Russia’s economic woes

December 17th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

Russians are wondering whether the relative economic stability of Vladimir Putin’s rule has come to an end, as the rouble continued its downward spiral on Tuesday, despite a dramatic overnight rise in interest rates.

“Even in our nightmares we couldn’t have imagined what is happening now a year ago,” said the deputy chairman of Russia’s central bank, Sergei Shvetsov, as the currency slid further against the dollar and euro.

Analysts suggest a combination of falling oil prices and western sanctions over Russia’s actions in Ukraine initiated the rouble’s collapse, while further decline is taking place as investors panic and lose confidence in the currency.

As ordinary Russians watched their savings lose more real value on Tuesday, an unusually bitter polemic broke out between senior government officials. In a system where public disagreement is rare, the outbursts were a sign of how serious the tension is, as officials scrambled to deflect blame from themselves for the rouble’s slump.

The central bank announced a rise in interest rates from 10.5% to 17% after a late-night meeting behind closed doors on Monday in a desperate attempt to stop the slump. After a brief rally on Tuesday morning in response to the move, the rouble continued its fall and has now lost more than 50% of its value against the dollar since the start of the year. The rouble rallied again in the afternoon, recovering from a low point of over 100 to the euro to reach the 90 mark, but that figure still leaves Russians stunned, given the rate at the beginning of this year.

Putin may end up losing office over his invasion of Ukraine. The economic pain for Russia will only get worse and worse, and there will come a point where Putin will be (rightfully) blamed.

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We should be able to act outside the UN

November 19th, 2014 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The ODT reports:

Prime Minister John Key says major companies such as Fonterra have been asked not to exploit the gap left by other countries’ trade sanctions on Russia because to do so would be a “terrible look” for New Zealand.

This raises the question why we haven’t imposed trade sanctions ourselves. It seems the answer is that we haven’t changed the law from from Labour had it, which was we can only impose sanctions if the UN agrees to them.

The problem is that Russia of course has a veto at the UN, so this means we allow our foreign policy to be subservient to their veto at the UN.

In most cases we would want to only do sanctions when the UN agrees to them. But as an independent country we should have the ability to impose them, even when there is no UN vote.

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Russia now moves against the Internet

September 20th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

The Kremlin is considering radical plans to unplug Russia from the global internet in the event of a serious military confrontation or big anti-government protests at home, Russian officials hinted on Friday.

President Vladimir Putin will convene a meeting of his security council on Monday. It will discuss what steps Moscow might take to disconnect Russian citizens from the web “in an emergency”, the Vedomosti newspaper reported. The goal would be to strengthen Russia’s sovereignty in cyberspace. The proposals could also bring the domain .ru under state control, it suggested.

Russian TV and most of the country’s newspapers are under the Kremlin’s thumb. But unlike in China, the Russian internet has so far remained a comparatively open place for discussion, albeit one contested by state-sponsored bloggers and Putin fans.

According to Vedomosti, Russia plans to introduce the new measures early next year. The Kremlin has been wrestling for some time with how to reduce Russia’s dependency on American technology and digital infrastructure, amid fears that its communications are vulnerable to US spying. It has mooted building a “national internet”, which would in effect be a domestic intranet. These proposals go further, expanding the government’s control over ordinary Russian internet users and their digital habits.

The most ominous element, he added, was the security council’s apparent proposal to take control over .ru, as well as the domains .su (for Soviet Union) and .рф (Russian Federation in Cyrillic). These domains currently belong to a non-government organisation, the coordination centre of the national domain, rather than to government. Many are currently hosted abroad.

There comes a point at which Russia goes from merely being an authoritarian country to a dictatorship. It’s sad to see Russia continue to slide backwards.

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Putin’s propaganda

September 17th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Atlantic reports:

At the NATO summit in Wales last week, General Philip Breedlove, the military alliance’s top commander, made a bold declaration. Russia, he said, is waging “the most amazing information warfare blitzkrieg we have ever seen in the history of information warfare.”

It was something of an underestimation. The new Russia doesn’t just deal in the petty disinformation, forgeries, lies, leaks, and cyber-sabotage usually associated with information warfare. It reinvents reality, creating mass hallucinations that then translate into political action. Take Novorossiya, the name Vladimir Putin has given to the huge wedge of southeastern Ukraine he might, or might not, consider annexing. The term is plucked from tsarist history, when it represented a different geographical space. Nobody who lives in that part of the world today ever thought of themselves as living in Novorossiya and bearing allegiance to it—at least until several months ago. Now, Novorossiya is being imagined into being: Russian media are showing maps of its ‘geography,’ while Kremlin-backed politicians are writing its ‘history’ into school textbooks. There’s a flagand even a news agency (in English and Russian). There are several Twitterfeeds. It’s like something out of a Borges story—except for the very real casualties of the war conducted in its name.

