Thursday, 30 March 2017

Your taxpayers' money, hard at work.

Spotted by Lola in The Telegraph:

Inflation is officially back, and by the end of this year is expected to hit 2.3pc, above the Bank of England’s 2pc target. In a world of rising prices, investors need exposure to assets that can keep pace.

Investing in infrastructure projects – such as motorways, schools or hospitals – that are inflation-linked is one way to protect the value of capital. These projects also produce a reliable income, with the trust currently yielding 5.1pc...

Andrew Charlesworth, manager of the £1.2bn John Laing Infrastructure trust, says that investors should not worry about buying at a premium, and explains how he made 36pc on a London hospital and his role in President Donald Trump’s plans.

The only way to make such super-profits is if the government overpaid in the first place; one man's super-profits is the flip side of shit value for the long suffering taxpayer.

Supply and demand in the housing market

From City AM:

Developers have put the brakes on house building in central London as house prices in the capital dropped at the end of last year.

In the fourth quarter of 2016, construction started on 1,270 housing units in the centre of the city, a drop of 75 per cent as compared to the same quarter the year before, according to a report from JLL.

And home sales fell 24 per cent in the final quarter of 2016, with just 1,880 transactions taking place. Prices in London have fallen 5.7 per cent year-on-year.

Hooray for free markets and allowing supply and demand to allocate resources most efficiently, but this is no such thing, is it? In a truly free market, super-profits would be competed away - what the oligopolistic land bankers are doing is carefully drip feeding bits of land onto the market so as not to allow prices to fall and thereby maintain their super-profits (as easily measured by the value of land).

And it must be clear to all but the most rabid Faux Libertarian that some areas will always be more desirable than others, for whatever reason, so while land prices at the very margin (low wage, high unemployment areas without nice scenery) are pretty close to zero, anything above that represents a monopoly/rationing position.
My other thought for the day is that the idea that "building more homes will cause prices to fall - it's supply and demand, innit?" is clearly nonsense if you remember that rents (and hence prices) are largely dictated by local average earnings (putting holiday areas aside). Wages go up, rents and prices go up and vice versa, it is that simple.

Would building more homes in high price areas (London, commutable parts of south east, M4 corridor, nicer parts of any large town or city) cause wages to fall?

No of course not. Why would it? Wages are higher in those areas largely because of agglomeration effects*, so more homes = more people = more agglomeration effects and the two effects (more supply and more demand) will always more or less cancel out. Rents and prices will only fall in areas which younger/more ambitious people are abandoning.

* All those people making a handsome living in London in financial and legal services would struggle to earn a fraction of that anywhere else in the country. They can only earn that because they are in London. This applies to me in spades.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Brexit LOLZ and not-so LOLZ

Spotted by Shiney in Reaction:

Brussels apparatchiks are in a state of shock: until Theresa May’s letter was opened, many of them had clung to the delusory hope that, in an Oscars-style mix-up, the envelope would contain a humble request for Britain to join the euro.

From The Evening Standard:

With Chancellor Angela Merkel toughening her stance on Brexit as German elections loom, Berlin is demanding a united EU front during the talks on Britain’s departure.

It wants the UK’s exit negotiations rushed through in 15 months rather than up to two years, according to a leaked German government paper. However, the document also suggests that a detailed trade deal could take up to 10 years to complete…

Ms Merkel, seeking a fourth term in power in the German general election slated for September, says all “contentious issues” — such as the free movement of people across EU borders — must be negotiated now and not left to some undecided date.

But she recognises that “future relations” with the UK could take far longer to crystallise and believes that the European Commission could be correct in predicting talks on these matters could take up to 10 years.

OK, so Merkel wants us to concede on the bits that are important to her within 15 months, but the bit that is important to us will have to wait ten years?

By that time we will be used to the new status quo, probably WTO rules, so that vague promise is less than worthless as at today's date.

If the EU is not going to take it seriously, we might as well call the whole thing off right now and walk away unilaterally, there is nothing worth haggling for and no whiff of a compromise. Does Merkel not understand the British mentality?

