Sunday, 30 December 2012


While I am having a good Christmas with families, friends and loved ones, I am missing out on football due to waterlogged pitches with the County fixtures at Rodney Parade v Barking (on the 22nd) and Hereford (away at Edgar Street) on the 29th December falling victim to the rain. Honestly there is only so much Borgen you can watch! One belated Christmas present that did arrive was a good away win for Swansea City at Fulham, hopefully a few more wins will follow shortly. Cardiff City remain on top of the Championship, hopefully they will join Swansea in the premiership.

Newport county and Wrecsam remain (at present) respectively second and third in the Blue Square Premier (both sides meet at 7.45pm on Friday 4th January (at Rodney Parade). Football tribalism aside I want success for the other Welsh football clubs (and Welsh football period). I want to see Swansea City do well this season, and Cardiff City join them (preferably not via the play-offs) in the Premiership next season. I want to see Newport County (as Champions) and Wrecsam (as play-off winners) promoted as Champions from the Blue Square Conference this season. I hope that Colwyn Bay manage to stay in Blue Square North and see no reason why Merthyr Town can also not get promoted again this season.

Reguardless of the code, sporting success on the field is difficult enough but made more difficult by the economic situation, which hits costs and attendances. What would be nice would be better all round media coverage for Welsh football (outside of the Premiership and the Championship) for the rest of us. S4C’s Sgorio does an excellent job on Monday evenings but BBC Wales despite a significant improvement in recent months, could do better. Better media coverage would be good for the game in general and the clubs specifically. Here's hoping that the second half of the County's season continues as it has in the first half.

My optimism (the sporting kind) goes beyond the round ball game to rugby and I am ever hopeful (being a season ticket holder) that the Gwent Dragons (“Don't pass the ball to opposition players and kick it between the posts, not past them”) and Newport RFC will turn the corner between now and the end of the season. At a regional level I think that we need central contracting with the WRU running the show, with four regions along the Irish model - while they may not know it - the time of big egos and big moneymen has passed.

Saturday, 22 December 2012


A Plaid Cymru government would begin working now to significantly reduce tolls on the Severn Bridges and to make the statement that Wales is open for business for companies from over the border, said the party’s Shadow Minister for Transport. Rhodri Glyn Thomas has called on the Welsh Government to make the case for responsibility for the bridge to be devolved so that Wales can benefit from it.

Ownership of the bridge will be passed to the Department for Transport when the private company which owns it pays back its debt, which is likely to happen in 2018.

Rhodri Glyn Thomas said that a £2 toll for using the bridge will cover maintenance costs for the bridge. Running costs for the Severn Bridge amount to £15 million a year. Currently, consumers and businesses pay in excess of £72 million every year to cross the bridge.

Party of Wales Shadow Minister for Transport, Rhodri Glyn Thomas said:

“Plaid Cymru has always said that lowering the Severn Bridge tolls would bring huge benefits for the Welsh economy. In 2011 it was our manifesto commitment to reduce the tolls and a Plaid Cymru government would be making the case for that now.

“When the private company relinquishes its ownership of the bridge in 2018, the Welsh Government needs to be ready to step in for the benefit of the people of Wales.

“People travelling home to see their families over Christmas will be charged £6 and businesses with lorries will have to may so much more, and this goes against everything the Welsh Government should be doing to improve the Welsh economy.

“Cutting the toll to cover maintenance would save millions for consumers and businesses and would cost the Welsh Government nothing. The UK Government needs to commit to giving the democratically elected Welsh Assembly control over the bridges so that Plaid Cymru’s economic policy can be implemented in the interest of the people of Wales.”

Friday, 21 December 2012


Well before the financial collapse, the party formerly known as New Labour (under Blair) signed up to and embraced the agenda of neo liberal capitalism and made its own. Basically neo liberal capitalism aims to restructure government institutions and regulatory bodies so that they embody the logic of the market and see their primary objective as the creation and policing of conditions for the competitive operation of essentially private markets.