It’s like a George Orwell novel.

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Putin’s problems

August 8th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

A good piece from the Herald on Putin’s problems:

The world faces a moment of maximum danger in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin has perhaps just a few days to decide whether to launch a full invasion of the Donbass, or accept defeat and let the Ukrainian military crush his proxy forces.

Nato officials say Russia has massed 20,000 troops in battle-readiness near the border, backed by Spetsnaz commandos, tanks and aircraft. Vehicles have been marked with peace-keeper labels already. Nato sees every sign that the Kremlin intends to disguise an attack as a “humanitarian mission”.

So it will be an overt invasion.

He has been clear from the outset that he will deploy any means necessary to bring Ukraine back into Russia’s orbit. Only war can now achieve this, since all else has failed, and since he has turned a friendly Ukraine into an enemy by his actions. The awful implications of this are at last starting to hit the markets.

“People thought that Russia was just playing a game of brinkmanship, and that pragmatism would prevail in the end. There is real fear now that this will spin out of control,” said Chris Weafer, from Macro Advisory in Moscow.

Yields on 10-year rouble bonds have jumped to 9.7 per cent, up 130 basis points since June. A liquidity crunch is rapidly taking hold across the financial system.

“The market is shut. Not a single Russian entity has been able to borrow anything in dollars, euro or yen since early July,” Weafer said.

The invasion will make this worse. Putin’s popularity will drop at home, as the economy slumps. He will face possible defeat in elections, which may force him to reveal whether he will allow this to happen, or will he remove the democratic facade.

Putin now faces draconian sanctions from the US, EU, Japan, Canada and Australia together. He can strike back by asymmetric means – perhaps a cyberattack – but tit-for-tat retaliation can achieve nothing. There is no equivalence. Russia’s economy is no bigger than California’s. This is an economic showdown between a US$40 trillion power structure, and a US$2 trillion producer of raw materials that has hollowed out its industrial core. The new arsenal of sanctions refined by a cell at the US Treasury – already used with crisp effect against nine countries – is nothing like the blunt toolkit of the 1980s or 1990s. Nor can Russia retreat into Soviet self-sufficiency. It is locked into global finance. The International Energy Agency says Russia needs to invest US$100 billion ($118 billion) a year for two decades just to stop its oil and gas output declining.

This is one of the benefits of having countries in the global economy – it means that when they do bad things, the economic pressure can be the best elver against them.

European officials calculate that Putin will not dare to cut off energy supplies, since to do so would bring the Russian state to its knees within months. But even if he tried – as a shock tactic – it would not achieve much. Oil can be obtained anywhere.

Cutting off the gas would hurt Europe, but hurt Russia more.

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Putin arranging anti-fracking protests

June 24th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

The head of one of the world’s leading groups of democratic nations has accused Russia of undermining projects using hydraulic fracturing technology in Europe.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), and former premier of Denmark, told the Chatham House thinktank in London on Thursday that Vladimir Putin’s government was behind attempts to discredit fracking, according to reports.

Rasmussen said: “I have met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organisations – environmental organisations working against shale gas – to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas.”

So Putin is allied with the Greens! I love it.

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Russia will tremble

March 24th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Zealand has joined the countries imposing travel bans on those Russian and Ukrainians seen as responsible for the crisis in Ukraine.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully today said New Zealand had made it clear that Russia’s actions regarding Ukraine and Crimea are unacceptable.

“We have confirmed that New Zealand will not recognise the outcome of the referendum in Crimea,” McCully said.

“Applying sanctions will position New Zealand alongside other members of the international community who have condemned the breach of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Targeted individuals would be banned from obtaining visas to enter New Zealand.

“We will update and revise the list of those covered by the sanctions based on future developments,” he said.

Putin will be trembling I am sure.

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Would this be happening with a different President

March 2nd, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Washington Post reports:

Heightened Russian military activity in Crimea on Friday prompted a stern warning from President Obama and a deepening sense of crisis among the leaders of the new Ukrainian government in Kiev.

U.S. officials said Russian troops had entered Crimea, and Obama told reporters Friday evening that he was “deeply concerned by reports of military movements” and that there “will be costs for any military intervention.”

