For some, the concept of being able to transfer funds around the world without being monitored by Governments is an ideal solution

Historically, before present day banking, we only need to look at orgainsations such as The Knights Templar, who were the most powerful bankers of their day

Taking a leaf out of their money transfer methods for merchants which operated as follows.

The merchant visited the local Templar branch and handed over their money in exchange for a slip of paper containing an encoded message. On arrival at their destination this encoded slip of paper was redeemed by the merchant for the money - all very simple and avoided the money being stolen from the merchant in transit

Now compare this with the operation of BitCoin which can be deposited into any BitCoin address after a cash or SEPA transfer has been made. Who says money trafsfers are monitored?

What a simple and effective method of funding a transaction or any other illegal exercise

Tags: | Categories: Money

Installing a renewable energy source in one’s home is a fairly expensive exercise, which by its very nature limits the availability to those who can raise the funds or access it from their own resources.

The fact of the matter is that for those lucky enough to be able to afford the installation of solar PV, the benefits are huge and with Government imposed subsidies (Feed In Tariffs – FIT’s), ‘investment’ returns in double figures are easily achievable for the next 20-25 years. Where else could one achieve these returns?

Additionally, don’t forget that all these subsidies have to be paid for by someone, somehow in a two stage process:

  • Generation tariff – simply for producing
  • Export tariff – for selling any surplus over and above one’s own consumption

So who pays for the subsidies - Feed In Tariffs (FIT's)

This is just to provide a comparison - using the worst case scenario (but smallest installation & therefore cheapest) of Solar PV

Generation Tariff = £0.1490 (14.90p) per kW + Export Tariff = £0.045 (4.50p) per kW hour - giving a total subsidised price of £0.1940 (19.40p)

and at the time of writing the prices from EDF are £0.1368 (13.68p) per unit plus an annual £65.70 standing charge

The figures would seem to speak for themselves

 

It would seem as though these subsidies for the few are mutualised over the energy providers entire customer base

Quote

The suppliers pass on the cost of the Feed-In Tariffs scheme to all their electricity customers

... so the bottom line is that people who don't install renewable energy systems pay for those who do!

 

But what about the rest of the population (i.e. those in rented accommodation or first time buyers), who simply cannot afford to play the subsidy game and yet are expected to fund the fortunate minority who have their own renewable energy sources as well as handsomely subsidised income to go with it

Has anyone actually looked at the Governments Green Energy scheme (Energy Act 2008) from the point of view of the taxpayer, energy market or simply overall fairness in general?

In reality interference in this manner by the Government has completely distorted the energy market, furthermore the imposition of additional green levies has kept the energy price un-necessarily high and disadvantaged whole sectors of the population for the benefit of a few

Whereas another approach could have been taken

  • Firstly  remove all grants and subsidies
  • Then make renewable sources (i.e. PV) a mandatory integral part of all future new build houses and offices (domestic & commercial). With 200,000 houses anticipated every year the costs of installation would plummet (£5,000 down to say £2,000) and within a very short time there would be a substantial pool of renewable energy generating properties (in 5 years 1 million homes), covering their own needs and exporting surpluses to the grid

The prices of renewable energy would then be linked to supply and demand and not kept artificially high because of ridiculous Government imposed rules and hand outs

Surely a far better approach by allowing market forces to prevail, with little Government interference and no grants or subsidies - resulting in potentially lower energy prices

And it gets even better

BIM40520 - Specific receipts: domestic microgeneration: Income Tax exemption for domestic microgeneration

With effect from tax year 2007-08 there is an exemption from Income Tax for an individual’s income from the sale of electricity generated by a microgeneration system where:

  • the system is installed at or near domestic premises occupied by the individual, and
  • the individual intends that the amount of electricity generated by the microgeneration system will not significantly exceed the amount of electricity consumed in those premises

For the purpose of this exemption ‘domestic premises’ means premises used wholly or mainly as a separate private dwelling

Tags: | Categories:

Why Are Public Servants Under Inquiry Allowed To Retire Early

Just to revisit Sir Norman Bettison, who we recall, much to everyone’s chagrin was allowed to retire before facing the music over his involvement with Hillsborough

It would seem that we now have the 'concerned brigade' out in force in the form of The Independent Police Complaints Commission; although it is still only rhetoric with no action

Deborah Glass, Deputy Chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission:

'.. I am very mindful of the public concerns around officer resigning or retiring while under investigation, thereby escaping misconduct sanctions ..'

