Friday, 29 August 2014

Poponomics trailer (short)



The first poponomics trailer- giving you a reminder of what's happened and a taste of what's to come! 
Mohammad Lone Editor

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Privatisation: what is it?


Royal Mail- the latest major privatisation. 
Privatisation: it's been a contentious issue in the UK, especially since the Thatcher era. It's salvation to some, a criminal act to others.

Thatcher, guided by the principles of free-market, non-interventionist saint Friedrich Hayek, led the privatisation of over 50 British public sector companies- notably British Gas, British Telecom (BT) and British Leyland (see, the names all make sense now). It's interesting how privatisation has integrated into our society over the last 30 years or so- while there was outroar from many when Thatcher privatised utility, automotive, financial industries and so on, nowadays it's difficult for much of the youth to believe that companies like BT, Jaguar and British Airways could be owned by their government.

So what is privatisation? It's a relatively simple concept to explain- there are various particular types of it, but privatisation is essentially the transfer of public, nationally owned assets (companies in this case) into private hands, which can be via sale, like we saw recently with Royal Mail.
Royal Mail was until recently a public sector company, essentially run by the government- but in October 2013 the company was broken up into shares and sold on the stock exchange (it was later
discovered to have been shockingly undervalued). It was open to investment from anyone.
A portion of the Royal Mail is still owned by the government via an intermediary, 10% by its 150,000 staff, and significant amounts are owned by foreign state-backed organisations from countries such as Kuwait and Singapore.

So, that's a basic introduction to privatisation- but stick around for a more detailed evaluation of the benefits and negatives of this controversial transformation. It'll certainly be an interesting ride.

SOURCES (and recommended reads): 
Margaret Thatcher: one policy that led to more than 50 companies being sold or privatised http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/alistair-osborne/9980292/Margaret-Thatcher-one-policy-that-led-to-more-than-50-companies-being-sold-or-privatised.html
Royal Mail: Government of SINGAPORE is the second biggest private owner of our postal service
http://www.mirror.co.uk/money/city-news/singapore-governments-sovereign-wealth-fund-2558278#ixzz3BaHXfUtW 

Royal Mail: Sovereign Funds To Get Shares

http://news.sky.com/story/1152622/royal-mail-sovereign-funds-to-get-shares


Mohammad Lone Editor

Monday, 25 August 2014

The Uber Issue


Uber, a relatively new business seeking to revolutionise the taxi services of cities around the world, has been one of Silicon Valley's hottest new startups. Valued in June 2014 at $18.2 billion, the company has taken the world by storm, with its simple model: you can, via your smartphone, hail a taxi to your GPS destination, and get it to take you to any destination you choose on your device. You don't need cash- money is transferred via online payment, with a credit
card or PayPal, just with a press of a button.

Uber's driver hiring process is relatively simple- you need a car, a driving licence, insurance and need to pass various background checks. Uber takes commission from every ride and pays drivers the rest of their fees weekly.
What's more, passengers can rate and review drivers (and drivers can rate passengers), giving all parties involved the incentive to give good service.
It's a simple, efficient system.

However, Uber has come under increasing attack in recent times- not so much from its customers, or the public in general, but from its competitors (unsurprisingly) but most importantly the governments of various local and national authorities.

Cabbies took to the streets of London to protest against Uber
The main issue seems to be that Uber is undercutting local taxi fares- at most times offering fares lower than their standard counterparts. Also, Uber drivers are not forced to pass the same background checks and inspections as their counterparts- a separate background check is needed. Local cab services claim this is too dangerous and should be outlawed.
London has seen protest from taxi drivers against Uber in the form of 4000 cabbies causing a huge traffic jam in the centre of the city, claiming that Uber illegal due to its lack of a meter on every cab.

There has been anger across the world from drivers part of the same cause- to remove Uber from their streets.
Is this a fair point from the taxi drivers or are they simply trying to eradicate what they may see as a growing threat to their comparatively dated services?

Firstly, it's important to consider that Uber is usually cheaper than the regular taxi services. I took an Uber once from Paddington to a friend's house; normally it cost £24 by cab, but by Uber the same route at roughly the same time was £15.
The cheap fares, quick payment, the lack of a need for cash, these are all advantages that have made Uber so popular- and undoubtedly their nearing obsoletion is frustrating many traditional taxi drivers (though they may not admit it).
As for the question of Uber background checks, perhaps more needs to be done- Uber drivers have received their fair share of bad press, but so have taxi drivers. However, perhaps a unified background check system would ensure all transporters are relatively reliable (background checks don't ensure total safety).

As for meters, it's fair to say that they can prevent exorbitant fares- though perhaps regulation should allow for different systems of fare calculation and regulate those, rather than give them all a blanket ban.

My personal opinion is that the taxi drivers must accommodate innovation in their industry, and, even better, take it up themselves. As a customer of taxi services I want a low fare, I want to be free from the worry of 'do I have cash?', and I want to be able to pay quick and easily. I want a service like Uber, that is innovative and not caught up in 'tradition'- and obviously I am not alone, considering the company's popularity.

So perhaps taxi drivers should embrace change, and innovation. Uber has shown that in this case (though refinement is needed), it will be for the best of the average consumer.