Earlier in the day, the new Ukrainian government said that hundreds of soldiers in green camouflage, without insignia but carrying military-style automatic rifles, had taken over two airports in Crimea. Regularly scheduled flights continued, at least until nightfall, when the airspace above Crimea, a region of Ukraine with deep ties to Russia, was suddenly declared closed.

Internet videos of Russian military helicopters flying over Crimea’s muddy winter fields went viral Friday. Russian IL-76 planes suspected of carrying 2,000 troops landed at a military base in Gvardiysky, near the regional capital of Simferopol, according to Crimea’s ATR television.

It is looking more and more likely that Russia has invaded the Ukraine, and the end game is the effective annexation of the Crimea back into Russia, or at least Russian control.

My question is whether Putin would have done this, if there was a different US President? One could well argue yes, but I think if for example someone like Reagan was President, then Putin would not risk it. He is a bully, and bullies tend to respond to only one thing. I even think it may not have happened with Clinton (either one) as President.

One (Democratis supporting) commentator remarked on a podcast that when Obama talks about consequences, not even his daughters take him seriously!

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Will Russia invade Ukraine?

February 25th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The White House warned Russia to keep its troops out of Ukraine, amid fears that Moscow may step in with military force following the overthrow of the President, its ally.

Tensions also mounted in Crimea, in Ukraine’s southeast, where pro-Russian politicians are organising rallies and forming protest units demanding separation from Kiev. The region is now seen as a potential flashpoint because of its deep strategic significance to Moscow.

US President Barack Obama’s National Security Adviser, Susan Rice, said it would be a “grave mistake” for Russian President Vladimir Putin to send soldiers into Ukraine to restore a friendly government after the upheaval. Nobody would benefit if Ukraine were to split apart, she said. “It’s in nobody’s interest to see violence return and the situation escalate.”

Who knows what Putin will do. Obama has warned of consequences if Russia invades, but as one (left leaning) commentator said, “Not even the President’s daughters fear him, when he talks of consequences”. This is in relation to his strong talk of the use of chemical weapons in Syria crossing a red line, and then nothing happening when they did use them.

The biggest thing holding Putin back may be the Ukranians themselves. While Russia may be welcome in the Crimea, the rest of the Ukraine would resist them strongly. The most likely outcome is the country splits in two. But this would then mean the rest of Ukraine would then be a country very hostile to Russia.

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Russia says nyet

July 18th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand’s fight to establish a massive marine reserve in Antarctic waters has been delayed at least another three months after countries failed to agree on the ambitious sanctuary for a second time.

The proposal to create a 2.27 million sq km marine sanctuary in the Ross Sea, which was backed by the United States, failed yesterday after a consensus could not be reached within the 25 members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources.

A delegation from Russia did not support the proposal at the meeting in Bremerhaven, Germany, questioning whether the commission had the legal power to establish a reserve in the region. Along with Ukraine, Russia expressed concern about the increased restrictions on fishing in the plans.

This is a great pity. The Ross Sea should have the same scientific reserve status as the continent itself.

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Another journalist flees Putin’s Russia

May 24th, 2013 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

An exclusive by Alexander Bisley with Masha Gessen:

AB: On stage at the Auckland Writers & Readers Festival earlier this afternoon (Sunday, May 19) you said in response to the risk you face for courageously criticising Putin: “That’s my least favourite question. When I was working on the biography, I kept it secret. My partner she knew, my editor, no one else knew I was working on it. When the book came out to a great deal of publicity throughout the West, I think it gave me some kind of protection. It sounds horrible, but the death of Anna Politkovskaya taught the Kremlin that the cost of killing high-profile critics in the West is extremely high… There are journalists and other people in much greater danger than I am precisely because the eyes of the world aren’t on them. Because nobody knows their names.” You told Kim Hill yesterday your son’s going to boarding school in America this year because of the significant risk to his safety?

MG: And I’ll probably join him soon. We’ll probably go to New York. I haven’t said that in 20 years. Last year I was in Sydney and my answer to this question was, “This is my home, Putin can leave. I’m staying.” I can do the work in Russia, and I would do the work in Russia, but I have three kids and it’s one thing to bring up your kids in a place that’s risky and difficult; I think in many ways it’s enriching them, and I’m glad my kids have that experience. It’s another thing to bring up your kids in a place that’s hopeless. Now that I’ve lost hope, I need to take them out.

This story has been picked up by Slate, The Guardian etc.