'.. I do find it unacceptable that officers take that option rather than facing up to the case against them ..'

This whole shameful process, of allowing the police and public servants to play a 'get out of jail' card, rather than face an enquiry, has been going on for a very long time now, and nothing has been done to stop it being employed by those charged with an offense as a way of avoiding accountability

Don't simply pontificate about your concern Ms Deborah Glass - do something about it and change the way this whole process is addressed.

Anyway, why do matters have to reach this stage before the Independent (hint - supposed to be in the name) Police Commission wakes up to the fact that something is wrong. Failing to spot these things before they reach crisis point simply means total incompetence (or self interest) by those in charge

... and now we hear that the man may be receiving a pension of £87,000 per annum, which by any calculations must mean that he has a pension pot equivalent to at least £1.4 million and probably far more - funded at the taxpayers’ expense because of his status as a civil servant.

So who said there was not a two tier class system in the UK; because it definitely exists between people in these public positions and public/private sector pensions. A simple question - how long would it have taken Bettison to have accumulated a pension pot of this magnitude if he was in the private sector?

Nevertheless, it must be heartening to relatives of the victims of Hillsborough to know that Sir Norman Bettison has retired on a pension rumoured to be about £87,000 per annum (what was the tax free lump sum associated with that figure?).

Furthermore, as taxpayers, they will be paying for the comfortable pension of someone who is accused of misconduct surrounding the death of members of their families

Well the public needs some hard and fast rules about this sort of thing, and probably the first matter on the agenda is that public servants (in fact no-one) should be rewarded for dodging a disciplinary hearing and additionally they should not be entitled to a pension of this magnitude for retiring/resigning before facing a hearing

Either turn up for the disciplinary hearing or forfeit their pension, and if found guilty they should forfeit their pension in any event

Tags: | Categories: UK Government

How did the EU regulators allow this whole Cyprus matter to get to the current position?

After all the EU bureaucrats are 'hell bent' on determining (interfering with) the dimensions of a carrot, banning curved cucumbers, or some such equally fatuous exercise, so why did they fail to spot the Cyprus situation brewing or address it in a timely manner

In reality it is a culmination of bad regulation, bad politics and EU incompetence which has brought about the Cyprus situation, resulting in savers and the rest of the Cypriot population paying the price for banking failure. Most of which was avoidable if the EU had displayed a modicum of competence

The Background

Lets just look at Cyprus in greater depth

Prior to joining the EU in 2004, Cyprus had a stable economy growing at around 4% per annum with a healthy budget surplus, underpinned by financial services, tourism and property

After joining The EU, two major Cyprus banks reaped the benefits of membership by trying to attract money from Russia, Europe & the Middle East, with keen interest rates , low taxes, laisez faire (lax) local expansion policies and special deals (Russia)

As a result, money poured into the country from the targeted regions and the greater the inflow of money the more the Cypriot banks lent out

The Problem

Now this is where it gets interesting

Traditionally the Cypriot central bank only permitted banks to use up to 30% of their foreign deposits to support local lending in order to avoid massive external deposits fuelling a bubble

However, all those rules changed when they joined the EU (2008) and Euro Region deposits were re-classified as domestic rather than external/foreign money - accordingly the Cypriot Banks loan books increased by about 32% over the period of a single year

In a very short time (by 2011) the Cyprus banks were almost 8 times the size of their economy and their financial services sector accounted for half of GDP

A huge bank bubble had appeared and all the danger signs were there. However, instead of addressing the issue, the Cypriot central bank exacerbated the problem by raising the limit on foreign deposits from 30% of capital to 90%; highly risky

At this point one might well ask - where were the EU checks and balances and why did no EU regulatory system kick in?

