Tag Archives: Better

New boss plans better Port Arthur massacre explanation

Updated February 22, 2013 08:31:30

The new head of the Port Arthur Management Authority wants better recognition of the 1996 massacre at the historic site.

Sharon Sullivan has taken over the role from Barry Jones, who has stepped down after 12 years in the job.

Mr Jones oversaw the site’s elevation to World Heritage listing.

Her goals include restoring the Penitentiary which could cost up to $8 million.

Tasmania’s Heritage Minister Brian Wightman last year foreshadowed plans for greater recognition of the massacre and Ms Sullivan agrees it is important.

“There is nothing wrong with the way it’s interpreted now but ways of making it perhaps more explicit and explaining things to visitors better and we will be doing that through the community consultation forum that we have,” she said.

Topics: tourism, port-arthur-7182

First posted February 22, 2013 06:15:48

One couple’s mission to find a better work/life balance

DIY bloggers discuss balancing life with working from home (Produced by the BBC’s David Botti)

In the first of a new series of weekly articles looking at the successes and challenges of small companies around the world, the BBC’s Kate Dailey visits Richmond, Virginia, to explore how one married couple who run their own business from home manage to create a work-life balance.


John and Sherry Petersik run a successful blog about their life at home. But when your business is built around writing about your life, how do you balance the two?


The set-up seems like a dream – work with your spouse to build your perfect kitchen, blog about it, and make enough money from doing so that both of you can stay at home and raise your child.


But it’s not nearly that simple.


That’s what John and Sherry Petersik, founders of the blog Young House Love, have discovered in the five years their blog has turned from a project for friends and family to an internet phenomenon.


The Petersiks now work full-time at the blog, which offers do-it-yourself projects, home renovation tips, and profiles of reader redesign. They post seven times a week and garner more than five million page views a month.

‘Two-person newspaper’

While the success of the blog has allowed them both to work from home and raise their two-year-old daughter, Clara, it’s presented its own challenges.

Young House Love book cover In 2012, the Petersiks published a book of home-improvement projects

“It’s like a two-person newspaper, you’re churning out stories every day,” says Sherry. “It’s not like you paint something and then it’s on the blog. You paint it and then you have to wait for good lighting to photograph it.


“And then you have to write something and then you’re the editor and you have to proof it. And then you edit again and then you share it, and people have questions, so you’re doing public relations.”


And when your job is based around your home life, it can be difficult to draw a hard line between public and private, between work and play. When they’re enjoying time together as a family, says John, the pressure to share with their readers is ever-present.


“There’s a voice on the back of our head – should we be taking a picture of this?” he says.


“We’re trying to develop a second voice to argue, ‘Just enjoy this for what it is. You don’t have to share with the rest of the world. They have enough of you already.’”


To that end, the Petersiks have made work-life balance a frequent, public pursuit. For the past three years, they have included some variation of this desire on the occasional lists of goals they post on their site.

‘Don’t burn out’

But cutting back comes at a price.


“A lot of people, even ourselves when we started, don’t realise that when you want to turn a blog it into a job, it does become a business. You have to figure out where your income is going to come from, you have to manage those revenue streams,” says John.

Continue reading the main story

Breaking away from work is tricky no matter who you are, but for those who work from home can find it exceptionally difficult to carve out personal and professional time.


Kristie Arslan, president of the National Association for the Self-Employed, offered some tips for at-home workers:

Make a schedule: You have to create your schedule like a normal work day – work from 09:00-17:00, or whatever works for you, and stick to those hours.Close the door: When the workday ends, leave your working space – and close it off for the night. Whether it’s an office or just a corner of the kitchen, don’t use it for anything but work. Stick to it: You have to maintain that schedule, because if you don’t you fall victim to creep.Get out: If it’s impossible to feel relaxed at home, seek external office space. Co-working spaces provide both a neutral work environment and “the water cooler experience”. The couple is responsible for quarterly business taxes. They must keep up their health insurance payments, pay for server space, hire an accountant, and put money away for their retirement.


Though the Petersiks in the past have made revenue through paid writing jobs and private design consulting, the majority of their income now comes from advertising on the site – either through automatically generated Google ads, or through direct site sponsors, which often include design and home supply companies such as the Tile Shop. The sponsors are individually managed by the couple themselves,


In order to generate that ad revenue, they need to ensure a steady flow of traffic – so cutting back requires some careful consideration.


“We have to figure it out while still guarding the business, because this puts food on the table and pays for our daughter’s roof over her head,” Sherry says.


“We can’t be stupid about it, but we need to make choices that make this sustainable for us in the long haul so we don’t burn out.”


Struggling to find a work-life balance is a problem that plagues many workers, especially those who are self-employed. In the US, that includes 80% of small businesses, says the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) – and that same segment is growing faster than any other in the US economy.


As the site – and their visibility – has grown, the Petersiks have been able to supplement their revenue through projects like a best-selling book and a lighting line. They’re also determined to maintain their current traffic targets while writing one less post a week.

‘Goals intertwined’

But, Matthew Kelly, the head of Floyd Consulting, reminds the couple that work-life balance may be elusive for a reason.

John and Sherry Petersik with their daughter Clara The Petersiks say a happy marriage is key to their successful business

“The term itself is fatally flawed,” he says. “Work and life are too intertwined.”


Kelly, the author of Off Balance: Getting Beyond the Work-Life Balance Myth to Personal and Professional Satisfaction, says that more important than being balanced is being “satisfied” both professionally and personally. “The idea that I’m going to spend as much time with my professional stuff as with my personal stuff just doesn’t work,” he says.


Instead, he recommends to his clients that they establish what is important to them in their personal lives and then carve out non-negotiable time to get that done, even if it means working odd hours.


That’s a skill that the Petersiks already practise. “As much as we talk about working nights and weekends, a lot of that is because we’re stay-at-home parents and we don’t take that lightly,” Sherry says. “When she’s awake and it is a nice day, we will take her to the park, and then we’ll work when she’s asleep.”


After all, making time for family and home life is essential to the couple’s success.


“Our life goals sort of piggyback off of our work goals because they are so intertwined,” John says.


“We still need to experience life, and have a happy marriage and happy family, to make the business work.”

Newman says better communication essential


Queensland Premier Campbell Newman says it is unacceptable for communities to be cut off during natural disasters.


At the height of the flood crisis last weekend, several towns south of Gladstone in central Queensland were unable to communicate with emergency services.


Mr Newman visited Gladstone this morning.


He told members of Gladstone Regional Council that improving communications infrastructure will be a focus of reconstruction works.


“The roads were cut, the communications were cut, that’s what I’m talking about now – about how we can in the future try and ensure that we have communications that are there for emergencies,” he said.


