Saturday, December 4, 2010

Wake up calls for England, the UK and the EU

Russia has changed its strategy and now seeks WTO membership (it has been the largest economy outside the WTO since China entry in 2001). Also wins bid for 2018 World Cup!

Some of the reactions FIFA's decision in Russia's win in the bid for WC 2018 (and WC 2022) seem to indicate that some countries seem to not have realised the world doesn't revolve around them anymore & there's a trend for a more balanced globalisation (BRICs etc)

WTO has blocked EU duties on Chinese screws.
IMO this should serve the EU and its members as a cue to consider the correlation between the start of the Euro & China's entry into the WTO & how it affected the systemics of the EU Single Market (and thus contributed to the current "Euro crisis")

Dynamics such as these make the need for a United States of Europe (political union) urgent and override parochialist tendencies of/within some EU member states.

Thus I am not surprised that according to the recent "leaks", the Governor of a certain central bank thinks that the Euro crisis may accelerate political union in the EU, a view I have expressed many times this year.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

SME survival in the global era: The bookstore around the corner

The bookstore around the corner
Written: June 14, 2001

In the movie "You got mail", Kathlin Kelly, owner of a traditional, small and corner bookstore in a neighborhood of New York (Kelly is played by actress Meg Ryan), is one day suddenly faced with a huge "megabooktore", part of the super-chain "Fox Bookstores", which occupies the entire block opposite her store.

"What can I do," asks desperately in an e-mail to an anonymous online friend, who happens to be her own competitor, son of the founder of "Fox Bookstores" (played by Tom Hanks).

The question of the heroine is the classic question of the traditional small firm that is faced with a corporate "Goliath". But globalization makes this question evem more relevant for a growing number of businesses, while more and more companies that considered themselves a "Goliath" in their local market are now "Davids" faced with a regional or global "Goliath". Thus who is a "Fox Bookstores" and who a "Kathleen Kelly" is something relative these days!

In the film, Fox relies on cues from another famous movie, the "Godfather" to advise Kathleen Kelly. "Take them to the mattress" he suggests, without knowing that he is giving advice to a competitor.

"Take the weapons of your opponent and use them against him" is a solution proposed by the character played by Gene Hackman in the movie "Public Enemy".

However, fortunately for entrepreneurs everywhere, aside from Hollywood films, there is a special area in Business Administration, Strategy, that studies the ways a company can compete.

Strategy remains a relatively neglected area for many businesses, not just small.

But more and more companies of all sizes, note that in an ever-freer competitive environment, Strategy is not an elitist process and intangible plan inside only the mind of SME owner, but a regular business process with a specific (and written) product that can be communicated and shared across the enterprise.

Strategy also has its own methodology and expertise, and various "schools" of thought. It can also benefit from external consultants as well as the "strategic thinking" and "training" of managerial staff.

But for many companies, takig advantage of the strategic thinking of the staff remains am unclear perspective. Especially when the executives, including senior ones, are consumed 100% by daily executive chores.

For many small businesses, such as the bookstore of Kathleen Kelly, the introduction of a culture for strategy has as a prerequisite the introduction of a culture of Marketing, Sales, Financial Management, Information, etc. to the employees, but mainly to the entrepreneur who started it all based on a vision, an idea or an "art".

This adjustment not only for workers and "the staff", but mostly of the owner's own business philosophy is a crucial tool for 'survival' in the era of globalization and is essential for the competitiveness of a small economy (eg Portugal, Greece, Ireland, etc). The cultural change is ultimately the first, but absolutely necessary step. From this change come a real human resources strategy, the development of human capital, etc. From companies that do not rely on armies of expendable "soldiers" and headquarters of elite "officers" or "queens" attached to the boss, but a flexible backbone of "horses" and "towers".

It is no coincidence that there is a rising number of executives with experience who actually evaluate their prospective new employer and who are not driven primarily by the prospective employer's size or name but the culture of the boss and the company, often placing a low priority on some traditional symbols of "corporate status" (car, etc.) even earnings.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The American and European good times? Over?

For the comformist portion of the US and European population, the "good times" have ended, one way or another. The reason is that world GDP cannot grow enough to accomodate the fair rise in the GDP of the BRICs et al & maintain the US & European level.

Full European Integration can create enough economies of scale to minimise the shock for Europe. Provided European countries have learned their lesson from the 2 world wars caused by ill European dynamics

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones" economics!

It has become 'people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones' global (and EU) economics (& politics & policies)!

Quote from Bernake's speech at ECB obviously does not refer only to China but FRG as well (among others):

"For large, systemically important countries with persistent current account surpluses, the pursuit of export-led growth cannot ultimately succeed if the implications of that strategy for global growth and stability are not taken into account, ...."

IMO this analogically also applies to EU Single Market & Eurozone context as well: the implications of that strategy (by FRG) on stability of systemics with the EU Single Market and the Eurozone.

Of course if one can blame FRG over-exporting for SM & Eurozone imbalances, same can be said for low corporate tax regimes and other practices by other member states of the EU.

And if US authorities can be blamed re US subprime "manufacturing", European & others can also be for allowing over-purchase of those "products"!

Other analogies come to mind as well!e "manufacturing", European & others for allowing over-purchase of those "products"

So, IMO, it has become 'people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones' global (and EU) economics (& politics & policies)!

And the key governing dynamics: Oxymora!

Communism's revenge on capitalism?

Is China (and its buying-spree in the US, EU etc) communism's revenge on capitalism? IMO it does seem so!

Fair global economic competition?

Is the global economic (trade etc) competition between centrally planned and non-centrally planned economies a "fair" one?

The global economic game today: Corporations or countries?

Is the global economic "game" today a competition a) between multinational corporations or b) between countries/national economies?

IMO (b)

Actually not fully (b) but more (b) than (a)!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Econ & Policy Dynamics: Who is the central planner after all?

October US unemployment rate steady at 9.6% but 151,000 new jobs created

France's "realeconomik" (with China)> 14+ bn Euros worth (but worth it?)

"QE2" The US Fed will buy $600bn of US gov bonds, thus pumping liquidity (stimulus) into the US economy (QE1 was worth $1.75tn)

Which is the centrally planned economy after all? China or the US (or France)? It's getting confusing. Why?

a) Geithner's 4% upper limit proposal on trade balances.

b) China's Foreign Minister said his country "planned" to double the value of its annual imports from France to Euros 56bn over the next 5 years!
Reminder: China is WTO member and trade (imports and exports) are SUPPOSED to be (almost) free. Thus how can China PLAN to double its imports from France?

In the meantime, the G20 summit is next week.

Another interesting element is that officials in China and Germany have complained re the US' "QE2"!!!

While in the recent past the US admin has complained re Germany's over-exporting and timid domestic consumption!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Faking it (mini story, fiction)

1) She faked a fake O in order to not give him the satisfaction of knowing she was having a real one. Am such a witch, she thought.

2) It was not his fault, but she was not in a generous or kind mode tonight. She felt rotten and up for cruelty. Not his fault.

3) Fault is over-rated she thought. Life is a series of incidents, often accidents and she had decided to treat it as such. Tough

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dynamics: The gut of the "monster"!

This is an entry from 2007 (Thursday, July 26, 2007) from my old blog, before I moved into vlogging and then back into blogging. I think it is quite relevant today.


Dynamics: The gut of the "monster"!!!

I am as capitalist as anyone, but I have to admit that the state, dynamics and systemics of credit and finance seem to have assumed a life of their own in the world.

The system seems IMO too large and complicated not only for investors (direct participants) and their analysts, but also for those, like me, who are merely trying to figure out how its general dynamics affect the other dimensions of our lives.

Capital is the oil that keeps the system, as it is, going, loans, bonds, stock (equity) et al.

At the core is the willingness of people to make money out of money, ie "pure capitalism". By lending it or (riskier) by taking an equity share (stake) in ventures (stock), mainly.

In many stockmarkets, the investors are by now mainly "institutional", ie funds and other "collective" investment formats. "John and Joan Smith" are not that active. They opt for more tangible capital options, such a real estate and the money they can store (save) and make out of rental and via price increases. Because one does tend to feel more "secure" when the so called underlying asset is not a company (ie a legal form, albeit with its assets and its liabilities and its profit and loss accounts and net present value of future earnings or dividends) but a tangible "thing", ie a piece of land and bricks or a flat etc.

Well, here is how things seem to stand at the moment:

Many indices (of stock markets) have been trading at their highest levels in recent years.

Why?

Well, for one, low interest rates that allowed companies to borrow at lower cost and thus make higher earnings.

Low interest rates which prompted people to borrow money and to spend money. And companies too. Hire more people, and thus fuel their spending.

And in general, an economy that was dynamic and upbeat or confident. In what? In state and outlook, in spite of various negative parameters.

And the up meant a cascade of upwards factors and synergies. Win-win? Sounds like it, but what goes up must come back down, eventually, right?

Well, in recent days, stock markets have fallen worldwide, yes worldwide, like they are tanks interconnected, because they are, and that is the slightly scary realisation (globalisation of the investment decisions, "one big ocean") amid concerns about the effect of the fact that interest rates are in most cases (see eg UK, USA, Eurozone, higher than recent years) and their effect on the profits of companies with traded (public quoted) shares.

As well as the effect on corporate takeovers and as well as loan defaults by individuals and companies, as a cascade effect.

