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Much ado about nothing!

Louis Van Gaal – Box Office!

Written By: WGC - Jan• 10•15

Louis Van Gaal is in charge and there is no doubt about that! After the disastrous short reign of  David Moyes which was blighted by mixed messages and showings of insecurity, Manchester United finally have their man.

Louis Van Gaal is box office and his press conferences make very compelling viewing. He always gives his press conferences and interviews like he has been talking to the same person all the time; He constantly reminds of what he said before. He also has a refreshingly honest style and gives a lot to the press, while also seeming not to say enough.. Transfers are one particular area that he always says in Headmaster, or angry father tone, “ I do not discuss that with you, I discuss that with my CEO!”.

His style is very different to one of his great predecessors, Sir Alex Ferguson. However, they have the same feeling of authority and aura. Dare I say, LVG  seems to have a little bit more that he gives ! He has a little bit of ‘ je ne sais quoi’. Contrary to how he was portrayed before his arrival, I do see arrogance in the man, but not bad arrogance! I see a man with a lot of confidence. After all he is Louis Van Gaal !- a decorated coach who has won big titles with big clubs, in different countries.

There is no doubt that he will win the trophies at Manutd even in his first season! He gives so much reassurance and impossible not to respect. What is interesting is that Sir Alex used to almost demand respect and that was clear in his press conferences and interviews, but with LVG, its just his force of personality. It is just his manner and attitude which can be intimidating and enforces control, without actually vocalising it. Louis Van Gaal- Welcome to Manchester!

Its the economy, stupid!

Written By: WGC - Jul• 22•12

Despite all the misery they have caused us, banks still play a very important role. They keep our economies well oiled, or rather they should. Nothing can worsen our perception of banks now, they have done everything they should not do. There has been a complete erosion of trust, which is the basis of any relationship. Ironically, it goes without saying, that this is the sole reason why banks exist!

The Financial crisis which is in it’s for fifth year, can be largely attributable to the recklessness of the banks. This has caused untold suffering all over the world. What is even more unfortunate, is that, as the Fed and other central banks apply Quantitative Easing, this is hurting developing countries even more. Developing countries were not as highly leveraged as the West. Credit does not flow freely as in it does in the West. QE pushes up asset prices and the unintended consequence, is the rise in commodity prices. This makes basic food prices rocket, thus even more unaffordable, for third world masses.

The Libor scandal is the latest in an unacceptably long list of misdemeanours by banks. From the Global Financial Crisis, to the PPI scandals and the shameful bonuses, paid amid plunging share prices. There is a lot more… is it even worth the trouble? Banks are largely private companies, despite the recent part nationalisation of many. This means they should be accountable to their shareholders. As has always been a matter of large debate in Corporate Governance, they should also be accountable to the wider society.

This should apply more to banks, as they play such a crucial part in the economy .It is a great conundrum, a great dilemma. It is hard to get a proper balance. A balance between regulating banks, protecting society from their wayward tendencies and not suffocating them. Leaving them free enough, to be able to foster an enabling environment, to help economies thrive.  The economy is always in favour. This is what creates a moral hazard and enables them to push the envelope. To borrow a phrase from the then US Presidential candidate Bill Clinton,” It’s the economy, stupid”!

Who will police the police?

Written By: WGC - Aug• 01•11

 

The recent allegations of phone hacking revealed some very worrying issues of power of the media in “democracies”. Admissions of payments to the police have been made before and it is shocking to say the least, that an enquiry was not ordered at the time. It doesn’t take a law degree to figure that it is illegal and certainly unethical!

What is even more worrying is what it means for “democracy”. There is suggestion that politicians have not pursued these allegations with vigour in the past because of fear of reprisals from the media. The press claim to hold politicians to account and this appears good for democracy and governance. Politicians should not be comfortable with the press but certainly not fear them so much as to become “too close”

The press act as judge and jury in all aspects; they are self regulated. They also hound politicians and celebrities with impunity with a cloak of public interest. Public interest is a very much contested notion. Who determines it ? Do private matters of public figures necessarily constitute public interest? It is also interesting that a few weeks ago there was outcry over super-injunctions that were being taken by celebrities. People were saying that the privacy laws were over the top. Although there are differences, now the argument has completely reversed.