Daily Mail on top form

From The Daily Mail:

A mother and daughter have been spared jail after sending a death threat to a retired GP neighbour who pruned roses overhanging his garden fence.

Rosa Rahman, 75, and her daughter, production manager Rebecca Rahman, 46, from Balham, south London, claim the doctor poured weedkiller on their cherished rear garden to deliberately kill plants by the boundary fence...

The court did not find the women armed themselves with bricks outside their £750,000 house and cleared Rosa of a racially-aggravated charge in relation to her comment.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

"Qatar to invest £5 billion in UK over next few years"

From The Daily Mail:

Theresa May hopes to deepen ties with Qatar after the oil-rich Gulf state announced it will invest £5 billion in the UK over the next few years...

Sheikh Abdullah said: “Over the next three to five years, Qatar will invest £5 billion in the UK economy through various investment funds and relevant parties in Qatar – which will constitute another addition to its already successful investments in the UK.

“Our investments in the UK will focus on energy, infrastructure, real estate, services and other sectors.”

Qatar already has more than £40 billion invested in the UK, including ownership of London’s tallest building The Shard, Harrods department store and the Olympic Village.

This is not "investing" in any meaningful sense, they are collecting rents from the UK economy and subsidies from the UK government (like snapping up the Olympic Village for half price, or buying into top-down privatisations of public services).

Which is what happens when you tax the productive economy and subsidise land (or provide government guaranteed income). Why bother with proper, productive investment (factories, new businesses, innovation etc) when you can just tap into existing government-backed rental streams?

Nobody move… or the French tourism industry gets it.

From The Evening Standard:

The EU chief leading the Brexit negotiations has painted a bleak picture of an “undoubtedly worse off” Britain if the two sides cannot agree a deal.

Good, start with some veiled threats.

Writing two days ahead of Theresa May’s expected triggering of Article 50, Michel Barnier said failure in the talks would lead to “severe disruption” at airports and “long queues” for tourists and lorry drivers at Dover.

He apparently wants to discourage British tourists from visiting France, ah well, plenty of other countries in the world. As to "lorry drivers", the French already treat them like shit, it's time we sorted out an alternative route via a country that doesn't go on strike every week and is prepared to police immigrants properly, maybe Belgium or The Netherlands?

In an article in the Financial Times he also warned business would be hit by “disruption of supply chains” that could even include “the suspension of nuclear material” to Britain, which gets around a fifth of its energy from nuclear reactors.

More open threats this time. He wants France/the EU to actually impose an embargo on us.

The 66-year-old Frenchman, a former European Commissioner, insisted the remaining 27 member states would find it easier to adjust as they would still benefit from the single market, the customs union and 60 trade deals with other countries.

As to the "60 trade deals", I trust he's aware that as a general rule of international law, those treaties will continue to apply as between the other countries and the UK.

He also said that the first phase of negotiations would be dominated by three “significant uncertanties” that need to be resolved before talks on a trade deal can begin.

Firstly, the rights of the 3.2 million EU citizens in living in the UK and the 1.2 million British born residents of Europe. Mr Barnier said EU negotiators were “ready to discuss this issue from day one.”

It's none of their business, that is the beauty of the system.

For the time being, there's some guideline of international law that says the rights of foreigners already living in a country aren't affected by subsequent treaty changes.

For the future, EU rules say that EU Member States have to treat each other MS's citizens the same, fine, but each MS is free to make its own decisions re people from non-EU countries. As the UK will soon be a non-EU country, we can discuss this directly with other governments, which will save a lot of time.*

And has bugger all to do with trade deals anyway.

Secondly, the need for Britain to “honour its commitments” to the European budget…

Blackmail. Their clever lawyers say we have to keep paying for several years after we leave, ours say we don't.

… and third, ensuring that peace and dialogue in Northern Ireland are not weakened.

WTF does that have to do with us leaving the EU? Is he just making up stuff?
* People genuinely appear to ignore this obvious point, e.g. PaulC in the comments:

[The UK government] may need to agree... the status of existing EU workers to even get to the point of discussing a future deal with the EU on more general trade terms.

