General Elections in the United Kingdom and the GCC

General Elections in the United Kingdom and the GCC

This article of Jameel Ahmad, Vice President of Corporate Development and Market Research at FXTM and BA (Hons) degree in Business Studies with Accountancy and Finance from the University of the West of England published on AMEinfo of May 31st, 2017  is pertinently about the General Elections in the United Kingdom and the GCC.  It was the UK Prime Minister who called for these elections for next Thursday, in fact three years earlier than scheduled.
The reasons were to obviously strengthen the hands of the eventual winner who will be deemed to negotiate the Brexit with the European Union.
These elections might however affect all countries, starting of course with those of the EU but also those of the GCC; object of this article of Jameel Ahmad. 

GD93WH London, UK. 13th July, 2016. Theresa May addressing the worlds press on her first day as prime minister in Downing Street. Credit: Eye Ubiquitous/Alamy Live News

Could the upcoming UK election represent a risk to GCC markets?

With the OPEC meeting now in the past, investor attention has shifted towards the United Kingdom and the upcoming General Election scheduled for 8 June. Although the market currently appears calm ahead of the event, this event it does represent a risk for emerging assets and this will include those markets in the UAE and GCC region.

With investors currently positioning in favour of Theresa May being declared victorious next week, there is a risk that investors are heavily under-pricing any other potential outcomes at present. The largest risks to emerging market assets are generally when potential outcomes are heavily underpriced, and recent history from the EU Referendum last June is a kind reminder of what can happen when investors are caught on the wrong side of the trade. If recent history does indeed repeat itself then investors are more likely than not going to divert into “risk-off” mode, where riskier assets like the stock markets and emerging assets suffer from low attraction and safe-haven assets like Gold and the Japanese Yen surge from buying demand.

Politics to continue influencing the Pound’s direction

After suffering its heaviest week of losses so far in 2017, the British Pound is attempting to consolidate around 1.28 against the US Dollar. I personally think that politics will continue to influence the direction of the British Pound and I believe that there is further momentum for the currency to fall with the UK General Election being a little over a week away. In general, the markets do not like uncertainty and this is the recurring theme for the UK at present with another election around the corner and ongoing Brexit uncertainty continuing to dominate news headlines.

My view is that even following the dip lower from the 2017 highs above 1.30 is that the financial markets are still underpricing the risk of an unexpected outcome to the election next week. Investors in general stacked their cards heavily in favour of Theresa May being declared the winner following the unexpected calling of a snap election, but opinion polls are currently showing that the race to win the election is going to be close. I can’t help but think that recent history could be repeating itself with the markets currently underpricing the risk of an outcome that could differ to what the markets expect, which is a Conservative victory on 8 June.

USD JPY – a game of politics vs economics

The British Pound is not alone in being underpinned to political risk, with politics vs. economics being the name of the game when it comes to trading the USDJPY. I believe that politics will continue to dictate the direction of this pair as we head into the second half of 2017, and I am actually favouring towards the Japanese Yen covering further ground against its counterparts on the back of safe-haven buying.

A lack of optimism around the likelihood that President Trump will be able to push forward with his legislative reforms will put the spotlight firmly on Washington, and I think that this will result in further pressure on the USD. Any further market uncertainty in the United States will eventually lead to investors being lured back into the safe-haven appeal of the Yen.

EUR USD – facing near-term selling pressure

The likelihood that the ECB will repeat its dovish rhetoric during its Central Bank meeting in June is encouraging traders to enter selling positions on the Eurodollar after the pair reached new 2017 milestone highs above 1.12 last week. Despite economic data around Europe continuing to improve confidence that the economy has turned a corner, the market is swaying towards the belief that the ECB will repeat in June that the economy still requires ECB stimulus and this could result in the Eurodollar slipping further towards 1.10.

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The British Library of Euston Road, London

The British Library of Euston Road, London

Shhh . . . in the Library 

The British Library of Euston Road, London is next to King’s Cross and St Pancras International rail stations. It received the highest listed building status, and joins the top 2.5% of listed buildings in England.  As per History of the British Library, the origins and foundations of this significant library which was established in 1753 started as a donation that was given to the library from the Royal book collection of King George III.

Libraries were in existence long before Britain was even called Britain.  Over millennia they have embodied intellectual high point of a civilisation promoting the values, traditions and history that bind a people together.  This fact is also well understood by conquerors who will typically attempt to destroy all forms of social cohesion that might spur resistance.  Libraries and museums are prime targets for destruction for more than financial reasons.

library-of-celsus-at-ephesus-destroyed-by-earthquake-and-then-invasionThe destruction of the Great Library of Alexandria is also one of the greatest cultural losses in history (one of many).  This institution was at its height from the 3rd century BCE and was the focus of academic studies of all kinds in the ancient world.  Destruction took place in waves beginning with the Romans under Julius Caesar and reaching a conclusion sometime after the Muslim conquest in the 7th century.