AB: You describe Putin as a “bloody executioner,” saying he’s created the climate where it’s open season on journalists and opposition politicians and dissidents. On March 4, 2012, his “re-election” night, Putin cried: “We showed that no one could impose anything on us.” How do you think he’s going to respond to growing opposition? Will he crackdown harder?

MG: I think at this point they’ve set in motion just this unstoppable countdown machine. He’s going to turn the screws tighter and tighter. That brings more and more pressure on the people—it’ll ultimately explode, the longer it goes on the more violent it will be and also less the likelihood of a good outcome of something good coming afterwards. The worse life is and the less hope there is, the more people leave [Russia].

Putin has been genuinely popular in the past, but there is a growing dissent to his rule, and as reported the more he tries to repress criticism, the more intense it may become.

The interview is a very interesting insight into Russia and Putin, especially the story of when she was summoned to meet him.

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Human Rights in Russia

February 11th, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Human Rights Watch have said:

The Kremlin in 2012 unleashed the worst political crackdown in Russia’s post-Soviet history, Human Rights Watch said today in itsWorld Report 2013. The authorities introduced a series of restrictive laws, harassed and intimidated activists, and interfered in the work of nongovernmental organizations, crushing hopes for reform following the winter 2011 mass protests.

“This has been the worst year for human rights in Russia in recent memory,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Russia’s civil society is standing strong but with the space around it shrinking rapidly, it needs support now more than ever.”

In its 665-page report, Human Rights Watch assessed progress on human rights during the past year in more than 90 countries, including an analysis of the aftermath of the Arab Spring. The willingness of new governments to respect rights will determine whether the Arab Spring gives birth to genuine democracy or simply spawns authoritarianism in new clothes, Human Rights Watch said.

In Russia, since Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency in May, a parliament dominated by members of the pro-Putin United Russia party has adopted a series of laws that imposed dramatic new restrictions on civil society. A June law introduced limits on public assembliesand raised relevant financial sanctions to the level of criminal fines, re-criminalized libel, and imposed new restrictions on internet content.

Russia isn’t going to turn back into the USSR, but it is clear that the path it is on is one of authoritarianism and towards totalitarian.  It may not have the reach the old USSR had, but its veto on the UN Security Council means it helps makes the world a worse place.

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The growing hostility of Putin

December 30th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a bill which bars Americans from adopting Russian children, provoking anguish among US families that have been waiting months, and in some cases years, to complete the process.

The legislation caps a year of increasing Russian hostility toward the United States, stoked by Putin, but taken up with unexpected gusto by members of parliament.

A series of measures has taken aim at what is perceived to be — or characterised as — American interference in Russian concerns, from political organizing to the defense of human rights.

The adoption bill is seen as retaliation against a US law that targets corrupt Russian officials.

Passage of the legislation is a benchmark in the deterioration of Russian-American relations, and unlike some of the earlier, symbolic moves, it has real consequences.

Over the past 20 years, 60,000 Russians have been adopted by Americans, and officials said the measure would block the pending adoptions of 46 children.

It’s pretty despicable to use orphans as a political weapon.  It’s also very stupid. It will not harm the US Government. It will harm the orphans, devastate the potential adoptive parents, and just reinforce the growing view that Putin is an intolerant authoritarian ruler who should not be trusted.

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Russia and the Internet

July 12th, 2012 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Reuters reports:

The Russian version of online encyclopedia Wikipedia closed its site on Tuesday in a one-day protest against what it said were plans by President Vladimir Putin to create his own version of the “Great Chinese Firewall” to block dissent on the Internet.

Supporters of amendments to Russia’s information law, which were proposed by the ruling United Russia party and will be discussed in parliament on Wednesday, say changes are needed to protect children from harmful sites.

But leaders of anti-Putin protests say the new law could shut down websites in Russia such as Facebook and Twitter without a court order and is meant to stop their opposition movement, which is organised via social networking sites.

“These amendments may become a basis for real censorship on the Internet – forming a list of forbidden sites and IP addresses,” Russian Wikipedia said in a statement.

“The following provisions and wording undertaken for discussion would lead to the creation of a Russian equivalent of the ‘Great Chinese Firewall’ … in which access to Wikipedia could soon be closed across the entire country.”

This is the same Russia that wants the ITU to be given regulatory authority over the Internet (see previous post and link to petition).

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The third Russian revolution

December 12th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered an investigation into allegations of fraud in Russia’s parliamentary election, one day after tens of thousands of protesters demanded it be annulled and rerun.

