Why do I write this Blog?
How many times have you listened to the news, read a newspaper or magazine article and wanted to scream at the presenter/writer that they have failed to fully understand the subject matter, the content is just plain wrong, or at least misleading? The downside to 24 hour news reporting is that reporters no longer have time to reflect on what they have witnessed, and thus provide a considered report. I have actually listened to reports of events where, for the experienced eye, the camera is telling a different story.
I have read university text books written by so-called professors who recount world events that they have studied – but only from data such as dubious reports in newspapers, and from the comfort of their armchair, whereas I was actually there to witness the events or at least part of the planning of the event (and thus know the initial smokescreen to the media from which the professors extract many of their ‘facts’). Students are then nourished with this information believing it to be factual – thus distorting history.
An example to illustrate the above comments would be my recent experiences in Brazil. I have known Brazil since the late 1970’s, albeit with a break of some 20 years. Much has been reported in recent years regarding the BRIC countries of which Brazil is one, and their prominent rise to economic power. Having been invited to join a Business Round to Brazil in late 2010 I was able to take a good look at what was happening on the ground. My role was to advise banks and captains of business about how to attract inward investment, and what would need to change in Brazil to attract such investment. It is true that at the time there was investment in Brazil, but this was short-term investment, e.g. in the stock market, was inflationary, and could be withdraw very quickly – thus of no real value to the Brazilian economy. There were a number of European small developers thinking Brazil is the next holiday destination not really understanding that more tourists visit the Balearic Islands in one month than went to Brazil in the whole year of 2010.
What I found was that fiscal, banking, and social policy was in urgent need of significant reform. The Brazilian Rial exchange rate was then pegged to the USD at Rial 1.6 to 1 USD where it needed to be at least Rial 3 to 1 USD to be remotely competitive. Bank lending rates were artificially fixed at twice the economic level making borrowing for investment extraordinarily expensive, if not impossible. At the turn of the century Brazil exported some 80% of the world’s bikinis – in 2010 none. Brazil had priced itself out of the market for inward investment and exports. I looked at the plans for the upcoming World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016 – ill-considered, expensive, and little or no legacy. It reminded me of Greece during their run-up to the Greek Olympic Games. The transport systems are dire for such a country, with no railway infrastructure, and the road system is developing but nowhere near where it needs to be. And then we have the largest negative to economic development – corruption. In spite of recent governments stating that reforms are in place, corruption is still as rife, even at the top of politics, as it was in the late 1970’s. The costs to stage the World Cup already have resulted in one million protesters on the streets – it will get worse before the Olympics.
So what went wrong with the media reporting? Did they rely on the words of self-interested officials more interested in self-preservation than the facts? Were the media being used as free promotion? Whatever it was the truth is that the BRICs only looked strong because the USA and Europe were suffering from a deep recession due to a combination of the banking crisis, political mismanagement for some 10 – 15 years, and the fudged Eurozone crisis. As soon as these major economies start to return to growth then the real situation with the BRIC countries will be clear. And of course the BRICs will then blame the USA and Europe for their woes.
As an international banker who has been taught the ways of the world from some of the most accomplished bankers the world has known in my lifetime, been privileged to witness events at the highest levels (including events that are unlikely to make the history books in my lifetime), has met many of the politicians who have shaped events (both good and bad), and experienced the ways of developing countries before most people could visit such places, I have a perspective on world events that provokes my anger towards poor quality media. For over 30 years I have been exposed to so much, and which has shaped my thinking and my approach to life.
Part of my training as a banker was to always leave my nationality, politics and religion at home to enable my mind to adopt an open view to the problems that needed to be solved without any interference from prejudice, dogma or doctrine. As I had previously trained as a scientist this was not a difficult discipline to adopt, but proved to be valuable training in differentiating between fact and fiction, – inevitability and consequence.
In this blog I want to explore ways to reshape situations that do not currently work (e.g. the European Union), to correct media misinformation, to offer a different perspective from conventional thinking, and to discuss new ways to solve problems in the hope that I can provide my audience with interesting considered and objective insight for debate and comment.
In my life the one truly consistent factor is the quality of the mentors that have found me, and given their valuable time and wisdom to help me find my way through life. One of these mentors, when I was just 15 years old, taught me a ditty that I have tried to live by since he first engrained it into my life. It goes:
If you have a job to do
Be it big, be it small
Do it well, or not at all.
Albeit the first time that I have tried to engage with people in this way I will endeavour to stay true to this valuable lesson in life.