“That we try and ensure that roads aren’t cut isolating people in that way … we’re not going to just accept that as the way it should happen in the future.”

Topics: transport, regional-development, floods, federal—state-issues, gladstone-4680, qld

First posted February 05, 2013 13:55:37

Government confident of better flood proofing


The Queensland Government says it is determined to get flood-affected communities back on their feet – regardless of the reconstruction costs.


Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney is touring flood-ravaged North Bundaberg today.


He says the government’s priority is to repair infrastructure as quickly as possible, no matter how much it costs.


“Paying for it will be a problem , but it will be a problem that we will address down the track,” he said.


The State Government wants federal disaster funding regulations changed to allow key infrastructure to be built to new, flood-proof standards, instead of being replaced.


Community Recovery Minister David Crisafulli says there has never been a better time to push for that change.


“We have a window in time to actually grab this,” he said.


Repairs are continuing on roads and bridges in Bundaberg that are closed, and on the city’s damaged natural gas pipeline.

Topics: tourism, transport, retail, community-and-society, floods, budget, federal—state-issues, bundaberg-4670, qld

Economic forecasts no better than a random walk


It is often said the so-called dismal science of predicting the economy is there to make weather forecasting look good.


The International Monetary Fund recently issued a mea culpa over its estimates for troubled European nations and the Reserve Bank has admitted that while its inflation predictions were right about two-thirds of the time, its economic growth forecasts were wide of the mark.


It may be a statement of the obvious, but forecasting economic activity is difficult. That is the view of the Reserve Bank in a recent paper looking at its predictions over the last 20 years.


“The unfortunate reality is that, in the area of forecasting, it is normal for forecasts of economic activity to be wide of the mark,” said RBA deputy governor Philip Lowe to a gathering of economists in Sydney before Christmas.


“This is evident in work recently undertaken by two of my colleagues at the bank who looked at the history of our own forecasts.”


That paper found that 70 per cent of the RBA’s forecasts for underlying inflation for the year ahead were close to the mark, but its predictions of economic growth were less accurate, and its unemployment rate estimates no better than a random walk.


“The reality is that a random walk is what you would get from chance,” said Bill Mitchell, a professor of economics at Charles Darwin University.


“The Reserve Bank employs numbers of people on very high pay and what they’re admitting now is that their – all of this so-called science – has produced nothing more than what a roll of the dice could produce.”


Former RBA economic analyst and now senior ANZ economist Justin Fabo puts it this way.


“What they were saying there is, particularly for growth forecasts or their unemployment rate forecasts, that they really weren’t too much better than the consensus or even flipping a coin kind of forecasts,” he explained.


“Statistically, you’re not doing too much better than someone walking drunk down the road I guess.”


Stephen Halmarick, head of investment markets research at Colonial First State and the Australian Business Economists group, says the RBA paper showed that economic predictions are not that useful.


“Most economists, including those at the RBA, are not actually not particularly good at forecasting some major economic variables,” he said.


Bill Mitchell is more critical.


“When there’s people’s jobs and their livelihoods at stake, you want to be very careful in the way in which you impose policy changes based upon your technical forecasts,” he argued.


“What we know is that the RBA has been error prone in its forecasts and then imposed monetary policy that was inappropriate and inappropriate for too long.”


The media, companies and governments also closely watch the monthly figures from the Bureau of Statistics, for example, on the unemployment rate.


However, Justin Fabo says there is a wide range of error, as the bureau itself makes clear.


“On a monthly basis, the ABS are very transparent about this, that they say we’ve got a sample, we’re not surveying the whole population,” he said.


“If anyone’s making decisions based on one month of data or two months of data then it’s a very brave person indeed.”

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, economic-trends, money-and-monetary-policy, australia

Business outlook better globally, weaker locally


The latest business outlook from a leading economic forecasting agency suggests global growth will start to improve this year.


The latest Business Outlook report from Deloitte Access Economics says the big mining construction projects, which have fuelled much of Australia’s recent growth, are “hurtling towards a peak”.


Deloitte Access director, Chris Richardson, says the non-mining industries will need to step up.


“The risk is that Australia has a pothole, and that does mean that other sectors will have to take a load,” he said.


Chris Richardson says an expected pick-up in home building and retail spending should help, but the strong Australian dollar means manufacturing and tourism are likely to remain flat.


“We know that the interest rate sensitive sectors – things like home building in Australia and retail spending – they’ve had a tough time, but they will pick up,” he forecast.


“Where the question mark lies is whether the dollar-dependent sectors will do the same – manufacturing, tourism, international education – all of those have taking a pasting, given where the Australian dollar is.”


The Business Outlook paints a mixed international picture, with the United States tipped to benefit from a housing rebound, steady growth projected for China, but weakness in Europe and Japan.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, economic-trends, australia

UK and the EU: Better off out or in?

Yes. Britain could negotiate an “amicable divorce”, but retain strong trading links with EU nations.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage says Norway and Switzerland have thrived outside the EU. Both countries have access to the single market but are not bound by EU laws on agriculture, fisheries, justice and home affairs.

Some favour the Swiss model, based on bi-lateral treaties with the EU rather than membership of the European Economic Area (EEA), a kind of “EU-lite”.

Others say the EEA/Norway model would be easier as the UK is already a member of the free trade area.

Hardliners argue for a clean break from the EU, with the UK free to make trade deals with nations around the word.

No. An “amicable divorce” is a pipe dream.

France, Germany and other leading EU nations would never allow Britain a “pick and mix” approach to the bloc’s rules.

Norway and Switzerland have to abide by many EU rules without any influence over how they are formed.

“If we weren’t in there helping write the rules they would be written without us – the biggest supporter of open markets and free trade – and we wouldn’t like the outcome,” argued David Cameron in speech last year.

If Britain went for a clean break from the EU, its exports would be subject to EU export tariffs and would still have to meet EU production standards.

What would be the impact on British jobs?

The Queen visits a caravan factory With small and medium-sized firms freed from EU regulation, there could be a jobs boom. More than 90% of the UK economy is not involved in trade with the EU, yet still bears the burden of these rules, says the Bruges Group. The Eurosceptic think tank claims pulling out of the EU but staying in the EEA would create 1 million British jobs.

Millions of jobs could be lost as global manufacturers move to low-cost countries within in the EU. Britain’s foreign-owned car industry would shift into the EU and sectors linked to membership such as aerospace would suffer. Airbus production could move to France and Germany, pro-EU commentators claim.

Would Britons need visas to visit EU countries?

Probably not. UK citizens do not need a visa for many non-EU states and the EU has visa-free travel with many countries.

The real issue is the right of UK citizens to work and live in EU member states, which may be restricted.

Would Britain save money?