There are many other lamentable examples, the Imperial library of Constantinople was destroyed by Christian crusaders, the House of Wisdom in Bagdad was destroyed by Mongol invaders and the Madrassah library in Cordoba was destroyed during the Christian reconquest of Spain.  Oddly, there are more recent examples too, in 1548 CE, Glasney Library in Cornwall was destroyed in an attempt to suppress Cornish language and identity.  These events, alas, continue.

wimborne-minister-chained-libraryBefore the advent of printing, books were often truly irreplaceable.  They were the possession of the very wealthy or academic institutions in `chained’ libraries.  There are still a few chained libraries to be seen around Britain.  As books began to cheapen in the 18th century, subscription libraries were formed.  This still left libraries out of reach for most people.  In 1850, the Public Libraries allowed local authorities to run free libraries and these rapidly thrived.  Into the 20th century, these were heavily used, however, books continued to become cheaper and up-to-date information is often more easily be obtained online.  I do know that libraries are practical but I too am tempted by the pristine look and feel of new books and the wonderful sales pitch on the book which has been phrased by some of the world’s most talented wordsmiths.     A new paper book often costs £7 and that is not cheap for a lot of us at all.  We get them home we often read them once and put them on our bulging shelves in our small modern houses.  Libraries have modernised and now also offer very popular internet services but there is still pressure to close them and many have closed already.

Although books are cheaper than ever, however, they are not free and many people on lower incomes (often those on pensions) do rely on libraries.  Where libraries have closed some local communities have found imaginative places to create tiny local libraries and informal book exchange is popular in all kinds of places.  The internet is corruptible; books can last centuries and embody us.    I do hope we can remember to use them and look at content rather than covers.

Meanwhile, I would like to invite all to Explore the British Library.  and / or pay it a visit if you happen to be in the neighbourhood.  According to Wikipedia, the British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and the largest library in the world by number of items catalogued.  It also has a document storage centre and reading room near Boston Spa, 2.5 miles (4.0 km) east of Wetherby in West Yorkshire.

Gentle lupins and tall hollyhocks

Gentle lupins and tall hollyhocks

English Country Garden

How many gentle flowers grow in an English country garden?
I’ll tell you now, of some that I know, and those I miss I hope you’ll pardon.
Daffodils, hearts-ease and flocks, meadow sweet and lilies, stocks,
Gentle lupins and tall hollyhocks,
Roses, fox-gloves, snowdrops, forget-me-knots in an English country garden.

How many insects find their home in an English country garden?
I’ll tell you now of some that I know, and those I miss, I hope you’ll pardon.
Dragonflies, moths and bees, spiders falling from the trees,
Butterflies sway in the mild gentle breeze.
There are hedgehogs that roam and little garden gnomes in an English country garden.

How many song-birds make their nest in an English country garden?
I’ll tell you now of some that I know, and those I miss, I hope you’ll pardon.
Babbling, coo-cooing doves, robins and the warbling thrush,
Blue birds, lark, finch and nightingale.
We all smile in the spring when the birds all start to sing in an English country garden.

Beautiful back yard

This lovely old song sums up the appeal of gardens in England.  I think there are few countries where people take much pride in the little space around their houses, there is certainly some competition between neighbours and so it was with shame that I sat in my garden and observed that it looked poor compared to next door’s garden.  This is a situation that must be corrected.

As the song says, there is a great wealth of plants found here and the potential for a truly green lawn as well as a refuge for wildlife in our increasingly crowded island.

Britain is a temperate country and this favours gardening.  Gardeners worry about all sorts of things but the most worrying is the collapse of the bee population worldwide.  Bees of course, are not simply the carriers of pollen from one pretty plant to another but a vital conduit of crop fertilization worldwide.  Bee population collapse is no minor agriculture issue and the subject of frantic research that has linked problems to various things including pesticides and climate change.

Historically, gardens were vital sources of food for the rural poor but even in their gardens you would have found the odd lupin or rose.  Many plants such as St John’s Wort, had medical uses before our wonderful free National Health Service was born.     Fruit and Veggies

During the Second World War, gardens were an important source of extra nutrition and almost every inch would be planted with vegetables or fruit which would be preserved for winter in pickles or jams.  The traditional busy country garden is still very popular but of course, is less given over to food production.

Gardens unfortunately, have gradually shrunk lately and the limited space needs careful.  Garden design is quite an industry these days and we might have seaside style gardens, Zen gardens or container based gardens that utilize the smaller space available   Perhaps, private gardens are aspiration of beautiful and safe privacy but even those without gardens can enjoy a public park.

A peacock at Kew Gardens in Autumn

A peacock at Kew Gardens in Autumn

Wishing you well in your beautiful places in the last days of summer.

Implications of Brexit for democracy?

Implications of Brexit for democracy?

