Sunday, 28 December 2008


28th December 2008
The Malta Independent on Sunday

This time last year I had made three predictions for 2008. It is time to review how well I performed before making fresh ones for 2009.

My first prediction was related to the property market. I had predicted that “The supply/demand equation is changing so rapidly because of an over-supply in the pipeline that it is quite predictable, with limited risk of error, that the Maltese property market will cool down substantially in 2008 with certain sectors of the market where the supply/demand is way out of balance starting to show outright price reductions in the 10-15 per cent range.”

Spot on you might say. The process is still unfolding and while we may have not yet hit the extent of price reductions indicated the trend is clear.

My second prediction was related to the general election:

“After 21 years of nearly uninterrupted tenure by a PN government I predict that by a hair or by a mile this time it will be Labour. This could be unfair on Dr Gonzi who seems to score consistently higher than Dr Sant in any opinion survey involving a direct choice between the two leaders, but this is not enough to overcome the swell of fatigue with his government.”

I missed this one by a hairline. A week is a long time in politics and, with hindsight, it is clear that Gonzi and clan snatched victory from the jaws of defeat through capillary persistence in bringing out the vote in comparison to Labour’s misplaced confidence that its success was all but wrapped up.

The third prediction was dependent on realisation of the second one and accordingly there was no opportunity to test it in practice.

As for 2009, it is almost obligatory to be gloomy. We are living in dangerous times as 2008 draws to an end and goes on record as the year when the international financial system nearly collapsed, when the banking system changed from a titan of strength to a sickly behemoth needing extraordinary government support to stand on its feet, and which changed its dictum from being too big and too strong to fail, to genuine concern that it could be too big to save.

Reality is we are flying blind. The world financial system can currently be compared to an aeroplane that was flying in full control when a storm suddenly knocked out all its equipment, forcing its cockpit crew to fly blind and attempt a soft landing without the assistance of the technology instruments they normally rely on.

The world economy for 2009 is largely in the hands of officials appointed rather than elected and who have tremendous autonomy, power and responsibility in managing the main central banks of the world. Our cockpit crew for this highly risky journey towards a soft landing are Ben Bernanke of the US Federal reserve, Jean Claude Trichet of the European Central Bank, Masaaki Shirakawa of the Bank of Japan, Mervyn King of the Bank of England and their counterparts in China, India, Brazil, Mexico and elsewhere.

Never before have central banks had to switch focus so suddenly from watching inflation to guarding against the risk of deflation. Never before have central banks been forced by a crisis of confidence to cut interest rates so savagely in a co-ordinated manner where the destination is clearly zero rates on a global basis for a considerable time. The USA, Japan and Switzerland are already there or nearly so. The Euro area and UK are well on the journey to that destination and are being joined by others such as China and Australia.

Our instruments cannot tell us whether this will work to kick start the economy and restore consumer confidence because we have never been here before. Keynes had mused that cutting interest rates so aggressively could be likened to the sterility of pushing on a string, leaving the economy anchored in doom. Would anybody fearing loss of their job be interested in buying a new house because the mortgage rate got cheaper?

So what if zero interest rates won’t work? As a precaution, governments are loosening their fiscal purse to fill the gap created by falling private demand by creating public demand.

Tax credits or tax reductions are generally considered ineffective for stimulating demand, as it is likely that in the face of uncertainty consumers would save the tax rebates rather than use them to stimulate the economy.

There is however a limit to how far fiscal largesse can get us. Spending on infrastructure, if well planned and judiciously chosen to support growth when the cycle turns, is sensible but the lead time needed between decision making and execution probably means it cannot be relied upon to support global demand in 2009. The irony is that governments who were fiscally prudent when the going was good, like Germany and China, and consequently have greater capacity for fiscal stimulus seem the least interested to stimulate their consumers to spend, whereas those who were fiscally reckless, like the US, now feel compelled to raise their fiscal deficit to frightening levels.

So what can we expect for 2009? There are three scenarios that may evolve. On the gloomy side, what if all the fiscal and monetary loosening will not restore confidence and the world economy remains in deep recession bordering on the depression, with property and commodity prices continuing to fall, unemployment exploding and governments continuing in fire-fighting mode to keep their banking system on its feet by effectively re-nationalising it?