Cypriot banks purchased over €4bn of high-yield Greek debt and lent a further €22bn to Greek companies - this was more than the entire GDP for Cyprus. Cyprus assumed that even in a worst case scenario, the Ireland approach would be adopted and bond-holders paid out in full

Unfortunately for Cyprus, this was not the case and bond-holders took a massive 'haircut' to protect the private Greek creditors

Once Greece defaulted on its debts, the country of Cyprus, Laiki & the Bank of Cyprus all went bust overnight. Clearly the government was not in a position to take on the bank liabilities which would have amounted to 145% of the country’s GDP

Nevertheless, Cyprus had in fact been almost bust since 2009 and a great many knew about this but did nothing until it was too late - Why did the EU not intervene ?

Points at issue

The Cypriot people have every right to be angered at the conduct of the EU and most of the resulting disaster has been brought about by cause & effect

  • Greece should never have been allowed to join the EU in the first place. Many say that Greece with the help of Goldman Sachs 'cooked the books' by masking the true extent of Greek debt by the use of derivatives to 'legally' circumvent the EU Maastricht rules. Thereby deferring the cross-currency swaps maturity until after Greece had entered the EU and then bringing the problem back on Greece's books to increase the countries already bloated deficit
  • Once the Greece/Goldman 'scam' became apparent no-one in the EU did anything about either throwing them out of the EU or ensuring that Goldman Sachs under-wrote the liability of the Greek participation in perpetuity
  • Therefore without the collapse of Greece one could arguably say that Cyprus would at least be €4bn better off today and not in quite such dire circumstances
  • When it became apparent that matters had gone seriously wrong with Cyprus, the EU did nothing for 9 months except dither; thereby exacerbating a problem which needed to be addressed urgently rather than avoided
  • Finally a woefully inadequate plan was produced by the EU, led by the Germans. The EU wished to punish Cyprus for attempting to become and off-shore tax haven for Russian money laundering within the EU and the population would bear the brunt of the measures

Questions that need to be asked of the EU:

  • Once the EU became aware of the Greece/Goldman Sachs issue, why did they not investigate the matter and throw Greece out of the EU, or at the very least pursue Goldman Sachs to underwrite a situation they had brought about by assisting Greece's membership of the EU ?
  • What rules were in place to prevent EU member country banking systems from over-stepping prudent lending ratios inside or outside the EU - Why were they not acted upon and and what has been done to strengthen these rules in the light of the Cypriot problems ?
  • Although they knew about the position, why did the EU put their head in the sand for 9 months whilst the position deteriorated, before addressing the issue ?
  • What has the Eurozone or any other politician done to prevent futures problems in the banking industry threatening global stability ? For instance, simple measures, such as allowing bank depositors to place their money with banks either on a Client Money basis (segregated from the bank and held as a Trustee) or Deposit basis allowing the bank to hold the money as a banker and not as a trustee - Banks And Your Money
  • What responsibility does the EU take for its part in this whole Cypriot matter - from not throwing Greece out when it became apparent that their entry figures were 'cooked' right through to inadequate (lax) rules and failure to address matters in a timely manner

All in all, perhaps the EU should be fined (say €5bn to start) for failures in their own regulatory systems, and not controlling the financial markets within the Eurozone for the benefit of the population in EU member states

Perhaps any such fines could come directly from the pockets of individuals in the entire EU administration system with EU politicians (they have clearly failed in their mandate) bearing a greater percent of the fine personally - say 50%-75% of their entire salary and perks for all the years they have been an EU politician; after all any failure in regulation occurred on their watch, so it is only fair they should be held accountable and pay the price.