The only real spat that New Labour had with George Bush, was when he brought in protective tariffs for the US Steel industry something that would had directly impacted on some of New Labour’s wealthy comrades in arms and fellow travellers. One result of this neo liberal capitalism was that most states in the world ended up with fatally weak redistributive mechanisms, weak financial regulation and a culture of excessive overpayment within banking and financial operations.

In developing countries like China, India and Brazil led to an increase in investors who were seeking opportunities to invest outside of their economies. The US and other financial systems had been deregulated (in the 1980’s); this allowed a virtual explosion of new financial packages to attract internal and overseas investors. The key problem with this was that these new financial packages basically repackaged risk, and sold in a way that much of the risk was pretty much hidden from investors.

One of the largely overlooked side-effects or consequences of the effective abandonment of financial regulation was the explosive growth of investments that aimed to make money out of money which had little or no link to the productive economy. It has been estimated that around 90% of financial transactions had little to do with generating goods, products and services and actual jobs.

What made things worse (potentially) was that even the ratings agencies themselves failed to understand the potential risks that were involved in this process, so the investors stood little change on their own, and a potential financial disaster loomed. The final problem came when the US home mortgage bubble, which had been aggravated by deregulation, was fed by a rapid unsustainable growth in home purchases inside the USA (simular events took place simultaneously in Ireland, Spain and elsewhere).

This led to a growth of debt and decline in savings. When property prices crashed, homeowners were unable to borrow more money against the value of their properties to pay of their debts. The property collapse hit the securities market, which had grown massively on top of home mortgages, as a result some serious financial players, went bust or were propped up by governments using tax payers money.

As a result of the financial collapse is that those institutions that have survived have effectively become risk averse and won’t lend funds to existing or new businesses, thus making the recession worse.  What may make things worse for all of us is that all of the Westminster focused political parties have bought into the free market driven economy, which was largely a product (in the UK) of the experience of the winter of discontent (1978 – 1979).

Even though a largely unregulated banking activities brought us the world wide recession / depression there is little talk of effective financial regulation and no assertively expressed alternatives to it. The Westminster elites abject surrender to the City’s money men leaves the most vulnerable in our society at the mercy of the free market, over the twenty years before the crash the rich have got richer (and have continued to do so) and the lower paid have been left with little option but to borrow.

Thursday, 20 December 2012


The worst journey in the world
David Cameron’s decision to honour the Arctic convoy veterans is the right decision even if it was a long time coming. Mr Cameron told MPs he had accepted the recommendations of a review of military medals carried out by former diplomat Sir John Holmes. Russia’s gratitude to the naval and merchant navy veterans who ferried supplies to Murmansk and Archangel during the Second World War has long been noted.

The veterans risked their lives time and time again convoying crucial supplies through often atrocious weather and hostile seas to the hard pressed (then) Soviet Union, which was fighting for survival. The Foreign Office (and the Ministry of Defence) had previously repeatedly (under both Labour and Conservative Governments) blocked this move saying that it would break the rules surrounding acceptance of medals. The Russian Embassy had expressed its 'deep regret' at this decision, which was understandably been condemned by surviving convoy veterans, their families and supporters.

Between August 31, 1941 and May 22, 1945, some 78 Allied Arctic Convoy (more than 1,400 merchant ships escorted by ships of the British, U.S. and Canadian Navies) sailed to the ports of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk.  Some 85 merchant vessels and 16 Royal Navy warships were sunk by Nazi submarines and approximately 3,000 British servicemen were killed during the Arctic campaign.

The significance of lend-lease supplies for the Eastern front by Soviet-bound Arctic convoys and their role in defeating fascism is still emerging. The convoy veterans and the vital supplies they delivered were temporarily lost in the often hot rhetoric of the Cold War. Oleg Rzheshevsky, the Russian war historian, has noted that apart from everything else, the convoys were a powerful moral influence.

