spikegifted.net - Archive Q1 2004
- A big Happy Birthday to the Ruler_of_spike!! This is the second her of birthday in succession that I happen to be unemployed... How I would have coped without her is unimaginable. Her strength, support, optimism and her sympathetic ear have all helped immeasurably. I just wish that I can and am capable of provide the same care and support if our roles were to be reversed. Happy Birthday, baby!
- What's in a budget? A budget is the work of millions of lines of data diligently gather throughout the country by civil servants, skillfully interpreted government-employed economist and delivered by an appointed politician who may or may not have any detailed understanding of how a modern economy functions but has a political agenda to satisfy. I, personally, hates watching the budget speeches, instead I prefer reading the digested analysis of others (like the Financial Times) or dive straight to the numbers to find the answers I'm interested in. For me, the main point of the budget was that the UK government is borrowing and will be borrowing record levels of debt in the current and coming years to finance expansion of public services. Government receipts for 2003-04 is estimated to be GBP421.5 billion and public sector borrowing requirement (PSBR) will amount to GBP37.5 billion - that represents 8.9% of government receipts. At the same time, public sector net debt (PSND) will reach GBP379.7 billion (!) by the end of this financial year. If you think that sounds scary, the picture ahead is even more alarming: PSBR will only decline to GBP23 billion by 2008-09 (non-linear) and PSND is projected to reach GBP537 billion... This will represent around 50% of UK's GDP (the Treasury only provides GDP projection up to 2006) which includes an upturn in the UK and global economies. The saying that 'what goes up must come down' rings true here: somehow the UK government (current or future) will have to find ways to reduce its debt levels. If the government is committed to continue expanding public services to fulfill its election promises, the financing gap can only be filled by increased government receipts. Given the fact that the its figures have already factored in improvements in economic situations at home and abroad, the only way to reduce its debt level is by increasing taxes. On the surface, the 2003-04 budget is 'boring' but once you look deeper into the numbers, it guarantees future pains...
- The people of Spain have shown the world their desire to live in peace and have also demonstrated their refusal to give in to terror! Over two million people took part in the demonstration against terror in Madrid and millions more joined similar rallies across the country. This was a show of grieve and it was also a show of defiance - 'the terrorists cannot be allowed to win!'
- The shocking series of explosions in the Spanish capital, Madrid, has proved to us that once again the evil doers of this world is ahead of our security and intelligence community in the 'terror game'. While the Spanish authorities pointed their fingers toward ET.A., the Basque separatist movement, there is now evidence that it was once again the work of al Qaeda. Two and half years since the horrific events of September 11, the US and its allies have engaged in a prolong 'war on terror' and an invasion and overthrowing of Saddam Hussein's regime, we're nowhere closer to bringing to an end the terrorist threat posed by al Qaeda. For me, as someone who lives and work in the UK, the World Trade Center, Bali, Turkey and Iraq are all relatively far away places and the threat of terrorism has, until this day, appeared remote. However, with this series of highly coordinated bombing of commuter trains in the Spanish capital, the threat of terror is brought closer to home. With the UK being the chief ally to US's aggressive Middle East adventure, there is no clearer warning that this country is in al Qaeda's 'radar'. After two and half years of 'war on terror', is the UK is safer place to be than immediately after September 11? Only time will tell.
- What a difference 12 months makes! I don't want to sound overly optimistic, but the job market is a completely different place. I think the fact that I've spent the past few months working in one specific and related area really helps reminding me of the credit risk skills that I once possessed. Moreover, I think that it has made me more employable in the area that I want to concentrate in and also boosted my credentials. I'm hopeful that my current bout of unemployment is not going to last anywhere as long as my last one (6 months). I'm motivated and I'm keen... Prospective employers, come and get me!!
- I'm looking for a job again... This is unbelievable! For the past few months, I've been working under a temporary contract in a bank and, today, my boss just told me that they're going to terminate the contract. According to him, they're getting a new permanent member and because of the headcount problem, I was let go to make room... I'm not entirely sure how to react to this. However, I know that I'm now better prepared than I was last year when I was made redundant and I'm confident that I'm in a position where I can find another job, quickly. If anyone reading this has a job opening in counterparty credit risk management, you should check out my CV/résumé.
