On the Steps of Madness By Phil Manhire It doesn’t stop there. Led by Obama’s pet, Ben In Australia, the voters are faced with a Federal Bernanke, head “guru” of the Federal Reserve and his election some time soon. Will the Aussies opt for more ECB counterpart, “Super Mario” Draghi, these key of the same big-spending, ever-expanding government central banks will be running their money presses 24/7 and government-incurred debt or will they choose the – with no end in sight to this particular madness. alternative – a weakly-led conservative government? Who knows? I’ve certainly given up trying to judge and/or predict voter habits or mentality, particularly when they are faced with a clear-cut choice between responsible government and its alternative. So what else could twenty-thirteen have lined up for us? THE YEAR AHEAD Consider for a moment their apparent philosophy.... “STEP 1. Let’s go into debt even further; Fast internet? Nope. Maybe in another couple of years......maybe. Until it becomes a reality, a working That age-old question – “What is the next year actuality, Vanuatu will continue to experience the STEP 2. Let’s print some more paper money so that its frustrations of a very expensive and inefficient Internet going to mean to me?” Will it be a “good one”? value (purchasing power) goes down; service as well as poor communications infrastructure. Although there are always “circumstances beyond our The absence of high-speed communications will control” to blame, the actual reality in being part of STEP 3. Carry on with Steps 1. and 2. ad infinitim so continue to sap the potential for greater business that we can afford to re-pay our debt with the extra human society is nearer to the truth – “Life is what investment into Vanuatu. paper money; you make it”. STEP 4. Boost up our own treasure chests with gold so And that leads me to that, when the economy totally collapses, we’ll STILL be THINKING. It strikes me in control of the money!” that one of the greatest achievements must be to It’s quite possible that in 12 months’ time, we won’t be an accomplished have seen much change in our local economy while all thinker. By accomplished, I the above “geniuses” continue to do their thing. That mean to be able to put means more local businesses going out of business, A “Black Swan” event? If I knew the answer to that one’s “outside-the-square” lower property values as the banks continue their fore- question, (a) I would be as rich as hell and (b) it thought into actual closures, continued Government mismanagement of wouldn’t be a “black swan” event now, would it? existence. Yes – I totally their financial responsibilities, more WTO-related issues The past twelve months presented us with a number of believe in the “Necessity is and more AID-donor scrutiny and ”hold-backs”. ugly and potentially even uglier situations that could the mother of invention” adage, though, there have have very well spilled over into major wars, national, GOLD. As of two days ago, the gold price closed at been those great “thinkers” who have contributed international or civil. Although faced with rapidly rising USD1,663.90/oz, an increase of USD9790 or 6.25% for greatly to the betterment of humankind overall. In the unemployment levels in most countries, riots in the the year to date. I admit it – I was too optimistic in my past I have spoken about great minds like that of streets of Europe, ongoing crises like the civil war in predictions for the rise in price (15-60% plus). That’s Nikola Tesla but at the same time, ignored espousing Syria, North Korea and its “in-your-face” and “up what can happen when you under-estimate the enemy the genius of people the likes of Leonardo da Vinci. yours” approach to international relations, a pissing – the politically-controlled central banks. Do you realize, however, that we still have our great contest between China and Japan over a couple of Nevertheless, GOLD will have rocks and so on, all had the potential for disaster on a “thinkers” in today’s society? Surprisingly, many of its day. I still recommend the grand scale. Thankfully, they didn’t come about but them are the “back-yard” inventors. Some will succeed accumulation of it during 2013 that in itself, should perhaps act as a warning to us – at their ventures; others will fail. The corporate world and beyond (SURPRISE!), by be prepared. hasn’t been slow to pick up the “thinkers”, often at both individuals and by the post-graduate level...or even before. These minds will Remember the “Lehman Brothers” black swan event? Australian and Vanuatu central also be put to the test and....some will succeed and 2008 – GFC? Fundamentally, the global economy has banks – the RBA and RBV respectively. some will fail. worsened since then. This has created an ideal And so it is with life in general, I guess. You win some, Onto “Health”. All the money in the world is no good breeding environment for a financial black swan to you lose some. The key, of course, is to keep on going, to you if your health is stuffed. Whether that be your hatch. preferably with a defined sense of purpose. We shall physical health, mental health or spiritual health, it is more difficult to maintain “good health” if you are Natural disasters? Once again – no idea. It’s cyclone return to the “thinkers” another time, meanwhile...... season for our region. Even as this goes to print we are subjected to undue stress in your daily life. It stands to Most of us will be concerned about three major aspects carefully watching the development of a Coral Sea reason that, if your “Happiness” level is high, then of our lives – “Health, Wealth and Happiness”. cyclone. Many places within the Pacific “Ring of Fire” your health is far more likely to be okay too. With this in mind – back to the year ahead with the could well “blow their top” – no notice given. That’s the first subject on the agenda being the financial outlook Stress can also take root if you are concerned about way it is. It would be nice to have a year free of major for 2013. your access to quality health services. Of course, in an disasters, though. overall sense, we don’t have any such thing in Vanuatu. Unhappily, the global economy looks no better now A Reminder to all the “Game You want high-quality health services? Then you had than it did at the start of 2012. Example: The table better get into Parliament so that you can head off to of Thrones” fans out there – st below compares various countries’ Public Debt figures the nearest Aussie, Kiwi or New Caledonia medical put 31 March into your diary st th from 1 January to 30 September, 2012 (in USD): facilities when you need treatment – all at the tax- now – the launch of Series 3. Australia 392.147Bn 395.171Bn payers expense, of course. Anyway - “happiness”....... WHATEVER “TURNS YOU ON”, I sincerely wish all America 10,113.004Bn 11,558.293Bn Our individual and communal happiness levels are the best for you and those who matter to you in 2013. UK 2,018.112Bn 2,225.960Bn determined by a number of factors, not the least of China 1,128.026Bn 1,330.721Bn which is the functionality or otherwise of our families and neighbours. If either of these factions is under France 2,273.790Bn 2,335.472Bn financial stress or the trials of dysfunctional leadership, Germany 2,795.500Bn 2,795.111Bn then a state of happiness is all that much harder to Russia 139.300Bn 165.043Bn obtain and maintain. These figures show that, with the exception of the That of course leads me to comment on politics. 2013 Germans, the world’s leaders continued on the road to promises to be a volatile time early in the year, locally. greater debt as if there were no tomorrow. Morons! The present government, I believe, will come under Notice that I haven’t mentioned Japan’s economy? enormous pressure from many quarters – the Well theirs is a completely different story – a fairytale Opposition, the voters and the Courts. We are facing turned to horror story. And the disease is contagious. by-elections in various government-held seats as well More on that story next year. as Provincial elections and frankly, I shall be surprised if we don’t see a change of government – soon. Although The looming “FISCAL CLIFF”. On New Year’s Eve, the the majority of voters appear somewhat cynical about US will reach its statutory USD16.39Trillion debt limit. UNTIL NEXT YEAR....... the chances of cleaning up the government and Congress will no doubt agree to an increase in this limit heavily-politicized public service, it is my view (and “HAPPY INVESTING!” going forward. The “penalty” that Obama’s inherent hope) that the gathering-steam anti- government will have to pay is that of dramatic firstname.lastname@example.org corruption forces will prevail to some degree and as spending cuts along with moderated tax increases. At such, will result in having someone in power who will least, that’s how I see the outcome of Republican Party “give it a go”. negotiations.