The UK paid £8.9bn into EU budget in 2010/11, says the Treasury, out of £706bn in public spending.That’s slightly higher than it spends on railways and similar to cost of unemployment benefits. The EC puts the UK’s contribution at £5.85bn.

Yes. It would save billions in membership fees, and end the “hidden tariff” paid by UK taxpayers when goods are exported to the EU, caused by red tape, waste, fraud and other factors. A study by UKIP MEP Gerard Batten claims the total cost to the UK of EU membership, when all these factors are taken into account, is £65.7bn a year.

No. The UK’s contribution to the EU budget is a drop in the ocean compared with the benefits to business of being in the single market, says pressure group Business for New Europe. It could be costly for UK exporters if they face EU legal arguments against UK standards – there could be a lot more court cases.

The UK could lose tax revenue if companies dealing with the eurozone, especially banks, move from the City to the EU.

What would be the effect on trade?

“We will continue to trade with Europe, as part of an association of nation states,” says Eurosceptic Tory MP Bill Cash.

The UK would also be free to establish bi-lateral trade agreements with fast-growing export markets such as China, Singapore, Brazil, Russia and India through the World Trade Organisation.

Imported food from non-EU countries could get cheaper, as tariffs are lowered.

The EU is the UK’s main trading partner, worth more than £400bn a year, or 52% of the total trade in goods and services.

“The UK is always likely to be better positioned to secure beneficial trade deals as a member of the EU than as an individual and isolated player,” says Labour’s Europe spokeswoman Emma Reynolds.

Would the UK’s influence in the world change?

Hague, Rice, Clinton The UK would remain a key part of Nato and the UN Security Council and a nuclear power, with a powerful global voice in its own right. The Bruges Group wants an end to the “discredited” principle that Britain acts as a transatlantic bridge between the US and Europe, saying it should make self-reliance its guiding principle.

Stripped of influence in Brussels, Berlin and Paris, Britain would find itself increasingly ignored by Washington and sidelined on big transnational issues such as the environment, security and trade.

America and other allies want Britain to remain in the EU. The UK risks becoming a maverick, isolated state if it leaves.

What would happen to Britons working in Europe, and EU citizens working in the UK?

Britain would gain full control of its own borders – and be able to control, or stop, the flow of migrants from the EU, which accounted for 27% of total net migration in 2010.

2.3 million citizens of other EU countries were living in the UK in 2011, says the ONS.

A lot would depend on what kind of deal was reached with the other EU nations. 711,151 UK citizens were living in other EU countries in 2011, says Eurostat.

There would be uncertainty for many EU workers now paying taxes in the UK – what benefits, if any, would they be entitled to?

Would taxes change?

The EU has limited power over tax, which is largely a matter for national governments. The exception is VAT which has bands agreed at the EU level. Outside the EU, the UK would potentially have more flexibility.

“Tax avoidance and evasion will reach crippling levels as our economy becomes increasingly wholly owned by foreign multinationals that make tax avoidance in Britain central to their business strategy,” claims The Observer in a recent editorial.

Would Britain’s legal system, democratic institutions and law-making process change?

It would be a major shot in the arm for British democracy as the Westminster parliament regained its sovereignty and re-connected with voters.

The country would be free from the European Arrest Warrant and other law and order measures, but would still have to deal with the European Court of Human Rights, which is is separate from the EU.

Britons benefit from EU employment laws and social protections, which would be stripped away. Withdrawal from the European Arrest Warrant could mean delays for the UK in extraditing suspects from other European countries; and the UK already has some opt-outs from EU labour law, including the Working Time Directive.

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It would be a “dangerous gamble” to try to renegotiate powers from Brussels, Business Secretary Vince Cable is expected to warn David Cameron.

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Economists agree scrapping surplus better late than never

Updated December 21, 2012 06:58:44

Economists are relieved the Federal Government is abandoning its push for a surplus, labelling it a sensible, pragmatic and realistic decision.

For months, they have been concerned the Government’s penny-pinching to keep the surplus dream alive had the potential to slow growth and jobs.

On Thursday, Treasurer Wayne Swan bowed to the inevitable and all but ditched his commitment to deliver a surplus this financial year.

The latest official figures from the Department of Finance show cash receipts for July to October are almost $4 billion less than forecast in the May budget.

“At this stage I don’t think it would be responsible to cut harder or further in 2012-13 to fill a hole in the tax system if that puts jobs or growth at risk,” Mr Swan said.

The Opposition says this proves what it had been saying all along, that Labor would never deliver a surplus, describing the announcement as humiliating and embarrassing.

But business leaders, market economists and some in Labor’s own ranks had been urging the Government to walk away from its pledge.

Leading economist Chris Richardson says ditching the surplus is a triumph of common sense.

“The alternative, to keep cutting to get a surplus this year, would have hurt the economy,” he said.

“It’s already starting to hurt the economy.

“So a sensible decision. I’m glad it’s been taken.”

JP Morgan chief economist Stephen Walters also welcomes the announcement, and he says a return to surplus in this economic cycle is hard to argue against.

“But I think what a lot of people, including myself, had some issues with was why we need to rush to do it within the next six months,” he said.

Mr Walters says the Treasurer has done the right thing to allow the “economic stabilisers” to kick in.

“Rather than intervene… and try to squeeze revenue from previously untapped sources or trying to slash expenditure to try to make the books balance, you essentially let current policy settings stand and allow whatever the implications are to your revenue to unfold,” he said.

“And as the Treasurer says, they’re already down by about $20 billion, and just in this fiscal year alone on your revenue side, to October they’re down by $4 billion.

“Now essentially rather than trying to reverse that, you just let that play out and essentially end up with a deficit rather than a surplus.

“It’s a very simple equation; it’s just politically clearly very difficult for the Government to admit that they’re not going to make it.”

The problem for the Government is it has spent the past two-and-a-half years promising a surplus as a demonstration of its economic credentials.

Now Mr Swan says the economy comes before politics, stressing the Government has delivered responsible economic management for the past five years.

“At the end of the day, I don’t care about the political outcomes, I care about the economic outcomes,” he said.

The Opposition is crowing, having long taunted the Government that it would never deliver a surplus.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and shadow treasurer Joe Hockey blame the Government, not the global economy.

“For three years they’ve been boasting of this surplus,” Mr Abbott said.

It doesn’t matter which politician in Canberra promises what; if China has a bad year, the budget’s going to have a bad year.

To pretend otherwise is dumb.

“For three years, they’ve been saying that this surplus was the badge of their economic credibility.

“Well, they don’t have it anymore.”

The Opposition says the Government should have delivered a surplus, and that if elected it would deliver a surplus.

“The budget comes with a big fat made-in-China stamp,” Mr Richardson said.

“It doesn’t matter which politician in Canberra promises what; if China has a bad year, the budget’s going to have a bad year.