But who has a crystal ball, even the world's most genius economist? Who can safely "read" the whole system and predict the future with 100% certainty? No human and no machine, even, I think. Even if one can, at almost 99% accuracy, what incentive does such a person or fund have to "share" the knowledge? When in the financial markets, such "knowledge" is more valuable the fewer people that have it? Only a fool would share such uber valuable information, other than himself and his investment clients, at best. Assuming again that he/she had it.

Most do not have that "sure" thing knowledge and thus the whole system is driven by analyses, "opinions" backed by theory and understanding, at some level, of the systemics, and, when humans are concerned, by "confidence" and other emotions.

Wow, sounds more complicated than the universe.

Well, it is, a financial universe. Part of a wider universe, that of human life and its systemics and dynamics. Fascinating but also abyssal. Like Star Trekking!

The worries "of the markets", news reports say, are nothing new, and analysts and investors have been warning that a number of factors and parameters are combining to create worrying conditions in the markets (systems) of equity and credit.

In certain countries and areas, house price are increasing, in others they are volatile and in others they are lower than recent years.

Key central banks have been raising the central interest rates in order to keep another "monster", inflation, under control.

Why?

Because inflation is a "boogie man" for most economists.

Why? That is another ... post!

At the same time, to make matters worse, high oil prices are said to be raising fears about their effect in inflation. Who has power over the price of oil?

And how hungry is our way of life in fossil fuels?

Scary, even without the added factor (mega factor) of climate change.

And if the earth ever becomes too warm or too cold for us human to live, well, then game over, not only for us, but ... for the capital markets too, unless they are taken up by ... robots (who will btw, ex officio, be ultra rational, uber "rational investors", unlike us humans).

When "returns" seem uncertain, when there is less confidence, the system turns towards more safety, ie less expected risk, aka "quality" investments (!!).

On the other hand, people who are more risk converse may see this as an opportunity to buy into less expensive riskier investment options.

Who is right? Go figure! I am only human. And at best, an MBA and a philosopher. What do I know? That in the long run things usually even out and that in the long run, as my statistics professor used to say often, we are all dead. But markets are driven by hope as well as analyses and figures.

That leads me to say that they have a life of their own.

Scary! As scary as a runaway train! But in the medium term, not the long, things are usually not that bad. Even the stocks that sold for almost nothing in the Wall Street Big Crash 80+ years ago, many of them regained and grew in value in less than ten years!

That is why some people say that one should invest only part of one's savings in assets of some risk and that it is good to have some underlying asset. That is why my parents and their friends were into real estate. The price of land does go up and down, but the land is always there, rain or shine. But when you have borrowed to buy that land and you still owe payments, well things are a tad more complicated. But then what is not complicated in the world today? Relationships? Sure, not! LOL

"May you live in interesting times"
An ancient Chinese curse, not a wish!

But at the end of the day, it is only money. Yet, but the whole system runs on money and ... fossil fuel.

Yes, I believe in capitalism, the capitalism of human capital and of intellectual capital.

And companies consist of humans, not just legal and physical and monetary assets. And unlike my parents, I put more faith in humans. But that is my philosophy. And I am by no means an expert on finance. Only took a few courses in business school. Enough to help me try to understand. But the Ancient Greeks taught us that the more we know, the more we realise how little we know. Does the same apply to money markets? Who knows?

All I know is that it is prudent for someone to live within one's means and be ready to slim down his/her costs of living. That is why I hate debt. But, in fairness, many disagree with that mantra.

Can one be a capitalist and hate debt?

I think one can. Many may think otherwise.

We think therefore we are. But we also need a few more things than that to survive. Food and a few more. Athenian (hedonistic) or Spartan (austere) way of life? Alexander the Great who conquered the world and then died or Diogenes who lived in a barrel? Taking risks or playing it safe? How much risk and how much safety?

Unlike companies, people are not expected to live forever.

Capitalism of the mind.

IMO, this 21st century is the century of why, not how. And the century of Philosophy. But I would not bet on it.

Humor and philosophy can make hard times and "bear markets" easier to bear. Other people think that it is money that makes unhappiness more bearable.

We think and feel, therefore we are still alive. Do the markets have the same "human" attributes? And who has more greed? For a) returns/money and the things they can buy or b) for living and the pleasures living gives?

Hedonistic capitalism?

So many potential versions of capitalism! All can co-exist. Which one is more/less risky?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

How many countries committed "economic suicide"

Many countries suffocated their own productive forces in their economy via red tape etc thus paving the way for imports to come in and rule!

Consider: What are the real causes - factors that turned eg the US & the UK from net mega exporters to net mega importers in only a few decades?

In many countries it started making much more sense to import than to produce (due to red tape and other conditions) = "economic suicide"

Release real growth and real jobs from the chains of over-regulation and red tape!

It seems that the key skills for success in business etc today are not biz studies or motivation/inspiration but legal ones.

Why?

Due to over-legislation & red tape!

Stop "killing" personal & business creativity via over-regulation, over-legislation & the resulting red tape monster (national and cross border). This IMO applies to most areas of economic activity (excludes the Finance sector though). In other words, regulate Finance more, radically deregulate real business, for "healthy"/viable real growth and jobs!

Because the "governing dynamic" is: Whatever you decide to do, red tape wlll eventually catch up with you!

How many jobs in EUrope are created and maintained by red tape? How much growth and real jobs do they prevent from happening?

A large part of legal frameworks for business in European & other countries were created in the industrial era, based on an implicit belief that business (big industry with its high start-up and fixed costs) was a big bad wolf! In the Services era this is even more irrelevant & job desructive than ever!

Entry to markets, economic activities & professions, either national or cross-border suffocate real growth and real jobs or the real economy.

The roots:

In older days, markets, industries & professions were protected via over-regulation, red tape & other barrriers. The system kind of worked, then, providing "stability" (and sclerosis) for companies, professionals & workers. But with freedom of trade etc, the system has IMO collapsed and mobility (across sectors, professions and borders) for companies, professionals and workers is still fenced, hence systemic instability and lack of real growth and jobs at various national (eg USA), regional (eg Europe) and global levels.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Outsource This: Thoughts on current dynamics (EU, UK, USA, World)

A solid decision must take into account local, national, regional (eg EU) and global regulatory & legislative constraints. Not an easy time for decision makers then!

Eg business in 2011 will have little in common with business in 2008. In that the conditions & working assumptions of 2008 that affect business have changed radically, it's a totally new "ballgame".

Eg (policy) to address the demands of the times governments need to completely overhaul the philosophy & the existing body of legislation & regulations.


Management: From out-sourcing to in-sourcing?

The competitiveness of economies (for business location purposes) is IMO a matter for the Strategy - Corporate Planning Dept of a corporation to determine, on a case basis. Yet most corporations do not have such depts since many decades ago. Maybe that's the "problem"!

In a few years, some corporations will be outsourcing the top management function of the corp. as well!
Is it time for corporation to start "in-sourcing" their advertising, strategy, IT, HR, functions/depts? #management (back to basics).
The decline of the Roman Empire started when they started outsourcing to the Goths, the Vandals, etc.
The decline of Sparta started when they started outsourcing their left flank to "allies".
And the decline of capitalism started when corporations started "outsourcing" their capital needs to the "markets" & banks rather than their shareholders.

By outsourcing important functions, corporations looked lean & mean in the eyes of the "markets" & analysts but in fact became "anorexic".

Plus, many analysts & commentators act as if they are judges in talent shows, "judging" corporations & countriies as if they are hopeful singers, puting even more pressure on publicly quoted corporations to max performance short term.


Exporters = modern heroes?

Are there mindset factors at play in the loss of exports competitiveness of the US and the UK in recent decades?


Information (and analysis) is Power

The US and the UK are used to analysing the world (think tanks, media, etc).
In recent times, the "world" is also analysing the US & the UK!


Are mentalities and attitudes in the UK but also Germany & France the key barrier to a deeper EU?
a) They dub foreign lang TV shows & films about 3 hours ago via web
b) They are pro EU as long as the EU is molded in their national model
c) France after all almost rejected Maastricht and rejected the pre-Lisbon Constitutional Treaty (in May '05).
d) Gernany's participation in a deeper EU seems tied by the decision of its Const Court.

The EU isn't in crisis this year. It has always been in crisis, because the EU & EEC/ECs were/are built via weird design & flawed project management!


Can a leader lead EUrope and his/her country at the same time?
The obvious answer would be: Yes.
Case study to the contrary: A few months ago Nicolas Sarkozy seemed to be the kind of visionary leader that could steer EUrope forward, through the debt crisis etc. A few monhs later, his proposals and actions in the field of immigration (recall of citizenship, Roma etc) in an effort to please a certain section of the French electorate have tainted his and his country's leadership role in EUrope!


The EU and the UK in a prisoner's dilemma!

The issue of a UK referendum on EU membership is kept alive in the UK. Polls indicate a strong lead againt EU memership (ie exit of the UK from the EU).

A few introductory notes:

* It's the Lisbon Treaty Euroskeptics fought against that actually provides a process for the #UK to leave the EU, should it so decide!!!

* The sovereignty card being played by English and other British Euroskeptics and anti-EUers could IMO actually backfire on England!

* I still think the UK could actually lead the EU into a deeper union! But it would require a major change in mentality (via better info). Read what I mean, below!