Medvedev responded on his Facebook site to the protesters’ complaints that the December 4 election was slanted to favour of his and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, but did not mention their calls for an end to Putin’s rule.

“I do not agree with any slogans or statements made at the rallies. Nevertheless, instructions have been given by me to check all information from polling stations regarding compliance with the legislation on elections,” Medvedev said in a post on the social media site.

“Citizens of Russia have freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. People have a right to express the position that they did yesterday. It all took place within the framework of the law,” he added.

His statement was a sign that the Russian leadership feels under pressure after the biggest opposition protests since Putin rose to power in 1999. The protesters themselves used social media to organise their rallies.

In a further sign of recognition that the people’s mood has changed after years of tight political control by Putin, city authorities across Russia allowed Saturday’s protests to go ahead and riot police hardly intervened.

State television and other Russian channels also broadcast footage of a huge protest in Moscow, breaking a policy of showing almost no negative coverage of the authorities.

I do not think the protests will stop Putin becoming President again, and the investigation will probably be a whitewash. However the significance of the protests is that they are occurring, and are being reported on. This is healthy.

These protests, plus the Arab spring, shows how vital it is that the Internet remain out of Government control.

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Gower sings the Stars and Stripes

October 4th, 2011 at 12:38 pm by David Farrar

TV3’s political reporter Paddy Gower lost a bet to the Green Party about who would win the USA versus Russia Rugby World Cup match. Paddy reckoned Russia, and the Greens had their money on the USA.

This must be the first time in history that Keith Locke backed the USA over Russia :-)

Unfortunately for Paddy, the USA cleaned up 13 points to 6 so he had to came along to the Greens Caucus meeting and sing the Star Spangled Banner.

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Nooooooooo

April 10th, 2011 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

Russian MPs ‘banned from wearing miniskirts’

Russian MPs and their aides will soon have to follow a new ethics code forbidding miniskirts and indiscreet behaviour that may tarnish the image of parliament, a report said on Friday.

This is very wrong. MPs should be free to wear what they deem appropriate.

My position is based purely on constitutional principles and freedom of speech, and has nothing to do with the fact that the two people in the photo above are Russian MPs.

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22 minutes

November 27th, 2010 at 2:16 pm by David Farrar

Amused to read in the Dom Post that John Key has revealed more of his meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, sitting next to him at the APEC dinner.

Medvedev told the PM it would take 15 minutes for a missile from Moscow to reach Washington DC. The PM couldn’t contain his curiousity and asked how long it would take to reach NZ.

Medvedev consulted the person standing behind him and replied “22 minutes, but I’ll ring you beforehand” :-)

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The Russian FTA

November 14th, 2010 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

I just love the fact the we are going to be first in the world to have free trade agreements with both China and Russia – the two former communist economies. The world has changed, and for the better.

John Armstrong reports:

New Zealand has scored a major trade coup, becoming the first country in the world to start negotiating a free trade deal with Russia.

The decision to officially begin negotiations was announced last night by Prime Minister John Key and Russian president Dmitry Medvedev following a one-on-one meeting between the pair during this weekend’s Apec summit in Japan.

It will be wonderfully ironic is we conclude the Russian FTA before we get an agreement with the US.

Meanwhile, the Apec “silly shirt” tradition for leaders was to be extended to spouses this year.

Bronagh Key was measured for a kimono designed by Japanese fashion maestro Hiroko Koshino. John Key was not sure how his wife would look.

“If they have Bronagh versus Michelle Obama, she [Bronagh] will look like the Hobbit,” he said, referring to the difference in height between the two first ladies.

Good God, that comment may cost him :-)

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Editorials 3 June 2010

June 3rd, 2010 at 11:15 am by David Farrar

The Herald wants an FTA with Russia given priority:

Last year, New Zealand exports to Russia were worth $187 million, a modest sum even if well up on the $51 million of a decade earlier. As Russia has a population of 142 million, those figures hint at the potential of a free-trade pact.

But more telling still is the fact that not so long ago, New Zealand enjoyed thriving commercial arrangements with the former Soviet Union despite an often strained diplomatic relationship, not least over the invasion of Afghanistan.

But Keith Locke supported that invasion, so maybe we should make Keith the free trade negotiator for Russia :-)

The Press supports the creation of a new bank:

The proposal to merge three finance organisations to create a new locally owned bank is a timely one.

For the finance institutions themselves, it is an opportunity, driven by necessity, to turn themselves into stronger, more robust entities, particularly after the turmoil of the last three years or so.