“To pretend otherwise is dumb.”

There is a slim chance the Government’s resignation to recording another deficit will mean Australia loses its top credit rating with the world’s major rating agencies.

Saul Eslake, chief economist with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, says that may not be a bad thing in that it would be helpful in bringing down the dollar.

“It may be that the Government’s abandonment of its commitment to a surplus raises eyebrows in the financial markets and reduces the capital inflows into Australia that have kept the dollar at elevated levels,” he said.

“If that were to happen, I think the Reserve Bank would be much mess inclined to lower interest rates further than they probably are at the moment.”

Topics: budget, federal-government, government-and-politics, business-economics-and-finance, economic-trends, australia

First posted December 20, 2012 20:54:27

Calls for better access across Swan


The WA Transport Minister says the government will consider planning for new infrastructure to ease congestion in the city centre.


The RAC has called for a feasibility study to assess the need for a new bridge or tunnel to move traffic around the city, rather than through it.


But Troy Buswell has told ABC Local Radio if a bridge were to be built, he would look at other routes.


“I think the main drivers now in terms of population and freight are to the east of the city, not to the west of the city,” he said.


“So irrespective of whether people say “thank heavens you’ve finally done it” or “gee, you’re a visionary” I think the important thing is to get on and provide these bits of transport infrastructure.


“Ultimately we’ll work through the planning process.


“But as I look at Perth’s population growth areas, and you look at drivers of freight, I think we’ll be looking to the east of the city, not to the west of the city, to deal with those problems.”

Topics: road-transport, perth-6000

First posted January 14, 2013 12:35:18

Nokia sales better than expected

10 January 2013 Last updated at 22:10 GMT Continue reading the main story Nokia shares have risen sharply after the Finnish group said mobile phone sales in the fourth quarter exceeded its own expectations.

Nokia said it sold 86.3 million devices in the last quarter, with revenues totalling 3.9bn euros ($5.2bn; £3.2bn).

It said its mobile phone business had achieved underlying profitability, thanks to better-than-expected sales of its Lumia smartphone.

Nokia shares closed up 11% in Helsinki and 18.7% higher in New York.

The firm sold 4.4 million Lumia smartphones in the fourth quarter, up from 2.9 million in the third quarter.

It also sold 2.2 million Symbian smartphones and 9.3 million of its lower-priced Asha full-touch smartphones.

Nokia said it was also helped by lower-than-forecast operating expenses.

But it expects seasonality and a competitive environment to have a negative impact on the handset division’s profitability in the first quarter of 2013.

Nokia has been losing ground to rivals Apple and Samsung in recent years.

Redeye analyst Greger Johansson said it was still too early to call it a turnaround.

“They will have to prove a lot more until you can say that,” he said.

“I’m not still convinced that they are going to manage to succeed with those new smartphones. They have to sell a lot more in volumes until you can say that.”

Nokia sales better than expected

Continue reading the main story Nokia shares have risen sharply after the Finnish group said mobile phone sales in the fourth quarter exceeded its own expectations.


Nokia said it sold 86.3 million devices in the last quarter, with revenues totalling 3.9bn euros ($5.2bn; £3.2bn).


It said its mobile phone business had achieved underlying profitability, thanks to better-than-expected sales of its Lumia smartphone.


Nokia shares closed up 11% in Helsinki and 18.7% higher in New York.


The firm sold 4.4 million Lumia smartphones in the fourth quarter, up from 2.9 million in the third quarter.


It also sold 2.2 million Symbian smartphones and 9.3 million of its lower-priced Asha full-touch smartphones.


Nokia said it was also helped by lower-than-forecast operating expenses.


But it expects seasonality and a competitive environment to have a negative impact on the handset division’s profitability in the first quarter of 2013.


Nokia has been losing ground to rivals Apple and Samsung in recent years.


Redeye analyst Greger Johansson said it was still too early to call it a turnaround.


“They will have to prove a lot more until you can say that,” he said.


“I’m not still convinced that they are going to manage to succeed with those new smartphones. They have to sell a lot more in volumes until you can say that.”

Nokia sales better than expected

10 January 2013 Last updated at 22:10 GMT Continue reading the main story Nokia shares have risen sharply after the Finnish group said mobile phone sales in the fourth quarter exceeded its own expectations.

Nokia said it sold 86.3 million devices in the last quarter, with revenues totalling 3.9bn euros ($5.2bn; £3.2bn).

It said its mobile phone business had achieved underlying profitability, thanks to better-than-expected sales of its Lumia smartphone.

Nokia shares closed up 11% in Helsinki and 18.7% higher in New York.

The firm sold 4.4 million Lumia smartphones in the fourth quarter, up from 2.9 million in the third quarter.

It also sold 2.2 million Symbian smartphones and 9.3 million of its lower-priced Asha full-touch smartphones.

Nokia said it was also helped by lower-than-forecast operating expenses.

But it expects seasonality and a competitive environment to have a negative impact on the handset division’s profitability in the first quarter of 2013.

Nokia has been losing ground to rivals Apple and Samsung in recent years.

Redeye analyst Greger Johansson said it was still too early to call it a turnaround.

“They will have to prove a lot more until you can say that,” he said.

“I’m not still convinced that they are going to manage to succeed with those new smartphones. They have to sell a lot more in volumes until you can say that.”

Nokia sales better than expected

Continue reading the main story Nokia shares have risen sharply after the Finnish group said mobile phone sales in the fourth quarter exceeded its own expectations.


Nokia said it sold 86.3 million devices in the last quarter, with revenues totalling 3.9bn euros ($5.2bn; £3.2bn).


It said its mobile phone business had achieved underlying profitability, thanks to better-than-expected sales of its Lumia smartphone.


Nokia shares closed up 11% in Helsinki and 18.7% higher in New York.


The firm sold 4.4 million Lumia smartphones in the fourth quarter, up from 2.9 million in the third quarter.


It also sold 2.2 million Symbian smartphones and 9.3 million of its lower-priced Asha full-touch smartphones.


Nokia said it was also helped by lower-than-forecast operating expenses.


But it expects seasonality and a competitive environment to have a negative impact on the handset division’s profitability in the first quarter of 2013.


Nokia has been losing ground to rivals Apple and Samsung in recent years.


Redeye analyst Greger Johansson said it was still too early to call it a turnaround.


“They will have to prove a lot more until you can say that,” he said.


“I’m not still convinced that they are going to manage to succeed with those new smartphones. They have to sell a lot more in volumes until you can say that.”


View the original article here

Elders says losses getting better

Posted November 19, 2012 13:52:41

Rural services company Elders has reported a $60.6 million loss for its latest financial year.

However, it is smaller than last year’s loss of $395.4 million.