* Would the UK have a a) better or b) worse balance of payments if it was outside the EU and its Single Market?

* Would the potential for a deeper - fuller European Union increase without the UK (europhobia) & Germany (constitutional constraints etc)?

* Is a) the #UK b) Germany c) both d) other e) no MS holding back a "deeper" #EU (army, taxation, econ gov, etc)?

Here's my take:

Legal systems in Europe tend to have very different philosophies, eg British vs French vs German vs Italian. Yet another Babel!

Actually IMO better law-making could lead to a very large reduction in the number & volume of laws & better "protection" of people.

Those who fear that the EU leads to laws being decided by the EU institutions rather than national ones are right! A single market needs "single" (or common) laws in most areas in order for the market to be single (or common).

The UK's Euroskepticism is in my opinion justified only in that Euro continental policy & law making is more interventionist (see "dirigisme") compared to the British. The solution to that is a pro-EU UK that leads the thinking towards a deeper union that has better but less legislation (federal & national). A deeper yet less interventionist European Union with single yet fewer and "better" law and "statist" intervention! That is the best solution in the "prisoners dilemma" of the EU and the UK.

If UK and EU continue in their current paths, a lose-lose "divorce" seems inevitable down the line. The UK tradition for less interventionist policy & law making has many allies in all other member states but someone needs to lead the way With or without the UK, a dirigist EU will continue to lag behind the US plus lose ground to the BRICs, suffocating entrepreneurship & citizens.

One has to consider how the union system of the EU suffocates not only companies & growth but citizens as well. Let's take a look at the demographics of the "mighty" (in terms of GDP) Eurozone! A single state Europe is the only viable strategy! Plus: Can one argue that the Germanic states were better off before they were united into Germany in the 1870s?

Can a weirdly designed union of 27+ countries of 500 million compete with a solid 300 million US of A, the 1100 million of India and the 1300 million of China (for GDP/growth, jobs, etc)?

There are hundreds of languages spoken in the homes in the USA! But a single one is used in the workplaces and marketplaces. That means that national diversity can exist, even flourish, under uniform parameters, thus a single state Europe need not supress national "IDs". A single state EUrope is indeed a leap compared to the current situation & the socio-political trends in MS. But without vision Europe is bound for bust.

Otherwise, we might as well move back to a city-states system! Like eg pre-1870s Germany! Or Ancient Greece! With Germany, France and the UK vying for the dominant role, like Athens, Sparta and Macedonia or Thebes (Spain?)!
Ancient Greece has similarities to modern Europe. Greece did not become a single state until 1831 and after Roman and other occupations. When will Europe then become a single state? In 3010 or 4010 AD?

Without English as its lingua franca (in the workplaces & markets) the EU will remain a quaint linguistic Babel for American & other tourists! A real single EU market needs banks with connecting branches all over the EU, the ability to be serviced by a single mobile provider no matter where in the EU one lives, an EU-wide "NHS", an EU income tax system that encourages mobility, etc etc!

Anyway, in 50 yrs, Europe will probably either be
a) a single country OR
b) a huge museum for American, Japanese, Chinese, Indian etc tourists.

Probably the latter!

A continued Euro-chaos as now? That option actually leads Europe to the museum I mentioned.

I propose you also read my post: Britain and the heart of Europe, in 2005 (and today)


The pseudo-immigration problem in EUrope:

... of non-EU and intra-EU "immigrants" is IMO one of the reasons the EU will remain un-competitive in the world while the BRICs & US will do much better!

Intra-EU "migration" isn't supposed to be "migration", just like intra-EU sales are not considered exports/imports. Yet it is not treated that way. Maybe that's the problem with the EU. Most things are not clear cut, they are half-way, thus confusing the average person & firm. Everything EU is vague (flou). US-style inter-state relocation doesn't require a single EU state though. And sovereignty is another "flou" subject, globally! Ie what constitutes "sovereingty" in 2010 is quite different than in 1910, 1810, 810!

The population of a new member state should be given the same transition period constraints re relocation to one of the "old members". Not the current pick your choice between 0, 2, 5 and 7 (I think) years. In 2004, the UK chose a 0 years transition period for population of the "A8" new member, while many member states chose 2 years and 7 years (!!) was
chosen (I think) by France & Germany! Quite uneven! 2 years for all by all should be the policy, IMO.

But at present, EU citizens' freedom of intra-EU, inter-state relocation is not as free as intra-US, inter-state freedom. Alas EU laws don't give EU citizens per se freedom to relocate, only give it to those who find job, start biz or have means not to become burden on the state. But does not apply to intra-US "migration", eg when a Californian moves to New York or vice versa.


Certainties about Uncertainty & Economics vs Physics

There is an ongoing debate re the certainties of Economics and its similarities and difference with sciences such as Plysics.

This is my take:

Between certainty and "que sera, sera", there is a lot of room in between! A lot!

Having studied Prob/Stats, OR (Operations Research) - Decision Sciences while at MIT & NU & Finance at INSEAD I wouldn't over-estimate their ability to predict.

How many are aware of the maximum efficiency frontier on a E(return) vs E(risk) table, anyway?

The trade-off between expected return and expected risk (curve) remains one of the most not understood Financial (and decision sciences) concepts.

The use of either perfect markets or perfect information hypothesis in most Economic theories & analyses waters down the realism of the results.

In spite of the use of fancy math formalas in recent decades Economics (including) is still a Social Science. Physics is a Natural Science.

I used math/OR to try to better assign aircraft to flights in my MS thesis (1987) but didn't claim I was actually optimising, ie finding an exact or perfect solution!

A lot of Economic & Financial stuff these days seems more like product of a "religion" (see dogma/dogmae) rather than a science!

Economics, including macroeconomics, is a useful tool, but still not Physics" or able to predict/assess with the certainty we read quoted in or by well known media etc!

In other words, I agree with the conclusion in Legrain's Aftershock book but of course Macroeconomics is not Physics. Riccardo was not Newton!


Spare thoughts:

WTO -Doha: Have the US Congress & Senate given Obama the "fast track" powers GW Bush had?

UK exports in Services: £3.8 billion surplus on trade in services in July, surplus of £3.6 billion in June. Not too bad, eh?

Civil Society will make or break the European Integration

Banking and Finance are not the core of modern economies

SMEs must take a more proactive approach to European Integration

Hungary says will meet euro criteria by 2014-15

Monday, September 13, 2010

Britain and the heart of Europe, in 2005 (and today)

The following three part analysis was written in late June - early July 2005, in view of the UK's Presidency of the EU (second semester of 2005).

I think it is quite relevant for Britain and for the EU 5 years later. How relevant? That is for you to say!


Britain and the heart of Europe


Some years ago, Mr. Tony Blair appeared to be the man who would take Britain to the heart of Europe.

An island, now connected to the mainland of the European continent via an underwater tunnel (Channel Tunnel), Britain and with Northern Ireland constitute the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Since the end of business day, June 17, 2005, Tony Blair seems a very unlikely person to lead Britain to the heart of Europe (or is it the heart of the EU)?

The UK joined the European Communities (Economic, Atomic and Carbon and Steel) in the early seventies, having had many qualms about it.

With the then entry of the UK, Ireland and Denmark, the EC moved from 6 to 9 members (the original six were Germany, France, the Benelux three and Italy). It was the first enlargement of the EC, since its founding (Treaty of Rome). The next country to join was Greece, in the early eighties, leading the way for two more Southern European countries, the Mediterranean Spain and the Atlantic Portugal.

Four countries, the Southern three, Portugal, Spain, Greece along with Ireland, became the main recipients of the EC Structural-Regional funds. As well as the Italian South. This aid was tied to a new, then project, the "1992" - Single EU Market, which was a step up from the initial goal of the "Common Market".

Many people, especially in the UK, still referred to the European Economic Community as the "Common Market". Some, still do.

The integration of Europe via economics was going hand-in-hand with the aim to avoid a new World War, hence the co-operation (Communities) in carbon and steel and atomic energy.

In the eighties, the Common Market goal was replaced with a 'Single Market' goal. What is the difference?

Firstly, a market of 12 (then 15) rather than 6 countries. Without any tariffs and without any border controls for the trade of goods.

Intra-community trade made much easier, via a more level playing field, a 'single' one, which meant a large number of regulations and directives in order to streamline product standards within the Single Market.

Why? Because for trade to be as free as possible, product standards have to be either mutually recorgnised and accepted or merged into a single one!

For example, does an Italian consumer need a different product standard than a British one in order to be protected/safe?

That is a key philosophical, stretegic and policy issue, even today!

Does, for example, a Polish patient in Poland get a lower standard of medical support than a British or French one? That is an issue dealt, inter alia, by the infamous/famous "Services Directive" of the EU, which is still stuck in the EU's pipeline, and which Tony Blair was/is keen to promote for adoption during his chairmanship of the EU Council from July to December 2005.

Tony Blair's ambition to lead the EU may have been seriously sidetracked in the "collapsed" recent EU Summit over his leadership in not reaching an agreement over the EU budget for 2007-2013 (along, reportedly, with the Netherlands and Sweden, as well as Finland and Spain).

Is this upcoming UK presidency a real opportunity to take Britain to the heart of Europe?

That is a complex matter, actually. Because, inter alia:

Where is the heart of Europe?

Are we talking about the heart of Europe or the heart of the EU?

Are we talking about the economic, political, social, "power", cultural, scientific or some other kind of heart?