For investors, looking to diversify their investments away from the great Kiwi stand-by, domestic real estate, it could provide a worthwhile and productive place to put their money.

And for borrowers, particularly small-business owners who have complained of being cold-shouldered by unsympathetic banks during the financial crisis, it could provide a friendlier, more knowledgeable lender to local business. …

The three entities involved – Pyne Gould Corporation’s finance arm Marac Finance, the Canterbury Building Society and the Southern Cross Building Society – are established names in finance.

They have not been unscathed by the upheavals of the financial crisis, but they have survived it with credit ratings still at very respectable levels for non-bank institutions.

Two have BB+ ratings and the other a BB rating, which is at the high end for entities that are not banks.

But still not great. The acceptable grades are:

  • AAA : the best quality borrowers, reliable and stable (many of them governments)
  • AA : quality borrowers, a bit higher risk than AAA
  • A : economic situation can affect finance
  • BBB : medium class borrowers, which are satisfactory at the moment
  • BB : more prone to changes in the economy
  • B : financial situation varies noticeably

Once you start to get into CCC and below, institutions are officially vulnerable.

The Dom Post talks off shore drilling:

But for recent events in the Gulf of Mexico, the Government would be making more of a fuss of Brazilian oil giant Petrobras’ decision to explore for oil and gas off the East Coast of the North Island.

The world’s fourth-biggest energy company, a world leader in offshore drilling, this week won the right to explore about half of the Raukumara Basin, which extends north and east of East Cape. The company will spend up to US$118 million (NZ$174m) over the next five years gathering seismic data and drilling an exploratory well.

The project will create jobs and draw international attention to New Zealand as a potential source of petroleum.

But the big gains will come if Petrobras makes a commercial find. Already the petroleum sector generates about $3 billion a year in export revenue. Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee has estimated that figure could rise to $30b by 2025 if preliminary estimates of New Zealand’s petroleum resources prove to be correct.

Which would make a huge difference to our standard of living, and ability to fund health and education services.

However, celebrations this week have been muted by the ongoing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Six weeks after an explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 workers, the well 1.6 kilometres beneath the sea is continuing to spew between 1.9b and 3b litres of oil a day into the gulf, polluting the fragile Louisiana coastline, threatening fisheries and destroying the livelihoods of fishermen and tourist operators.

For that reason it is essential that the promised overhaul of New Zealand’s health, safety and environmental arrangements for offshore petroleum operations is completed well before any deepwater drilling begins.

Agreed.

The ODT looks at Facebook and privacy:

Facebook, once a small, “free” social networking site for university undergraduates to share personal information, has become a vast subdivision on the information super highway.

It is expected soon to reach a landmark figure of 500 million registered users.

This would make it the third largest country on Earth, bigger than all but India and China.

On Monday this week – “Quit Facebook Day” – Canadian campaigners urged people worldwide to remove themselves from the site.

They, and many others, were riled about the way in which they felt their privacy was being purloined for profit.

Quite why they should have been so surprised is another matter: you do not pay upfront to belong to Facebook, but the company must make ends meet – and a tidy profit – somehow.

That “somehow” is no great secret.

The site sells advertising to companies tailored to the defined demographics of its users.

The “footprint” they create in their Facebook activities is like gold to advertisers and marketers who will pay accordingly.

I was talking last night to someone about Facebook, with the idea being that if a user is aged under 18 then their privacy settings are set by default to not share data with anyone but friends.

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FTA with Russia

June 1st, 2010 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

More good news. The Dom Post reports:

New Zealand has scored a trade coup by becoming the first country to start negotiating a free trade deal with Russia.

While the Russian market is currently small for New Zealand – around $200 million a year – the potential is seen as huge by our trade negotiators.

It will be ironic if we end up with free trade agreements with China and Russia, before we do with the US!

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The true sign Russia is heading back to the dark side

September 9th, 2008 at 7:00 pm by David Farrar

The bastards want to ban South Park!

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A new Russian war

August 11th, 2008 at 8:14 am by David Farrar

Over the past few years as Russia has clamped down on opposition and the media, I’ve kept a vain hope that it wasn’t necessairly a return to the days of the Soviet Union.

But their war against Georgia shows that the bad old days are back. Sure – not to the same extent. The old USSR will never return, but it seems obvious Russia desires control of territory outside its borders.

I don’t think anyone knows where this will end. Will they take over Georgia completely or just parts of it? Will the US or NATO station troops in Eastern Europe? What will happen if Georgia does join NATO?

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