- The Ruler_of_spike and I are in the process of deciding whether we want to stay in the current apartment. We've had a good look around in an area of London that we would like to move to. However, the prices the landlords and landladies are asking for are just plain greedy! It is not the case of us being unrealistic or can afford the asking price. However, we don't want to spend an exuberant amount of money for a property that is sub-standard. After much disappointment, we saw one property that we feel we can be comfortable in, but the asking price is too high. We entered an offer that we feel is reasonable (and at the top end of our budget). I guess we shall have to wait and see the response of the owner...
- It is hard to appreciate how nice the weather is when you're working. However, London and the southeast of England have enjoyed a couple of weeks of very good weather - cold but clear - the best winter days I can think of. We even enjoyed a bit of snow flurries last Sunday.
- The level of xenophobic reaction in the UK resulting from the imminent entry of 10 Central and Eastern European countries is beyond comprehension. I'm guessing that this sudden bout of xenophobic reaction is largely due to the popular press and right wing groups. However, this hysterical reaction is largely misdirected. Since the fall of Communism in the late 80s and early 90s, significant changes have taken place in many CEE countries, including the 10 new entrants into the EU. While it is correct that there're still some very poor areas in these countries, it is quite another to assume that people would want to come to the UK. The main origins of immigrants (legal or otherwise) are from countries other than these 10 EU entrants - the Middle East, North Africa, the former Soviet Union and other places further away. If the government is interested in stamping out racism in this country, the first thing it can do is to remove the UK's cultural xenophobic believes. Otherwise, the population's insecurity will constantly preyed on by opportunistic groups with extreme views. Moreover, the UK runs the risk of losing out to other existing EU countries in attracting the skilled workforce available in the new entrants and the cheap labor who's willing to come to the UK to make a living.
- The brother of the Ruler_of_spike was in town for a few days with his wife and daughter. It has been such a long time since I last saw them. I'm just amazed by how quickly time has gone by - it didn't seem like such a long time ago, but I last saw them together back in March 2003. Since meeting the Ruler_of_spike, I have spent summer holidays and Christmases with in Brittany, but it has been over a year since I went over there. Something has to be done to change that...
- Finally, after over 5 weeks of waiting, I went over to the jeweler to pick up the Ruler_of_spike's engagement ring... It is stunning! The assistants in the jeweler were all crowding around to take a better look at it and even one or two of the customers. Although we have lots of opportunities to look at the diamond before leaving it at the jeweler to have the ring made and stone mounted, we could not imagine how amazing it looks.
- Happy Valentine's Day
- 19 Chinese illegal migrants, working as cockle pickers, were killed or drowned in Morecambe Bay in Lancashire, after becoming trapped by rising tides in freezing sea temperature. There was speculations of these unfortunate people being forced to work there by gangmasters and triads. Moreover, the inhuman living conditions these people were subjected to and the extreme low wages earned by these people were revealed. My initial reaction was one of sadness for the people who lost their lives and their families that they left behind. However, as time went by, my sadness turned into anger. My principal anger is not directed at those exploited them - they are simply the terminal of these migrants' journey. No, my anger is reserved for the Communists Party of China, which for over five and half decades has fail to improve the living standards of the vast majority of people in the country where these migrants came from. While I choose to live and work in Europe and have never set foot in the People's Republic of China, ethnically I'm still Chinese. It pains me to see people of Chinese origin have to resort to living and working in near-slavery conditions in a foreign country for a 'better life' and millions of people in the country being unemployed and living in inhuman conditions, while their government spends billions of dollars into its space program. How can a government (and a party) who cares more about holding on to power and improving its prestige than the people who it has responsibility to remains in charge of a 'people's republic'? Something horribly wrong has happened and this cannot continue. The ultimate responsibility of this tragedy is not the people who exploited the illegal migrant workers, but the leaders of China.
- I think this is the first time I've seen a Super Bowl in February. No matter. What an amazing match up! The Patriots and the Panthers spent so much time beating each other up with their defenses, yet still managed to score 61 points between them - against the expectation of a low-scoring defensive battle. This has to be one of the most entertaining, and one of the the most closely contested, Super Bowl I've seen... It was well worth staying up till 3:30am to watch to its completion.