If we are talking about the economic, are we talking about the business heart or the financial heart, or both? The business of industry, of trade an/or of services? Of jobs?

Of tangible or of intangible (intellectual) products, such as music, film, etc.?

In terms of his appeal as a leader of Britain, Mr. Blair's win in the national elections in May came at a much narrower margin than his previous two. Whereas that would be somewhat natural for any leader running for a third consecutive win (only matched by the now Baroness Thatcher in recent UK times), it is the Iraq policy and style driven factor which seem to have put a dent in Mr. Blair's national appeal, compared to years past.

Yet Tony Blair is the man, the person, the leader, who assumed the leadership of his party following a) the surprise defeat of the favourite Labour in the early nineties (1992), under Neil Kinnock and b) the sudden passing, in 1994, of the late John Smith (after only a brief, 2-year, tenure at the helm of the Labour party).

It is none other than the then Home Affairs spokesperson of the Labour Party, Tony Blair, who won the leadership contest and proceeded to re-engineer the trade-union dominated party into a moderate Social-Democratic party. It is Tony Blair who followed the steps of Bill Clinton in "stealing" a major portion of the political/policy agenda of his conservative opponents and merging it with a new 'social' agenda, into a nouveau political agenda which captured the hearts and minds of enough Britons a few years later, giving this party a win of "sismic" proportions over the Tories!

Tony Blair's 'New Labour' may have alienated many traditional Labour members (just like Clinton's centrist agenda led, somewhat to the Nader candidacy in 2000, and Bush's narrowest-of-all-possible-margins-and-then-some victory over Al Gore).

But it gained the votes of many moderate and even conservative UK voters.

Gerhard Schroeder, in Germany, did a little bit of the same, following the rein of Helmut Kolh! So did some other 'neo-social' leaders in other European countries.

How successfull was the Clinton "third way-ish" political strategy recipe in Europe?

Oh, that is another complex and very interesting matter!

But this analysis is about the heart of Europe (or the EU) and Tony Blair's and Britain's journey towards it!

And like many other journeys, it has more than one "etapes" (stages).

End of Part I

-------------------------------------------------------

Britain and the heart of Europe - Part II


Britain's attempt to "relocate" to the political heart of Europe was never easy. Blame it on the backbenchers, blame it on the perennial feeling of any island towards the continent, blame it on many Englishmen's and Englishwomen's antipathy for any bureaucracy other than their precious own ("I don't want to be governed by Brussels but by Westminster"), blame it on many other factors.

It appears that many, many, Britons never wanted anything more than the Common Market membership (after ... the World Cup 1966 title!). Their national football team may not have had much European or World Cup success, other than 1966, but Liverpool and Nottingham Forest managed to go to the top of European club football many times until the 1985 Heyzel trouble, in (of all places).... Brussels!

No wonder then why many Britons have some kind of antipathy to the word "Brussels". Not with Belgium or the city itself.

After all,

Mrs. Agatha Christie's Hercules Poirot is a most 'sympa' (well liked) Belgian.

Belgium has many Ministries for each policy area (national, Flemish, Waloon, French-speaking, Flemish speaking, etc.).

But it is not Belgian bureaucracy that most Britons "hate". It is the Eurocratic one! One which, actually, employs many Britons. One which was, in effect, run by a Briton, for many years!

Maybe the UK's antipathy to the administrative EU machine can be explained by the theory that Britons are more than willing to co-habitate or co-work (or play) with all other Europeans, as long as it is under their own administrative system! After all, the British admin system is seen by many as exemplary! So why should they be willing to give up a prize system for a Babel-ish and very fuzzy one? Maybe they have a rational point there!

But the UK has never (dared) put forward the demand that the EU uses its own admin system!

Just as it has never, as far as the writer knows, actually asked for English to become the single working language of the EU. Or the only official one!

Maybe the UK should.

Instead, the UK has more or less always (since membership) been wishy-washy about Europe! "Yes, we want to be a part of it, but not too much". "Too much of what", one could ask them! That may indeed be the problem: What is "Europe"? How can one have too much or too little of something some ... vague?

On the other hand, French politics have always declared their utmost commitment to Europe, the ECs and now the EU. And, having done that, they always proceed to demand "the world" out of Europe. Leading, inter alia, to the famous "empty chair" crisis with Charles de Gaulle (when he abstained, in protest, from European Summits).

Europe's history is long, glorious, epic, tragic and zany. Case in point. It was Mrs M. Thatcher's insistence to veto other Commission presidency candidates which led to the eventual compromise candidacy and election of ... Jacques Delors in the mid 1980s!

Yes, The Jacques Delors, the Frenchman, the socialist, whose vision took the Common Market and turned it into an European Union! Mais oui, mes amis!

Yes, the EEC may have been constructed in Rome to aid Franco-German good neighbourly co-existence and friendship through economic and other co-operation, but it is thanks to a Briton that a Frenchman came to the position to take Europe into a level only some of its original visionaries had imagined (it was France too that in effect blocked creation of the 4th European Community, the Political, one, back in the 1950s).

It is the French who almost voted down the Maastricht Treaty (50.2% vs. 49.8%) in the nineties.

Yet it is usually the British who are 'credited' with many delays and setbacks in European integration! How fair is that?

As fair as a free trade area without a social arm?

As amazing as Eric Cantona's epic with Manchester United?

As amazingly international as the lineups in most of England's Premier League clubs?

As amazing as to think that England's head coach is Swedish!

Is the UK's role in the heart of Europe's affairs offset by its ambition to be near the heart of the center (centre) of the world, of the globe, of global affairs?

How come these two goals cannot be streamlined?

It is Europe's doing or is it Britain's?

Does Europe really want to become the center of the world? Can it? Is the US simply too powerful to be overcome at the top of the global "charts" or is Britain simply too ambitious to let an under-performing Europe "drag" it away from the center across the Atlantic? A former colony of the Great Britain, after all! One which a Frenchman, Marquis Lafayette, helped become autonomous!

Maybe Europe, not just the UK, has too much history to have a real ambitious present or future!

After all, the main reason English should, rationally, be the only lingua franca of the EU, is the US, after World War II! Do not blame the UK for that reality too! If the US had opted for French or Greek instead of English, as its official language, then maybe today English would not be the dominant language in Europe and the whole world. But it is! Who is to blame for that? In any case, not the British!

Plus, is it Britain's fault that its bureaucracy is viewed as exemplary by many countries? That consultants are paid hefty sums to export the British public admin model to other countries, either with EU or national funding (by the client countries)?

Is it Britain's fault that the mainly anglosaxon economic model of liberalism, with American add-ons, is the dominant one in the world today?

This brings us to the end of "etape deux" of this "trilogic" (three part) analysis!

End of Part II

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------


Britain and the heart of Europe - Part III


So which heart of Europe/EU is Tony Blair or another British leader supposed to take Britain to (this issue has been left unresolved since Part I)?

The UK is always one of the three who form a triange (triad) of power in the EU, judging by the frequent bilateral Summits between the leaders of France, Germany and Britain!

The Dutch (third biggest net contributor to the EU budget, above France), the Italians (large country and one of the 6 founders), Spain (another large country, in populus), etc. do not have such priviledges! The UK is in the triad. So, is it not in the heart of the EU's political hyper-power?

Is the journey to the heart of the EU project hampered then, simply, by the UK's geography?

Are the UK and Ireland Europe's natural bridges with the cross-Atlantic powers, due to geography and language?

Does this not give them extra power in the EU, too, compared let's say to Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, etc.?

Plus, the fact that to work in a country's job market you usually have to speak its language, does this not make the UK job market very attractive to most of the citizens of the EU who wish to work in a job market other than their native one, in the EU (not including, of course, the option of working for one of the EU's institutions)?

How fair is this competition to the UK worker, compared let's say to the French, the Italian, the Spanish, etc.?

For example, to work in the Belgian non-EU institutions related (directly or indirectly) job market, a non-Belgian has normally, to speak both French and Dutch! How easy it that?

The UK (and Ireland) offers its job markets to all other EU citizens! Should this not be appreciated?

Does this not make Britain "the heart" of the ex-pat market for jobs in the EU?

So, will Tony Blair be the man who takes Britain to the heart of the EU?

Heart implies emotion! Arts! Whose music is the EU listening to (in terms of intra-EU generated music)? Britain's!

Are the UK's underperformance in national teams' football and the Eurovision song contest key factors in creating the emotional aspect of the UK's anti-Europe perception? Probably not!

But we have strayed away from the original topic. Britain and the heart of Europe! The topic in not Europe and the heart of Britain!

Europe likes Britain. It buys its products, its music, watches more and more of its movies and other cultural products, watches BBC World, hears its BBC World Service, loves Man. United, Liverpool, and many other of its football teams, adores Mr. and Mrs. Beckham.

Does Europe like the UK's political leaders? Well, each country likes or dislikes its own leaders!

Does the European voter had/have Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair, Michael Howard, or the LibDems' Charles Kennedy near his or her heart?

Why should he/she? He/she does not get to vote for any of them anyway! So how can one, rationally, have close to his or her heart a political figure one cannot vote for or against?

That is the Catch 22 of the EU and of the way to its "heart"!

Actually, it is Catch 25!

