I woke up this morning to see that the Uganda gentleman famous for his death-penalty-for-the-homosexuals stance is re-tabling his bill in parliament, with a minor concession: the death penalty has been commuted to life imprisonment. I’m just in awe that something so private can inspire so much hatred and energy. I have an extreme aversion to populists – the cowards. It’s too easy to win your popularity by inciting people’s fears.
Uganda is filled with poverty and disease and lack of access to sanitation. There are children orphaned by HIV and guerilla violence. The State is perpetually out-spending what it collects in revenue. Those are meaningful issues of consequence. But instead, this honoured comrade is planning on wasting resources on a bill that has no positive economic or social impact. After all, “the homosexuals” have been having relationships under the threat of eternal damnation for centuries – they’re hardly going to stop for an un-policeable Act. It doesn’t make societal sense, and it doesn’t make economic sense http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-16928608. If anyone is interested, my friend Remy (the Quill) has a great blog post on this particular African issue. You can access it here: http://remythequill.com/homophobia-soup/.
In business news:
- Bloomberg has just released a ranking of emerging and frontier markets. In first place for emerging markets: China. Followed by Thailand, Peru and Chile. South Africa ranked 13th. (If you’re looking for the ranking, the link is here: Ranking of Emerging and Frontier Markets – the frontier market list is below the emerging market one). What was most interesting to me in this article was the reference to Salomon Brothers. I mentioned in yesterday’s book review that Salomon Brothers was the birthplace of Mortgage-Backed Securities – but it seems that they were also the origin of the term “emerging markets”! http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-08/china-lone-bric-among-top-emerging-markets.html. I suppose I should point out that whenever anyone mentions “emerging markets”, they usually mention the acronym “BRIC”. The slight surprise is that only China of the four BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia and India being the other three) was near the top of the list. But this makes sense to me – countries have good years and bad years. And there are other emerging markets out there.
- A.A. Gill, a restaurant critic of the Sunday Times, has written an article on his solution to Europe, which was largely a nostalgic reflection on his high school French, German and Italian. With lots of “joie-de-vivre” and “dolce vita”, the layman solution is cultural heritage, apparently. But I did enjoy the line “Bankers are are humiliated out of their bonuses and out of their knighthoods”. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-08/solution-to-euro-crisis-lies-in-mona-lisa-s-smile-commentary-by-a-a-gill.html I say: the European solution may be to auction off some of the art.
- Laurence D. Fink, CEO of Blackrock (the giant asset manager), says that everyone should be investing in equities. 100% invested in equities. He also thinks that Greece will be bailed out. And that he wouldn’t recommend QE3 unless the dollar gets too strong. Was this a headline? Oh Bloomberg. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-08/blackrock-s-fink-says-investors-should-be-100-in-equities-take-more-risk.html.
- The Greeks missed another deadline. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-08/greek-haggling-drags-on-as-meeting-to-seal-terms-of-second-bailout-delayed.html. Chancellor Merkel described the cost of Greece leaving the Euro as “incalculable”, so “the question does not arise”. I have started writing a blog post on this cost – it may be incalculable, but it’s certainly describable.
- Yesterday, the Australians left their interest rate unchanged at 4.25%. This leaves them with one of the highest interest rates amongst the developed nations. I guess that you have to resist the temptation to adjust internal policy to respond to external speculation: but in a world looking for safe havens, a high-interest-yielding well-regulated developed country sounds like gold – literally. As a result, the Aussies are sitting with an over-valued exchange rate, which is hurting their economic growth. But there is a new board member coming in – Heather Ridout. I’m not sure if her surname means anything – but she’s not a fan of the high interest rate. She is, however, a fan of growth. Interestingly, being a fan of more growth over lower inflation gets you the name “dove”. We shall see. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-07/australia-to-welcome-growth-girl-to-rba-after-holding-fire-on-rate-cut.html.
- Pressure on Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is building, as more countries withdraw their diplomatic staff from Syria and expel Syria’s ambassadors. Russia continues to dialogue, however. Why is it always Russia and China that veto efforts to assist regime change? http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-07/eu-gulf-countries-recall-ambassadors-to-syria-amid-bloodshed.html. I realise that this is not really a business item – but political standpoints are only a step away from trade embargoes.