Missed Gear?

If you’ve made plans for this Sunday evening, cancel them. Immediately. Because – if you’re in the UK at least – you’ll want to be in front of the telly, watching the extended, all-new Top Gear episode that’ll wrap up Series 22 … So says the BBC Top Gear website.

GearStoogesFinal_270But dedicated fans of the show can still watch episodes from the back catalogue on the BBC next Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, etc, etc. And if that is not enough then the BBC’s joint venture commercial channel, Dave, will be showing different episodes of Top Gear on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, etc. In fact some days next week will have no less than five broadcasts of the show on Freeview channels alone. And next weekend the BBC aim to string-out the finale with a compilation of Series 22 highlights. So it seems that Clarkson, Hammond and May – rather than new front man Chris Evans – will be the ghostly faces of Top Gear for years to come.

The choice of presenter for the next series has led to many posting their views online – with the majority saying they will not be watching the new show; hoping that the old team reappear under a new banner elsewhere. Over at the BBC executives must be hoping that their biggest programme can survive the Chris Evans treatment – and that Evans can survive being both its presenter and producer along with all his other commitments.

Some say that the BBC would have been better served selling the Top Gear franchise now. But instead they have opted to spend £3 million on a new format show that risks devaluing their high-profile brand. So can the new Top Gear keep the audience and revenue figures that the BBC has grown to expect? Only time will tell.

Today’s German for future citizens of Euroland (sponsored by Bratwursts of Bavaria) – Das ist mir egal (dass ist meer eh-gahl) = I don’t care.

Greeks Without Gifts 2

Four weeks on from Grandad’s last posting and the Greek government is still floating more speculative plans aimed at convincing other EU countries (plus the European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund) to lend them more money.

But even if the Greek leaders, against all odds, succeed in getting more new money it will only be used to meet delayed loan repayments and a month or so’s operating costs. The same problem of too little government income will come round again within a matter of weeks. Last month it was the end of May that was the deadline, this month it is the end of June and the EU politicians may soon produce a fudge that moves the deadline to the end of July. But the numbers will never get any better – so something is going to have to give soon.

GreekDrachma4And Greece has previous form. Since regaining independence in 1830 Greece has been declared bankrupt no less than five times. For most of the past 185 years the country has been in default and unable to raise foreign loans. And many Grandads will remember the handfuls of drachma you could once get for a pound on a Greek holiday – as the books were made to balance by currency devaluation. But despite its non-existent credit rating Greece was voted into the EEC and then allowed to switch its drachmas for euros. A move surely set to become one of the EU’s most expensive membership decisions.

Meanwhile the Greek banks are only avoiding collapse through daily transfers of cash from the ECB. A move that seems in direct contravention of EU rules – considering that the Greek banks are clearly insolvent and should have already gone belly-up; like Lehman Brothers did in the USA in 2008.

But why does this matter to the UK? Firstly because we will all need to decide how to vote on our continued EU membership soon. Secondly any Greek collapse will cost the UK money – even if only indirectly. Thirdly the UK has big debts of its own and needs to take steps to avoid following Greece along a road to default. Finally it provides many here with a touch of Schadenfreude in the daily news.

Today’s basic German phrase (sponsored by Vorsprung durch Technik) – Ich habe Langeweile (ikh hah-buh lahn-guh-vy-luh) = I’m bored.

Back To Basics 2

StocksD_120National debts have moved from the realm of economic theory to being the cause of practical problems in many peoples daily lives. Before the financial markets became so greedy that they passed off junk mortgages as low risk investments, or manipulated interest and exchange rates to maximise bonuses, national debts were not an issue for the general public. When the junk mortgages scam unwound the bailout of the failing banks added huge debts to national accounts, killed off speculative financial schemes and all but stopped further lending.

So now a range of countries are teetering on the edge of debt repayment defaults – with Greece being the one making the current headlines. Yet it remains difficult to grasp how the billions or trillions involved actually compare to our own family finances. So Grandad is trying out one of the simplest, and least adjusted, methods – simply dividing a country’s total debt by its estimated population.