--------------------------------------------

Nick Panayotopoulos, June-July 2005

Britain and the heart of Europe, in 2005 (and today)

The following three part analysis was written in late June - early July 2005, in view of the UK's Presidency of the EU (second semester of 2005).

I think it is quite relevant for Britain and for the EU 5 years later. How relevant? That is for you to say!



Britain and the heart of Europe


Some years ago, Mr. Tony Blair appeared to be the man who would take Britain to the heart of Europe.

An island, now connected to the mainland of the European continent via an underwater tunnel (Channel Tunnel), Britain and with Northern Ireland constitute the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Since the end of business day, June 17, 2005, Tony Blair seems a very unlikely person to lead Britain to the heart of Europe (or is it the heart of the EU)?

The UK joined the European Communities (Economic, Atomic and Carbon and Steel) in the early seventies, having had many qualms about it.

With the then entry of the UK, Ireland and Denmark, the EC moved from 6 to 9 members (the original six were Germany, France, the Benelux three and Italy). It was the first enlargement of the EC, since its founding (Treaty of Rome). The next country to join was Greece, in the early eighties, leading the way for two more Southern European countries, the Mediterranean Spain and the Atlantic Portugal.

Four countries, the Southern three, Portugal, Spain, Greece along with Ireland, became the main recipients of the EC Structural-Regional funds. As well as the Italian South. This aid was tied to a new, then project, the "1992" - Single EU Market, which was a step up from the initial goal of the "Common Market".

Many people, especially in the UK, still referred to the European Economic Community as the "Common Market". Some, still do.

The integration of Europe via economics was going hand-in-hand with the aim to avoid a new World War, hence the co-operation (Communities) in carbon and steel and atomic energy.

In the eighties, the Common Market goal was replaced with a 'Single Market' goal. What is the difference?

Firstly, a market of 12 (then 15) rather than 6 countries. Without any tariffs and without any border controls for the trade of goods.

Intra-community trade made much easier, via a more level playing field, a 'single' one, which meant a large number of regulations and directives in order to streamline product standards within the Single Market.

Why? Because for trade to be as free as possible, product standards have to be either mutually recorgnised and accepted or merged into a single one!

For example, does an Italian consumer need a different product standard than a British one in order to be protected/safe?

That is a key philosophical, stretegic and policy issue, even today!

Does, for example, a Polish patient in Poland get a lower standard of medical support than a British or French one? That is an issue dealt, inter alia, by the infamous/famous "Services Directive" of the EU, which is still stuck in the EU's pipeline, and which Tony Blair was/is keen to promote for adoption during his chairmanship of the EU Council from July to December 2005.

Tony Blair's ambition to lead the EU may have been seriously sidetracked in the "collapsed" recent EU Summit over his leadership in not reaching an agreement over the EU budget for 2007-2013 (along, reportedly, with the Netherlands and Sweden, as well as Finland and Spain).

Is this upcoming UK presidency a real opportunity to take Britain to the heart of Europe?

That is a complex matter, actually. Because, inter alia:

Where is the heart of Europe?

Are we talking about the heart of Europe or the heart of the EU?

Are we talking about the economic, political, social, "power", cultural, scientific or some other kind of heart?

If we are talking about the economic, are we talking about the business heart or the financial heart, or both? The business of industry, of trade an/or of services? Of jobs?

Of tangible or of intangible (intellectual) products, such as music, film, etc.?

In terms of his appeal as a leader of Britain, Mr. Blair's win in the national elections in May came at a much narrower margin than his previous two. Whereas that would be somewhat natural for any leader running for a third consecutive win (only matched by the now Baroness Thatcher in recent UK times), it is the Iraq policy and style driven factor which seem to have put a dent in Mr. Blair's national appeal, compared to years past.

Yet Tony Blair is the man, the person, the leader, who assumed the leadership of his party following a) the surprise defeat of the favourite Labour in the early nineties (1992), under Neil Kinnock and b) the sudden passing, in 1994, of the late John Smith (after only a brief, 2-year, tenure at the helm of the Labour party).

It is none other than the then Home Affairs spokesperson of the Labour Party, Tony Blair, who won the leadership contest and proceeded to re-engineer the trade-union dominated party into a moderate Social-Democratic party. It is Tony Blair who followed the steps of Bill Clinton in "stealing" a major portion of the political/policy agenda of his conservative opponents and merging it with a new 'social' agenda, into a nouveau political agenda which captured the hearts and minds of enough Britons a few years later, giving this party a win of "sismic" proportions over the Tories!

Tony Blair's 'New Labour' may have alienated many traditional Labour members (just like Clinton's centrist agenda led, somewhat to the Nader candidacy in 2000, and Bush's narrowest-of-all-possible-margins-and-then-some victory over Al Gore).

But it gained the votes of many moderate and even conservative UK voters.

Gerhard Schroeder, in Germany, did a little bit of the same, following the rein of Helmut Kolh! So did some other 'neo-social' leaders in other European countries.

How successfull was the Clinton "third way-ish" political strategy recipe in Europe?

Oh, that is another complex and very interesting matter!

But this analysis is about the heart of Europe (or the EU) and Tony Blair's and Britain's journey towards it!

And like many other journeys, it has more than one "etapes" (stages).

End of Part I

-------------------------------------------------------

Britain and the heart of Europe - Part II


Britain's attempt to "relocate" to the political heart of Europe was never easy. Blame it on the backbenchers, blame it on the perennial feeling of any island towards the continent, blame it on many Englishmen's and Englishwomen's antipathy for any bureaucracy other than their precious own ("I don't want to be governed by Brussels but by Westminster"), blame it on many other factors.

It appears that many, many, Britons never wanted anything more than the Common Market membership (after ... the World Cup 1966 title!). Their national football team may not have had much European or World Cup success, other than 1966, but Liverpool and Nottingham Forest managed to go to the top of European club football many times until the 1985 Heyzel trouble, in (of all places).... Brussels!

No wonder then why many Britons have some kind of antipathy to the word "Brussels". Not with Belgium or the city itself.

After all,

Mrs. Agatha Christie's Hercules Poirot is a most 'sympa' (well liked) Belgian.

Belgium has many Ministries for each policy area (national, Flemish, Waloon, French-speaking, Flemish speaking, etc.).

But it is not Belgian bureaucracy that most Britons "hate". It is the Eurocratic one! One which, actually, employs many Britons. One which was, in effect, run by a Briton, for many years!

Maybe the UK's antipathy to the administrative EU machine can be explained by the theory that Britons are more than willing to co-habitate or co-work (or play) with all other Europeans, as long as it is under their own administrative system! After all, the British admin system is seen by many as exemplary! So why should they be willing to give up a prize system for a Babel-ish and very fuzzy one? Maybe they have a rational point there!

But the UK has never (dared) put forward the demand that the EU uses its own admin system!

Just as it has never, as far as the writer knows, actually asked for English to become the single working language of the EU. Or the only official one!

Maybe the UK should.

Instead, the UK has more or less always (since membership) been wishy-washy about Europe! "Yes, we want to be a part of it, but not too much". "Too much of what", one could ask them! That may indeed be the problem: What is "Europe"? How can one have too much or too little of something some ... vague?

On the other hand, French politics have always declared their utmost commitment to Europe, the ECs and now the EU. And, having done that, they always proceed to demand "the world" out of Europe. Leading, inter alia, to the famous "empty chair" crisis with Charles de Gaulle (when he abstained, in protest, from European Summits).

Europe's history is long, glorious, epic, tragic and zany. Case in point. It was Mrs M. Thatcher's insistence to veto other Commission presidency candidates which led to the eventual compromise candidacy and election of ... Jacques Delors in the mid 1980s!

Yes, The Jacques Delors, the Frenchman, the socialist, whose vision took the Common Market and turned it into an European Union! Mais oui, mes amis!

Yes, the EEC may have been constructed in Rome to aid Franco-German good neighbourly co-existence and friendship through economic and other co-operation, but it is thanks to a Briton that a Frenchman came to the position to take Europe into a level only some of its original visionaries had imagined (it was France too that in effect blocked creation of the 4th European Community, the Political, one, back in the 1950s).

It is the French who almost voted down the Maastricht Treaty (50.2% vs. 49.8%) in the nineties.

Yet it is usually the British who are 'credited' with many delays and setbacks in European integration! How fair is that?

As fair as a free trade area without a social arm?

As amazing as Eric Cantona's epic with Manchester United?

As amazingly international as the lineups in most of England's Premier League clubs?

As amazing as to think that England's head coach is Swedish!

Is the UK's role in the heart of Europe's affairs offset by its ambition to be near the heart of the center (centre) of the world, of the globe, of global affairs?

How come these two goals cannot be streamlined?

It is Europe's doing or is it Britain's?

Does Europe really want to become the center of the world? Can it? Is the US simply too powerful to be overcome at the top of the global "charts" or is Britain simply too ambitious to let an under-performing Europe "drag" it away from the center across the Atlantic? A former colony of the Great Britain, after all! One which a Frenchman, Marquis Lafayette, helped become autonomous!

Maybe Europe, not just the UK, has too much history to have a real ambitious present or future!

After all, the main reason English should, rationally, be the only lingua franca of the EU, is the US, after World War II! Do not blame the UK for that reality too! If the US had opted for French or Greek instead of English, as its official language, then maybe today English would not be the dominant language in Europe and the whole world. But it is! Who is to blame for that? In any case, not the British!