"The moral aspect of the Arctic Convoys meant a lot. This was an extremely important factor both for the army and for all our people as it signalled that we were not alone in that war but had strong allies such as Britain and the United States. This helped boost our troop morale on the battlefield and supported our people on the home front."

Successive Westminster governments had previously promised to create a medal, yet they all failed to deliver on their promise. The Russian Government has awarded our veterans three medals, the arctic convoys are now part of Russia’s school curriculum. The Russian Government and the Russian people understand the convoy’s importance, yet successive UK Governments seem to really struggle with this, at least until now.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012


It will come as no surprise to those who know them that Labour in Wales councillors in Newport have voted against motion to keep free parking in Newport Town centre. So much for the 4,011 people who signed the petition (organised by the South Wales Argus) calling on Newport city council to think again. The Argus reported that Labour in Wales councillor for Gaer, Herbie Thomas, told the council had to stop kidding themselves and that no one shopped in the city centre anymore. He was reported as saying: "The town centre is finished. Let's not kid ourselves anymore. People shop differently now." So much for Labour caring for Newport. On Tuesday evening after some spirited exchanges the motion to oppose the plan to introduce charging for parking was voted down by 32 against and 10 votes (with one Labour abstention).

Tuesday, 18 December 2012


In Northern Ireland there is clear evidence of some long term thinking as more than £ 44 million pounds has been approved to boost green energy generation including potentially some 1,000 megawatts of renewable wind generation. Some of the funding will go to improve the transmission network and sub stations. The Northern Ireland Executive has set a target of generating 40% of the Northern Ireland’s energy from renewable sources by 2020.

The Scottish Government revealed its new green energy target set at 50% of demand by 2015. The Scots have already surpassed their 31% target for 2001 by about 4%. The SNP Government has stated that the new target would help build on the current 11,000 jobs in green energy following a "bumper year" for investment, with projects estimated to be worth £2.3 billion pounds.

The Scottish government's new interim target for 2015 is included in a refreshed Routemap for Renewable Energy for Scotland. Sustainable energy generation has been boosted by the launch (in October 2012) of a £103 million pound fund for Scottish renewable energy projects. The Renewable Energy Investment Fund (REIF) is designed to attract more private investment to the sector. Scottish priorities include wave and tidal energy, and renewable district heating.

Meanwhile in Wales...yesterday the Welsh Labour in Wales Government yesterday woke from its post Welsh general election slumbers and demanded control of large-scale energy projects in Wales. Carwyn Jones now says that the Welsh Government should have the same powers as its counterparts in Scotland and Northern Ireland to set energy policy – it’s a pity that he did not ask for the powers when Labour had a majority in Westminster.

The truth is that Plaid’s Jonathan Edwards MP and his colleagues in Westminster have done more (since the last Westminster general election) to try to get energy policy devolved to Wales than the whole of the Labour Party in Westminster and the Labour in Wales Government in Cardiff. The party formerly known as New Labour has had plenty of opportunities to stand up for Wales; it has just chosen to put its own party interests before those of the Welsh nation.

Saturday, 15 December 2012


I can think of no better argument for local government reform than the ongoing row over the pay increase awarded by the Labour controlled council cabinet (Plaid voted against) in Caerphilly. On Monday many council staff in Caerphilly will walk out on Monday lunchtime in protest at the disgraceful pay rises set to be awarded to the council's top twenty executives. The former county of Gwent was abolished by the Conservative Government in the early 1990's, being replaced by five councils covering; Caerphilly, Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen, Newport and Monmouth. One chief executive was replaced by five seperate chief executives, five heads of education, five heads of social services and deputies, etc. relative economies of scale were replaced by five seperate purchasing organisations, etc. It's time to bring back Gwent, but, with Single Transferable Vote to ensure that it is fully democratic rather than a Labour in Wales political monolith. Along the way we can cull the number of higly paid council cabinet members, and reintroduce some joined up thinking and sensible economies of scale cut out that local government middle management tier without cutting front line services.

