Commonwealth economies beating EU

July 16, 2012

The Commonwealth today is just a loose group of nations tied together by little more than historical links to Britain.

But its economic growth is better than that of the European Union:

Economic growth, in real terms, in the European Union (see definition below) has been falling decade upon decade since the 1970’s, and more sharply since 1973. . . . In contrast to the EU, economic growth in the Commonwealth has accelerated over the post 1973 period, as shown in chart 2.

The Commonwealth has already overtaken the EU for its percentage share of GDP and is on track to overtake the Eurozone:

The future looks even better:

The IMF produces forecasts for economic growth for the EZ and the Commonwealth for the next 5 years. Given the current crisis in the EZ the 2.7% annual average growth forecast might be thought optimistic. But optimistic or not it pales into insignificance compared with the continued growth expected in the emerging markets of the Commonwealth.

GDP Growth Forecasts (Real terms, average annual growth)

  2012 – 2017
Eurozone 2.7%
Commonwealth 7.3%

Source: IMF, World Economics calculations

For many years we thought New Zealand had been disadvantaged by Britain’s entry to the EU. Perhaps the opposite is the case:

Why did we join the Common Market in the first place? What was the knock-down argument used by Heath, Jenkins and the rest? Do you remember? The Commonwealth, they told us, was finished. We needed to be part of an alternative market, one that would grow.

At the time, the claim seemed sound enough. Between 1945 and 1973, Western Europe enjoyed spectacular growth, bouncing back from the artificial low of the Second World War. Britain and her Commonwealth, by contrast, were exhausted and indebted. Much of our postwar decline was caused by successive governments eroding their debts through inflation, unaware of, or perhaps untroubled by, the damage they were doing to our national competitiveness and productivity.

We can now see that our timing could hardly have been worse. We joined the EEC in 1973. Europe’s Wirschaftswunder came to an abrupt end with the oil shock of 1974, and never properly got going again. The expansion came instead in the Commonwealth markets from which Britain had just stood aside. . .

Given the economic weakness of Europe and strength in Asia, we are much better off with growing markets closer to home.

There might be opportunities for us in other developing markets we don’t yet have much trade with too even though we might at the moment have little in common except that historical accident which makes us all part of the Commonwealth.

Hat tip: I was led to the Telegraph through a blog, but have forgotten which. If it was yours, feel free to either leave a comment or email me and I’ll give credit where it’s due.


How wet?

July 1, 2012

The April to June quarter was Britain’s second wettest since records began in 1910.

Up to 27 June, total rainfall was 130.1mm – 6mm short of the 2007 record.

It is already the wettest June on record for Wales, with 186.3mm of rain this month, compared with the previous record of 183.1mm set in 1998.

We were in England for 10 days from late May and spent a wet weekend in Yorkshire.

Just how wet spring and early summer had been was illustrated by our host who finished planting potatoes while we were there.

Last year he’d got the crop planted in 17 days, this year it took 10 weeks.


“Healthier” milk?

July 11, 2011

Marks and Spencer is to become the first retailer in Britain to launch a brand of “healthier” milk.

The milk is said to have at least 6% less saturated fat than standard milk due to a tailored dairy cow diet -trialled last year – that features the removal of all palm oil.

I haven’t seen the results of any scientific studies on the affect of palm oil on milk quality and its fat content but diet does impact on the quantity and quality of milk produced by animals and people.

Babies of vegan mothers who fully breast feed don’t get enough fat for brain development and healthy physical growth.

To support farmer suppliers who convert to the new feed regime, M&S will introduce a new payment contract for farmers who achieve the reduced saturated fat level. M&S says the contract will recognise any additional costs incurred.

This is how the market should work. The end user tells farmers what it wants and is prepared to pay a premium to compensate for the added costs of producing it.

Fonterra should keep a very close eye on this development for two reasons: palm kernel is used as a feed supplement here and could be affecting the quality of milk produced; and there could be a premium for our milk, most of which is supplied by free range, grass-fed cows.


Will he really want to be PM?

May 12, 2010

Britain has a new Prime Minister.

That ought to be something he celebrates but the indecisive election result and the need for support from the Liberal Democrats, with whom the Conservatives have little in common, will put a dampener on celebrations.