The company says its improved performance was partly due to a 15 per cent reduction in debt to $295 million.

That helped offset a further fall in sales revenue, which was down 5 per cent to just under $2.2 billion.

Elders has been selling some of its divisions to help pay down its heavy debt burden: it is continuing the sale of forestry assets; the company also says it is well advanced in the sale of Futuris Automotive; and it is preparing to sell its rural services business.

The company says, excluding one-off costs, its net profit after tax was up 47 per cent to $13.2 million in the year to September 30.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, company-news, agribusiness, australia

Elders says losses getting better

Posted November 19, 2012 13:52:41

Rural services company Elders has reported a $60.6 million loss for its latest financial year.

However, it is smaller than last year’s loss of $395.4 million.

The company says its improved performance was partly due to a 15 per cent reduction in debt to $295 million.

That helped offset a further fall in sales revenue, which was down 5 per cent to just under $2.2 billion.

Elders has been selling some of its divisions to help pay down its heavy debt burden: it is continuing the sale of forestry assets; the company also says it is well advanced in the sale of Futuris Automotive; and it is preparing to sell its rural services business.

The company says, excluding one-off costs, its net profit after tax was up 47 per cent to $13.2 million in the year to September 30.

Topics: business-economics-and-finance, company-news, agribusiness, australia

Incat looks to better times

Updated November 18, 2012 12:36:19

Tasmanian shipbuilder Incat has unveiled its latest high-speed ferry but says it has no other big projects in the pipeline.

The 9000 tonne ferry is the first in the world to run on liquefied natural gas and will travel between Argentina and Uruguay.

It can carry up to 1000 passengers and 200 cars and will cut the crossing time from three to about two hours.

On long journeys where LNG is hard to find, the ferry can run on marine diesel.

It is the eighth high-speed ferry sold by Incat to the Argentinian operators.

Incat founder Robert Clifford said it was the only big project on his company’s books at the moment but staff were working on several smaller projects.

Mr Clifford said he hoped nibbles from Asia and operators crossing the English Channel would turn into orders in future.

“Business is very poor, the entire marine industry is doing it tough at the moment,” Mr Clifford said.

“There are a lot of customers out there who want boats but they are having trouble finding the finance at the moment. It’ll all come right but it’s just going to take a little while.”

Incat employed about 1000 people at its peak but now operates with about 250 staff.

A crew will come to Tasmania to be trained and will then sail the ship back to Argentina in mid January.

Topics: manufacturing, lutana-7009

First posted November 18, 2012 08:24:42

Pakistani managers can better deal with projects than foreigners


KARACHI: Pakistani managers can better deal with the projects as compared to foreigners who did not have knowledge of the national culture, said speakers at a management symposium held on Saturday.


The Project Management Institute’s (PMI) local chapter held a symposium on “Project management for success” at a local hotel, which attracted a large number of professionals and students.


Aamir Niazi, COO of International Textile Ltd, who has an experience of over 30 years in the field of project management, said that system building competence is necessary for project management and the United States authorities are delivering such system competence after hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast.


Sharing his experience of working in Japan, he said, continuous training over there has played an important role towards quality development. Elaborating the role of leadership and individuals, Niazi said that leadership certainly played an important role but individual team members’ attitude made the difference.


Sheikh Nisar Ahmed, managing director and chief executive officer of Millennium Systems and Consultants Pvt Ltd, said that more than 70 percent loan of the private banks in Pakistan was given to public sector, while private sector received less than 20 percent of the loan.


Giving example of use of Pakistan’s public sector organisations help the influential officials, he said, one utility organisation is developing infrastructure of a hospital in Karachi, which is owned by a federal minister.


Dr Rizwan Amin Sheikh, associate dean of the Karachi School for Business and Leadership, said that knowledge of national culture played an important role in understanding the project’s success in that country. “Cultures had main impact over behaviours of individuals,” he said.


Foreigners could not deliver successful projects in Pakistan, he said, as they are do not have complete knowledge of culture and could not sustain to bureaucratic hurdles, so Pakistanis could be successful managers in handling such projects, he added.


The symposium brought together key stakeholders from industry and academia in Pakistan. It also provided an opportunity to share, learn and network with other business leaders and project management practitioners.


PMI Karachi Pakistan Chapter (PMI-KPC) organised the seminar, which is an extension of PMI, US, and is engaged in promoting project management approach in the country, in general, and, in Sindh, in particular.


The PMI-KPC is recognised as a dynamic organisation providing an effective link between PMI (USA) and the project management practitioners, researchers and students in Pakistan.


It provides a platform fro project management knowledge creation and sharing, collaboration and professional networking opportunities, capacity building of different stakeholders and advocacy for professional ethics in project management.

Greek tourism industry fares better than feared: data

ATHENS: Greece’s tourism industry was less affected by the economic crisis than previously feared, with arrivals and spending falling by 5.9 and 3.4 percent between January and August, the Bank of Greece said on Monday.


Tourism experts and local media had painted a much bleaker picture for the industry in the spring, based on visitor fears of a political and social crisis in Greece as well as speculation on the country’s possible exit from the eurozone.


August, the peak of the tourist season in Greece, even saw a 2.9 percent increase in spending by non-residents compared to the same month a year earlier, despite a 2.5 percent dip in tourist arrivals.


This corresponds to 2.498 billion euros ($3.3 billion).


As a result, the current account, negative in August 2010 and 2011, made a surplus of 1.6 billion euros for August this year, compared to a deficit of 102.8 million last year.


Austerity has taken its toll on Greek tourists though, with expenses by resident Greeks abroad in August marking a 44.2 percent drop to 188.8 million euros.


Tourism is one of the pillars of Greek economy. Foreign travellers brought in about 7.46 billion euros over the first eight months of 2012.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Presse), 2012

ICCI for creating better business environment


ISLAMABAD: The business community of the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) on Monday urged the government for creating conducive business environment to develop the industrial sector of the country, according to a statement.


A delegation of the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) led by its president Zafar Bakhtawari visited Attock Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), it said.


Addressing the business community, Bakhtawari said that the unity of the nation, in general, and the business and industrial community, in particular, is vital for the socioeconomic development of the country.


He said that close collaboration among all the chambers of commerce and industry will give a boost to the economic activities, according to the statement.


The ICCI president said that the economy is facing multiple challenges, and stressed upon the government to address these problems on priority basis for creating better business environment in the country, it said.


Facilitating the growth of private enterprises would create multiple benefits for the economy as it will improve productivity, trade, exports, employment and revenue generation for the country, he said.


Khalid Saeed, president of ACCI, and Tariq Mehmood, former president of the ACCI, congratulated Bakhtawari on his appointment as president of the ICCI.

