Thursday, 27 October 2016

Trouble in Baluchistan is Real Trouble

Scanning the news on return from a nil-by-wifi holiday, I read of dreadful deeds in Quetta, capital of Baluchistan.  Which awakens some 30-year old memories.

Back in the '80s I did some soldiering in Oman, a country with which we have very longstanding relations going back to when that part of the Arabian coast needed patrolling against Sinbad-the-sailor pirates making raids on our India-bound shipping routes.  The Omani army was run quite efficiently thirty years ago (and probably still today) mostly by British NCOs and Pakistani staff officers, and was a smart little affair.  I strongly imagined my father would have recognised it from his Indian Army days a generation before.  One day I will root out the photos and do a post on it.

Anyway, the average Omani soldier (native) was a pleasant chap, touchingly loyal to the Sultan and probably brave enough.  But there wasn't much of what we might think of as a serious martial tradition.  

Nonetheless, there was sporadic fighting to be done.  The relatively heavy stuff of the '50s (Jebel campaign)  and '70s (Dhofar) was over but there was a simmering border conflict with Yemen in the south west, not finally settled until 1992.  And this pleasant average Omani was not really the chap to creep up on an enemy observation post and make with the cold steel.

So they employed two battalions of Baluchis, in much the same way the British army has long retained the services of the Gurkhas.  And, much like a Gurkha, your taciturn Baluch tribesman is exactly the sort of chap for creeping around the hillsides with the cold steel at the ready.  In fact, they were some of the best soldiers I have encountered.

If Pakistan has troubles with Baluchistan, I'd guess they could be very problematic indeed.


Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Goldman Sachs is scaling back - in New York

Remaoner scaremongering is becoming a thing of legend. Endless stories of horror, few or indeed, any, yet to come true.

The classic one led by the odious British Bankers Association is that all banks are preparing to leave London before Xmas.

The thing is, every single company in the UK, EU and US is using Brexit as a perfect event excuse. Cut salaries - Brexit
Cut costs by firing staff - Brexit
Ripping off Customers - desperation, caused by Brexit.

It is the universal excuse and will remain so until 2020 at least.

Just for balance, here is an article about how Goldman Sachs, said to be considering 2000 jobs in London and whether to 're-locate', is anyway firing 500 odd people in New York. No doubt because of Brexit.

Unfortunately, you can never prove a counter-factual. Goldmans is getting rid of people because its business is changing and the environment is changing. Whether Brexit related or not, the answer will always be Brexit because it suits all management to blame someone or something else other than themselves.

The wider point is that Banking is changing massively, really massively, the internet is fast disintermediating humans from the process of banking and the likes of Blockchain are only going to accelerate this trend. The big bank model is likely on the wane and there will be a big shift in moving to FinTech companies and a more diverse supplier base of services. It is just that as this happens, every job loss will be blamed on Brexit when actually something more interesting, more dynamic, yes...more capitalistic, is occurring. Which will also be more fun to write about than fact-checking remoaner lies.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

It's Heathrow, but not Gatwick

So it has finally happened, a new runway maybe eventually get built at Heathrow after 7 years of dithering by various Governments. I can't say May is hesitant as Prime Minister.

Clearly, the UK needs more airport capacity in the South East, but why restrict it to Heathrow is beyond my ken. It is a very statist decision and there was a much more market based route of allowing competition that could have been taken. I guess this way the impact is felt now and in limited constituencies.

On the other hand, UK Gilt 10 Years bonds, although at near record lows thanks to QE, have gained 38 basis points in a month. Still they sit 35 points down on one year, but they are creeping up. Just as the Government decides on a nice big fat investment splurge for the future. the irony being we are doing this at the end of the low interest cycle when even Ed Balls was saying do it at the beginning of the cycle.

Still, 3 elections away before any of these issues (or indeed, projects) come home to roost.