On the optimistic side there is a scenario where the monetary and fiscal medicine will prove effective, aided by lower energy and commodity prices (which effectively are equivalent to a consumer tax cut as proven by the 20 per cent reduction announced last week in prices of fuel at the pump) leading to a short recession and a quick re-bounce. The risk is that this could ignite an inflationary spiral as the tremendous increase in liquidity injected by the central banks to ward off a deep recession starts creating excessive demand in the context of low interest rates.

Maybe excessively leveraged countries like the US and the UK, suffering from a deep property crisis, will tacitly accept an overdose of inflation as the most practical way to reduce leverage and increase value of real assets as money values erode through inflation. In reality this is already happening vis-à-vis the rest of the world as the external value of the USD and the GBP plummets. In circumstances of high inflation and low interest rates, commodities, especially precious metals, will be an attractive investment.

The third and least likely scenario is that central banks succeed in using blunt monetary policy with clinical precision in raising interest rates quickly when the economy is stabilised in order to avoid the risk of a quick shift back from deflation to inflation. This would be a feat as heroic and miraculous as the safe return of Apollo 13. But nothing forbids us from hoping for it. However, I would still put gold in a diversified investment portfolio for 2009. Happy New Year.


Friday, 19 December 2008

This Grinch Could Restore Christmas

19th December 2008

The Malta Independent - Friday Wisdom

I got inspired by last Sunday’s editorial in this paper’s weekly sister whose message was that the general economic slowdown, the probability of an acute recession, and the further uncertainty created by the confusion still prevailing regarding the utility bills we have to pay retroactively as from last October, are making for a sombre Christmas build-up, with consumers holding much tighter to their purse strings than they normally do at this time of the year.

While it is too early to draw firm conclusions about the performance of trade in this holiday season, it is evident even from a firsthand visual look that there are much less flickering lights than norm in house windows and balconies. Evidently Christmas light decorations were the first victim of households treading receipt of their first utility bills based on the new rates, whatever they may be.

I thought I should take a positive side to all this fear and apprehension. Could this Grinch of a recession help us to re-discover the true spirit of Christmas? Could the economic uncertainty bring families and friends to enjoy and appreciate each other rather than the gifts they normally exchange?

On my home office desk I have an expensive fine bone-china pen tray that I had received as gift from a large international corporation when as a consultant to my business clients we had signed an important commercial agreement after long and arduous negotiations. Next to it is a rather deformed carton open top box with two side ears made of sea shells and a nose made from an egg carton pocket. My daughter had brought it from school as a Father’s Day present quite a few years back.

There is no comparison between the commercial values of these ornaments on my desk. Yet for obvious reasons I value the carton ornament much more than the fine bone china one. Value in the eyes of a gift recipient goes beyond the intrinsic material content. More weight should be given to the efforts, care and love that the donor gives along with the gift, whatever its value.

A recession is unquestionably painful. Those who lost their jobs, those on reduced pay as their employer firm is on a short work week, those who feel insecure in their present job, those who have seen their income shrink as a result of less overtime or part-time jobs, all these cannot go on spending as if Santa’s reindeers will evaporate all economic uncertainty.

Businesses that are seeing their sales falling and their stocks piling up cannot pretend their cash flow can continue to support their future investment plans. Shop owners watching clients window shopping rather than actually buying cannot take consolation from the consistent human traffic through their shops if their tills are not ringing with the usual rhythm of the season. Plants that are watching their order book shrink cannot just hope that things will return to normal in the short term without providing for measures to cut costs to see themselves through this rough patch.

Yet together we can make the pain more bearable and we can re-discover human values which had got buried under materialistic consumption. Who needs expensive heating if we can warm each other with honest and heartfelt Christmas hugs? Who needs expensive gifts when last year’s gifts are probably still sitting uselessly on some shelf or in some cupboard? Take a look around your home and see how many useless gadgets have been accumulated over the years.

This recession will help us do away with expensive superficialities and see who our true friends are. We can see who is there for us in lean times as much as in good times. Those who love us for ourselves not for our position. Knowing one’s true friends has much more value than the most expensive gift.

So let’s make an effort not to let the recession steal away our Christmas spirit. On the contrary we have an opportunity to re-discover it. We have had recessions before. This one may be longer and deeper but it does not really matter. What matters is that we accept that recessions are necessary periods for restraint and restructuring so that we can form a strong sustainable base for the next economic upswing.