Any shortfall or balance needed to make up the rest of €5bn should be provided by Goldman Sachs as recompense for their contribution to this whole mess as well as having them indemnify all future Greek related problems for the duration of their EU membership

Only by taking such measures, will it be brought home to inventive 'chancers' such as Goldman Sachs, that they cannot simply come up with schemes that impact on the wider population, without being accountable for any ensuing fallout. After all they take the upside of lining their pockets initially, so they should also be subject to the downside of covering the eventual outcome of their actions - cause and effect!

Tags: | Categories: Banking | European Union

The UK downgrade by Moodies has been on the cards for some time and some would say was inevitable given the UK’s current situation

Nevertheless it has always struck one as being slightly incongruous that the ratings agencies (Moodies, S&P, Fitch et al) are given as much credence as they are in the light of their woefully inadequate performance assessing the 2007/08 situation; in fact I am slightly confused why they have not been sued into extinction over that episode

The collapse in 2008 had been on the cards for a considerable length of time with a number of warning signs and yet not only did the rating agencies totally fail to identify the impending problems, they totally underestimated the dimensions of the crisis when it materialised.

To all accounts they were working with economic models that ignored real world drivers and what was even worse was, that they had absolutely no idea that they were operating with flawed models in the first place. Even to the layman, it was obvious that these models failed to accommodate the evolution of real-world events or economy

In other words, a systemic failure of economic interpretation by that profession; placing theory above potentially known outcomes and giving greater weight to the wrong areas. A ‘black swan’ event may have occurred, but it is worth noting that there is no such concept as ‘systemic failure’ in the world of economic models. Surely this in itself is a fundamental flaw in approach, because it does not even recognise the possibility of a total breakdown?

Therefore, because of these flaws the rating agencies (regulator SEC) were, by dint of their influence, themselves a contributory factor in the whole crisis such as:

  • Offering the highest ratings to financial instruments that were far riskier than advertised. Mislabelling some bonds as triple-A, thereby encouraging investors to place their money in incorrectly identified low risk investments i.e. CDO (collateralised debt obligations), RMBS (residential mortgage backed securities) etc.

Don’t forget that some institutions are prohibited from holding low rated securities and the very fact that the ratings agencies incorrectly classified CDO’s etc. placed these investors at greater risk than they were allowed to take on. Furthermore, once these instruments were reclassified correctly, the institutions had to dump them because they were in breach of the rules

Now we come to a conflict of interest by the ratings agencies. After all they are paid by the very firms whose assets there were recommending/rating and giving a low rating was potentially bad for business. So we culminate in a situation of ignoring high-risk packaged loans (fraudulent mortgages) and assigning them with a quality rating status

With all this in mind, it is quite extraordinary how these ratings organisations have managed to survive and maintain their credibility in rating corporate/public debt

The following springs to mind

There are known knowns.
These are things we know that we know.
There are known unknowns.
That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know.
But there are also unknown unknowns.
There are things we don't know we don't know.

(Donald Rumsfeld)

Tags: | Categories: Economics

The energy regulator is warning about an impending ‘energy gap’ (doom) with old power stations being phased out and not enough replacements being built to make up for the shortfall.

The consequences of this are that the UK's lights could go out and we are going to have go shopping around the world to plug this gap

This is all well and good, but what precise alternative measures has any recent UK Government taken to ameliorate the problem – very little it would seem other than paying out huge grants for wind turbines, which must be some of the most inefficient ways of producing energy imaginable, quite apart from being a complete blot on the landscape

Well how about this for an idea –

From now on, all new build houses must have a mandatory array of solar PV panels tied into the national grid which must be part of the planning application. Also no planning permission will be granted unless this provision is included

The benefits of this scheme would be enormous, especially including these ideas at the build stage, rather than having a retro-fit approach which is inevitably more expensive.