An article written by Dhruva Jaishankar on June 29th, 2016 for the Huffington Post has attracted our attention and we reproduce it here for our friends of the MENA region and elsewhere.  The obvious interest in such article is not only that of the Brexit representing the first major casualty of the ascent of digital democracy over representative democracy but also the fundamental fact of a majority expressing itself like this time against the wishes of the elite with however the help and / or assistance of the contemporary digital media.

Brexit: The first major casualty of digital democracy  . . .

Dhruva Jaishankar writes that with all the questions about what happens next, there’s a bigger question worth asking: What are the implications of Brexit for democracy? Arguably, Brexit represents the first major casualty of the ascent of digital democracy over representative democracy. This piece was originally posted by The Huffington Post.

In the aftermath of the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union, we are left with more questions than answers. What kind of relationship will the UK now forge with the EU, and how will that affect economic relations and migration? Will Scotland and Northern Ireland opt to leave? What is the future of British politics, given turbulence within both the Conservative and Labour Parties? Will a successful Brexit set a precedent for other EU members — perhaps even some eurozone members– to leave the union? What are the long-term economic consequences of the resulting uncertainty? Will Brexit even happen at all, given the absence of a clear post-referendum plan, the apparent unwillingness of ‘Leave’ campaign leaders to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, and the fact that the referendum was advisory and non-binding? Answers to these questions will make themselves evident in the coming weeks, months, and years.

[D]igital democracy… has contributed to polarization, gridlock, dissatisfaction and misinformation.

But there’s a bigger question worth asking: What are the implications of Brexit for democracy? Arguably, Brexit represents the first major casualty of the ascent of digital democracy over representative democracy. This claim deserves an explanation.

When historians look back at the world of the past 25 years, they will likely associate it not with terrorism or growing inequality but with the twin phenomena of the “rise of the rest” (particularly China and India) and of globalization. Globalization involves the easier, faster and cheaper flow of goods, people, capital and information. One big enabler of globalization is the internet, the global network of networks that allows billions of people to cheaply and easily access enormous amounts of digital information. The rise of service and high-technology industries, trade liberalization, container shipping, and the development of financial markets have also been important enablers, as is the increased ease and lower cost of travel, particularly by air.

Many technology optimists have assumed that globalization would lead to the democratization of information and decision-making, and also greater cosmopolitanism. Citizens would be better informed, less likely to be silenced, and able to communicate their views more effectively to their leaders. They would also have greater empathy and understanding of other peoples the more they lived next to them, visited their countries, read their news, communicated, and did business with them. Or so the thinking went.

Read more on Brookings.edu

The UK construction industry’s lack of BIM skills

The UK construction industry’s lack of BIM skills

In a Survey that revealed concern about the UK construction industry’s lack of BIM skills (building information modelling), it has emerged that it is not only a key concern for industry professionals but it is an issue far bigger than them.

THE CONSTRUCTION INDEX Published on 13 March 2016 the following survey report that was osted by the TBH editor 

A survey of 300 industry professionals found that while they were concerned about skilled labour shortages in traditional trades, building information modelling (BIM) was a bigger issue for them.

The survey was conducted by BRE Academy, the training arm of the Building Research Establishment.

Its report said that sustainability and environmental skills as well as trades such as plastering, electrical and plumbing were in short supply across construction.  However BIM and management skills, seen as key to future development, were seen as lacking on a wider industry as well as an individual company or organisation basis.

The survey also highlighted construction’s image problem, with 91% of respondents saying that people outside the industry have a different perspective of the industry than those within it.

A need was identified to establish ‘clear and appealing’ career pathways for young entrants to the industry, with 74% of respondents saying that these should be ‘actively promoted’ and 67% saying that there should be more focus on promoting construction’s hi-tech and digital aspects.

In addition the industry should be promoted more to academically minded students as well as those aiming for vocational qualifications, according to the survey respondents.

Elaborating further, the report identified key improvements in the areas below:

  • Schools
  • Professional Bodies
  • Government
  • How Schools Can Help.

It was felt that schools can do more to help for example promoting the value of apprentice schemes and non-academic qualifications to secondary age students, as well as promoting the industry to academically-minded students. It was also felt that high profile projects e.g. The Shard and Cross Rail would help elevate the construction industry in the minds of students.

How Professional Bodies Can Help

It was widely felt that professional bodies should take the lead in terms of promoting the high level of skills required in industry, in particular promoting technical training and promoting the range of opportunities in the industry and the skills required. It was also requested that professional bodies offer a wider range of memberships with reduced fees to accommodate a wider cross-section of the construction industry.

How Government Can Help

Most responses centred around government working to empower smaller, local businesses to offer excellent apprenticeship training programmes for young people. As well as working more closely with colleges and schools and partnering with local employers to increase promotion of apprenticeships / technical apprentices. It was also felt that government should demonstrate a greater commitment to SMEs e.g. offering them greater financial support to operate training /apprenticeship schemes.

For reading more see the BIM Hub .