There is a natural tendency to always assume that the future will be a mere extension of the present. Just as we thought that strong economic growth will continue indefinitely when the going was good, there is a tendency to assume that we will be in eternal gloom now that the mould of economic growth has been broken.

History shows that nothing lasts forever and that economies have strong inbuilt cyclical mechanisms to turn themselves around. The fall in interest rates will reduce the monthly mortgage payments leaving consumers with more disposable income. The drop in the price of international energy will eventually lead to lower utility bills and cheaper prices of fuel at the pump once government swallows its pride and admits its mistake in raising rates when the whole world is cutting them. The value of your house and of your investment portfolio is probably lower than what it was this time last year. But unless you cash out you stand a good chance of recovering your unrealised losses as recessions do not last forever.

My next contribution will be on 2 January 2009 so I take this opportunity to wish my readers a peaceful Christmas and a prosperous New Year. Let’s take the opportunity of what will probably be a holiday season with less material noise to re-discover the true spirit of Christmas and accept that in life we have to accept the rough with the smooth, that a crisis offers tremendous opportunities for restructuring to shape up for future challenges, and that we have accumulated enough blessings to overcome a short period of instability.

Till next year!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

The Gorilla in the Room


14th December 2008

The Malta Independent on Sunday

Questions are being asked about the acute financial crisis that hit the world, especially ever since Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy last September. People obviously want to know how is it possible for such a crisis to erupt so suddenly, how no one predicted its outbreak and most of all what caused it.

The suddenness of its eruption is not unlike that of a long dormant volcano that suddenly springs into action. Living for so long in perceived safety at the foot of the volcano tends to give a false sense of security that what has not happened for decades or even centuries is unlikely to happen tomorrow. When it happens we call it an outlier event, a black swan, or in technical terms, an event several standard deviations away from the reversion to mean what is statistically feasible to expect.

Stating that no one predicted its outbreak is not quite accurate. There are always a few contrary-minded individuals around who are generally wrong but if they persist in their predictions of doom long enough, they will unavoidably be proved right at some point in time. After all, even a dysfunctional clock shows the correct time twice a day.

The truth is that market movements tend to be very asymmetrical. On the upside, when the economy is growing, asset price increases generated by improving investment risk appetite, or greed if you wish, is a process that builds on itself rather gradually, sometimes over several months, quarters or even years. On the downside, when the economy slips into a recession, asset price decreases generated by an aversion to risk, or fear if you wish, is an instant process. It is panic that builds on itself as people in the room all try to get out of the narrow door at the same time. So doctors of doom like Roubini and Taleb are generally wrong very slowly, almost unobtrusively over a long period of time, but then, when the black swan arrives, they are proven right instantly and in magnanimous dimensions, so that they can shout ‘I told you so’ from all rooftops.

What I wish to dwell on more here is the theme of what caused it. So many reasons have been given that one gets confused in distinguishing between cause and effect. Yet it is important to understand what caused it if we are to take steps in devising a new world financial order that avoids such predicaments in future.

In identifying the causes one has to distinguish between the triggering event(s), the intermediate causes and ultimately the fundamental causes which created the intermediate causes which ultimately led to the triggering event.

The triggering event is a point in time that is easily identifiable. There seems little doubt that this was the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers on Sunday 14 September. This was a game changing event that crushed the basic assumption on which the modern credit and financial system was built, i.e. that large banks could safely provide inter-bank market liquidity to each other on the assumption that no government would allow one of its major players to go under. This notion was strengthened in March when the US Treasury and the Federal Reserve intervened to lend their tangible support for the takeover of troubled Bear Stearns by J P Morgan Chase.

Who could have guessed that if Bear Stearns was too big or too inter-connected to fail in March, larger Lehman Brothers was not similarly worth salvaging in September? The answer to this question in the coming years will be subject to epic writings, books and probably movies.

The intermediate causes that led to the triggering event are many and varied, some evident and some less so. Probably, if they need to be defined simplistically, the best way to do it is by invoking securitisation.