 

Now we see the other extreme; excessive, unjustifiable, shameful intrusion of people’s lives. I believe investigative journalism plays an important part in a democracy. More scrutiny aids better governance. The problem in the UK has been a plurality of the media. Diverse views are needed from different media. The media are so powerful and they can easily make or break reputations. They have a tremendous influence on public opinion. It can be argued that they are more powerful than politicians as can be seen with the way politicians appease them.

Some sections of the media often forget that they have no mandate. Yes, politicians must be questioned and held to account, but at least they have a mandate from the voting public.

The media can watch the politicians, but, who will police the police?

US downgrade, should we panic?

Written By: WGC - Apr• 22•11

Standard & Poor, the ratings agency this week re-assigned America’s credit rating from stable to negative. In English, this suggests that the US is in trouble. Is it really that much in trouble that its credit rating has been downgraded for the first time in 70 years?

This timing of this move is surprising because Obama has been reluctant to follow the austerity measures being adopted by a lot of Europe’s bigger economies all along, yet he now has had a change of heart. The bi-partisan nature of American politics suggests that Obama will struggle to get agreement by congress, however good his plan. The healthcare bill “battles” bear testimony. Is this why the Standard & Poor has acted this way? If that is the case then this raises questions on the credibility of these ratings. It appears speculative rather than based on fact, which you think it should be.

For clarification, Americas’ credit rating is still AAA, however, the negative outlook means there is a one in three chance it will be downgraded in two years. It is interesting to note that the effect of this news on the market was only a temporary lull and it soon recovered. What was even more odd was that bond yields decreased. It would not have been surprising to see more panic across markets given what Greece and other European countries with fiscal problems have gone through. A plausible reason could be that this served warning .As a result, action would finally be taken to reduce the deficit from its current levels of around 100% of GDP. Hence the markets view this as positive.

However, despite all the headlines this news created, we should not forget why America is in fiscal turmoil. The financial crisis has been largely blamed on the subprime mortgages which originated in America  and the associated  complex derivates. Whilst greed and excessive risk taking or lack of adequate regulation can be blamed, let us not forget the rating agencies. The financial world relied on these rating agencies and this trust was misplaced. If the rating agencies had rated those toxic assets correctly maybe they would not have been any financial crisis to talk about or perhaps less severe.

That is why perhaps we should be sceptical about the negative outlook on the credit rating of the world’s largest economy. The credibility of the ratings agencies was severely harmed by the Global financial crisis.

 

Is East the new West?

Written By: WGC - Jan• 16•11

The year 2010 was the beginning of a decade which was markedly different from the previous.  The millennium began with a lot of apprehension about what  “2000” would mean for computers and related systems. There was  a prediction of widespread pandemonium with some alarmists even predicting the end of existence….They could not have been more wrong!

However, the world changed like never before and the pace faster than ever before. In just a decade China has moved from being a  relative lightweight to being without doubt the next  world superpower.  Since it signed on to the WTO,the “ worlds warehouse” has galloped to being the world`s second largest economy. It is only a matter of time till it overtakes the US.

The 2007 Global Financial crisis certainly helped its cause as it left the West weaker than ever. Talks of the Yuan replacing the US dollar as the global reserve currency are becoming louder, something which would have been inconceivable a few years back. Economic strength brings clout and soon China will be calling all the shots.

China despite its huge population, is still not as a huge a consumer as the US for instance. This will take a while. Cultural factors and governance are possible reasons, but the time will come when it becomes not only a large producer but also a large consumer. Affluence increases with prosperity and the Chinese will buy more discretionary goods.

With the Indian economy also growing rapidly, the end of this decade could even be more different.  There is no doubt that the US will emerge from this slump, but the question is whether it will ever enjoy past prosperity, with the worlds landscape vastly different and still changing!

How fast ,How deep – The Tory gamble.

Written By: WGC - Dec• 04•10

The comprehensive spending review delivered by the Chancellor George Osborne was a big gamble with the economy, at a time when we are witnessing more than just green shoots of recovery. GDP figures just released show a 0.8% rise in the third quarter. Although less than the 1.2% rise in GDP in Q2, it is still very positive news. The question therefore is whether it is right to unleash such massive cuts to public spending when sustained economic growth is already uncertain with many commentators even predicting a double dip recession.