So for Greece if we divide the government’s total debt to its official lenders by the estimated population of Greece we get how much everyone in that country owes to international lenders. And today’s best estimates of the key numbers gives us 242,800,000,000 euros divided by 10,816,286 population which equals debts of 22,448 euros per person. If you think that is a manageable amount then you truly are a born optimist.

Frankie1But Greece is just the country that is currently in the spotlight. There are others with problems. And it is fortunate that the UK is not one of them. Everything here is fine – or is it? Well yes – it is according to the various national and international official statistics. However if we do the same debt per person calculation based on one of the lower estimates of UK national debt we get – 1,278,200,000,000 pounds divided by 62,000,000 population which equates to 20,616 pounds per person; or 28,713 euros! Hardly a favourable comparison.

So let us all hope that Greece does not decide to default – since someone will loose a huge amount of money. And despite not being in the eurozone the UK will no doubt be hit with a big bill by our friends in Europe.

Today’s basic German phrase (sponsored by EU Über Alles) – Jetzt muss ich gehen (yetz mooss ikh geh-en) = I must go now.

Back To Basics

Last night the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, confirmed that he has taken up the challenge of our early posts – trying to limit Government spending to what actually comes into the Treasury. Details will emerge in next month’s budget but Osborne’s  declared aim is to set-up a framework for achieving a budget surplus in normal years. A basic objective that Chancellors should have always had at the top of their list.

GladstoneW_160To quote last night’s speech  “We have a budget deficit that remains, at just shy of 5% of national income, one of the highest in the developed world. Our national debt stands at over 80% of GDP … With our national debt unsustainably high, and with the uncertainly about what the world economy will throw at us in the coming years, we must act now to fix the roof while the sun is shining”.

However one of the ways proposed is to re-start meetings of the Committee of the Commissioners for the Reduction of the National Debt, which last met in 1860 under William Gladstone. So I guess that their next meeting will skip approving the minutes of the previous one and not bother with any apologies for absence.

But this was Osborne’s sixth annual Mansion House speech and, despite his five years in charge, our Government is still overspending. Now much of it is going on the interest costs of our existing debt. But overseas aid, HS2, Crossrail 2, smart meters, green subsidies, etc will all add billions to our costs yet have little prospect of achieving their objectives. Even selling off Royal Bank of Scotland shares to reduce debt will be at a loss of billions.

So a difficult task lies ahead – especially when so many in Whitehall are determined to maintain their empires at whatever cost.

Basic German phrase for today (sponsored by EU Über Alles) – Auf Wiedersehen (owf vee-dair-zayn) = Goodbye

Another Big Bill

Today the Westminster parliament is scheduled to debate the European Union Referendum Bill 2015-16. But even before reaching this point a possible EU vote has been stirring up political commentators and pundits. All of them relishing a new topic to keep them in the public eye – now that the Scottish Referendum and UK general elections are over.

The rest of us face the daunting prospect of a year, or even two, of argument and counter-argument over anything and everything referendum-related; from high-level principals to the most minute of details. Yet a large number of us must already know how we would vote – and those still undecided are not going to get a reasoned case for or against from impartial sources at this stage.

So let’s cut straight to predicting the result of asking UK voters the question – should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?

AccountDoctor160Considering that the Yes side is being backed by Labour, most Conservatives and the SNP in the UK and overseas by all the EU countries and the USA – the political decision is already made. A clear Yes.

With UKIP only getting 3.88 million votes (out of 30.69 million) in last month’s general election it seems very unlikely that they can lead a campaign that will gain enough support for a No vote majority. So the popular vote is almost certainly a Yes as well.

If this quick analysis is somewhere near right then the only thing that could change enough people’s minds is some major external event sinking the case for a federal European future. But in reality it might be best to just start learning German … Bis später