Plus, is it Britain's fault that its bureaucracy is viewed as exemplary by many countries? That consultants are paid hefty sums to export the British public admin model to other countries, either with EU or national funding (by the client countries)?

Is it Britain's fault that the mainly anglosaxon economic model of liberalism, with American add-ons, is the dominant one in the world today?

This brings us to the end of "etape deux" of this "trilogic" (three part) analysis!

End of Part II

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------


Britain and the heart of Europe - Part III


So which heart of Europe/EU is Tony Blair or another British leader supposed to take Britain to (this issue has been left unresolved since Part I)?

The UK is always one of the three who form a triange (triad) of power in the EU, judging by the frequent bilateral Summits between the leaders of France, Germany and Britain!

The Dutch (third biggest net contributor to the EU budget, above France), the Italians (large country and one of the 6 founders), Spain (another large country, in populus), etc. do not have such priviledges! The UK is in the triad. So, is it not in the heart of the EU's political hyper-power?

Is the journey to the heart of the EU project hampered then, simply, by the UK's geography?

Are the UK and Ireland Europe's natural bridges with the cross-Atlantic powers, due to geography and language?

Does this not give them extra power in the EU, too, compared let's say to Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, etc.?

Plus, the fact that to work in a country's job market you usually have to speak its language, does this not make the UK job market very attractive to most of the citizens of the EU who wish to work in a job market other than their native one, in the EU (not including, of course, the option of working for one of the EU's institutions)?

How fair is this competition to the UK worker, compared let's say to the French, the Italian, the Spanish, etc.?

For example, to work in the Belgian non-EU institutions related (directly or indirectly) job market, a non-Belgian has normally, to speak both French and Dutch! How easy it that?

The UK (and Ireland) offers its job markets to all other EU citizens! Should this not be appreciated?

Does this not make Britain "the heart" of the ex-pat market for jobs in the EU?

So, will Tony Blair be the man who takes Britain to the heart of the EU?

Heart implies emotion! Arts! Whose music is the EU listening to (in terms of intra-EU generated music)? Britain's!

Are the UK's underperformance in national teams' football and the Eurovision song contest key factors in creating the emotional aspect of the UK's anti-Europe perception? Probably not!

But we have strayed away from the original topic. Britain and the heart of Europe! The topic in not Europe and the heart of Britain!

Europe likes Britain. It buys its products, its music, watches more and more of its movies and other cultural products, watches BBC World, hears its BBC World Service, loves Man. United, Liverpool, and many other of its football teams, adores Mr. and Mrs. Beckham.

Does Europe like the UK's political leaders? Well, each country likes or dislikes its own leaders!

Does the European voter had/have Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair, Michael Howard, or the LibDems' Charles Kennedy near his or her heart?

Why should he/she? He/she does not get to vote for any of them anyway! So how can one, rationally, have close to his or her heart a political figure one cannot vote for or against?

That is the Catch 22 of the EU and of the way to its "heart"!

Actually, it is Catch 25!

--------------------------------------------

Nick Panayotopoulos, June-July 2005

"Think Local, Act Global" or ... whatever!

I wrote this post in my old blog 3+ years ago (June 19, 2007). Read it and see to what extent it remains current. IMO, it's even more current and relevant today than in June 2007!

Dynamics: "Think Local, Act Global" or ... whatever!

The management/business mantra used to be "Think Global", then it evolved to "Think Global, Act Local", then we sort of lost .. direction (somewhat like the people in the TV series). "Think Local, Act Global", or whatever!

Maybe "Think localglobal and act global-local"?

I kind of like the "global-ethnic" idea/strategy among others. Ie create and market a "product" which has 50% specific and identifiable and globally attractive "couleur local" and 50% global elements. Or, alternatively, is 50% "exotic" (to the local consumer) and 50% "known" and "familiar": Balance the foreign/xenon and the familiar/standard.

It's like the debate as to whether people are "all the same" or "each is unique". In my mind, each person is both unique and just like all other humans.

Some multinational business strategists call it "having local relevance". Hm!

But how on Earth can a company, even the most "global" or "multi-national" be relevant (and en plus, a "good neighbor", but that is a Public Affairs and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) issue) in the 100, 150 or 200 national markets it operates in? Or does this apply mostly to "large" or otherwise "key" market? Eg China, India, UK, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, USA, Brazil, South Africa, etc? "Relevant" to the national pop culture?

Assuming there is a unified "national pop culture" that is, instead of an amalgam of various ones!

Are some societies or national pop cultures more "global" than others?

Which country, economy, society, pop culture is the most "global" these days? The US, the UK, Hong Kong, Switzerland, Monaco, Canada? Or should one better use the notion of "cosmopolitan"?

Or should one look at locations/regions (pockets of cosmopolitanism or globalism) rather than cosmopolitan/global countries/nations? Eg CA or LA, NYC, London, Paris, Southern France, Mykonos, Ibiza, Cancun, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, the Italian or Spanish or English football league, the NBA, Geneva, DC, Brussels, Singapore, Hong Kong, some areas in India and China, Berlin, etc?

Like Athens was in the 5th century BC, or Carthage (until the Romans literally levelled it), or Alexandria (after the death of Alexander), or Minoan Crete until the Thira volcano's tsunami, or Cairo, or Babylon, or Rome ("when in Rome"), or Constantinople (for at least 1000 years), or Florence in the 15th plus, or Paris in parts of the 20th century (for artists), etc?

thinking has to become more global, for jobs to remain local!

I wrote this post in my old blog 35 months ago (October 27, 2007). Read it and see to what extent it remains current. IMO, it's even more current and relevant today than in October 2007!

Who is thinking global?

America is not thinking global. That is the problem. What I mean is that the American people, in spite of the US's globalization power since after WWII, have not followed the global "thinking" of the US. Thus the US remained at heart, a "local" mentality based society and economy and these days, it shows.

It used to be Europeans and citizens of South American, Central American, African and Asian countries who complained about globalization!

Now it is the North Americans who are!! Sign of a new phase in globalization?
Food for thought for all!

I always thought that the anti-globalization movement would start where globalization started: USA and UK. Globalization and Anti-globalization: Both "Made in USA" (or "Made in Britain")!

How is that for "monopoly" (or at best duopoly in the world of marketable ideas!) But can a country make a living on selling ideas only (or mainly)? Or dreams (well, one did, for a long time and still does: The American Dream)! Remains to be seen!

Times are hard for you North Americans. I sympathise, but thinking has to become more global, for jobs to remain local!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Where are the leaders EUrope needs?

Few national politicians in Europe are known EU-wide.

USA:

But how many politicians even Senators who represent US states or governors are known to the general US public? Not as many one would expect (one has to factor in the fact that most Americans do not read US-wide newspapers or watch "national" news - to what extent new media are changing that?).

Eg how many of the roughly 10+10 initial candidates (in the parties' primaries) for US Pres. every 4 yrs are "known" to the average US voter?

EU:

Thus the "real" issue is how can a "new wave" of politicians who are known EU-wide (not just 1-2 member states or the "Brussels bubble") emerge!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

What EUrope needs, now!

EUrope needs leaders who will convince its people of the urgency for a EUrope that is truly united internally and in the world. A EUrope that celebrates diversity. A EUrope with single laws which nevertheless allow for this diversity. A new type of legislation.

EUrope needs to start producing EUropean laws that replace national ones yet allow for diversity while providing a single Law territory for citizens & companies.

This type of EUrope cannot cling to glorious national histories of often imperial or colonialist nature.

EU law making philosophy and process need radical overhaul that suit the demands of our epoch (& which fully replace national & local ones). The world needs a new modern type of Science of Legislation and Regulation and EUrope needs it even more! While early human societies suffered from under-regulation, modern Society suffers from over-regulation and legislation that suffocates persons and legal entities.

A EUrope that works for its citizens, micros and SMEs needs single laws, a single budget, a single revenue taxation system, a single army, etc, ie EUrope needs regulatory, policy and legal systemics that allow persons and SMEs to be active EU-wide with single bureaucracy - red tape.

To that effect, the USA is not a good model for EUrope to follow because the US today too suffocates by local, state & federal over-legislation & bureaucracy.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

More than Semantics: Europe, EUrope, EU, love vs trust!

More than semantics!

Which is the right (relevant) "strategic" question to ask EUropeans? a) "Do you trust the EU?" or b) "Do you like (or love?) the EU?"

The term "European" denotes geographical identity, analogous to Asian, African (let's leave "American" aside for now). Thus a term such as "EUropean" or something should be used to denote those who are and feel positive about being citizens of the European Union, which after all, does not and probably never will include ALL European countries (eg Norway does not want to join).

All institutions of the EU should be renamed to reflect that distinction properly, eg EU Commission, EU Parliament, EUCJ, etc!

Plus, IMO, the biggest conceptual fuzz relates to what the term "EU" denotes in people's minds. "EU" is not its (ie the EU) institutions, everything in the European Union is (& should be perceived by the people as) "EU"!

Eg does one ask a German "Do you trust Germany?" Makes no sense as a question!

Lastly (for now):
Case in point: "EU Affairs" vs "European Affairs".

capital, goods, humans and systemic imbalances in globalisation and the EU

Offering capital and goods more freedom than humans produces systemic imbalances (in addition to being rather anti-humanistic).
IMO there should be free immigration among at least the WTO member countries/economies.