Thursday, 13 December 2012


The 2011 Census results have attracted plenty of interest; one interpretation is the confirmation that Wales is a resource rich country with a poor people. This is something that even unionist opponents of independence would do well to recognise, along with the acknowledgement that we are not predetermined (or doomed) to be poor. Historically our natural resources were largely been exploited by others for the benefit of others. There were scant benefits for the great majority of the Welsh people beyond low pay and dangerous employment in the extractive or manufacturing processes.

Following the almost wilful destruction of the heavier industries, the Welsh Office and then the National Assembly pursued a policy of blindly throwing vast sums of public money towards attracting external industry to Wales by providing relatively cheap labour. This largely short policy known as 'inward investment' by and large failed to secure long term employment or grow small to medium sized indigenous enterprises, which are the key to sustainable prosperity.

I for one am pretty tired of seeing the same old recycled old WDA press release in the Western Mail / Daily Post going on about how this or that development will create 6,000 jobs (again). The Government in Cardiff (even with relatively limited powers and an even more limited imagination) reacted far too slowly to the emerging challenges from Eastern Europe and more distant competitors.

We in Wales have paid the price for that inbuilt smug complacency as between 1998 and 2008, some 171 foreign-owned sites closed, with the loss of 31,000 mostly manufacturing sector jobs. The economic development model as practised by the Westminster Government (and the Welsh Office) before 1997 and by the Welsh Government (save between 2007 and 2011) was fundamentally flawed at a very basic level – focused on the short term and fundamentally dependent upon a combination of relatively cheap labour and other inducements.

Economic development (from the 1950's onwards) was focused on one-off large scale developments (single egg solutions), which promised much and deliver significantly less. The assumption, not entirely incorrect, may have been that other smaller business would develop supply materials, goods and services to the primary larger employer – this happened in part, Llanwern Steel works (before the rundown) being a reasonably good local example.

The problem was that if the larger economy suffered a downturn or caught cold then the smaller firms would suffer with varying degrees of pneumonia. The focus should have been on developing small to medium size local businesses, which are significantly less likely to up sticks and leave for perceived greener pastures and fresh applications of development grants and also tend to trade with each other and other local firms.

The LG development near Newport was a classic example of this flawed economic vision - promising the usual 6,000 jobs – it accrued significant public funding (from the then Welsh Secretary, William Hague) yet never delivered anything like what was promised. Most economists (even Conservative ones) should have had serious concerns about the state of the Korean and the Far Eastern economies and a basic understanding of where technological developments in relation to PC monitor screens were going, enabling them to say hang on a moment.

This combination of fantasy island economic assessments, a fatally flawed business case and a forthcoming Westminster election led to one of the more spectacularly duller decisions of recent years being made, something that ended up costing us millions of pounds worth of public money. The old WDA never delivered anything like long term economic stability and much needed long term job opportunities to our communities – something that it should have done considering the amounts poured into it.

Wales is a recipient of significant quantities of Objective One funding, targeted at the West and the Valleys since New Labour recognised the economic and social affecting those parts of our country. Yet European funding opportunities appears to have been seriously squandered, where are the physical assets, by which I mean the things you can literally put your hand on like improved communications (rail and road), broadband infrastructure, etc - that bring long term real benefits to our communities.

Yes, we have developed a highly profitable training culture (in and around Cardiff) quite exactly what this delivers for the Welsh people is open to question? How much money has been scammed (and scammed may be the key word) into dubious expensive training programmes and questionable educational programmes that fail to deliver the necessary skills that workers and potential workers need to make a decent living in the modern economy?

The Plaid driven One Wales Government (2007 – 2011) made significant efforts to think and act differently when it came to economic development with its focused support for small to medium sized enterprises. The current Labour Party in Wales’s government in Cardiff has simply returned to the failed economic development policies of the past.

