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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Europe's Road Towards Regrowth - Part 5

This post is obviously a continuation of some work in my 'Convergence' report as well as some other blog posts.

- been looking at the break down of EU economies further. While it's clear that there some companies have a more even spread it's more evident that other countries are more lopsided. For instance, Germany has a more even spread while Italy has a stronger tendency towards smaller companies (based on the statistics that I've seen). What I'd like to know is whether the smaller companies are actually supporting the larger firms, the larger firms are supporting the smaller firms, or whether it is more of a symbiotic relationship? If it is the latter do we need to try to attrack/form larger companies and fund SME firms at the same time? The other thing I want to know is whether this relationship been relatively stable over time or has it changed? Given the state of affairs whether the balance/break up of such firms can/should be replicated in future? More research/study required...
- it's clear that several countries have endemic problems with corruption across the EU. Several approaches that have been taken that revolve primarily around strong punitive measures. However, it's also making assumptions that you can eradicate corruption completely or else you can make significant inroads without taking on enormous risks and enforcement costs. Clearly this is not easy to do especially if the system can not be purged simultaneously and completely. I think one of the biggest problems is that projects are simply financed badly. People aren't paid for completion of a project, only if they work on it. All you'd have to do is change the way in which financing is provided to ensure that projects get completed. For instance, a termination of payments for no progress after an amount of stagnation, more significant payments only occur towards the end of a project (have the government pay for materials if need be), etc...
- you can learn to live with corruption, you can co-exist with it, you can try to control it, you can try to erradicate it. Answer most likely is a combination of all four even though most would strive for the latter two. One thing I'm wondering is whether or not the black economy exists because there is no legitimate option in the real world. Some of what I've been reading indicates that third party/criminal options for financial loans ahve increased significantly in the aftermath of the EU economic/banking problems. Are some people so deeply involved with the dirty supply chain that they simply have no way out though? what's a level of corruption that you can live with and can economically enforce?
- closer co-operation on defense needs to be re-thought. Recent battles in Lybia, Mali indicate that there are significant capability gaps in defense across the EU. Other discussion indicates that some rapid deployment capabilities require further thought. Suggest that at least a certain percentage of spending across the EU is spent on "common projects" or else "co-ordinated spending". For instance, UAV, UCAV, air-to-air refuelling capability costs could either be spread among nations or else certain nations would foot the bill for certain capabilities so that other's wouldn't have to. Once again though must stress project management issues here. Considered risk. Know when to pull out and when to push on... May required treaty revisions/further discussion (my line of thinking is that if that piece of equipment is part of the "shared budget" then if another country requires that piece of equipment at any moment in time then it should be available)? Use this as the model for other spending within the EU as well where relevant/pertinent?
- stop thinking that you can regulate every single problem out of existence. Some things you just can't fix via policy. One thing I've been looking at in particular is the electric vehicle issue. It seems clear that this is a problem of science and that there is still a way to go before they become practical. Infrastructure, range, charge time, cost, etc... The key problems relate to basic science and as long as those problems aren't resolved takeup is likely to be limited... Why force a product that isn't ready to be produced if it doesn't have a market or is sub-standard? else force them to work on the basic science problems that need to be fixed?
- advertising budget limits? anything from tens to several hundred million once again per country
it should be a question of policy which determines who ultimately governs not the size of your advertising budget
- should there be a target % budget with regards to the ratio between proceeds for the EU project and overall GDP for the EU project?
- above a certain point money doesn't really matter any more. you can pay for a fairly decent life
- looking at some French policy it seems obvious that it simply hasn't moved with the times and they are essentially being overly generous. Changes could easily be made without resulting in drastic changes to the livelihood of those involved.
Despite what is being said it is clear that some public services are run extremely well in Europe though they may only need minor "tweaking" to get them working back within budget? Let's look at the French pension problem for instance. Obvious solutions may be simply to force people to have work with a private pension fund for a limited number of years, changing the retirement age/contribution period, evening up the some of the some of the wage disparity issues to reflect changes in the safety of occupation over time, etc... It simply requires the will and conviction of the government to do what is necessary.
- while there are clearly government and EU oversight/auditing agencies it's clear that lot of of work still needs to be done. By it's own admission billions could be saved just through better governance, auditing, oversight, project management, tracking...
- several countries are having problems with illegal migration. Possible that there may be poor border controls in peripheral/less wealthy countries which contributes further to this problem. Suggest that attempt to take counter-measures or else reduce the possible number of loopholes so that they aren't entering the EU without contributing back to the state of the EU (am aware of the argument in some countries that illegal migration offers a method for cheap labour but am not sure whether this is worth the cost?)? Need to curb/reduce the chances of "legal welfare". Even locally I've known of problems with the system which have meant that basically people have used it as a means of paying for their medical/living costs...