Securitisation is the process whereby banks take financial assets that produce revenue streams over a long number of years (like mortgage loans, credit card loans, or rental of immoveable), package them into bundles, slice them as to the risk they carry (i.e. which package takes the first loss, and which package takes the next loss and so on), often get such financially packaged complex products rated by a recognised rating agency and then sell them to ultimate investors who are attracted by a coupon which is higher than what is generally obtainable from similarly rated simple products like straight uncomplicated bonds. Names for such complex products (now referred to as toxic products) come by such acronyms as ABS (Asset Backed Securities) MBS (Mortgage Backed Securities) CDO (Collateralised Debt Obligations) CLO (Collateralised Loan Obligations) and so on.

There is nothing intrinsically wrong with such process of securitisation, which until recently was praised as a formidable financial innovation which helps to keep the market stable by spreading the risk, helping investors to take on exactly the type of risk they prefer, reducing concentration of financial intermediation through the banking system and generally providing liquidity to the financial markets to extend further credit supporting robust economic growth. That was when the going was good, when easy credit was fuelling asset prices and making homes available through easy credit to people who couldn’t really afford them and who depended for their solvency on an ever-booming real estate market.

Nothing lasts forever. When the property bubble burst in the US somewhere in the first half of 2007, the benefits of securitisation turned into problems. The fact that risk was too spread made it difficult to understand who was carrying it, leading banks not to trust each other causing seizure of inter-bank markets. Liquidity disappeared making securitised assets difficult to value. Mark to make accounting rules forced banks to report theoretical losses, which turned many banks insolvent needing recapitalisation. Banks consequently lost all appetite for new lending and started hoarding liquidity fearing worse to come from a developing credit crunch. Without adequate supply of credit and with the banking system extremely fragile, the problems in the financial system were quickly extended to the overall economy as consumers were shocked to see trusted big name banks go cap in hand for government support or for external capital beyond their loyal shareholding base. Globalisation made sure that such economic problems did not stop at America’s shore but were exported throughout the world having all major economies go into recession at the same time, something never experienced since the great depression of the thirties.

Still problems with securitisation were only the intermediate cause and not the ultimate cause of why the property bubble was inflated in the first place. Few seem to be focusing on the ultimate cause, which indeed is the 800-lb gorilla in the room. After China joined the WTO, it became the factory of the world, exporting not only physical goods but also reduced prices, which lead to low inflation and easy capital through re-investment of the huge balance of payments surpluses that it started amassing.

Low retail inflation sourced by cheap imports from China led to maintenance of low interest rates for an unduly long time. Even when Central Banks started raising interest rates in 2004/2005 from the record level they were allowed to fall in 2002 – 2003 to protect against recession from the aftermath of the tech bubble which burst in 2000/2001, interest rates at the long term end of the curve remained obstinately low as China continued to pump its massive reserves resulting from accumulating balance of payments surpluses into long term Treasuries and Bonds. Greenspan had referred to this as a conundrum.

Economic boom, low retail inflation and low long term interest rates were a perfect recipe for asset price inflation that inevitably led to the creation of the property bubble. So the ultimate cause of the current financial crisis is the simple truism that strategic and obstinate balance of payments surpluses are as unsustainable and as dangerous as symmetric obstinate and strategic deficits. China’s surpluses were US deficits.

The basic lesson we must take home from this is that it is dangerous for longevity of the system for a huge economy like China to partake in free trade and globalisation only by half. A free system would normally have ensured that China’s wealth from its economic development would have cascaded down to the consumers, rather than being filtered by the State who thus become the gorilla in the room. If we are to avoid similar recurrence and sustainable growth, China has to play all the way spending its wealth by providing more social security to the population accordingly reducing their need to save and allowing Chinese consumers to upgrade their lifestyle in a way that would recycle the balance of payments surpluses through two-way trade rather than mere financing. In the equation there must also be factored in the floatation of the Chinese currency to reflect the country’s efficiency gains and protect from explosive domestic inflation.

Unless the ultimate cause of the current crisis get addressed in whatever international financial order that will emerge in the aftermath of the crisis, unless we accept that structural balance of payments surpluses and deficits have to be addressed rather than carried indefinitely through artificial financing, we would only be storing troubles till they erupt again when another black swan arrives.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Fat Fingers

12th December 2008

The Malta Independent - Friday Wisdom

In these days of electronic communications it is quite possible to come across problems of fat fingers.

Sitting at a keyboard giving orders for execution of financial transactions, it is not unknown for mistakes to be made with fat fingers punching in an extra zero that makes an order for one hundred thousand become an order for one million. Such fat finger errors often become a market changing event, at least until they are discovered and corrected.

