Thursday, 21 July 2016

Turkey Finance

Turkey’s lira fell to an all-time low after S&P Global Ratings downgraded the country’s debt on concern about an increase in political risk after a failed coup last week and the government declared a state of emergency as it pursues those responsible.

The currency slumped to as low as 3.0973 against the dollar before falling 1.5 percent to 3.0898 on Wednesday. Stocks earlier capped the steepest three-day sell off in three years and bonds tumbled, sending the yield on 10-year notes to the highest since May.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared a three-month state of emergency in a televised address after a day of meetings with top generals on the National Security Council, and then ministers in cabinet. Since the collapse of the attempted putsch on Saturday, authorities have arrested thousands of army officers, judges and prosecutors, and embarked on a purge of other institutions such as universities.

S&P cut Turkey to BB, two steps below investment grade, from BB+ with a negative outlook, saying the move reflected the further fragmentation of the political landscape after last week’s attempted coup. This will undermine the country’s investment environment, growth and capital inflows into its externally leveraged economy, it said. S&P’s downgrade comes two days after Moody’s Investors Service put the sovereign on review for a possible downgrade.

The failed overthrow attempt has led President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to crack down on his opponents. About 60,000 people have been detained, suspended, fired or stripped of their professional accreditation since the coup, according to Bloomberg estimates. An announcement will be made after meetings with National Security Council, ruling AK Party government ministers and cabinet.

The financial situation is not good, but I am more worried for the 60,000 detainees and how many can become missing persons.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Turkey Aftermath

It was not much of a coup. The death toll currently stands at 290, according to Turkish officials. Unfortunately for those 290 it was the end.

More than 6,000 people, including senior military officials, have been arrested in the aftermath of the coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who promised to “cleanse the virus from all state institutions.” Another phrase he used which sent a chill up the spine of any western liberal was "a gift from God" while referring to the coup. We really do not have any idea what this man is capable of in the future.

The old Turkey’s story is well known: Secularists ran the state and the military which intervened from time to time to cut the religious conservative majority down to size when it gained too much electoral power.

The new Turkey story is about to begin although it probably started back in 2002 when Erdoğan came to power. In the last 12 to 24 months Erdoğan has been clamping down on media based targets to the point where there is only state run media today and most of the free media has disappeared. I find it rather difficult to expect democracy to flourish under these conditions.

As with many coups around the world, the aftermath will be bloody and repressive. It will be rule of the mob, rather than rule of law that will shape Turkish politics and society. More than 1,000 members of the military have been arrested and more than 2,000 judges have been laid off. Pro-government mobs have brutally attacked anyone they perceive as being anti-Erdoğan or anti-government. Darker days lie ahead for Turkey and an awful lot of people will want a better life in the UK now.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Turkey's Troubles

Headlines Today:-
Turkey coup: President Erdogan says army elements guilty of 'treason', as he tells nation government is in charge, after violent clashes in Ankara and Istanbul leave 'at least 60 dead'.

What has happened and why?

During the night it appears that a small faction of the army has tried to attempt a coup. It appears to be a very small group although they had access to fighter jets, tanks and other military equipment, it does not seem to be the main body of the army as a whole. A more surprising thing is this morning there appears to be no political support whatsoever as all the main factions in parliament have condemned the coup. It will probably be very short and bloody.

President Erdogan came to power in 2002 democratically after the countries people voted for him and against the standing secularists that had been in power. Since then he has tried to move the country more towards the religious side of Islam and has reigned in a lot of power more centrally.

Back in 2013, Turkey witnessed a number of high-profile demonstrations in relation to the current government’s policies and the actions of the country’s then Prime Minister, now President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A plan to redevelop a park in central Istanbul adjacent to Taksim Square sparked the unrest. Istanbul, the capital Ankara and a number of other major towns and cities in the country were affected by the demonstrations, but tourism remained largely untroubled in the country as a whole.

Several bomb attacks in recent months, notably the June 28th attack at Atatürk Airport, have rightly horrified the world. Their purpose was less to hurt many people than to put political pressure on the Turkish government and economy.

12 January 2016 there was a suicide bomb attack against tourists in Sultanahmet in Istanbul in which 10 people died. On 19 March 2016 a similar attack against tourists on Istiklal St in Istanbul killed 4 people.

17 February 2016 a large bomb attack near a military barracks on Eskisehir Road in Ankara killed 28 people. On 13 March 2016, a similar attack killed over 30 people at Kizilay Square in central Ankara.

27 April 2016 there was a suspected suicide bomb attack at Bursa Ulu Mosque. The bomber was killed and 7 people slightly injured.

1 May 2016 a bomb attack at the Central Police Station in Gaziantep killed two police officers and injured 23 others.

7 June 2016 a bomb attack in the Vezneciler area of Istanbul killed 7 police officers and 4 civilians. 36 people were injured.

28 June 2016 Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul was attacked. More than 40 people were killed.

Turkey and Syria are very dangerous environments and Turkey is a big tourist destination, so there is a huge pool of people who will be wandering around concerned about the actions over night. As a side note British Airways cancels all flights to and from Turkey on Saturday and specifically BA675 departing from Istanbul on Sunday.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

New Prime Minister

Firstly congratulations to Theresa May for becoming the UK Prime Minister.

Now what does she have to do? Create a government, that is done by appointing ministers as secretary of state to various departments.

The top three jobs are Chancellor, Home Sec & Foreign Sec and they are Philip Redmond, Amber Rudd & Boris Johnson. Then there will be a host of others for health, education, trade, defence, transport, environment and many more.