- cleanup of our political system. I once heard it said that we get the leaders that we deserve. I concur. The system is setup to attract certain types of people, certain styles of behaviour, and support them. As long as the system allows for this this is what you will continue to get.
- is there an ideal ratio between the public and private sector?
- a very basic look at government spending indicates that healthy governments tend to have spending within 5% of taxation levels. Less healthy governments tend to have differential of about 10% or more when it comes to the difference between taxation against GDP and government expenditure. Am curious to know whether we're able to deal most of our fiscal issues through more efficient government/public service itself?
- it's clear that a lot of the countries that have issues with their budgets have a pursued a high taxation, internal devaluation, slash and burn methodology as a means of dealing with some of their problems. The problem is that with governments which already have such a strategy in place this method will just take the life out of the economy which means that other industries are paying for problems that should/could be solved more easily had the government been run more efficiently. Would like to know which economies within the EU are most at risk of this?
- I earlier spoke of a need to do a review of spending at European level but's fairly clear that we may need to do this at regional/council, municipal level as well. The key question is obviously whether it is possible maintain service quality on a lower budget? Personal experience indicates that in most cases people will rise to te occassion but there is of course a limit to how far you can push this.
- I'm curious to know whether there is an optimum taxation level for each state within the EU? For the most part we already know what citizens of these states want and how much they're willing to pay for. If this is the case, is this the basis from which we should be re-working our budgets from?
- wonder what would be the actual impact of devaluation overall across the EMU?
- would like to see greater research to determine the point at which higher taxes will only strangle the economy?
- I've said this previously. If there is no private sector demand I'm wondering whether we can we create the demand? For instance, can we determine the top 10/20 issues facing each state and the EU as a whole and fund people to work on these particular problems? Issues such as carbon policy, infrastructure repair/upgrades, etc... If need be integrate vocational/educational programs (recently been implemented in Spain and similar to German programs) with these state needs where possible (try to work with the market rather than against it).
- poor project price estimation/project management. Be smarter with contracting out of state based work. I've heard stories about infracture outsourcing by government in certain states which indicate that the price of completing a contruction/infrastructure project was unworthwhile/would only result in a break even situation (at best) for the contractor. While we need to be prudent we also need to be realistic about project pricing. Perhaps a standard margin for projects? Would you rather have someone working and off of welfare or someone actually working and contributing back to the system?
- I've said previously that there are few people who are equipped to be able to deal with the responsibilities of governance. Either their competencies, their temperament, or something else may be lacking. It's clear that things would proceed a lot more easily if some members of the EU leadership were better prepared. While EU, panel, aides, commission, and other recommendations help I think that we should try to do more to prepare some of those in line to deal with the problems that they may be facing. Whether this means a defined package of prerequisite knowledge, greater co-operation between those in government and opposition, extra training, etc... it may be interesting to see what we could do? I don't ever want to know that we are faced with a situation of sub-standard policy simply because we didn't adequately support those who are in charge...
- it's clear that there is some semblance of stability now. Let's use it but also think about other things when dealing with our fiscal/economic issues as well. Namely, the type of future that we would like to build
political reform in the way we may decision making as well. a breaking mechanism or does this simply come down to the people that we are currently dealing with?
- could the EU have done more with regards to delving in to the finances of troubled EMU/EU states prior to them joining? Should we be more strict? Require more oversight? Should we come up with rules which foster greater responsibility/accountability in the cases where states contravene EU/EMU rules prior to them entering?
- austerity is fine but some of what I'm seeing is mindless. In some parts of the EU, there are stories of young, intelligent, postgraduates whose choices are limited to doing part time menial work, basically paying the government to work (after expenses for travel, food, etc...), moving to another country within the EU, etc... I'd venture to say that some of the measures being undertaken are not too different to sucking out the structure of a country after it has gone through a war. Vast chunks of the economy/capabilities may need to be restored. Something needs to fill the void. The question is whether or not we can actually actively do something about it or whether we should simply let market forces decide for us?
- temporary (or even permanent) wage freeze or even cuts to politicians wages. Even if there were only voluntary cuts I estimate that it would save anywhere between a few to several hundred million dollars (most of the wages that I've seen are several times greater than the average citizen. Most would still be able to make a comfortable living and in a largely flatlining/deflationary economy I can't see it making too much of a difference.). Doing so would also make make it easier to justify austerity cuts in relevant countries, actually help deal with the debt problem, offer a new source of revenue to deal with existing problems, etc... In some cases, the cuts would be more than enough to fund a "clean bank" (would only support if provided with oversight mechanisms) which could be used to provide funds to the SME sector for that country.