The argument of the coalition government is that there is an urgent need to start reducing the huge debt that the UK has and that failure to do so may jeorpadise the AAA credit rating of the country. The UK already has a massive interest bill which is greater than the GDP of many developing countries. Whilst the cuts seem to vindicate the decision of the chancellor in that Standard and Poor ,the credit rating agency responded by upgrading the view on the UK economy.

The Prime minister, David Cameron has always spoken about his idea of the “big society” well before he came into power. This seems to suggest that the cuts may just be ideological. It gives the right wing Tories just the perfect excuse to slash the size of the state. It is true that there was a lot of waste in government but reform to the welfare system may have far reaching consequences. The slashing of housing benefit whilst sensible in some cases, because of the outrageous amounts of benefit some families receive is still very contentious. The poorest people may be forced to move out of inner city areas in London for example . This is likely to cause Ghettos where the poorest people can afford . At a time where unemployment is rising, the social consequences could be disastrous.

A poisoned chalice?

Written By: WGC - Sep• 04•10

It  was an event that invoked strong emotions of different kinds the world over.  It had seemed impossible for a long time yet finally it had happened. It gave renewed hope to so many all over the world for different reasons. Many said “Yes we can” for various reasons. Barack Hussein Obama the son of an African immigrant had taken oath of the office of President .  The first non-white American President and with a ‘funny’ name to add to it.

I remember dismissing his chances, with a chuckle, in the primaries.  By the end of the elections I had spent so much of my time glued to the tv to watch the unfolding of this historic occasion. So much was expected of Obama, not only in America but the world over.

Obama became President amid one the worst financial crises in recent times. The global financial crisis of 2007-2009, largely attributed to the subprime mortgages, had swept all over the world plunging the financial markets into turmoil. All the theories of decoupling had been tested and now proven to be a farfetched fallacy. The world was connected!

Excessive leveraging had created a debt bubble. Securitisation  in the “casino banking” era had resulted in creation of financial instruments  which no one understood. The wholesale credit markets had frozen and resulted in a global recession which many feared would lead to a depression.  Western governments began many measures of trying to stimulate their economies. They tried almost everything save for dropping money from helicopters.

This was the world economy when Obama took over and demand had been sapped , everyone was in fear. On the  foreign policy  front, America was arguably the most hated nation in the world largely because of the policies of “ Its either you are with us or you are against us” of George Walker Bush. Post 9/11, the world had changed and threats of terrorism always real and present.

Domestic-wise, immigration and health care were some of the thorny issues to be tackled. Fast forward to now, a few months before the mid-terms which the Democrats are thought to be awaiting a heavy defeat. Obama  having signed his very controversial Health care reform  bill into law, amid strong resistance. Job numbers still low and talks of a double dip recession gaining momentum.

Was this a poisoned chalice? Was Obama destined to fail? It is even more worrying that his poll numbers now suggest there is a strong possibility he could go down as one of the most unpopular Presidents of all time. “Yes we can!” was his catch phrase as he whipped America into euphoria during his campaign. Can he ? I am not at all suggesting  that all things were just against him… Obama has made some PR blunders of his own.;notably the row of the police with the prominent black Harvard professor . Michelle Obama holidaying with her taxpayer paid entourage in Spain,at a time when America was adopting austerity measures and everyone cutting back.

Time will tell…

What can we learn from Tiger Woods?

Written By: WGC - Aug• 15•10

Golf is certainly not one of the most popular sports in the world, although it does have  a sizeable following. What continues to amaze me though is this guy who calls himself Tiger Woods. Love him or hate him, this guy is special. He is in my books the greatest golfer of all time and  arguably the greatest SPORTSMAN of all time!

As I write, Tiger has just shot a 2 under par at the US PGA and way off the lead. He has not won any tournament since his much publicised marital problems. He remains number one in the World rankings amazingly. He golf this year has at times been awful to say the least, even scoring a 78 in a recent tournament and finishing 18 OVER! Yet he remains the centre of attention in golfing circles and beyond.