Living in the past simply won’t work! The old failed model of going out to attract branch factory operations for a relatively short term period has been rolled out once again. This does little to help develop our economy or equip our people for the twenty first century world of work it merely repeats the costly mistakes of the recent past, but, of course Labour in Wales is far happier living in the past than planning the future for Wales.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012


The fractious dispute over free parking continues in Newport between representatives of the Labour Party in Newport who want to abolish free parking and campaigners who want to retain it (because it brings people into the city) is ongoing. At present there is a parking scheme which allows up to two hours free parking. Newport City Council faces a funding shortfall next year of around £ 8 million pounds, so cutting the free parking scheme which comes in at around £ 1 million pounds looks like an easy win (to those looking to make savings / cuts).

In reality the timing in the run up to Christmas and the post Christmas sales, with half the high street and the back of the market dug up or closed off has not gone down well at all with traders or shoppers in Newport.  The South Wales Argus has clearly touched a raw nerve within the Labour Party in Newport.  A petition, which urges the council to reverse their decision to scrap free parking for the first two hours in council owned car parks has attracted over 3,700 signatures from traders and shoppers across the city and continues to grow.

Now some of the fresh intake of Labour Councillors who have become frustrated with the Cabinet’s behaviour and the lack of communication over the parking issue are talking about absenting themselves from the vote on free parking. Some of them are according to the South Wales Argus even talking up the possibility of even voting against their own party on the issue (I personally won’t hold my breath).

The party formerly known as new Labour in Newport has a history of never being big on communication, either with the electorate or its own membership. The fact that the ruling Labour council’s cabinet did not consult traders or shoppers about axing free parking within the city will come as no surprise to those of us who know how the Labour Party behaves in power or opposition.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012


It has taken far too long and I for one doubted whether Westminster would deliver, but there is now a Groceries Ombudsman who will be able to fight for both farmers, food producers and food consumers. Even getting to this point has been a hard slog for campaigners inside (and outside) of Westminster. Plaid has campaigned extensively on this issue but we are not their yet. What now needs to be done is for the new Groceries Ombudsman (created by the passing of the Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill last week) to be given real teeth to tackle supermarket price fixing (with significant fines) which hits the farmers, the food producers and the consumers of their produce.

Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards said:

"It is very welcome news that the Government has acted to empower the Ombudsman with the ability to levy fines, as advocated by Plaid Cymru since 2004 when Simon Thomas AM, the former MP for Ceredigion introduced a private members bill.

"This move will benefit the thousands of people working within the agricultural sector, particularly within the milk industry.

"The agricultural industry makes a huge contribution to the Welsh economy and its employees deserve to be treated with fairness and respect.

We are therefore pleased to see the Government take steps to ensure that the supermarkets are forced to deliver fairness throughout the supply chain.

"Recently, the dairy industry has faced a crisis due to a cut in the price of milk, leaving farmers at a loss and paying more to produce than sell.

“It is encouraging to learn that the Department for Business have listened to concerns that their original Ombudsman lacked the powers required to protect farmers. I look forward with interest to seeing the amended legislative proposals in detail."

Friday, 7 December 2012


There is an increasingly desperate search for secure energy supplies, which is one of the reasons why George Osborne jumped in with both feet in relation to exploitation of Shale Gas reserves, hence the creation of the Office for Unconventional Gas and Oil. Just exactly how that fits in with the concept of Devolution in Wales is open to question? The chancellor also started the ball rolling on yet another Conservative driven dash for gas by approving the construction of potentially up to 30 new gas-fired power stations, to be built over the next two decades.

The UK Westminster government wants up to 26 GW of new gas generating capacity by 2030 much of which may come from the potentially environmentally questionable process known as fracking. Back in March 2011 the House of Commons Energy Select Committee came out in favour of fracking as an option for ‘secure energy’ simply stating that any environmental problems associated with fracking in the US would be overcome by tight regulation and good industry practice.