PS: The very low intra-EU migration eg creates systemic imbalance inside the EU and its single market.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Is the new "America" virtual?

Following the "saturation" of the US the world needs a new "America, America" where one can pursue the original "American Dream" but there seems to be no "real estate" left on this planet for this new America to be "built" on!

So maybe the new "America" is a) virtual b) has to wait for mass space travel (!!) c) other (specify:.......)

Europe could become the new "America" but instead it seems to be falling back to the old "malaise" that made Europeans move to "America"!!

SE Asia?

Some thoughts on world dynamics

Some thoughts on world dynamics

Too many CEOs in 2010 still have the mindset of military leaders, in that they are preoccupied with beating the competition instead of focusing on client needs, wants and satisfaction. Too many analysts as well.

On the other hand, world dynamics in recent years have turned countries into players in a global economic game where the goals are scored via exports and trade surpluses!
Hence corporations are failing in satisfying clients, shareholders and ... analysts, countries are failing to satisfy their populations and have allowed populists to create scapegoats out of political and economic immigrants (see recent proposals re immigrants and "new" citizens in USA, France and Belgium).

In short, the world (Earth) is anything but uniting, in spite of the positive effect of the Internet and social media!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010

Wisdom vs Consumerism: In search of a new equilibrium

Asian and other wisdom has been penetrating the US and the rest of the West for some time now. Can it help adopt a healthier way of life?

US and other Western consumer and other elements have been penetrating the rest of the world in recent times. Effects already visible.

Thus which of the two influences will be more effective? What will the new equilibrium be? For a) West b) Asia et al c) World?

Is the "party" over for the developed economies?

Can world GDP grow enough to accommodate deserved growth in the rest of the world while maintaining even current GDP levels in the G7? One could be tempted to predict that the "party" is over for the developed economies and now it's others' turn to prosper! Eg what effect will a 50% rise in GDP/capita of 2.5 bn ppl (China & India) in the near future have on the GDP/capita in US and EU?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Re-engineering the industrial era

Does the industrial era need re-engineering in terms of separating the pros and the cons and removing the cons?

The world as his/her home

In order to solve the big problems of humankind, is it necessary for each human to consider the whole planet his/her "home"? IMO, Yes, it is

If the Germans spend more, who will benefit, the rest of the Eurozone or China and other WTO economies?

So the savers must become spenders, the spenders savers, the exporters importers and the importers exporters?

If the German consumers spend more while the EU is in the WTO, most of the benefit will go to:

1) The Chinese and other non-EU (in WTO) "super cheap" exports
or
2) The exports of other Eurozone economies?

I suspect the former (1).

Does that mean that the EU should leave the WTO for the benefit of more balance in the Eurozone?

Brainstorming on world systemics: The US+EU scenario

US-EU Single Market or merger scenario (Medium Term, at best):

In a world of 7 bn with China 1.3 & India 1.2, the US has not enough size (eg internal
market) to compete or have autarky. Even with Canada.

The EU has less of a size problem (0.5 bn) but its Internal Market not working well (one of the barriers: 20+ languages) and still it is not large enough!

But an US+EU of 0.8 bn (possibly plus Canada) have enough size-population,
resources & compatibility (in prices, costs, various standards, in spite their differences) to be 1 of the 3-4 major entities in world stage later in this century.

A Global Polity for the Global Economy and the de-globalisation option

A "global" (or WTO-wide) Economy does not work properly & cannot be
sustained w/o a global (or WTO-wide) Polity.

That is source of current problems.

Other options include de-gobalisation (eg regionalisation, eg EU, ASEAN, Trans-Pacific Partnetship, Mercosur/USAN-UNASUR, African Union, ...) of global finance and even goods trade!

The right time for the EU to move forward is .....

To argue that the climate is not good for major forward looking amendments to the EU Treaty is IMO a fallacy!

In the early 90s, the Maastricht Treaty was turned down in Denmark and passed very narrowly in, of all places, France!

Thus what the EU needs in 2010 is Leadership!

Leadership to explain to the people why even ..."more Europe" is a must and a win-win option for the EU now, more than ever!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Economic immigrants will save the European Social Model

The way to address the aging population of EU effect on state finances in UK, Greece, France, etc, is not by dismantling their Social Models (eg see changes in the NHS) but by adopting a more open (realistic & humanist at the same time) policy (by EU & member states) on economic migration to the EU. Thus enrich the revenue base of the healthcare and other welfare systems instead of dismantling them.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Highway or the RN?

Slow down, smell the roses, move on the right lane (left in UK) of the highway or even better, take non-toll - RN ("route nationale" in France) roads.

Do less for more!

Can one have a successful worklife "outside" the "highways" of the job market and the economy? IMO, it is worth trying.

Unless one can play "their game" his/her own way. For more read my poem: The Highway to Success.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Yes, a deeper yet less/better regulated and legislated EU is feasible!

In the UK and other member states of the EU, "Brussels" are accused of producing complex, too much or simply bad laws and that is used as a premise for arguing against a deeper union or even return of (reclaim of) EU legislative competences or existing EU laws "back to" the national level!

Yet, over-regulation and over-legislation are not an endemic element of a deeper EU. There can be a deeper EU with fewer and better regulations and laws, but that means at fewer and better regulations and laws both the EU and the national (and state eg laender) level! And to a large extent of course the full replacement of national and sub-federal laws in some members states with federal structure (eg Germany) with EU laws. And a model of full shared EU sovereignty.

In other words over-regulation & over-legislation is a perennial (national) problem in most Member States that, "simply", has been "transposed" to the EU level over the last decades via the transfer of policy and law making mentalities of the member states to the EU level. And most politicians who accuse "Brussels" of over-regulation & over-legislation choose to ignore that same problem in their own countries!

Hence, there can be a better regulated and legislated deeper EU but some politicians in most member states must be willing to cut the BS.

Competitiveness. growth and employment in 2010

How many countries nowadays have a competitiveness model that is "working" and takes into account the global systemics? Are global systemics too complex and/or volatile for any country to develop a competitiveness, growth and employment model that works?

Is the present and future type of new jobs in the USA United States mostly low skill - low pay ones? In the EU? Can any model avert that? IMO, yes.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Goals or exports?

What is more important? The performance of a country's national soccer (football) team or of its economy?

EU lessons from Classical Greece

What lessons are there for the EU in the city-states of Classical Greece and the Hellenic, Delian and Peloponnesian Leagues?

Some thoughts re Independence and Sovereigny in 2010+ (on the occasion of July 4)

What factors define independence or sovereignty in 2010+?

Legislative independence from others? (eg "Brussels", a popular topic in England)? But then how about international law (eg trade agreements being a topic of debate in the US these days)?

Energy autarky?

Capital autarky? Do foreign investments and/or trade deficit undermine sovereignty? Should countries make a distinction between investment by private vs state foreign investors?

Yet, unlike people & goods, pollution (CO2 or nuclear), birds, the wind, volcanic ash, earthquakes, etc do not need permissions to cross borders.

Once upon a time a city was the optimal size of a state - country. What Is the optimal size today? Continental? Global (planetary)?


PS. What about the independence of a country and the global economy from speculative global finance?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

US and EU: Politics from the centre

Seems that many in the US media like bringing up intra #EU squabbles in order to forget or feel better re the ongoing US political mess (see eg the "situation" in the US Senate).

It is IMO apparent that the US poitical scene desperately needs a centrist political party (like eg the UK's LibDems) if not for Presidential elections, at least for federal and state House and Senate races and state Governor races.

Why?

Because there are IMO simply too many middle of the road minded American voters who cannot feel represented by either most GOP or Democrat candidates.

Of course something analogous is the case in some European countries where centrist parties do not exist and centrist - middle of the road voters have to choose between 2: Allegedly "centre-right" and "centre-left" parties!

When did we elect "The Markets"?

When did what the "markets" think become a surrogate for people's own opinion on what is going on in the world?

I do not recall going to a voting booth and electing "The Markets" as my representative in the political, public opinion or economic life!

Sovereignty in 2010+ terms

Decisions re self/household, company, country require effective awareness of both internal and external systemics and dynamics. Are you aware how economic, financial, political, policy and other systemics in the world affect your household, your company, your country?

How many households, companies, countries have the ability to adapt or capitalise on global and regional new systemics, dynamics, trends? IMO this ability of a country to adapt or capitalise on global & regional new systemics, dynamics, trends constitutes "Sovereignty" in 2010+

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Regional Systemics: South America is moving forward with UNASUR

While NAFTA is rather a "fail" and the EU is gazing at its navel, UNASUR, the African Union, the ASEAN and China, the Trans-Pacific Partnership seem to be moving forward in regional systemics.

Specifically, while the EU is suffering from Euro and xenophobia induced identity crisis, South American Integration seems to be progressing! UNASUR, which will merge Mercosur and the Andean Community (CAN) into an EU type of entity for South America selected its first Secretary General, the former president of Argentina, Nestor Kirchner, on May 4 (2010, for more on this see eg BBC News report).