Recently in local politics we seem to have experienced a dramatic fat figure event. It also has the potential of becoming a game-changing incident.

A very confidential e-mail sent by the secretary general of the PN to cabinet ministers and secretariat officials at the Office of the Prime Minister speaks in quite detailed terms on the cooperation necessary between Customer Care officers at the ministries and the PN on a project of “data sharing” about complaints from the electorate, seeking personal details together with the nature of the complaint and action taken. It says in black on white that the “aim is to create a strong network of communication with collective synergy so that together we can be more effective towards whoever approaches the Party or the ministries/parliamentary secretariats... The thinking is to render the pre-election process spread over the whole legislature.”

How did this extremely confidential information come to light? The PN secretary general seems to have had a problem with his fat finger. Instead of sending the e-mail to Jason 1 (Parliamentary Secretary Jason Azzopardi) he sent it in error to Jason 2 (Jason Micallef PL secretary general). Fat finger sent this confidential information directly from its source straight into adversarial territory.

Clearly there is strong prima facie evidence that the government and the party in government were working on a project to exchange or share data which would enable the party to gain electoral advantage over its opponents who have no access to such information. By so doing there was going to be gross breach of data protection obligations that are now enshrined in our laws, which breach could even become a criminal offence. The very fact that state officials paid by tax-payers’ money attended a meeting, during office hours and in the course of their normal duties, at the PN headquarters, addressed and attended by senior party officials is already questionable. It shows how the long tenure of power seems to have enmeshed into a single entity the structures of government and of the governing party with clear intention for both structures to reinforce each other even if in the process, national resources would be put at the disposal and advantage of a political party.

The desperate effort to limit the damage of these very serious revelations have all the ingredients of panic by someone who has finally been caught out after getting away with it for a long time.

Firstly, we had a warning by the Head of the Prime Minister’s Secretariat that no minister or government official should breach the Data Protection provisions and any exchange of information can only be done after obtaining written approval of the individual concerned. In reality this warning is, if anything, further supporting evidence that the original intention was for data sharing in breach of the data protection legislation.

If the intention of those that attended the meeting was to play within the limits of the Data Protection Act, why was this not included in the original communication thus avoiding the need of a panic clarification once it was realised that the e-mail was sent to the wrong Jason? The original e-mail had all the indications to the contrary i.e. that the intention was for the data to flow freely between the two organisations with little concern to the provisions of the Data Protection Act.

When it was clear that the PN was losing this battle in the realms of public opinion, the PN secretary general decided to go on the attack and threatened Jason 2 with legal action for abusive publication of a document which was sent to him in error. The PN argued that the email was a customer service enhancement exercise and that it was mere prodding by the party to government to give full attention to client complaints and for such information to be centralised within the OPM where personal information would stay, without in any way breaching the Data Protection Act.

Believe it if you want but if this was the intention, why was it necessary to have government paid officials attend meetings at PN Headquarters? If the intention was one of mere prodding, it would have been enough for the PN secretary general to simply communicate his wishes to the PM and then let the PM delegate to his secretariat coordination of such a strategy within the structures of civil service.

This shows the importance of having an effective Data Protection Office headed by a competent and autonomous person. The void in this respect means that even if a detailed investigation is conducted after the appointment of a Data Protection Commissioner, this will be done after allowing ample time for suspects to cover all tracks.

Whatever may turn out, the damage has been done. There is little doubt that where it matters, in the realms of public opinion, people have little doubt that hanky-panky was going on and the government and the PN have lost all sense of their respective and separate roles. Long tenure of power brings about over-confidence which in the end will kill the cat. Thank goodness for fat fingers as they proved very effective in throwing light on illicit activities which would otherwise have continued to thrive in the dark!


Friday, 5 December 2008

Hubris - Vintage 82

5th December 2008
The Malta Independent - Friday Wisdom

One of the advantages of accumulating a fair quantity of years is having lived through so many experiences that it is often possible to draw comparisons between a current situation and some distant event with similar characteristics.

Government performance since winning a third consecutive term last March is giving me flashbacks of the horrible third consecutive term of a Labour government between 1982 and 1987. Shall we call it the curse of the third term?

Both governments were returned without a clear strong mandate from the electorate. Labour won the election of December 1981 by winning a majority of parliamentary seats but a minority of electoral votes. The result eventually led to a series of constitutional changes aimed at ensuring proportionality between the electoral votes and parliamentary seats.