Options for energy exploitation (South Wales)
I am a big believer in developing Wales’s secure energy potential; unlike the Chancellor and the Con Dems I actually believe that we should have secure sustainable energy supplies. I also think that they should be community beneficial and just happen to think that we in Wales should have control of them. One inescapable part of the problem is that we (the population of the planet) are running out of easily (relatively) accessible hydrocarbons (oil, gas, etc) no matter how you spin it they are a finite resource.

The search for conventional hydrocarbons (oil) is becoming increasingly costly. Work on the Kashagan oil island in the Caspian Sea, off Kazakhstan has cost $46 billion dollars or around £ 28.8 billion pounds to develop. It is one of Kazakhstan's most ambitious project and just happens to be the world's largest oil find in the past 40 years. Kashagan may be as good as it can get for the Kazakhs and the Oil companies, but, one inescapable fact is that the field holds approximately 13 billion barrels worth of recoverable oil or around enough oil to fuel the world for nearly five months.

At the moment much of the UK’s gas supplies come from Qatar (in the Persian Gulf) which while being relatively stable has some Human Rights issues. As stable as it is, the problem is that the Middle East and the Gulf region are unstable. If some of Qatar’s despotic and repressive neighbouring rulers (run out of rubber bullets, tear gas and live rounds) and fall to popular unrest (at some point the repressed will lose patience and then it comes down to a simple if bloody numbers game) then we could be talking about lights out in the UK and flickering lights for much of Europe.  

Options for energy exploitation (North East Wales)
Hence the Chancellor’s quiet sense of urgency surrounding exploiting the Shale gas reserves. Now there are potentially sizeable reserves of Shale gas under some parts of our country with an estimate of recoverable gas reserves, possibly worth £120bn something which have got some people and some of the energy companies salivating.  Oddly enough Gazprom, the monopolistic gas producing arm of the Russian State, with its hands tightly gripped on the gas pipe, of most of Eastern Europe, does not favour Shale Gas production.

Now this all sounds good, but, the potential impact of the hydraulic fracturing technique (fracking) on people's health and environment is potentially pretty grim. The process can use a combination of water, sand and chemicals which are pumped into rock formations under high pressure. Something which has led to a sizeable number of environmentalists to raise real concerns about the fracking method could which can contaminate drinking water supplies.

Something else that is worth thinking about is that to make the extraction process work economically there is a requirement to drill lots of wells in close proximity to each other to aid extraction. Something that might lead to a far more significant environmental footprint during and after the gas is gone. In parts of south and north east Wales, whether with deep mined or open cast coal mining we have seen how the post mineral extraction clean up works.

One unanswered question is what will happen to any tax revenues, drilling permit fees, etc from Shale gas extraction. The Labour Party in the late 1970’s and the Conservatives through the 1980’s failed to pump revenues into an oil and gas fuelled sovereignty fund (like Norway did) choosing to blow the lot on subsidies for inefficient nationalised industries and tax cuts for the rich.

Ultimately Shale gas is also a one off, literally a one hit wonder, once gone it’s gone for goods. UK reserves, even if 50% was extracted might last 10 years, and then what? Over the last 15 years successive UK governments should have been working hard to develop non hydro carbon dependent sustainable energy supplies. Rather than do something they simply left energy planning and energy development to the whims of a cartel dominated nominal free energy market.

The main beneficiaries at the moment for Shale exploitation would by the UK Treasury (tax) and the Crown Estates which with its urban, rural and marine holdings across the UK, including the seabed and large areas of land, stands to profit from renewable energy developments and off-shore dredging. Any shale gas extraction should be regulated, supervised and approved (but only after a full and comprehensive environmental assessment) here in Wales, not in Westminster.

Any tax or licence revenues raised should go into a ring fenced all Wales sovereign energy fund which the National Assembly should avoid plundering for short term financial fixes. As we in Wales will have to live with any consequences (both long and short term) of an environmental disaster it is only reasonable that our natural resources should be controlled by and developed for the benefit of the Welsh people.

