Sunday, June 26

Brexit an emotional decision

It appears to me the decision was largely an emotive one with about 75% of younger voters in favour of staying. That tells me the younger generation intuitively are not nearly as hung up over issues such as migration and refugee intakes which I believe drove the exit vote amongst older voters to tip the scales in favour of an exit. But, any reduced employment and investment opportunities arising by this  move may not be as material as is envisaged unless there is retribution from EU member states (which seems most unlikely) or there is severe contagion from others such as France, Italy, Spain or Greece lining up to opt out. That potentially could cause credit markets to seize up and bring on global recessionary fears.

Although some feel the move will trigger Scotland and Northern Ireland to leave the UK I don't think this is likely as less drastic options are available. It has been reported already both Gibraltar and Scotland, which both gave resounding votes   to stay might maintain the UK's membership of the bloc. Northern Ireland could also be included in such discussions.   
Rather, I think over time, the existing status quo might be engineered with new trade deals given a modicum of goodwill. That reverts back to my original hypothesis the no vote was really all about increased sovereignty and a backlash against the more accommodative EU provisions on migration and refugees.  
Governments do have a say of course, but the reality is customers and suppliers largely make markets and determine outcomes much more so than is generally realized and market fears are about what might happen, not what are the more likely outcomes. Businesses will seek to continue to do business where it is in their best interest and as changes will take many years, new deals will be made.  
But, how long markets will remain skittish with a marked move to bonds and cash rather than equities is anyone’s guess, but, I think the position is nowhere near as dire as early market losses might otherwise suggest. What is often overlooked is the loss to huge numbers of average people who own shares through their retirement funds only to see those investments tank.
In summary, it appears, the exit votes were largely based on a desire to return to sovereign control. In the process England has effectively turned back the clock on the cooperation and open door vision which was widely applauded at the time of the EU’ s inception.

Wednesday, June 15

Tech puzzle

In funny happening to our tech revolution “(AFR 6th June 2016) Nouriel Roubini concludes we don’t really know for sure what is driving the puzzle of anemic growth in productivity despite living in the so called golden age of technology and innovation.

But, Roubini overlooks the increasing levels of re-work surreptitiously invading every level of our complex life to risk us becoming slaves to technology rather than its master. Hidden is the additional time spent on –line adapting to unexplained new formats or discovering bugs or unexpected outcomes.  Solutions are provided by the growing on line forums, encouraged by technology providers who underinvest in adequate support in the first instance.
One can routinely expect outages on phones or the internet which sometimes last days and amount to wasted time until a solution is finally provided which might have been avoided with adequate back or more experienced call center staff.  In an increasing complex world much more testing is required before new products or services are released when the reverse is happening. Consumers and businesses increasingly are the “guinea pigs”, forced to waste precious time identifying faults or bugs which should have sorted out beforehand. This is rather obviously more economical to the suppliers but bad for productivity Additionally when things fail electronically we upgrade only to find many applications now aren’t compatible so the pattern of re -work continues.

Another aspect often overlooked is that the pace of change in terms of new ground breaking discoveries in our modern economies has slowed to crawl compared to that which occurred in the last few centuries. What has increased exponentially instead is the amount of information available and the ease by which this is communicated on the internet with the aid of advanced communicative devices.  One might argue however we are at risk of a “dumbing down” of society as devices are now programmed to routinely tell us what to do and attend to day to day chores without needing to pay attention to the elements or figure out commonsense solutions of our own accord.     On a broader scale the long term economic effects of the tech revolution on employment remain widely debated. In the past major new scientific discoveries impacted positively on just about every level of employment and on our overall well-being albeit there was some severe dislocations as the old gave way to the new.
But the tech sector only accounts for about 10% of GDP in advanced economies and applications to improve outcomes in the larger service sectors such as in health and education have proven to be meagre. This is possibility one important factor as to why we going to be stuck in a period of very low growth in what is described as a golden era of new technology and innovation.  We are told we are living in rapid era of change. But a lot of that change is having to repeat tasks because they were programmed incorrectly in the first place. Maybe we could move back to an old fashioned innovation to “get it done right the first time’’- which would be a new innovation for the burgeoning tech sector.