The third PN government elected last March also failed to get a clear majority mandate from the electoral vote and won government by thinnest imaginable relative majority.

One would expect that a government so elected would take the message delivered by the electorate that it is not happy with its performance and that it should grow a dose of humility to wash off the arrogance that accumulates with long tenure of power.

The opposite happened and this government is not behaving much differently from the Labour government of 1982 that had increased its dose of arrogance and hit out at the electorate with senseless education policies which kept Church schools closed for several months. It was as if Labour wanted to punish the electorate for failing to give it a clear mandate which hubris made it assume that it deserved as of right.

Rather than adopt a touch of humility, this government’s hubris has reached proportions which are making me re-live 1982. Instead of opening up to hear the concerns of the electorate, it is assuming we are all morons and that with a super dose of arrogance it can persuade us to be thankful even for its policy and operational gaffes.

It started with the supposed liberalisation of the public transport sector. The country at large was left at the mercy of public transport operators who took the law into their hands with impunity and we were told that the sacrifice was worthwhile as part of a process to liberalise the public transport with the promise of major benefits of the consumer. What do we have to show for our sacrifices? We have a supposedly liberalised hearse service which hopefully we would need very, very rarely when price considerations are the last thing on our minds and when we trust to be safeguarded from being overcharged by regulation rather than the workings of a free market.

Where we really need liberalisation in the transport services we use, or would use, every day, we are told that we have to wait till 2010 to move to execution stage. Permit me to say that I heard that before and that I am more inclined to think that the hoopla leading to the liberalisation of hearse service was motivated by considerations other than offering the consumer a better deal.

Then we came to the utility rates. Raising the surcharge from 50 per cent to 95 per cent last July was painful enough but we sort of accepted it as a logical consequence of enjoying low rates in the pre-election period and an exploding price of international energy when crude oil prices reached record USD 147 per barrel last July.

However the additional pain of a further rise in utility rates effective retroactively from October is unbearable economically, socially and morally. How can any sensible person accept utility rates to increase with a surcharge equivalent to 194 per cent according to Labour and 135 per cent according to government when the oil price has plummeted to below USD 50 per barrel? How can we accept to pay higher prices of fuel at the pump when other countries are experiencing a consistent reduction of such prices leaving more spending power in consumers’ pockets? Have we become detached completely from global reality just as Labour government of 1982?

The honest truth is that apart from having hedged forward at high prices, government is withdrawing the cross subsidies from easy profits by the petroleum division which is now being privatised. Government policy after the election seems to be one of privatising profits and socialising losses!

The government has now pooh-poohed EU policy for stimulating the economy to guard against the negative effects of an on-setting recession by voting an extra 1.5 per cent of GDP to add economic activity or consumer demand in the economy. The government simply argued that it’s Budget 2009 already provides for this when in reality Budget 2009 actually cuts by half the deficit of 2008 and is as such restrictive rather than expansionary. We are proposing to adopt fiscal tightening when in reality everybody agrees these are exceptional circumstances requiring exceptional fiscal loosening.

What however carries the crown of concentrated arrogance is Minister Gatt’s curt reply to the owners of he Danish Village at Ghadira Bay. Upon complaining about a proposed new motorway passing right next to their property, they were simply informed that after spending 35 years making an appreciable contribution to our tourism they count for pretty nothing and if they can’t live with a motor way adjacent to their so far peaceful property they should sell out to ready buyers.

Equally offensive and arrogant is the argument that there is no alternative when in fact there is a far simpler, more practical and sensible solution of elevating the current road which can be pushed back a few metres to extend the beach. This will keep the nature reserve totally undisturbed, extend the beach by at least the width of the road, facilitate through traffic and offer motorists a unique elevated view while driving through with Ghadira Bay on one side and the nature reserve on the other.

There is great similarity between Labour’s decision in 1982 that we have to pay three months salary to buy the only make of colour TV on the market and these strings of arrogant decisions by the third term PN government. They are all made to suit particular interests at the expense of the general well-being of the population at large who in government’s arrogant view needs to be punished for failing to show enough gratitude at the last ballot box exercise.

Re-living the flashbacks of 1982 is only eased by the hope that we will eventually re-live the redemption of 1987.