Hindsight is so much better when it’s foreseen

It was suggested here some while ago that the Gulf states should probably be revisiting the issue of the US dollar peg, particularly now that the Federal Reserve has announced its intention to maintain extraordinarily low interest rates for years ahead, which poses an inflationary threat for linked economies whose recoveries are already well under way, but which face structurally different issues.


The date attached to that promise has already drifted out from 2014 to 2015. Who’s to say that it won’t be extended to 2020 — that metaphor for perfect vision — given the absence of alternative thinking? By that time, cynics might suggest that the error of this unbridled stimulus strategy will be plain to see, and the responding refrain will be that hindsight is a wonderful thing, as if nobody is flying warning flags now.


Just as there were those (still ignored) who advised 20 years ago that the euro was a fundamentally wrong-headed idea, politically motivated rather than economically sound, so there were commentators, such as the Bank for International Settlements, who anticipated the global credit crisis — and it may now be that the reflationary danger for the Gulf region is likewise predictable.


It is as well to seek out the learned voices who can substantiate this supposition, and only a matter of weeks ago, one such source had a useful message to impart at a regional forum. Syed Bashir, research economist at the Qatar Central Bank, made a presentation to a symposium conducted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies on how the GCC might take the initiative on this matter.

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Apart from identifying the key lesson of the European experience — that monetary union requires the creation of a fiscal union as well — his paper poignantly notes a curious lack of attention to one key aspect of current arrangements.


Stony silence


By comparison with the chatter about China, its payments surpluses and the level of the yuan renminbi, there has been “a stony silence on the undervalued Gulf currencies”, it says, although preparations for a regional dinar have been extensively covered.


As to that prospect, the bulk of the analytical background finds a favourable economic basis for the venture, but still it “faces significant headwinds” in terms of low intra-regional trade, lack of supranational political institutions and limitations in research capacity.


Total trade flows within the region, as at 2010, represented only 6.5 per cent of the total with the rest of the world. Financial integration has been faster, but still investment into regional industry from collective resources has been lacking, Bashir states. Moreover, corporate governance still leaves much to be desired, notably as to privileged information in stock markets.


Yet, the benefits of monetary union in terms of transaction costs, price transparencies and increased purchasing power over imports would not only be worth having, they might be accompanied by a “much-needed new economic paradigm” for the growth and development of the GCC as this century unfolds.


Tying currencies together, however, is not the crucial element for success. If the resulting currency were free-floating rather than fixed, stability would be enhanced as well, it seems.


Flexible exchange rate regime


“A flexible exchange rate regime will permit the GCC to absorb large swings in commodity [oil and food] prices,” argues Bashir, “and would allow them to devise their own monetary policy to address domestic conditions”.


There is a reason why that is truer now than in the past, relating almost inevitably to oil. In a nutshell, the fundamental shift of global growth from the OECD countries to emerging economies has produced a disconnect between oil prices and both the US Federal funds rate and US dollar (see chart).


Whereas the oil price reverted to its mean trend during 1973-2000, since 2001, its path has been decisively upward. The fact that it has moved in the opposite direction to the other two variables has important implications. In particular, the Fed has set interest rate policies increasingly to support growth rather than restrain inflation, entrenching an easy policy for the US, which the Gulf has followed while actually requiring a much tougher stance for the local economies.


A counterpart policy decoupling is advisable. Of course, it’s not rocket science, but repeating the truth doesn’t become less relevant for being obvious, as the recent history of Europe, an erstwhile potential model for the GCC, has demonstrated only too well.


Limited space here defeats further exposition, and there is plenty to discuss even once the basic principle is accepted.


Awkward issues still present themselves. For instance, isn’t fiscal union realistically a euphemism for political union? And surely it is not just that differences between the states make asymmetric shocks destabilising, but that differing productivity rates will not disappear, and compensating transfer payments may escalate over time?


Those and other sticking points have been reviewed, and can be shared with readers next week.

PrintEmail a friend More from Business Opinion High scores for Qatar’s gas sector Hindsight is so much better when it’s foreseen Be wary about discussing politics in the office Can China continue to lead global growth?

Efforts under way to win better market access

Govt workin­g on trade pacts with a host of countr­ies.  Amin says Govt working on trade pacts with a host of countries. PHOTO:FILE


LAHORE: Federal Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim has said that the government is actively engaged in trade diplomacy in an effort to get better access for the country’s businesses to international markets with the help of free and preferential trade agreements with a host of countries.


Speaking at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) on Friday, Fahim said the government had entered into or was working on free trade agreements and preferential trade agreements with China, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Bosnia Herzegovina, Russian Federation, central Asian states, Iran, Mauritius, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Jordan and Sri Lanka.


Other market access initiatives include the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) Trade Agreement, Pakistan-India trade normalisation process, Saarc Agreement on Trade in Services and agreement on South Asia Free Trade Area (Safta).


Discussing the scope of exports, he recalled the incentives announced to boost exports such as concessionary financing, duty-free import of raw material under the temporary import scheme, duty and tax remission for export (DTRE) scheme, duty drawback, concessions in duty and taxes on import of machinery and raw material of priority export sectors and development of export clusters.


He acknowledged the challenges faced by the exporters in the face of stiff competition and called for expanding the export basket with the help of competitive prices and excellent quality of products.


He saw great scope for export of agricultural products, but said unluckily Pakistan could not be able to make any significant headway because of complicated sanitary and phyto-sanitary (PSP) requirements of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).


Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2012.

Big data means better business

 By Paul Kent Global vice president of Big Data, SAS  So much data, so little time: The businesses making the most of their intelligence are doing so by tackling mountains of figures Decision-making is the essence of management.


Careers and companies are built or buried by the judgments of a few, even a single individual. Decisions mould company strategy – which markets to enter or what products to develop, for example – and impact company resources.

Today, as the world globalises and the pace of change quickens, managers must make high-pressure decisions faster.


In fact, 74% of the global executives SAS recently surveyed with the Harvard Business Review stated they “feel under pressure to achieve results in less time than ever before”.


Savvy managers turn to analysing data – on their customers, operations, risk and more – for guidance.


They are bringing ever-larger amounts of “big data” – from traditional databases as well as unstructured text from call-centre logs, social media and more – into their decision-making to achieve competitive insight.


Like the amount of data that organisations store, the value placed on data by firms has grown rapidly. According to new research by Dynamic Markets, for example, one in five of the UK’s largest companies now quantify the value of corporate data on their balance sheets.

Better decisions

Today’s mobile phone companies exemplify using analytics to drive decisions.


An emerging analytical concept in the industry is customer link analysis, which helps determine an individual customer’s influence among his or her peers, friends and community.


Customer link analysis works by examining the type, length, frequency and timing of inbound and outbound calls.


By analysing the call data, phone companies can visualize social networks of callers to identify the most influential.

