Lifestyle Magazine and Common Place Book Online: Something For Everyone
Category: BUSINESS & FINANCE
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Here in London, we stayed up to 4am watching the excellent BBC US Presidential election results coverage. We saw the incoming results from what has been such a diverse and as many found, a divisive U.S. campaign, which has now ushered in a new era for American politics and governance.
Normally those from other nations may not bother to stay up to the wee small hours to watch such. However the the two candidates involved and the known baggage they brought with them to the campaign, did make this election race a fascinating spectacle for many around the globe.
Hilary Clinton the favourite, an experienced party apparatchik, who seems to have been around since her husband Bill was President over 15 years ago was the Democrats candidate. Her role as the powerful Secretary of State under President Obama, was regarded by many as a stepping stone to the White House but in the end this counted as nought.
Donald Trump, a billionaire businessman who had never held any political office and had failed badly in a Presidential bid in 2004, was the rank outsider.
He imposed his formidable personality on the election race, sweeping aside fellow Republican candidates and in effect bulldozing his way to be the only rival to Mrs Clinton and the Democratic Party.
The televised debates between Clinton & Trump were at times acrimonious with enough mud slung to make a decent sized football field!
They made compulsive viewing, more so than any other previous presidential debates.
History was being made.
Mrs Clinton had policies planned that she put to the people. Mr Trump was rather vague on the same. He however made some big bold promises to fix the big issues, not heard of before by the people.
Mr Trump’s antics and comments during the campaign will become the stuff of legend.
Any other candidate who acted his way, would have been bundled away, never to be seen again!
It was understandable that Mrs Clinton and the Democrats, initially thought that with the at times bellicose Mr Trump as her rival, election to the Presidency would be straightforward.
It became clear that Mr Trump in his rousing election speeches and promises during the debates, tapped into the visceral anti establishment mood felt by the majority of US citizens.
These disaffected citizens turned out en masse to vote for someone whom they see as a ‘new broom’ to sweep away over 15 years of distrust in the political system, the stagnation of the economy, jobs and the continued involvement in foreign conflicts.
Mr Trump had no political baggage and to use a cowboy analogy ‘shoots from the hip’.
In computer parlance ‘WYSIWYG’ (What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get). This was so refreshing to many voters, fed up with dissembling anodyne politicians.
His various peccadilloes and outrageous statements did not matter to his voters.
As with the quote attributed to Oliver Cromwell nearly 400 years ago, we get Trump ‘warts and all’, nothing is hidden.
Noting the similar feeling between many British and US people, Mr Trump mentioned the momentous UK exit vote from the EU and said he would do a ‘Brexit’ 1000 times over if elected. He did!
Once upon a time, the Fleet Street of London was the home of national newspapers. Sadly the last two remaining journalists had to say their final good-byes, ending the long, exciting history of the street.
Why pay a dollar for a bookmark?
Why not use the dollar for a bookmark?
– Steven Spielberg
One Dollar Idea
Why not indeed! When a bookmark has ceased its usefulness, we get rid of it, whilst a dollar will always has value, which of course is subject to inflation. But a dollar is a dollar.
……. In the UK, the rough equivalent of a dollar is the pound. The pound has become really mighty in terms of its reputation of spendability.
Pound shops are growing exponentially. They are everywhere. Everyone goes out there to shop, the rich, the very rich, the middle classes, the working class and sometimes the down and outs.
Everything is for a pound but sometimes it is even less (especially if you shop at its sister company the 99p)
The first tine I went to a pound shop, I saw a huge Toblerone which I could not believe was only for a pound. I had to double check that it was for a pound, afterall just a few weeks before I paid £4.99 for the same size at the Duty Free. I just bought one because I know my Toblerone. I have been eating it regularly on a weekly basis for the past 29 years. I am an afficionado. 😉 Got home, unpacked the shopping. Sat down in front of the telly with my cup of tea and then slowly and rather gingerly unwrapped my Toblerone, I was rather half expecting that something untoward was about to happen. I don’t know, I thought it would be green or mouldy. But it was fresh, and delicious, and nougathy and crunchy and nutty and heavenly. It tasted like the kosher Toblerone. Result!!!
It gave food for concern thought. Instead of Peter buying me the smallest size Toblerone weekly, I now have the full size one any day of the week? I don’t really want to get even fatter. Seriously!
Ooops I digress. Anyway in the pound shop you can almost get anything. They have even started selling milk, eggs, butter, bacon, sausages which I have to admit I would still prefer to buy from my local Sainsburys even if they could twice the price. I don’t know, it is just me.
The phases of life are usually, from birth, getting an education, working for a living, retirement and then whatever comes next! Of course this is not always the case as sometimes the grim reaper comes calling in before you even started to really live.
