we have seen a massive increase in the exported volume and price of Australian ores and minerals, the product life cycle brings back the raw material as processed and packaged goods and consumables. The meteoric rise of China, and the comparatively steady growth of India saw the spot rate of steel explode and Rio Tinto and BHP, amongst others, made bumper profits while companies in other sectors also benefited from the rise of the Asian powerhouses, not because those countries were buying in massive amounts from them, rather, the rise of China let manufacturing companies cut costs by importing goods, and let textile companies cut costs by hiring cheaper labour and using cheaper materials, which they then had imported for a lower total cost.

The government did nothing about those drastic developments in the employment of Australians, yet it feels that pumping money into the Motor vehicle Manufacturing Industry is part of a solution to "kill not two, but three birds with one stone". Their initiative aims to employ more people, by rewarding companies who definitively plan to produce vehicles that will emit less carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which will in turn stimulate the economy by providing more people with disposable income(spending money). The glaring flaw in this supposedly sound plan are twofold.

Firstly, promoting the production of fuel efficient, Eco-friendly cars right here is only profitable for Australian companies if the trade agreements we have with our export countries allow reasonable profits to be made. Already, there is talk of decreasing the import tariff from 10 to 5 %, making it easier for foreign companies to import cars to our market, and sell them at "Australian market" rates, effectively letting them make an extraordinary profit margin, while not demanding that those trading "partners" agree to the same deal. What chance do companies like Holden and Ford have exporting to the world when they have to pay tax between 10 to 20 % just to export cars, when Hyundai and Mazda pay 5% to import to Australia.

Secondly, the economic benefits of such a plan will not be felt for at least two years at best, and even when it is, there is no guarantee that the Australian economy will be in such a state that the people with disposable income will go out into the markets and spend it. If nothing is done to stave off recession and stimulate true growth across the country in the short term,( latest figures show that NSW is a dead weight to Australia's economy) even the best laid plans have no chance of succeeding in the medium to long term.

K Rudd and Co. need plans that will promote growth across the board, whether it be by cutting taxes to citizens, reducing the tax burden on companies that start new IT and other commercial projects, subsidize the employment of Australians in call-centre jobs, or the promotion of infrastructure growth in the Health sector, the government must ensure that all sections of the population stand to gain by the measures they introduce, or else whatever growth is seen by those favoured sectors will soon dissipate in the overwhelming tide of recession.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Professional Nepotism: Neville, Giggs, Scholes Van der Sar & Rooney?

AS a avid Manchester United supporter, last nights loss to Arsenal was hard to swallow. Although it pains me to say it, Samir Nasri deserved his brace and Arsenal their 3 points, but for some personnel decisions, i think we could have had that game in the bag long before nasri snatched Arsenal the lead.

Sir Alex Ferguson's (SAF) team selection against Arsenal will no doubt come under scrutiny from various "pundits" and past players who think they can predict SAF's thought's from their past dealings with him. I think SAF has one of the hardest jobs in the land, trying to field the right combination of players to defend, attack and keep possession of the ball, in the right proportions so as to win games of football.

Manchester United have experienced many a golden age, and the last vestiges of the club's heroic 1999 treble are now entering the twilight of their careers.Neville, Giggs, Scholes, Solskjaer all entered 2006 at various states of physical disability. I may use the term quite liberally, but in wider terms, slight hamstring strains and a broken bones are hardly crippling, but as a professional footballer, optimal physical condition is a mandatory prerequisite to play competetively. A year passed and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer realised that his immediate and long term future did not lie in playing the game at a level that paled in comparison to his former glory days. The mature and wise man that he is realised that preserving his body for his own future, and the future of the club( via his coaching skills) was much more important than pushing himself so hard that he did himself permanent damage.

Neville, Giggs and Scholes all suffered various injuries in that period, ankle, hamstring, knee, foot and eye problems signaling that their bodies may not be responding as their minds wish. With that in mind, Sir Alex Ferguson has had to manage their playing schedule, limiting their appearances so as to keep them fit and fresh. Add to that list Edwin van der Sar, who joined United from Fulham at the peak of his powers, at the ripe old age of 34( once again talking in football years, its not young) has this season seemed out of touch with the sharpness of the league's opposition forwards, and has struggled to remain fit after suffering back, hamstring and leg problems last season.

Sir Alex has the unenviable task of easing out the ageing masters in favour of youthful exuberence, while maintaining their presence around the squad to add vital experience and tactical nouse.The difficult nature of his task was fully exposed by United's defeat at the hands of Arsenal, where 2 of his ageing master's let him and the team down. Gary Neville, captain extraordinaire and heart of the club, needlessly deflected a piledriver past the other master, who could do nothing but wave helplessly as the ball rocketed into the back of the net. He was beaten many a time both on the ground and in the air by opposition wingers and wing-backs. Van der Sar neither looked composed or comfortable in goal at any point of the 95 minute game. True the 1st goal came as a unpleasant surprise, and would have no doubt shocked the system, but he didn't recover well and was hesitant on many occasions when he was forced to clear high quality crosses and shots.

SAF's tactical changes were both symptomatic of the problems that plague him and also showed he has a ready made solution. Rafael da Silva, youthful, exuberant, speedy and defensively and offensively sound and contributes to United's attack with foray's forward that leave the opposition defence overwhelmed at the collective talent on show on United's right wing. Wayne Rooney, another of SAF's favourite sons, wasted a handful of chances to put United ahead and laster on, equalise, and was without doubt, having a frustratingly bad day. Carlos "Apache" Tevez, was brought on for Wayne in the 77th minute, giving him just over 15 minutes to weave his magic and salvage something out of the game. Not even the world's best can create/score two goals in 15 minutes, although he created more than Rooney did all game and his efforts lead to Rafael's brilliant consolation goal and it made it clear for all to see what may have been if Tevez had started the game.