Pagan and proud……
It took me 5 hours to drive to Salisbury, last Sunday evening; just sheer weight of traffic. Restaurants empty, motorways full? I had feared that I would be held up by a tsunami of campervans heading for the Summer Solstice, at Stonehenge, but the only indication was a perfectly respectable VW Golf that I passed on the A 34 with a sticker in the back window saying “Pagan and Proud”. Not had time to look in to that, yet.
No right turns…..
And passed was the operative word; amazing stretch of road. For all intents and purposes, it is a dual carriageway, but there are still farmers with silage carts competing with those of us determined to make headway, a potentially lethal combination. Thankfully, someone has thought to ban any right turns, slowing down in the fast lane never being a good option.
So what of Salisbury? I had wanted to get there in time for Evensong in the Cathedral, not because I have any great leaning in that direction, but that it would be a marvellous experience. It was not to be. As one of my fellow guests said later, “Why does one of the Seven Wonders of the World close at seven”?
Always interesting how others see you.
We debated the state of the world at the asset allocation meeting, the following morning; the short term focus is what is going to happen in Greece, and whether this matters to the rest of us. I will revert, on that. For most other asset classes, bar equity, my fellow members were realistic of the likely outcome. No one, in short, is gung ho of anything. Interest rates will remain low, and returns are going to be difficult to generate, certainly in the sort of double digit numbers that some had hoped for.
It took considerably less time to get back north on Monday afternoon. I simply retraced my steps, so why is that?
Getting a grip on costs…..
Talking of north, the figures were released this week for the cost of the Edinburgh tram “project”, which can best be described as in abeyance. As an external observer, it is amazing that no one seems to have a grip on the costs, either actual, or implied. According to the Scotsman, some £440mn, out of a £500mn “grant”, has already been spent. Others speculate that this amounts to some 80% of what should have been delivered, by this stage, but it is clearly not going well, since only 30% of the infrastructure has been built, according to local reports.
Rip it up and start again…..
The stretch along Princess Street is to be re-laid in September, after the Festival finishes. Apparently, the rails were laid on flexible tarmac rather than more durable concrete, and now have to be ripped up again.
Worse, far worse, is that no local contractor could be found to do this job. Think for a moment what has been achieved here, and if you can’t, go and look at the great feats of engineering, such as the Forth Bridges, or the Lighthouses. Or the massive structures in the North Sea, all of them world class solutions, and yet they can’t get a stupid tram working, which was never needed in the first place.
Happy with the X5…..
A European contractor was engaged, but no one thought to hedge the currency. The best outcome is that the tram will run from the airport to the west end of the city, something that the X5 bus does, very well, already. The worst is that £750mn has been lost; imagine what you could do with that sum of money! One hopes never again to see this kind of wastage.
And yet, on a much larger scale, that is what is happening in Greece. The rest of the constituent countries that form the euro cannot afford for the country to go bust, and so they are spending time trying to work out how to prop the place up. Since the Greek economy is contracting, and fast, there is no hope of the loans ever being repaid.
Averting the panic…..
It is, however, not on the scale of the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, which started the financial crisis. Greece owes some 300 billion euros, and about two thirds of this is held by thirty institutions. So, unlike Lehmans, the authorities know where the problem is, which means that panic should be averted were the worst to happen.
Which, at some stage, it will.
26th June, 2011