You also hear of cases now where the nanny state looks after the people in her very encompassing embrace and protection. Just a few weeks ago I was talking to a man who was very proud of his disability. He was only in his late 50s but he was half-boasting that he has not worked for more than 37 years and yet he and his family are comfortably housed, fed, and clothed. (All he was worried about was how the new Universal Credit will apply to him and his family. Again he is lucky as the Universal Credit is for the moment only affects those who are single claimants.)
I will not retire while I still have my legs and my make-up box.
– Bette Davis
At the other side of the spectrum, there are those who are only too happy to go on working as long as they can; we have very dear friends who have worked all their lives, taking any kind of jobs along the way. They had just retired this year at the ages of 80 and mid-70. They are both hale and hearty, probably because of their industrious ways and keeping busy all the time.
Peter and I attended a Retirement seminar a couple of weeks ago. It was rather sobering to note that retirement is not all it’s cracked up to be. Apparently, retirement is not really a time for that perceived and imagined comfortable life in the sun overlooking the seaside. Retirement is just another obstacle course to navigate in one’s life.
If you don’t look after your money, your money won’t look after you. The IFA conducting the seminar said that the number one foe of retirement is inflation. To start with, you might think that you have enough to live on, but can you still live comfortably in 10 years time when inflation has sunk its mighty claws into the basic necessities of everyday life?
Peter and I just hoped that the IFA gave us a frigthener to ensure that we invest the tax-free cash, which is 25 per cent of the pension pot. But then again, he might have a point. The salaries in the last 5 years have not really gone up but the prices of food, water, gas, electricity and fare have gone up exponentially. These are basic necessities, things that we cannot do without.
It was only mentioned during the seminar that state pension is under consideration. It is being mulled about that it should be awarded at 70 of age for both men and women and that they needed to have both worked for a minimum of 35 years each (or to have previously claimed benefits for 35 years).
There are also the Inheritance Tax (IHT) to consider and most frighteningly, the dreaded Long Term Care. If not thought out properly the home you paid for with crippling mortgage will not pass to your heirs. Instead it could be forcibly taken out of your hands to pay for your long term care.
Another thing to really think about!!!
And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.
– Abraham Lincoln
As many know, Filipinos work in most countries in the world. Wherever they work and, certainly in the UK, Filipinos are regards as hard working, reliable, law abiding, unobtrusive and friendly.
Many are overqualified (being university graduates) for the work they do mainly in domestic service.
To prepare these maids made in Manila can enrol in an academy, which would train them in anything housekeeping.
Many came to the UK as excellent trained nurses and carers. Not so well known is that the Philippines has excellent technical colleges & universities and produced many computer technicians, programmers and coders who use their expertise around the world.
These workers, the carpenters, engineers, nurses, teachers and domestic helpers alike are known in the Philippines as OFW (Overseas Filipino Workers). They send millions of pounds to their families back home and contribute greatly to the national economy. Many international companies now outsource services to the Philippines too.
Maids Made in Manila
Stephen Sackur, a BBC correspondent has recently posted an interesting article about these workers & the growth in both the economy and population in the Philippines. Here is the article.
The Philippines has one of the fastest growing economies in Asia – but there aren’t enough jobs to go around. So every year the government teaches thousands of people the skills they need to get jobs abroad.
When I arrive at the state-run Housemaids Academy in Manila morning exercises are well under way. A squad of uniformed cleaners is poking feather dusters into all corners of the sitting room. In the kitchen trainee cooks are immersed in the finer points of salad preparation.
The academy has the feel of a soap-opera set – each room meticulously dressed to ape the reality of a grand residence. Below stairs is a classroom filled with old fashioned school desks. Here, I’m told, the trainee house servants take lessons in hygiene, respect and personal finance.
The Philippines government schools tens of thousands of maids, chauffeurs, mechanics and gardeners every year, with the express purpose of launching them into long-term service abroad.
For the state it’s a win-win. These economic exiles – there are are currently some 10 million of them – send back foreign currency which is the lifeblood of the Filipino economy. And the extraordinary exodus of labour acts as a safety valve in a country struggling to provide home-grown jobs for a population rising by more than two million every year.
“We are proud of what we are doing,” one of the trainee maids, Maria, tells me. “We are national heroes.” That was a phrase first coined in a government propaganda campaign, and it’s clear that the 20 young women now gathered around me – all immaculately uniformed and polite to a fault – desperately want it to be true.
“It can’t be easy leaving your families behind,” I suggest.
“We have no choice,” replies Evelyn, an elfin figure no more than 5ft tall. “I have a baby at home but no way to support him. The wages I earn in Kuwait will mean my mother can raise him.”