Continue reading the main story
There is a global analytics skills shortage, with too few students graduating with degrees in math, science and technology”

End Quote The companies can use this analytical insight to better target these influencers with focused marketing and retention efforts, making better decisions about which offers to make to which customers. Entire marketing budgets are now based on this type of analytical insight.


SAS recently examined the acceptance of analytical decision-making in businesses worldwide.


Working with the Harvard Business Review’s analytic services team, we surveyed 700 senior executives for a study titled: The Evolution of Decision-Making: How Leading Organisations Are Adopting a Data-Driven Culture.


The findings show that acceptance of analytics has grown and is delivering tangible improvements. Almost three-quarters of respondents said their division or department relies on data to make decisions today; 40% percent felt that analytics have improved the importance and standing of their functional areas.


One group of respondents stood apart in its use of data to inform decisions. This group has integrated analytics across the whole company, and is characterised by:

A data-based decision-making culture.Decision-making transparency.Company-wide decision-making processes.Emphasis on managerial insights as a supplement to data.Continual refinement and testing of new ideas.

Eleven percent of the responding organisations have integrated analytics across the entire organisation, rather than using it ad-hoc.

What, why, how

Strikingly, among all the benefits of analytics, respondents most frequently cited faster decision-making.


“Analytics accelerates our decisions because everyone is now looking at the same reality,” said Filippo Passerini, Procter & Gamble’s chief information officer.


“Decisions come down to ‘what,’ ‘why’ and ‘how’,” he added.

It is a challenge, Paul Kent says, to balance data-drive decisions with traditional gut instinct

“Many organisations spent a lot of time debating the ‘what’ because different people had different data. Once everyone has the same version of truth, you can shift to the how—and you are able to do more and more, better and better.”


While moving beyond instinct alone is definitely gaining acceptance, the research shows that significant challenges remain:

37% of respondents said their managers relied on “gut feeling” rather than data and analytics to make decisions.44% think their organisations have little or no transparency into how key decisions are made.One-third of respondents believe their companies lack the skills to derive the benefits of analytics.A quarter have no formal decision-making processes.

Weighing quantitative insights against the experienced judgment of managers is difficult.

Skills shortage

Michael Pierce, customer service manager at Bosch Security Systems, says: “Personally, I run with analysis first, and during the research I will listen to my intuition. When my gut does not agree with my decisions – and all analytics show it is the correct one – I pay closer attention to the results.”


Managers see that making the right decision in a timely manner is a matter of balancing data analysis with judgment and experience, not exclusively relying on one method over the other.


As the volume, variety and velocity of data increase, opportunities for firms that embed analytical insights into decision-making will continue to grow.


But so too will the challenges. There is a global analytics skills shortage, with too few students graduating with degrees in math, science and technology.


The effects are already being felt in the workplace: 52% of managers surveyed said they needed to re-train to be able to use analytics in their decision making. Furthermore, one-third of respondents couldn’t find the right skills mix at all.


As companies compete globally and technological change accelerates, decision-making windows become ever smaller. Businesses need to instil a culture of data-driven decisions, supported by the people, processes and technology – especially analytics – to ensure success.


Otherwise, they’ll be left merely guessing.


Paul Kent is the Vice President of Big Data at SAS, a leading business intelligence and analytics firm. He speaks regularly about the impact of Big Data on businesses of all sizes. He can be followed on Twitter here.

Better planning could have saved mining jobs: union

By Megan Hendry and William RolloUpdated October 17, 2012 09:55:54

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) says mining companies could have avoided drastic job cuts in central Queensland if they planned for industry downturns.

Yesterday, Ensham Resources revealed 400 jobs would be cut from its open-cut coal operations near Emerald, west of Rockhampton, by the end of the year.

Ensham Resources is the third company in the state’s Bowen Basin to cut contractor jobs this week.

CFMEU spokesman Steve Smyth says contracting companies will struggle to find other work for staff.

“Companies like Goldings, considering where their other operations are are limited, they’re going to struggle,” he said.

“On the back of the Gregory Mine shutting down, that itself, the company will struggle to fill the roles or ensure people that are laid off will have jobs to go to.”

Acting Central Highlands Mayor Gail Nixon says she expects some flow-on effects from the job cuts.

Ms Nixon says while many contractors are fly-in, fly-out, a large number are based in Emerald.

“I know that a lot of people have invested in housing in Emerald and all the surrounding areas and they need to keep those payments up,” she said.

“It will be difficult for them to find employment in this climate.

“I just hope for these people on a personal level that they can find employment somewhere else and they’re not put to too much hardship in doing that.

“It’s sad to here that these people have been stood aside and the businesses will suffer, those contracting businesses, but there’s probably other opportunities for them too.”

However, the Central Highlands Development Corporation (CHDC) says job cuts at the Bowen Basin mines could be good news for local businesses who are struggling to find staff.

CHDC spokeswoman Sandra Hobbs says service industries cannot compete with mining pay rates but they can offer job security.

“Local businesses are saying that they’re able to secure skilled staff, which has been a real positive for the situation,” she said.

“Housing prices are now starting to come down and the provision of housing at cheaper rates has made a big difference to the confidence of people as well.”

Ms Hobbs says while many contractors fly-in and fly-out, a large number still live in Emerald.

“In some situations definitely people are leaving, even though a lot of these losses have been with contractors and they aren’t local people,” she said.

“I think those that have experienced that loss where they don’t have immediate opportunities, then they are leaving the area.”

Topics: unions, community-development, mining-rural, regional, regional-development, mining-industry, company-news, emerald-4720, mackay-4740, rockhampton-4700, mount-isa-4825, toowoomba-4350

First posted October 17, 2012 09:19:06

MegaFon offer better governance

Moscow: MegaFon said the make-up of its board would reflect its focus on good corporate governance, as it sought to attract investors for its planned initial public offering (IPO) after Goldman Sachs dropped out as an underwriter.

The emailed statement came days after Russia’s number two mobile operator revealed the surprise absence of the US investment bank in the line-up of banks running the deal. Sources had previously said Goldman would be one of the lead banks.

“We believe we can be an attractive new possibility for international investors,” MegaFon said a statement in reaction to being asked why Goldman was no longer involved.

“Corporate governance is very important to MegaFon,” the statement said, adding the make-up of the company’s board would reflect this.

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The group’s majority shareholder Alisher Usmanov would be represented by a minority of three board directors, and the majority would be made up of two independent directors and two representatives of Nordic telecoms group Teliasonera, which owns 35.6 per cent, it said.

Sources in Moscow financial circles struggled to explain Goldman’s surprise withdrawal from the IPO. One source familiar with the situation said on Tuesday that Goldman had stepped back due to unspecified shareholding concerns that were not related to Usmanov.