Furthermore, the sooner the UK starts down this route the better. Just work out the proposed number of houses to be built over the next 1-10 years and then calculate the contribution they will cumulatively make to the nations energy requirements. Also bear in mind that this is an on-going process that will have increased contributions for every future year

This seems a no-brainer, which is obviously a sure-fire reason for no one in Government to take it on board. Nevertheless, having a great many small power generators (individual houses increasing every year) located throughout the country would go some way towards addressing the UK’s current energy problem.

AND … if the previous Government had taken this approach 10 years ago instead of total inertia, where would be today?

Surely the message has to be - the sooner we get started on this idea the better

Tags: | Categories: Energy

Never really understood why Germany continues to persevere with the EU. Especially as it was an ideological/political rather than realistic economic dream and one only has to look at those still doing well out of the EU – on the one hand those in Brussels & MEP’s etc. and on the other countries who see it as a grants ‘cash cow’ in one form or another. After all one only has to look at any graph of net contributors .v. receivers to form a conclusion

Germany have already successfully been through the painful process of reunification in the 1990's, so why would they want the pain all over again with the EU; with no realistic end in sight?

Of course the real problem is that at least with reunification there was the potential of a successful result in the future. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the EU, where all that Germany is doing is bankrolling the southern block of EU members and taking a massive ‘hit’ for its support

This whole EU disaster area is no longer just Greece, but is now also being acknowledged as France, Italy, Spain … and so on … just look at the historic track record of some of the countries who have been in default over the last 50 years longer than they have been solvent. Why does anyone think they can, or are willing to change their ways under the current situation?

Clearly Germany is getting edgy about their gold reserves and nervous regarding trusting France to hold their gold in safe keeping. What happens if France goes down and they subsequently hijack Germanys gold reserves to help them out?

All that Germany is doing by maintaining the current situation is giving credibility to a basket of other countries that would otherwise revert back to their own currencies and suffer devaluation, rocketing inflation (destroying savings) and resulting political unrest – not what politicians want

And now we have France (Hollande) as the voice for all the other countries that want a weaker euro which would potentially be against Germanys interests – so why do they stay?

Nevertheless if Germany did leave they would no longer be weighed down by supporting the rest of Europe and would probably see its currency soar

Alternatively a two tier Europe might be the answer, with all the solvent countries banding together and letting all the others jostle over support payments for each other; which would definitely flush out nationalistic feelings

Tags: | Categories: European Union

Justice and Security Bill

We are back to the age old political ploy of slipping contentious legislation through whilst everyone is looking the other way.

The most recent demonstration of this is ensuring everyone's attention is focussed on same-sex marriage, whilst furtively re-introducing The Justice and Security Bill quietly in the background and cancelling previous amendments

Political sleight of hand that we all believed had gone away when Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell departed, although unfortunately it does not seem to be the case with the present Government

Nevertheless, there is something ironic about the 'liberal party' supporting something of this nature, although one can see that self-interest over-rides natural justice with all political animals. Furthermore, this mind-set has already been demonstrated by Nick Clegg in other areas, where his 'horse trading' took precedence over doing the right thing for the benefit of the community

The disappointing thing about the recent successful changes to this 'Secret' Justice Bill is that they are geared to protect Ministers and would further strengthen their ability to make use of secret courts to defend themselves; so matters such as the Expenses Scandal would probably never have seen the light of day

Do we really want a system of secret justice hugely weighted in favour of Governments and those in power to the detriment of the 'ordinary' man in the street - what price a free democratic society?

The main lobbyists would seem to be the MI5/6 security chiefs and quite frankly they do not have a great track record themselves

Remember the Dr David Kelly incident, which has never been fully explained to this day. There is still a weight of opinion that Dr Kelly was killed by MI5/6, and unfortunately a cloud still hangs over this episode because of the non-disclosure and secrecy surrounding the whole matter. Whilst Lord Hutton's public inquiry ruled that Dr Kelly killed himself, there are a great many who simply feel that Lord Hutton was the Governments tame poodle, to deliver the desired result and gloss over a number of unexplained incidents surrounding the situation. It is worth noting that

Dr David Kelly is the only person in modern English legal history

to be denied a proper inquest

With this in mind are MI5/6 the best organisations to be interfering or lobbying for items to be included or removed from the justice system?