Whether David Cameron leads a minority government or a coalition the task he faces is a difficult one.

Some commentators have suggested he’d have been better to stand back and wait. But I’m reminded of a comment Bill English made at a conference, the worst day in government where you can do something is better than the best in opposition where you can do nothing.


In praise of democracy

May 11, 2010

Britain still hasn’t got a new government.

Number 10 Downing Street may have a squatter; negotiations about who will rule may be confused and protracted and the markets may not be happy about that.

But the people are going about their business unconcerned.

No riots, no mayhem, no bloodshed.

In true democracies people accept the will of the people, even when that will is unclear.


Too much weather

January 11, 2010

The problems cold, wet weather pose for holiday makers when it’s supposed to be summer are minor compared with the freezing conditions in Britain

While most news reports focus on the impact on people, Phil Clarke looks at the impact on agriculture.

However, he notes it’s not all bad news for business – sales of UHT milk are booming.

Back in New Zealand,  although it’s been unseasonably cold, Northland, the east coast and some inland areas are very dry.

We were happy to get 12 mls of rain in North Otago yesterday. Farmers in Central Otago also welcomed steady rain but the ODT reports that orchardists weren’t so happy.

There’s too much winter in Britain and not enough summer in New Zealand – altogether too much weather.


Getting the measure of metrics

August 26, 2009

Britain’s move to metrics upset some people so much they formed the Imperial Measures Preservation Society. They still drive in miles but seem to have adjsuted to other metric measures. The USA, however, still refuses to make the change.

 

I can’t understand why a country which has had decimal currency for centuries can’t contemplate ditching the complicated system of imperial measurements in favour of the relative simplicity of metrics.

 

July 10 1967, the day on which decimal currency was introduced is a date still fixed in my mind. This was partly due to the success of the advertising campaign which preceded it but mostly a reflection on the great relief with which I was able to close the door on old money.

 

I was 10 at the time and had already spent too long struggling over arithmetic lessons (we didn’t do maths back then) in which we were called on to do convoluted sums with pounds, shillings and pence to have any regrets about the change.

 

I can’t recall when weights and measures went metric but I shed no tears when grams, metres and litres replaced ounces, yards and pints.

 

I was never sure if it was 16 ounces in a pound and 14 pounds to the stone or the other way round and I was even more uncertain about the number of pints in a gallon. I generally got the figures relating to inches in feet and feet in yards right but struggled with conversions to miles or acres and computations concerning any of them were a nightmare.

 

When even one as mathematically challenged as I am can understand the logic of a system based on 10, those wishing to retain imperial measures haven’t a leg to stand on numerically speaking. However, I have some sympathy with them on linguistic grounds because even though we’ve been metric for years a miss is still as good as a mile but it will never be as good as a kilometre.

   

If I look after the cents the dollars may look after themselves but I still like to have my tuppence worth and while I might be in for a penny in for a pound, the decimal equivalent doesn’t trip off my tongue so lightly.

 

It’s not only expressions like these which don’t convert easily to modern measures. It is generally simple to calculate with metrics but it isn’t so easy to converse in them. I can follow recipes in metric or imperial measures but I still refer to a pound of butter rather than 500 grams and if I could still get a bottle of milk I’d call it a pint not 600 mls.

 

If you told me the day’s temperature in Fahrenheit I wouldn’t be sure whether to reach for my long johns or the sunscreen. If you asked me how to bake biscuits I’d probably suggest 350 degrees although I can bake with imperial and metric recipes.

 

Too many sorry mornings on the bathroom scales have enabled me to recognise my own weight in both stones and kilos but I’m not sure how big babies are unless they are weighed in pounds.  

 

I can understand the area of a farm in hectares but still talk about a thousand acre voice or stride. Similarly, while I might not be able to do anything worthwhile with a piece of four by two and a length of number eight wire they are still a lot more useful figuratively speaking than their metric equivalents.

 

So when I gauge myself against a linguistic yardstick I’m only slightly ahead of the imperial luddites. I might have the measure of metrics but I’m not prepared to go the extra kilometre by conversing in them.


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