Sunday, December 07, 2008

News From BOM Correspondents - 11

30 minute shocker

Latest news and links:


LH recommends we all watch the movie I.O.U.S.A. "It follows the campaign by the former Comptroller General of the US's attempt to draw attention to the 8 trillion and rising US public debt. It is a truly frightening film."

It certainly is.

In graphic detail it explains how America's four deficits - budget, savings, trade, and leadership - have set the country on the road to ruin. And for people who don't know, it explains precisely how huge debts to overseas lenders undermine not just prosperity, but also national security and political autonomy (its example being how in 1956 America itself forced Britain to withdraw from Suez simply by threatening to pull the plug on sterling).

And the scariest thing about it?

All of it applies just as well to us.

See I.O.U.S.A. website here.

Rushing for the exit

According to the South China Morning Post:

"Beijing "would welcome" any consideration by HSBC Holdings of returning its headquarters to Hong Kong and is working on incentives to lure the banking giant back, according to banking sources and a central banker in charge of Hong Kong affairs.

State think-tanks have suggested to the government various proposals to attract HSBC back to Hong Kong after the bank announced last year its intention to leave Britain for tax reasons." (HTP JW)

Meanwhile, UK chemical industry bosses have written to Gordo threatening to move overseas if he goes ahead with the EU's further carbon emissions curbs. They say:

"We believe there is a significant danger to our £60 billion industry if phase three of EU ETS becomes law in its current form.

Chemical businesses situated throughout the UK, especially in the north of England and central Scotland, with 80% of them foreign-owned, will be decimated, putting almost 200,000 jobs at risk."

We remain baffled as to why anyone would think now is a good time to hobble industry with even more regulation and cost, but then, we're not hippies.

Arrrrghhhh HMRC

A big and entirely understandable arrrghhhh!!! from JB, who highlights two items from the rock-bottom terminally dysfunctional HM Revenue & Customs (see many previous blogs eg here)

First, the news that they are shutting 90 local offices and laying off another 3,600 staff: it's part of their bonkers Gershon cuts, which will axe more 200 offices and 26,000 staff. As we've said before, we're all in favour of greater efficiency, but these cuts are being made with an extremely blunt instrument and come at the cost of hacking off HMRC's capability to collect taxes. Already it's believed they've abandoned pursuit of any back-taxes less than £20 grand.

But what really made JB scream was the second item. It's an advert for a new job at HMRC. Not collecting taxes, you understand. No, no, no. This is working as a journalist - A Journalist! -on their... no, sorry, I need a stiff drink before I can type this... a journalist on their "People Function Communications Team".

And what exactly is the People Function Communications Team? As far as we can see, it's an internal propaganda department dedicated to persuading HMRC's poor benighted staff that everything is getting better.

Overseas Aid Industry

This year we've done several blogs on Britain's tax-funded overseas aid industry, and our dispiriting conclusion is that it's mainly about providing employment for those who work in it (eg here).

The latest outrage relates to our old friends at CDC (the Commonwealth Development Corporation, as was - see this blog). This is wholly owned by DfID - ie us - yet last year paid its CEO a breath-taking £970 grand. As PAC Chairman Leigh said:

"This is not a private company, Dfid actually owns it. Do we need to pay the chief executive £970,000 a year?"

I think that paying an income of nearly £1m to somebody who works in an entirely publicly-owned company is an insult to the millions of people living on $1 a day, and the tens of thousands of charity workers who are slaving away on tiny salaries."



The Hollow Fleet

Over at US war correspondent site War Is Boring David Axe lets rip on Britain's hollow naval fleet:

"As has been mentioned many times on this blog, the Royal Navy is a wreck. A decade of neglect has resulted in a fleet with too few ships — and ships that sail without key weapon systems and virtually no air cover. The latest bad news: the Royal Navy’s flagship, the small aircraft carrier Illustrious, sailed to the Middle East last month with just four Harrier ground-attack jets aboard, instead of the dozen or more she was designed to carry. Four jets!"

And as regular BOM readers may recall, even when we get our new carriers, things won't be any better. Thanks to yet another procurement cock-up, they will be equipped for many years with those same 50 year old Harriers.

It makes you want to weep.



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