Tiger has been world number one for about five years now and he has dominated the sport like no other. Forget about Federer at his best in tennis, or Schumacher in that red car. Put simply Tiger Woods IS golf! Even in these troubled times he still manages some magic that is just breathtaking.

This guy is an inspiration to anyone. People try to knock him down, his marriage and his life in general have taken an enormous battering of late, but he still has that twinkle and those moments of sheer brilliance. He has said that his recent inconsistent form is due to lack of practice. That brings me to the point of this article…. Surely took a long time!!!

How can a man who has so much talent and dominated so much, need to practice regularly? Thats the secret to all our lives. That explains why we always have things we wish we could do better. “I studied so much for that exam and I still didnt do well” – You often here people say. The one secret to SUCCESS and MASTERY is PERSISTENCE. No matter how good you are in something, you have to be like Tiger ! You have to continue to give your all, or you will start to decline. In fact all top professional sports persons train more than anyone else ?! Most people think these rich athletes are just lucky. Little do they realise the hard work that they put in. If you really woke up at 5 every morning and stuck to such a strict diet like athletes, maybe you would not have that bulging belly..maybe that dress would fit . And just maybe you could buy that dream house and that dream car .I can cite so many examples . To be a SUCCESS you have to continue to put in the effort. In life if you are not growing you are declining…simple !  And …I have some golf to watch!

Information overload

Written By: WGC - Jul• 24•10

As I begin to write this, a television advert of a new search engine of a major company comes to mind. In different forms of this advert, someone asking for directions faces a barrage of responses some relevant, others not so. This is akin to the kind of responses you get when you enter a word or phrase on a internet search engine as it tries to match key words.

I cannot say that technology has not made life easier in some respects, but it comes it with some undesirable aspects as well. Every day many companies and individuals try to get our attention in some way; I have numerous leaflets through my door each morning advertising various things. As I have my cup of coffee and absent mindedly watch the news  preparing to go work, I chuckle at some “new discovery” by some professor about how maybe fish is not that good after all, or something crazy like that.

What am I supposed to know ? What really is relevant? On my way to work on the tube I do the obligatory check of Facebook and emails. I check my personal emails a few times a day and always find more than ten emails each time and I have to sift through to find what is important.

Now I know this article is probably not coherent and my thoughts seem to be all over the place….. that is just how I feel.  Just try and enter “honey” for instance on google and you get 100 million results! I mean this is just ludicrous.

Just to change subject, but not completely though, the other day I heard on the news that in America somewhere you could now hire a friend online! So just as dating sites operate, you pay to meet up with someone. Only that this time you pay for that time ONLY so I suppose the same way as “escorts” work. That is what the world has come to. With lack of time and availability of technology everything is now being done online.

I better check my emails now anyways. And if anyone wants a friend to chat to I am available for about £50 an hour !

World Cup 2010 Concludes….

Written By: WGC - Jul• 24•10
Many doubted its success; Africa would never be able to hold such a big event they said. Infrastructure and security were amongst the greatest concerns. The 2010 World Cup has now come and gone. Hugely successful by most measures!
The first World Cup to be held in Africa shall be remembered for many things. Sadly though, football is not one of them. There were markedly fewer goals in this tournament than previous ones. Possible reasons cited were the “Jabulani” ball which many players said did not just go where it was “kicked” … Others think players now have far too many games during the season that they are very tired at the season end. Whatever the reason, the Vuvuzela will forever buzz!
I just felt really cheated somehow; no hustling from Wayne Rooney, no 40 yard goals from Christiano Ronaldo or just any goal at all from the World Player of the year Lionel Messi, who scored more than 40 for Barcelona in the season just gone. This World Cup lacked quality so much that …well… it was just inexplicable.
The big question now is what does it mean for Africa ? Does it mean anything or its just another game played, grown men chasing a ball around? One cannot fail to ask why there are so many top African players in the biggest teams in Europe and elsewhere, yet African football is still disappointing? Governance is the biggest issue affecting our beautiful continent and unless that changes we will continue to applaud others. On that note , a big applause to Spain. Fantastic goal from Andres Iniesta in that Barcelona dominated Spanish squad- Vamos!