Many of the other trainees nod in sympathy – almost all, it seems, are facing the prospect of separation from their children for at least three years, possibly many more. Their reality will be prolonged servitude in an alien culture.
The mood in the academy has darkened. Half the young women before me are now weeping.
Alongside the remittances of overseas workers, there’s a new phenomenon keeping the Philippines economy afloat. It’s known as BPO, business process outsourcing – you could call it the rise of the call centre economy. More and more Western companies have moved their low-cost back-office operations to the Philippines.
“We’ve overtaken India,” Dyne Tubbs, a manager at Transcom call centres, boasts as we survey her army of Filipino telephonists handling calls on behalf of a UK parcels delivery company. It’s midnight in Manila, 4pm in London and the phones are red hot, as they will be until dawn.
“British companies love us because our English is not accented. The brightest graduates from our universities fight to get a job here. We only take the smartest kids. And after we’ve finished training them they even get your British sarcasm,” says Tubbs.
One third of the Filipino population is under 15 years old. The country may have found a unique niche in the global economy but current rates of economic growth, though impressive, will not sustain a population projected to double from 100 to 200 million within 30 years. Which is why Jane Judilla may just hold the key to the Philippines economic future. Jane isn’t an entrepreneur or a politician, she’s a reproductive health worker who spends her days in some of Manila’s most squalid slums.
Thanks to a law pushed through by the government last year, she’s now permitted to offer the poorest Filipinos free access to condoms, the contraceptive pill, even sterilisation for women who want it. The Catholic Church, which commands the loyalty of 90% of Filipinos, fought the initiative tooth and nail but the clerics lost.
Judilla introduces me to Sheralyn Gonzales, a whey-faced woman of 30 with 10 children and another on the way. I ask Gonzales whether she’s happy. “I’ll be happy when I’ve had the baby and can get sterilised,” she says. “My eldest has dropped out of school, and we can barely afford to educate the others. I tell my children to have two kids, then use contraception.”
If the next generation of Gonzales’s heed her advice their country’s future is promising. If not, tens of millions of young Filipinos may find themselves stuck in a poverty trap, still dependent on overseas labour as a means of escape.
The Philippines could be Asia’s next tech tiger. When my dear wife & I visited the Philippines nearly two years ago, we spent most of the time with Jean’s delightful family and touring around. I was impressed at the scale of building work. I saw architecturally interesting, clean bright looking buildings being erected, mainly apartments & offices. I could see so much potential in the Philippines, it is a growing SE Asian economy. Their use and development of IT is as good as any developed country.
If the infamous and exposed corrupt (Napoles et al) Pork Barrel PDAF budget systems are corrected soon, this potential would be unleashed to improve the economy to benefit the hard-working & innovative Filipino people. The IT industry is growing in the Philippines and cyber hubs are growing. This is no surprise, as I find Filipinos are natural engineers and problem solvers. Many are electronic , hardware engineers, computer coders, programmers who enjoy embracing technology. However those who have the skills tend to migrate to more prosperous countries, which have better infrastructure.
The internet infrastructure in the Philippines needs drastic improvement. Only the ‘social surfing elite’ having decent connection speeds. This severely hampers those who need faster broadband speeds needed to develop cyber innovation and therefore generate income to the nation.
Below is an interesting BBC news item about the Philippines emergence in technology.
“The Philippines may have the fastest-growing economy in South East Asia but it also has the slowest internet in the region. Despite this, some think they have spotted an opportunity that could turn the country into Asia’s next tech tiger. Aurora Almendral met some of the true believers. On paper, the Philippines has all the ingredients of an emerging tech tiger: a fast-growing middle class with money to spend; a 100-million strong, largely English-speaking, population addicted to social media; plus low labour and operating costs.
But go anywhere on the islands and you’ll notice frustrated faces on many of those with a handheld device in their palm.
Internet speeds are atrocious – a measly 3.6 megabits per second (Mbps), well below the regional average of 12.4 Mbps. Never mind the US average of 22.3 or near neighbour Singapore with 61 Mbps.
“We see the Philippines as a good testing market”
Peter FabianInternet entrepreneur
Coverage is patchy at best for mobile. Venture outside of the cities and you might as well be in the 1990s.
In the words of Peter Fabian, a recently arrived tech entrepreneur, to any seasoned Silicon Valley investor the Philippines looks like “the end of the world. For years, the Philippines lagged behind the rest of South East Asia, and entrepreneurs looking for the next tech hub overlooked the country for other nearby booming economies, like Thailand and Singapore. But, says Mr Fabian: “We see the Philippines as a good testing market.” After researching emerging markets across the globe, he decided on the Philippines for his start-up, which aims to use big data to build a credit card company aimed at the middle class who are not customers of traditional banks. Furthermore, there are a lot of unexplored opportunities and, with few experienced tech entrepreneurs around, not much competition. Mr Fabian was also attracted to the fact that, as a former US colony, the country shares many US institutions and has a similar culture, making the Philippines feel very familiar.