Thursday, 6 December 2012


Yesterday we were waiting with no particular degree of anticipation for Chancellor George Osborne to inform MPs (and the rest of us) that there was no "no miracle cure" to the UK's economic woes in his Autumn Statement. The Chancellor made his statement against a pretty grim economic background when compared with his budget forecast made last March in the Budget. Mr Osborne continued to state that the coalition was continuing to "confront the country's problems" and was hard at work reducing the deficit.

The cancellation of the proposed 3 pence a litre increase in fuel duty may help a little and the  extra £227 million pounds for capital projects is useful it does little to redress fair funding for Wales. When it comes to growth being predicted to be -0.1% in 2012, down from the 0.8% prediction in the Budget in March we are truly in the realm of old style Soviet economic statistics. I suspect that some of the Con Dems (the Cons rather than the Dems I suspect) actually believe that austerity is the answer to the economic disaster left behind by Gordon Brown (and New Labour).

The party formerly known as New Labour predictably called the government's economic policy "a terrible failure” not that they would have done anything different if Gordon had managed to pull the electoral fat out of the fire back in 2010. What’s pretty clear from all of this is that the Con Dems are out of ideas, there was not really a Plan A, so there is little likelihood of a Plan B and clearly no desire to sort out the ongoing UK’s problem with tax evasion. So much for being all in it together.

Almost unnoticed by the UK’s self Anglo centric media the Irish Government presented its sixth austerity budget since the banking and economic collapse. Tax rises and spending cuts were announced as the government aims to save another 3.5 billion euro (around £2.8 billion). All of the so called economic "low-hanging fruit" has been picked clean after four harsh years of austerity. A new property tax (set at 0.18% of the value of a home up to 1 million euros (£800,000 pounds or $1.3 million dollars) and cuts to the health and social welfare budgets are planned.

Since 2010, Ireland, following an international bailout, has been forced to follow strict spending limits set by the EU and International Monetary Fund. The Irish government stated that it would meet its deficit reduction target for 2012 and that it  projected a budget deficit of 8.2%, compared with a target of 8.6%. Therefore the deficit would continue to fall steadily to 2.9% by 2015, it added. Irish economic forecasts (unlike on this side of the Irish Sea) were based on economic growth of 1.5% in 2013, rising to 2.9% growth by 2015.

Ireland is no Greece and while it has been riot it has not been protest free. The evident anger (if not quiet rage) at the bankers and the elites abject criminality and sheer folly may have been sidelined at the prospect, after hard years, by some light at the end of Ireland's dark economic tunnel, but, I suspect that it won’t be forgotten. Despite some economic glimmers  there are still plenty of people across the Celtic Sea who are less than happy with the choices made by the Irish elite and the fact that they have largely got away without punishment for their crimes, misdemeanour's and bad decisions.

There have been calls for a new republic and a fresh start literally writing off the past (and the debt) in a simular manner to Iceland. in ‘Towards a Second Republic’, Peadar Kirby and Mary Murphy exposed the winners and losers from the current Irish model of development and related the distributional outcomes of the use of power by Irish elites. It’s analysis of Ireland's economics, politics and society, draws some important lessons from its cycles of boom and bust. They also look at the role of the EU and compare Ireland's crisis and responses to those of other states.

The book (which is well worth a read) also includes proposals to construct new and more effective institutions for the economy and society are also included. Considering (somewhat closer to home) that  there have been no real consequences (or punishments for that matter) for the banking crash for the inhabitants of the Westminster village or the bankers (save for the loss of the odd bonus), I suspect that it won't be on the Christmas reading list of any elite reasonably near here.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012


Protest Camp in flames (Associated Press)
Myanmar (Burma) may be slowly moving towards democracy, but, other issues are yet to be resolved. Once important issue that is still to be resolved (not just in Myanmar) is the age old one of the relationship between who owns land, who lives on it and what other people (and governments) want to do with it.