In a recent interview with Reuters, Uzbek-born tycoon Usmanov said he would fold his stake in MegaFon and other assets, such as iron ore miner Metalloinvest, into a new holding company.

Liberalised trade: for better or for worse?

Survey highli­ghts strong opposi­tion among busine­sses to openin­g up of econom­y. The manufacturing sector has more concerns over liberalised trade with Pakistan’s neighbours, compared to the trading sector. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: 

Which sector of Pakistan is more insecure about liberalising trade policy with India and Afghanistan: manufacturing or trading?

According to the results of a recent survey, analysts and private sector officials believe that the manufacturing sector has more concerns over liberalised trade with Pakistan’s neighbours, if compared to the trading sector (importers, retailers, wholesalers etc).

Surprisingly, however, a very high proportion of retail business entities (48%) consider that granting the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India will have a negative impact on their business, while a mere 7% feel that the result on business will be positive.

These revelations come in the results of the bi-annual ‘Business Confidence Index’ (BCI) survey, conducted recently by the Overseas Investors Chambers of Commerce and Industry (OICCI). OICCI conducts this study every six months through an independent research company, in order to gauge sentiments of key stakeholders regarding different business-related matters. The survey takes responses from businesspersons from varied backgrounds: from the heads of multinationals, to owners of small businesses in busy city districts.

Such strong opposition from the retail sector to liberalised trade comes as a surprise to some analysts, as it has widely been perceived that traders would have been more interested in opening up trade with India. The OICCI Secretary General M Abdul Aleem is one such analyst.

“The result is surprising, because one can understand the concerns of the manufacturing sector – which may feel the heat once trade is eased with India,” he said, “but the concerns of the retail sector have caught us unawares.”

Since the survey includes many small retailers, one can assume that a majority of them have concerns about India’s MFN status and/or the Afghan Transit Trade Agreement, he added.

In response to a question, Aleem said that it is true that the organised sector of Pakistan is more likely to support the MFN status to India than the unorganised sector. However, there are some organised sectors – like the auto industry – which may not be partial to free trade with India. Some sectors also have concerns about non-tariff barriers, which may affect Pakistani exports to India, he added.

The respondents were given five options for possible effects the MFN status to India and Afghan transit trade agreement will have on their businesses. The options were ‘very positive’, ‘positive’, ‘neutral’, ‘negative’ or ‘very negative’. Almost half of all retailers surveyed said the results will be negative or very negative.

Furthermore, “The majority of all business sector entities believe that the MFN status to India and the Afghan Transit Trade Agreement will have an adverse effect on businesses,” the survey said.

Muzammil Aslam, managing director of Emerging Economics Research, said that traders are nonetheless more in favour of liberal trade with neighbours, especially with India, if compared to manufacturers – who have repeatedly expressed concerns on the MFN status being given to India.

“We should open up our economy for regional trade,” said Aslam. “We are already competing with China, which is much more competitive than India. Therefore, we must not look at short-term problems, but focus on long-term economic growth.”

Khurram Schehzad, analyst at AlHoqani Securities, said that the manufacturing and trading concerns may persists for a few years on the MFN and Afghan Transit Trade Agreement, “Just as we saw strong opposition when World Trade Organization (WTO) laws were being implemented in Pakistan.”

“Regional trade is always crucial for economic growth,” he continued. “Liberal trade with our neighbours will help our economy the most, because we have India and China –the two fastest growing economies of the world.”

“Liberal trade helps competition and improves efficiency in industries, which will eventually strengthen our economy in a growingly competitive world,” he concluded.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 3rd, 2012.

Better Indo-Pak trade ties remain as elusive as ever

As New Delhi drags its feet, Foreig­n Office places morato­rium on furthe­r effort­s.  As New Delhi drags its feet, Foreign Office places moratorium on further efforts. ILLUSTRATION: JAMAL KHURSHID

ISLAMABAD: 

Efforts for normalisation of trade between Pakistan have been dealt a serious blow, partly due to New Delhi’s reluctance in reciprocating moves made by Pakistan to ease trade restrictions. The Pakistani Foreign Office has now curbed efforts, which envisioned bringing the embattled neighbours closer through stronger trade ties, saying that slow progress in dialogues on other disputed issues necessitates toning down rapprochement efforts.


“Prospects to abolish the negative list by December this year have considerably dimmed,” sources in the Ministry of Commerce told The Express Tribune.


The Federal Cabinet had given in-principle approval for the abolishment of the negative list, which still contains 1,209 non-tradable items, by December 31; in line with granting the Most Favoured Nation status to Pakistan’s once arch-rival. It had asked the commerce ministry to negotiate with India, in order to seek more relaxations for Pakistani exporters, before trade ties were completely ‘normalised’. The commerce ministry was to report back to the Cabinet after holding another round of commerce secretary-level talks with India.


Sources told The Express Tribune that commerce secretary-level talks to this end were scheduled tentatively for May this year, but were postponed due to the objections raised by the Foreign Office. The Foreign Office had asked the ministry to “go slow” after no significant progress was achieved on other contentious matters, despite repeated rounds of talks.


Both sides had held multiple discussions to arrive at resolutions to the Sir Creek, Siachen, visa relaxation and counter terrorism issues; but no new ground was broken.


Commerce Secretary Munir Qureshi confirmed to The Express Tribune that the talks were not held in May on the Foreign Office’s diktat.


“Trade talks are not independent from other disputed issues, as they form a part of broader Confidence Building Measures,” Qureshi explained, responding to broader objections to the delay caused by lack of progress on matters unrelated to trade.


Pakistan’s decision, to replace the positive list – which had allowed only 1,956 items to be traded across the border – with a negative list In February this year, had been dubbed a giant leap in bilateral trade relations between the two nations. During the Indian commerce minister’s visit to Pakistan in February, both countries had inked three pacts on harmonisation of customs procedures and resolution of quality control issues.


However, contrary to expectations and assurances given by India, Islamabad says it has not yet received concessions it had earlier hoped for.


Our sources said that despite signing various agreements that aimed to allay Pakistan’s concerns regarding non-tariff barriers, India has not done much to make these treaties effective. The sources said India also did not agree to equal duty slabs on products on both sides of the border – a measure Pakistan believes will boost bilateral trade by providing a level playing field to exporters of both nations. Commerce Secretary Qureshi added that non-tariff barriers were also a major concern for Pakistan.


Qureshi also claimed that India has not yet reduced its sensitive list by 30%. The list contains items that carry high duties slabs, aimed at protecting selective industries in the member states of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation.


However, he did offer some hope to proponents of Indo-Pak trade, when he said there were indications that the next round of talks may yet be held in September.


Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Ali Khan was not available for comments.


Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2012.