More than 60% of Filipinos have smartphones.
“The attitude towards foreigners is very welcoming, which cannot be said of a lot of people in Asia,” says Mr Fabian. The Philippine start-up scene is small, but people are starting to trickle in. Some are adapting Western products to the local market, like fast fashion ecommerce, daily deals sites or taxi service apps. Others, like Ron Hose, a Silicon Valley-bred, Manila-based entrepreneur and investor, are looking at solutions to more local challenges.
There are a second set of problems that are unique to emerging markets that companies and entrepreneurs in developing countries are not really building products for,” he says. “An entrepreneur sitting in an office in Silicon Valley,” Mr Hose says, “is not thinking about the problems of a Filipino who is sitting in a Jeepney [local taxi] for an hour and a half a day to go to work, or whose home gets flooded 10 times a year during typhoons.” Mr Hose’s company, Coins.ph, provides financial services for people without bank accounts. He says that while each country is unique, there are big fundamental problems that are common across emerging markets, such as lack of access to education or the fact that people are unbanked. “If you solve one of these needs, then the market is larger than any one of these countries. If you can solve banking for people in the Philippines, you can solve it for 500 million people in South East Asia,” he says.
Richard Eldridge is another tech entrepreneur based in Manila. He co-founded Lenddo, an on-line loan company that wants to help consumers use their social media activity to develop creditworthiness, giving them access to financial services. He has been working in the Philippines since 2001, and has had a front row seat for the Philippines’ economic growth.
Ron Hose believes his on-line site will be a breakthrough service for the middle classes in emerging markets
He previously ran a large outsourcing company, and found that many of his employees – the very middle classes he seeks to serve – kept asking him for loans. “It fascinated me that they were coming to me and not going to a bank and getting loans,” Mr Eldridge says. He left the multinational in 2011 to start Lenddo with New York-based chief executive Jeff Stewart. The Philippines remains Lenddo’s home base and largest market but in the past year it has expanded to Mexico and Colombia and is looking at 30 other emerging countries.
Local problems, local solutions
While foreigners have made a mark in the Philippine start-up sector, most entrepreneurs are locals, solving local problems. Norris Jay Perez was a programmer for a small company before he struck out on his own in 2009. For four years he tried and failed at 10 different start-up ideas before coming up with Apptivate, a platform that allows smartphone users without credit cards to buy apps. He had the idea when he wanted to buy an app for his second-hand smartphone but could not because he did not have a credit card. Nearly 60% of Filipinos own a smartphone, computer or tablet, significantly higher than comparable emerging markets such as India, Vietnam or Indonesia. Mr Perez says that only 3% use Apptivate and he believes he is tapping into a large market with plenty of room to grow. However, spotty mobile coverage and slow internet speeds are hampering adoption. Mr Perez admits he spends time fielding emails from Apptivate customers, frustrated because slow and patchy mobile internet connections kept them from downloading apps they had already paid for.
Limited local talent
The situation has attracted the ire of Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, who requested a Senate investigation to find out the cause of slow internet speeds in the Philippines and how it was affecting the ease of doing business. “Lack of good internet is going to slow down economic growth in the Philippines, that I know for sure,” says Ron Hose of Coins.ph. But he adds: “It’s not going to slow down tech entrepreneurs.” He thinks the bigger issues are an underdeveloped funding infrastructure and a lack of tech talent. “The good ones have left for Singapore or Hong Kong. It makes it hard for tech entrepreneurs to operate here,” he says. Lenddo solves its talent shortfall by outsourcing the most complex data engineering work to New York, while hiring the rest of its team locally. For now, the Philippine tech industry is for true believers, willing to build not just a business, but an industry from the ground up.“
Someone from Facebook just posted this photo. Apparently this P1000 note is a fake. She was incandescent with rage and I do understand how she felt.
It is not right that the money transfers agencies like MLhuillier do not check for authenticity of monies they are issuing to their customers. It should be the first order of business to know that monies in their stocks are safe, secure and legitimate. Afterall their clients pay premium fee to transfer monies to relatives back home to the Philippines.
Another thing, don’t make it too hard for a customer to put a complaint. Try to cater to their concerns and not ignore them and sweep their problem under some dirty carpets.
To the customers, ensure that the money you received are not the fake ones. Probably a selfie while at MLhuillier or some other money transfer agencies showing the serial numbers of the money would help; if you are a victim of the fakery, report to the police this fake transaction at once.