Once again it is about abuse of trust and even though legislation is introduced today to cater for one specific set of circumstances, politicians & civil servants have a track record of bending and abusing things to accommodate or protect their own agenda in the future

References

HM Government - Justice and Security Bill

Daily Mail - Law chief to probe KGB agent's claim that David Kelly was 'exterminated'

Tags: | Categories: UK Government

Defeat of the Boundary Change proposals was wholly predictable and has previously been discussed on this site prior to actually knowing the end result - Nick Clegg Blocking Boundary Change Like A Spoilt Selfish Child

These proposals were originally suggested in to avoid the situation of different classes of voters; where some peoples votes are worth more than others because of the inequality of the number of constituents within existing boundaries. Clearly where one boundary contains 100,000 voters and another contains 50,000 voters, one set of voters has twice as much influence as another

‘.. For example, 87,000 voters in the East Ham constituency together get one say in the government.  The 66,000 voters living 10 miles away in Islington North get one say too.  So, if you live in Islington, your voice counts for more ..’

Obviously so far as the Labour party is concerned this is a highly beneficial situation because other parties need to work a lot harder to win an election

However, just to recap on the Liberal Democrats stance. So far as they were concerned it was never about the best interests of the country but the advantages / returns their party could achieve by either prostituting themselves to the highest bidder or sulking because they could not get their own way over the House of Lords

Nick Clegg has already addressed this in the past - House of Commons - Tuesday 26 October 2010

“.. It is one of the founding principles of any democracy that votes should be valued in the same way, wherever they are cast.  Over the years, all sorts of anomalies have developed, such that different people's votes are simply not worth the same in elections to this place.  That surely cannot be right..."

What more can one say about this disgraceful, hypocritical man who places the interest of himself and his party above those of the country? Furthermore, he obviously has a short memory!

Tags: | Categories: UK Government

We have just been caught out twice in the last 6 months by Far Eastern firms masquerading as UK based with domain names ending in .co.uk

The one thing all these sites have in common is a total failure to identify either the ownership of these sites or their location - i.e. China

Ordering anything from these sites is the easy bit, but just try returning something such as shoes, clothes and this is where they completely fall down.

Once they have your money, you are given the 3rd degree to even be in the running for a refund. That is, assuming you pass all their interrogation / stalling techniques, which will give one the 'run a around' for quite a while

All this needs to be compared to the likes of ASOS / Brand Alley or other European web sites which operate seemlessly - simplicity themselves, with no interrogation on returns

Finally, do not be fooled into thinking that the UK & Europes 'distance selling regulations' operate in this area - YOU ARE ON YOUR OWN

Probably the only way of getting your money back from these organisations is requesting a charge back from you credit card provider. Although, the Far Eastern firm will inevitably make a hefty 're-stocking' (25%) charge, which for some reason seems to be acceptable behaviour to the credit card provider

So the message is - be very carefull when dealing with this new breed of web site; set up specifically to lull the UK public into a sense of security. Once they have your money just watch out!

Caveat Emptor - With Far Eastern Companies Trading as UK Domains

Just bear all this in mind and take heed

Of course the real question that needs to be answersed is - why are these sites with .co.uk domain names allowed when they are potentially nothing more than a confidence trick to fleece the UK public and are not subject to any UK controls in the same way as UK company web sites?

One final aspect is that on genuine UK sites with merchant servcies a company address needs to be shown - try finding any reference to the location of these Far Eastern companies and invariably it does not exist; because that would give the game away!

Tags: | Categories: Web Sites