From the day we leave, there is no such thing as an "EU-worker" from the British point of view. They are German, French, Polish etc.

To give an analogy, UK immigration rules do not recognise the status of "ASEAN worker", they are Malaysians, Filippinos, Vietnamese etc. The Malaysians get slightly more favourable treatment as it's a Commonwealth country; the NHS actively recruits nurses in the Philippines (shame on us); the Vietnamese get no special treatment etc. The UK does not care what sort of arrangements the ASEAN countries agree between themselves, that is not binding on us in any way, shape or form.

From the day we leave, the EU has no power whatsoever to negotiate with the UK as to what rules we agree individually with Germany, France, Poland etc.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Fun Online Polls: Post-Brexit trade deals & Encryption

The results to last week's Fun Online Poll were as follows:

Post Brexit, the UK should…

Impose trade barriers and tariffs - 1%
Remain in the Single Market/EEA - 10%
Rejoin EFTA - 6%
Try and negotiate a custom deal with the EU - 10%
Revert to trading on WTO terms - 13%
Abolish trade barriers and tariffs unilaterally - 58%
Other, please specify - 2%

Good, I was with the majority on that one. Thanks to everybody who took part.
There has been some mumbling along the usual lines about whether the services like Whatsapp should be forced to provide the police with 'encrypted' messages if the police obtain a warrant. See e.g. PC World (the magazine, not the shop):

"It used to be that people would steam open envelopes or just listen in on phones when they wanted to find out what people were doing, legally, through warranty,” [Amber Rudd, Home Secretary] said “But on this situation we need to make sure that our intelligence services have the ability to get into situations like encrypted WhatsApp."

Rudd told Sky News that end-to-end encryption has its place, but it is not incompatible with providing a system for law enforcement agencies to have access to information with a warrant, if absolutely necessary."

I personally don't see a problem, surely we can accept that a judge can sign off a warrant to tap your 'phone, steam open your letters or search your house if the police make a reasonable case.

Why should Whatsapp messages be any different? That's far from saying that the police should be able to routinely view all messages, emails and so on. The police have always been able to obtain warrants to search houses - that has not led to a situation where they routinely enter people's houses on a whim and have a rummage, has it?

Vote HERE or use the widget in the sidebar.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Daily Mail on top form

The Daily Mail has pieced together the steps towards radicalisation:

Over the next two decades the burly bodybuilder was convicted of a catalogue of offences including assaults, grievous bodily harm, possession of weapons and public order offences, and was jailed twice.

He drifted from job to job, working as a sales rep and running a television aerial installation business, before meeting his long-term partner Jane Harvey, 48, a successful businesswoman, in 1991.

He then moved into her £700,000 gated home in the village of Northiam, near Rye in East Sussex.

Glorious stuff. After a crime is committed, the press usually say "the police are calling for witnesses", they should add on "… and the Daily Mail are calling for any house price info related to the case, however tangentially".

Friday, 24 March 2017

A good turnout at the Scottish Land Revenue Group event

About 70-80 people attended. A good day out.

Daily Mail on top form

Spotted by MBK in The Daily Mail:

English teacher Khalid Masood, 52, a 'lone wolf' attacker, who was living in the Birmingham area, had a series of convictions for assault and other crimes.

Scotland Yard revealed how Masood was known by a number of aliases and MailOnline can reveal he was born Adrian Elms to a single mother in Kent before his religious conversion. Masood has used the names Khalid Choudry and Adrian Ajao among others.

He grew up in a £300,000 house in the seaside town of Rye, East Sussex and had a long criminal history…

Landlord Farhad Makanvand said he didn't know who had been staying at the flats above his curry house as it was rented out by a separate letting agents.

Mr Makanvand, who also owns the next door curry house Shiraz, said: "I wasn't at the scene last night, I don't live there. I bought the property six years ago for over £300,000. It is contracted to the letting agents so I have no idea who lives there or how many people."