- is the problem of inter bank loans really that great? Would it be enough to simply create a chain of new "clean banks" (would only support if provided with oversight mechanisms) that were targeted at dealing with the SME sector? Is this a chicken-egg problem. No growth means no loans or no loans means no growth? Supply/demand problem?
- if all they want is banks to circulate money a comical mechanism may include rotation/hold times for assets? Taxation/profitability/legality implications?
- consider reducing the role of one of the members of the "Troika" after the ESM/bank resolution mechanism is complete? else reduce the role of one of them to a purely consultative role in future to hopefully streamline decision making in future?
- curious about the innovation problem in Europe. Curious what happens if we stop companies from engaging in share buybacks and force them to create value through increased research and development? Force them to invest at least half? Would this increase their vulnerability to corporate raids? Do buybacks merely distort/flatter actual market value? Would this be advisable given the trouble some companies are in?
- more carefully consider bids for major events? Clear that there are the pros do not outweight the cons in some cases. Is it possible to sell off parts of the stadia for souveniers (done locally)? Convert them into stadia for local sports? apartment/industrial complexes? Should we have relevant bodies pay a greater cost for staging such events? sell them in chunks? basically, break them up like you would break up a house and move them on a truck to be sold/relocated elsewhere? feasibility? Even broken up I'm guessing there may be enough raw (plastic, steel, glass, etc...) materials in some stadia to turn them into a source of recylable raw materials?
- have been thinking about the bad asset/balance sheet problem further. Wondering whether we should devolve powers back up to the EU level if banks/states can't take care of the problem after a certain period of time (perhaps until the time at which the asset review can be completed)? Could this be a mechanism through which to force an end to the bad asset situation?
An obvious question is that we're just shifting the problem elsewhere, down the line, etc?
- is it possible to deal with the problem of tax evasion by making restrictions at the state/EU level over the financial instruments that can be used to pay an employee?
- it's clear that there is a highly hierarchal/patriarchal societal structure in Europe that probably pays too much attention to past behaviour/culture. Not saying that this needs to end but the we need to ensure that it switches to a more merit based society. By changing it
It's the only way that we can assure that the EU can compete in future. As Adam Smith once said, “Every individual is continually exerting himself to find out the most advantageous employment for whatever capital he can command. It is his own advantage, indeed, and not that of the society which he has in view. But the study of his own advantage naturally, or rather necessarily, leads him to prefer that employment which is most advantageous to society... He intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was not part of his intention.”
- believe that basis discussions for bank resolution directive should be determine firstly by relative amounts/percentage of a bail-in/out, then the generally agreed hierarchy which involves stockholders, senior debt holders, etc... the key problem at the moment seems to be the percentage to be paid by taxpayers and versus bailed-in by the banks. If we can agree on the core components of a bail-in couldn't the balance between taxpayer at state level and bank be left up to the state itself? Obvious problem is what happens if the state gets in trouble though? Another doom loop problem or is it simply finding that balance between having the banks or the public taking responsibility? Back to square one...
The other questions that need to be asked is if specific details regarding those assets that are likely to be part of bail-in are publicly discussed is there going to be a capital flight from these particular assets? or will the markets regard this as solid proof that work is being done in order to get the problem fixed? What if we conduct a simultaneous/pre-emptive asset cleanup of all banks at the same time? Else use creatively use regulatory arbitrage, capital controls, etc... as a means of distorting the situation? Would this result in capital flight from EU/EMU if their is a leak? Remember that situation in US and EMU are very different. One was played out very quitely while the other was played out in front of the entire world...
- in software engineering there is saying that to really understand the problems that we face we should try, "eating our own dog food". Namely, try the public services that they fund.
- one of the things I learnt playing golf is that problems with you're technique get magnified the higher your swing speed. I think it's the same here.
smaller populations/countries easier to run. Larger countries and mistakes aren't covered up as well...
- in some left wing social systems/philosophies it's clear that the final destination is a system of perfect harmony. What I'm curious about is whether this is achievable without without impinging on civil rights? without depleting the planet of required resources? This is a topic for another time/post...
- am curious about the inability of many EU innovations to be turned into profitable products/services. Wonder whether this is due to purely to a cultural problem, a lack of support, venture capital, or a multitude of other issues as well? Perhaps it stems from the risk assessment/project management issue again? Their inability to calculate risk adequately may be a core problem (though research indicates that their venture capital industry has been doing reasonably as indicated in my previous post)?


- as usual thanks to all of the individuals and groups who purchase and use my goods and services

Quick Beef Stew Recipe, Random Stuff, and More

This is the latest in my series on quick, easy, and tasty meals:   http://dtbnguyen.blogspot.com/2017/11/chinese-style-congee-jook-recipe...