Police have used water cannon and tear gas to break up protests against the development of a vast Chinese-backed copper mine in the north-west. Riot police used water cannons, tear gas and smoke bombs to break up the 11-day occupation of the Letpadaung copper mine, wounding dozens of villagers and Buddhist monks. Protesters said dozens were injured and that their  camps were set alight in Monywa town. Local farmers, monks and activists have been protesting against what they say are forced evictions to allow for the expansion of the mine, Burma's largest.

Aung San Suu Kyi (the Opposition leader) has visited the area to meet protesters and wants to mediate a settlement.  Protests by local farmers started last June when they say they  were forced to accept a deal (two years ago) which meant that they gave up their land in exchange for new housing and financial compensation. The mine is jointly owned by the Myanmar military and the Chinese arms manufacturer Norinco. The mine company has stated that the deal was voluntary, and that only a small minority of farmers rejected it. The expansion mine's billion-dollar expansion project covers several thousand hectares of land in Burma's Sagaing region.

When it comes to development, for natural resources, including minerals and food production or housing and sustainable energy developments (in Wales, Europe and across the world) there is a growing problem with finding the balance between economic development, the environment, job creation and the impact of development on local communities.  In the developing or the developed world the bottom line has to be that that local people should have a significant say or even control over the development process and any community should benefit from the development (or exploitation) of local resources.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012


News that Starbucks is planning to change the way it operates so that it pays corporation tax in the UK will be a small crumb of comfort to ordinary tax payers. Starbucks despite having around one-third of the UK coffee shop market, has only paid corporation tax only once in the past 15 years. In its simplest form Corporation tax is paid by foreign companies on profits made in the UK. UK-based companies pay corporation tax on their taxable profits wherever they are made. Starbucks, sold nearly £400 million pounds worth of goods in the UK last year, but paid no corporation tax at all, because it transferred some of the money to a sister company in the Netherlands in the form of royalty payments, it bought its coffee beans from Switzerland and paid high interest rates to borrow money from other parts of the business.

Starbucks is throwing in the towel in relation to paying Corporation tax; this may be timely as the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has produced a report calling for HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to "more aggressive and assertive in confronting corporate tax avoidance". Interestingly enough HMRC revealed that in 2011-12, £474.2 billion pounds worth of total tax revenue accrued to HM Revenue and Customs (the Department) which was £4.5 billion pounds higher than for the period 2010-11. Oddly enough there was a decrease in corporation tax revenue of £6.3 billion pounds.

The House of Commons Public Accounts  Committee also heard evidence from heard evidence from Google and Amazon. Amazon has a reported turnover of £207 million pounds for 2011 for its UK Company (, on which it has shown a tax expense of only £1.8 million pound, yet showed a European-wide turnover of €9.1 billion for its Luxembourg based company (Amazon EU Sarl) and a tax of €8.2 million. is a service company in the UK providing services to Amazon EU Sarl for which it receives payment. That company is owned by a holding company, which is a subsidiary of Amazon's group companies.

Amazon subsequently provided a copy of the unaudited accounts for Amazon Europe Holding Technologies S.C.S for 2011 showing a profit of €301.8 million and no tax payments.  Amazon also provided information showing that for 2011, £3.35 billion pounds worth of sales were from the UK, 25% of all international sales outside the USA.  Yet Amazon has over 15,000 staff in the UK, invoices UK customers from the UK, hires UK staff in the UK, has inventory physically in the UK for UK customers and to all intents and purposes has the majority of its economic activity in the UK, rather than in Luxembourg, but pays virtually no corporation tax in the UK.

The inability of HMRC to properly curb aggressive tax avoidance schemes which are costing the UK billions of pounds was flagged up by the National Audit Office (NAO) The NAO revealed that HMRC was dealing with a backlog of 41,000 cases involving individuals and small companies, with up to £10.2 billion pounds at stake. I am sure that the news that Con Dem Chancellor George Osborne plans to introduce a general anti-avoidance rule and hold talks with other G8 developed countries about clamping down on tax avoidance will make us all sleep soundly in our beds – perhaps not!