SOURCES (and recommended reads)
http://www.heraldsun.com.au/business/breaking-news/uber-drivers-will-be-fined-sa-govt/story-fnn9c0hb-1227036403657?nk=c226658d765e4f3742a7ba82aefc4ed4

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/f07810f6-293f-11e4-8b81-00144feabdc0.html#axzz3BPEs4lxZ

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-27799938

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/11/why-london-taxi-drivers-protesting-uber-tfl
Mohammad Lone Editor

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

What Happened To Freddos Being 10p? Deflation; Part Two


So, in the previous article we looked through the negative effects of inflation- how it can spiral, leave people impoverished, and so on- and we also looked at a positive if you like borrowing.
However, let's talk deflation- the reduction of general prices in the economy.

What causes deflation? It's exactly the opposite of inflation. Inflation is caused by an oversupply of money in the economy- deflation is caused by an undersupply of money. Whereas inflation decreases the value of money, deflation increases it, causing things to become cheaper. Sounds good, right?

There are many consequences of deflation however that can be damaging- profit loss for businesses being the root of the major ones. Dropping prices to an extent are beneficial- it can grant more people access to essentials such as heating, which, as discussed in the previous article, can save lives.

However if deflation gets out of control, falling prices will mean profits of businesses will fall- and thus most businesses will cut down on costs, leading to people being made redundant, factories and offices shutting down, work being outsourced, and so on.
Unemployment would increase, and even those fortunate enough to keep their jobs would see their pay decrease.
Unemployment can be devastating- it would lead many to default on any loans or mortgages taken out, it can cause people to lose their homes (though this is more likely in the USA than the UK).

You may be thinking, why have we heard so much more about inflation in the news than deflation? Well deflation can often be more easily controlled by governing authorities. In the USA, the Fed (the central bank) prevents deflation by flooding the market with money, thus increasing prices. The UK follows a similar protocol- we mentioned previously the idea of Quantitative Easing.

So should we be happy that the price of a Freddo has increased over the past two decades? Not really- but perhaps the fact that it didn't drastically fall in price is something we should also be well aware of.



Mohammad Lone Editor

Sunday, 10 August 2014

What Happened To Freddos Being 10p? (Part One).



The humble Freddo. Once the posterchild of the consumer chocolate boom, the first word in affordable sugary snacks, one of the only things you could actually buy with a 10p coin. Almost every British child has fond memories of the little sugary frog-shaped friend.
But fewer such memories are being gifted to the youth of today. No, the Freddo has been attacked viciously in recent years.

Since the introduction of the Freddo as we know it in 1994, the price has risen from a humble 10p to a more maverick 15p, to a dangerously inconvenient 17p (who carries around exactly 17p change) to its frankly outrageous current retail price of 20p. That's a 100% increase- a double in price!
There's been an outrage over this price change- a quick glance at the numerous facebook pages on the subject would confirm this.

But why has the price increased? One might say the greed of Cadbury itself- perhaps rightly so, however considering the presumably low profit margins on such a low-priced chocolate, it would be a questionable business decision to increase the price for no reason other than hope for more profits.

The answer in fact is one that you will have heard of- it affects all of us, and not just products like the Freddo- INFLATION.
Charting the scandalous Fredd-flation.

Inflation, simply put, is the increase in price of products or services.
A decade ago, 10p in your pocket could buy you a tasty little Freddo- but today, 10p cannot buy you the Freddo. So, because of inflation, your purchasing power, the possibilities of what your money can do, has decreased. You're worse off- you have to pay more than you did before, but you're not getting a larger, tastier Freddo; it's the same thing.

But inflation is not all that bad, especially if you're of the borrowing type. Let's have a theoretical (simplified) example. Say you buy a house in a period of low inflation. You pay with a fixed interest rate mortgage you've taken out from the bank. If a period of high inflation follows, your house price will rise (theoretically, as inflation=higher money supply=more money to spend, HOWEVER often other minor factors affect house price), and while you have the option available to profit from this increase (you can sell your house and make a profit), the total amount you have to pay the bank is still the pre-inflation price.
So, by the end of the mortgage payments, if inflation is still up, you've paid less than the market value of your home. So inflation has helped you!

But of course, inflation can lead to terrible consequences. Inflation is gas and energy prices has been reported to have fatal consequences on the poorer members of society (according to the Office for National Statistics, unaffordable energy bills contributed to 24,000 deaths in the UK in the winter of 2011), and that an inflationary spiral can occur- due to higher prices in the market, usually profits of companies will increase- meaning they can hire more staff- meaning more people will have income to buy products/services- meaning prices will continue to inflate as demand rises.

Inflation can also be caused by the government. You may have heard of the programme of quantitative easing- essentially money is pumped artificially into the economy to try to stimulate spending. One of the strong arguments against QE is that pumping more money into the economy causes inflation.
To understand this, think of money as a commodity- think gold. The more abundant gold there is, the less its value- and the less abundant it is, the more the value.
Money was easy to come by in Weimar Germany.
Too easy.
Of course a balance must be struck- but QE decreases the value of money, and historically some extreme QE-style programs have led to hyperinflation (think wheelbarrows of money in 1920s Germany), where money became so abundant due to printing of cash that it became worth more in paper than actual purchasing power.

So excess inflation does not sound too appetising- but neither does its opposite, deflation.
But take a nice rest. Have a nap, a little reflection and come back on Tuesday for part two, where we'll expand on deflation and more good stuff. 

SOURCES
24,000 'died because of cold homes' last winter http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2240716/24-000-died-cold-homes-winter-Fears-grow-figure-higher-year-spiralling-bills.html

investopedia.com
Mohammad Lone Editor