A new job has been created called Secretary of State for leaving the European Union and this has been given to David Davies, who has written about exiting several times recently and should do well, depending on the reception he gets by European leaders. Talking of new jobs, she has created the minister for international development which has been given to Liam Fox.

One of her jobs will be to keep the four countries together, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland & Wales, not an easy task but one that test her initial period.

We still have one of the biggest budget deficits to get to grips with which will mean more austerity, in  2015 UK government debt amounted to £1.56 trillion, or 81.58% of total GDP, at which time the annual cost of servicing [paying the interest] the public debt amounted to around £43bn, and juggling this could be one of the trickiest issues.

Her statement outside 10 Downing Street started with "I follow in the footsteps of a great modern Prime Minister. The Government I lead will be driven not by the interests of the privileged few but by you. We won't entrench advantages of the fortunate few. We will do everything to help you go as far as your talents can take you." If Theresa May was to continue this rhetoric she might just have a plan that works.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Labour Woes

Today the battle lines are drawn up in the Labour party as a challenger to the leader steps forward in the shape of Angela Eagle.

However, it is not a simple leadership challenge because even though the PLP [Parliamentary Labour Party] has had a vote of no confidence in the leader, which he lost by 172 to 40 and followed by a mass walk out of the shadow cabinet, something that is unprecedented in Labour history, but the leader himself, Jeremy Corbyn absolutely refuses to step down.

This itself has caused an issue which will need to be resolved by the NEC [National Executive Committee] tomorrow [Tuesday 12-Jul-2016] as on one side it appears all candidates need 20% of the PLP support to stand currently 232, however, the media are reporting that 51 are required which is 20% of 255, so I am not sure of the figures. The rules say 15% which would be 38 names.

If that is not complex enough, the leader has said that he does not need any names and will automatically be on the ballot paper, which is why I mentioned the NEC and their role tomorrow in deciding the definition of the rules finally.

One of the reasons the leader is adamant about standing is that the majority of the membership, which has swollen significantly since last year’s figure of 600,000 is now past 800,000 and heading at a rapid rate towards the million, is still behind him and he has been reporting that polls suggest the grassroots Labour voter in the country is behind him, which is a tricky statement to make when most of the Labour Mps who have been voted in by these grassroots supporters are not behind him.

Of course tomorrow the NEC could change everything by saying that the Leader Jeremy Corbyn needs to raise the necessary number of names to stand, which presently would be difficult to achieve and another candidate to oppose Angela Eagle would have to be found.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

America and Guns

The love of guns in the United States has been well documented, as have multiple mass shootings across the country such as those in Orlando, San Bernardino, Newtown, and Virginia. The ease of access to guns in American society comes at a shocking cost. For eight years President Barak Obama has tried to alter the gun laws with little effect because of the power of the Republican lobby.

Currently almost 6,000 people have been killed as a result of gun violence. Despite this high death toll, mass shootings in America show no sign of disappearing. The Stateside obsession with guns can appear baffling to UK observers like me unfamiliar with its origins. I live in the UK where police with guns is becoming more apparent because of terrorist actions world wide, but I can still not buy a gun in my local super market, thanks goodness.

Apart from the laws, the main difference between the UK and the US is the role that guns play in everyday life. In the UK, most gun lovers are involved in shooting sports and are mostly based in the countryside. The idea of using a gun for self-defence is generally pretty shocking in Britain, even within the shooting community, and most people believe that guns should be the preserve of the police or armed forces.

There is another side to America & Guns and that is black & white. Recently it appears that black people are being shot more by white people, is that an over simplification, no it is fact. Alton Sterling, Philando Castile both shot by white American police officers, their crimes unreported but probably didn't deserve the death penalty. They died within 24 hours of each other, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge on Tuesday and Philando Castile in Minneapolis on Wednesday. Now on Friday Micah Johnson a black person has gone onto the streets of Dallas and started shooting white police officers. Is anyone surprised? Well they shouldn't be. However, sending in a robot with a bomb to kill him, that is a surprise!

This will not change anything as far as gun law is concerned because it is everyone’s right to own a hand gun in America, but personally I find the current situation untenable and the people in charge [the government] needs to address the situation.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Chilcot Report

I wonder who has read it all, already? Well, everyone who is mentioned in the report and the PM.

Luckily there is a twelve page summary which all the news agencies have used on day one of the published report. Two things are very clear, Sir John does not accuse Tony Blair of deceiving the country on the day war was declared, but he does not hold back in a lot of other areas that are now going to allow a whole host of more questions to be asked.

One of the areas was the idea that we knew very little before we went in, Sir John shows with evidence that knowledge of the factions and their behaviour, the Iranian involvement and Al-Qaeda were well documented before the start. He does not hold back on the state of the equipment or lack of it again backed up with evidence that the British Army were very poorly turned out and loss of life could be linked to this. One thing to mention here is that the military experts have said that the politicians took a short term view and this was reflected in the state of equipment supplied.

He also highlights that the intelligence was floored and more importantly it was not rigorously and independently challenged and should have been.

One of Sir John's comments as he outlined his report was "we all agree that military action is the last resort, however it appears that when the war started even without the benefit of hindsight in 2003 we had not reached the last resort", this leads me to think buried deep in the report there are conclusions or even recommendations that show more diplomacy could have taken place before the troops were sent in.

Sir John refers to sofa government on behalf of Tony Blair were a lot of decisions were made without the full knowledge of the cabinet and nearly hinted at a presidential style of government, could this be one of the lessons that could be learned or does it still happen today?