In addition, the Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo has made a passionate appeal to his country's Congress (June 26) to overcome their concerns and approve the entry of Venezuela in Mercosur (Mercosur's energy (oil) autarky will benefit from Venezuela's power in oil). Paraguay being the only Mercosur member that has not adopted Venezuela's candidacy (for more see "Lugo Calls for Venezuela’s Entry into Mercosur" in Americas Quarterly)

Note: In November 2005, a few weeks before the failed Hong Kong WTO Ministerial meeting for the Doha Round of world trade talks, George Bush failed to rally the countries of the Americas (Mar del Plata meet) for an FTA (free trade area) of the Americas. Probably, for the best, ex post facto, of all parties concerned (given eg the fate of NAFTA and the Democrats and others' stance re US international trade agreements these days)

Monday, June 28, 2010

The just-in-time and #outsourcing effects on our world

IMO just-in-time (and outsourcing) rather than globalisation per se are most responsible for the decline in quality of life & work and in the environment. And for making the dynamics of this world so chaotic. Of course there are many factors, but these two, especially the first one, is IMO a dominant one.

Posted via email from nickpthinking

Friday, June 25, 2010

Globalisation? What globalisation? More like a figment of imagination or at best, an impression!

The US, EU, Canada, Japan and 9 more are negotiating a controversial "ACTA" (google it). If one adds 27 EU, that still makes only 40 out of 153 WTO members Another WTO "fail"? Or is it another sign that globalisation is a figment of imagination and what actually exists is an unbalanced (eg no economic immigration freedom, ie freedom of movement of "human capital"), largely unpopular system? A system that has failed to capture the imagination of the average citizen of this planet as well as the micro firms (1-9 ppl) and SMEs? A state of being that promises much more than it actually delivers via so called "free trade" of goods (in reality, merely "more free" or "less unfree" than before), services (how many services, esp. those that concern the average person or company are actually trade-able) and capital (that issue deserves a separate post)?

It is no surprise IMO that Simon Evenett's Global Trade Alert, that records not that obvious forms of barriers and distortions (ie "sneaky" acts of protectionism) has found (see "Protectionism: Pantomime villain fails to materialise" in the FT, by Alan Beattie, June 25, 2010 http://bit.ly/aqZhyy) that since the first G20 crisis-related summit of November 2008 where 20+ governments declared their commitment to free trade etc etc, governments around the world have put in place not only 99 traditional restrictions such as anti-dumping and countervailing duties but 397 other new "sneaky" protectionist policy measures. The latest report of Global Trade Alert is coming out this week and should make very interesting and telling read. It would also be interesting to know how many and which types of protectionist measures have been put in place by the US and the EU as well as the BRICs and of course China and Japan!

IMO the bottom line is that in spite of rhetoric, media and other hype, etc, globalisation is not an accurate name for the process that has been going on since post WWII GATT and the establishment of the WTO in the 1990s. IMO real globalisation would be a great thing. But, much like the European Integration (or even worse, NAFTA), it would require a much more humanist, systemically balanced establishment of real freedoms for real companies and real people. The world breaking news, the Internet, e-commerce, the social media etc do give the impression of a globalised world. But it is largely, just that, an impression. Eg how many companies other than those based in North America and some European countries (eg UK) have truly been able to engage in world trade via e-commerce at a substantive level? What % of the world's SMEs and micros?

So, what globalisation? The fact that there are now global players from Japan and the BRICs next to the traditional football, sorry, I meant trade and economic, traditional powers, plus the fact that most countries do some exporting of goods, does not constitute globalisation. And while the US and the EU are largely finally coming to terms with the idea that they are Services economies, while, strangely most of their export trade is still in the minority of GDP "manufactured goods" category, while some, including the author of this post, are claiming that the US (and maybe the EU) should depend more and more on meta-industrial age "intellectual products" for their export revenues (because sweat shop high labor intensity low skill low pay jobs do not for a better future or quality of life make), and while it of course makes perfect sense that many in the EU and the US are upset about the initially secretive method of ACTA negotiations, one is IMO allowed to ask:

What globalisation are you talking about (or is it "globalization")?

Posted via email from nickpthinking

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Does the EU (Brussels and member states) have the guts to lead to a new model of Capitalism?

A lot of financial, economic & other myths are crumbling this year in spite of the effort of some to divert the attention to other issues etc (some have been crumbling in the last 2-3 years but IMO this year it's a "quake" with "systemic" thrust).

Does the EU (Brussels (EC, EP, Council etc) + member states) have the guts to stand up to global finance & re-negotiate the role of finance in EU economy, society and life in general?

In other words does the EU have the guts to cause of an overhaul of the current model of capitalism model into a new better model or not?

Why?

Because IMO any open minded capitalist can see that the current model of capitalism is very faulty if not defunct! And world public opinion agrees. The US does not seem willing to do so.

The EU (Brussels and member states), does it have the will - guts?

The stakes are high not only for EU and Europeans but the whole world.

Capitalism is still the best available system, but the current model is not working and if not overhauled, it runs IMO the risk of destroying Capitalism as a system that is acceptable to people in Europe and around the world.

Can the EU assume that leadership, for its own sake and the world's (and Capitalism's)?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My views on elements of a new #competitiveness model for Greece #economy #in

If you want to read my article re elements for a Greek competitiveness model in the "N Business" section of the newspaper "Ta Nea" June 15 go to the PDF of the print edition at http://digital.tanea.gr/  and then scroll all the way down to pp. 38-39 of it (in Greek) - PS. I may do a post re competitiveness models in English in my blog sometime soon.

Posted via web from nickpthinking

Monday, June 14, 2010

18 thoughts (and 562 words) re EUrope's interest

The events in Europe, the US and the world prompted these thoughts of mine this (Monday) morning.

I was reading an interesting WSJ article this morning. The article and the data quoted in it show IMO how Asian (& US) manufacturing and other exporters were piggybacking on the "hard" Euro. Also begging IMO the question: Who was the so called engine of growth: a) Asian manufacturing (as claimed) or the EU consumers and/or the uber-hard Euro?

Which led me to the following sequence of thoughts:

1) If China's yuan-USD rate policy had an "X" impact on US imports, what can then be said of impact on Eurozone imports due to the ECB's hard Euro policy? X times 3, 5, 10, more?

2) Are the EU citizens' interests being served by EU's WTO membership especially but bot exclusively since China entry and strategy?

3) The ultimate way for the Euro to be promoted and for EUropeans to unite may be for the EU to leave the waning WTO system!
(Food for thought: Should the UK leave the EU or should the EU leave the WTO? lol)

4) Food fir thought: Should the EU consider leaving (even temporarily) the WTO in order to protect its interests (eg the Euro, its budgets, the Single Market, etc)?

5) How are the EU's micros, SMEs and "average" workers (and the European Social Model) being served by the EU's WTO membership?

6) Should the EU pull the plug of the current (and faulty) version of globalisation? And negotiate a new one with US, BRICs, ASEAN, etc?

7) Are these key strategic questions that the current "crisis" is diverting the EU and its members from considering? For whose benefit?

8) Which interests are promoting & capitalising on xenophobia in order to divide the EUropeans as well as alienate them from their fellow 6 billion humans?

9) What interests are promoting a) intra-national and b) inter-member-states squabbles in the EU in order to divert attention away from the EU's interests?

10) Who is afraid of the EU's Social Model, its 0,5 bn population, its socio-political values and their potential impact on the rest of the world?

Think those issues through! Do not get caught up in the plot as set out by certain interests!

11) Which interests are promoting narrow (tunnel vision) views on such issues as sovereignty, taxpayers interests, immigration & identity, etc?

12) Which interests are capitalising on national and other stereotypes to keep EUrope from union and to promote xenophobia?

13) Which interests are working hard to make EUrope again a place where progressive minds flee from rather than the whole world is drawn to?

14) Which interests are working hard to turn the European Dream of the last 50 yrs into a nightmare for EUropeans and other humans?

15) It is high time for a global campaign against a) rising xenophobia, b) anti-humanism & c) a "global apartheid" in the US, the EU, the world.

16) The sum of most national immigration policies in force around the world these days constitute in effect a "global apartheid".

17) Are we going to let fellow humans become the scapegoats for the problems we are facing in this era?

18) Elementary my dear Watson: Economic immigration should in principle be FREE at least between the countries that participate in the world trade WTO system

Thanks for reading (and thinking)!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Flash from the past (Sept. 2007): "What's holding back the Eurozone13?"

Going over some of my posts in my old blog I came up with this one, which seems quite relevant today in view of "things":

"What's holding back the Eurozone13?

Eurozone's economy grew by 2.5% (on an annual basis) in the second quarter of 2007 (Q2, April to June) or 0.3% from to the first quarter, after an expansion of 0.7% in the first quarter.

Is it investment or lack thereof, is it systemic reasons, ...? Is it that the single market does not work that well with the Eurozone? Or the exchange rate (strong Euro)?

What?

9/4/07"

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A key difference between the 20th and 21st centuries: From "How?" to "Why"

1) Fron "How?" to "Why?"





2) The Era of "Why?"

In the 20th century, the key question (in business, technology, decision making of all kinds) was "how".

In the 21st, I argue that the key question is "why".

Why?

Because the parameters of the system are changing. In many areas, full capacity conditions are being reached.

In reaching decisions of all kinds, businesses and other organisations, as well as people (individuals), are confronted with new parameters and constraints.

Opportunity costs (of doing one thing vs. another) are changing too.

Problems are becoming more complex, priorities are shifting.

Strategy and philosophy will become more important, as solutions become much more customised, reflecting the personal priorities of individuals or the individual priorities of each organisation.

More and more "one solution fits all" will be a less and less relevant ... solution.

Originally Written: 2003
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