Dec 7, 2014

Make Food Banks Redundant

There are two options.

Option 1. Enlarge the food banks. Put in more government money,

State must back food banks, says Welby: Archbishop of Canterbury steps into austerity row with radical report

"Archbishop called for £150m state-backed system to combat hunger in UK.
Archbishop is to launch a Parliamentary report in Westminster on Monday.
Report's proposals call for bigger food banks to distribute more free food.
Also asks for a provision for free school meals during school holidays."
Food banks are not without stigmas and do not reach everybody in need.

'We hate to be called a food bank'
"A new approach to tackling poor people's hunger recognises that food poverty isn't the only issue they are struggling with. "
Volunteers encourage more people to seek help from Loughton Foodbank
"Some people in need of support from a foodbank are to embarrassed to accept it, according to a charity.
Despite people living below the breadline being referred to Loughton Foodbank by GPs and job centres, manager Heather Scholer says some are wary of a stigma attached to accepting hand-outs. "

Option 2. Make food  banks redundant.

Give back the country's common wealth and investment returns to the people. Give back their citizen dividend, which is rightfully theirs. With a substantial citizen dividend for every citizen, food banks will become redundant.

There are many studies that show many countries can afford a big citizen dividend or universal basic income. It is matter of political will and citizen education, not monetary constraint.

Nov 27, 2014

Don't pluck my mangoes. A story of sharing.

Don’t Pluck My Mangoes
A story of sharing


Look, mom. So many big ripe mangoes on the tree behind the bus-stop. A woman is picking the mangoes.

Stop. You are under arrest. You must not steal the mangoes.

Why are the policemen arresting the woman? The roadside tree doesn’t belong to anyone.

The tree belongs to the government. They are arresting her for stealing mangoes from the government.

The government? Who is the government?



Unconditional basic income: the monetary equivalent of universal suffrage


L'Inconditionnel

Le journal du revenu de base




"Establish an unconditional basic income is probably one of the most important advances of the last 100 years. The right to vote for women, civil rights ... and tomorrow income for all. This is an incredible opportunity to be able to establish what would become the biggest release of the human being."
(A translated version from the newsletter.)

Yes, an unconditional basic income or a citizen dividend is the monetary equivalent of universal suffrage. 

Nov 26, 2014

Lessons from Singapore - The simple secret of Singapore's success

Lessons from Singapore (From the Telegraph)
"When British ministers scour the world for policy ideas, one country is most often singled out for praise and emulation: Singapore. In the mid-Nineties, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown travelled there seeking guidance on how to reform the welfare state, and came back promising a “stakeholder society”." 
"Whatever its democratic deficiencies, Singapore’s model has – with no resources and limited land – produced a small state, efficient public services, a competitive economy and high per capita income. There must be something we can learn from that."
The first lesson to learn is that Singapore is a country with plenty of resources.

Now, the simple secret of Singapore's success.

For every person in the country,

The person pays the government 
more than
  the government pays that person.

Money going from a person to the government is not just income tax or goods and services tax. There are many explicit, implicit and untold ways that money flows from a person to the government. The video below mentions just a few more.


This is the simple secret of Singapore's economic success.

If you wonder how any politician can win election after election with such a social system, that's another secret.


Nov 1, 2014

Pension fund charges that make retirees poor

"For too long, pension savers have been at the mercy of their pension provider." 

Pension fund charges make retirees poor.

UK


Excessive pension fund fees capped by minister

"Full frontal assault" on pension charges revealed by minister could add thousands to workers' retirement pots

Pension fees will be legally capped in a move that will prevent workers from being “fleeced” of hundreds of thousands of pounds, ministers will announce on Wednesday.

Steve Webb, the pensions minister, said the limit is part of a “full frontal assault” on charges that can consume as much as half a worker’s retirement savings.

Older workers with long-standing occupational pensions are most exposed to what Mr Webb described as “excessive” fees.

The Coalition will present the cap as the latest in a string of measures they say will help households struggling with the rising cost of living.

The cap could be set as low as 0.75 per cent of the funds being managed, a lower level than previously proposed.
An Office of Fair Trading (OFT) investigation into the £275 billion pensions industry concluded that millions of workers are left short-changed and bewildered by retirement schemes that carry a complex web of up to 18 different hidden fees.
“For too long, private pension savers have been at the mercy of their pension provider. Apparently 'low’ charges such as 1 per cent per year can mount up to a huge sum over the course of a working life.”
A worker paying £100 a month into a pension with a 1 per cent charge will see £160,000 wiped off their retirement pot over a lifetime of saving, Mr Webb said.

UK announces 0.75 percent cap on annual pension scheme charges
Webb said the cap would transfer 200 million pounds ($331 million) "from the profits of the pensions industry to the pockets of savers" over the next 10 years.

But insurer Legal & General said the cap could have been set even lower and that one of the reasons people were not retiring with large enough pension pots was high charges.

"We would have liked the government to have capped auto-enrolment default schemes at 50 basis points, but we welcome the direction of travel," said Adrian Boulding, L&G's pensions strategy director.
However, even 0.75% is 10 times higher than the management fee for Norway's pension funds. Even 50 basis points (0.5%) is still very high.

Norway


According to the Norwegian Ministry of Finance report on the management of the Government Pension Fund in 2013, the management fee was only 0.07% for the Government Pension Fund Global and 0.09% for the Government Pension Fund Norway. The GPFG has about 5000 billion NOK (about US$750 billion).

The annual return, after deducting management fees, of the Norway Government Pension Fund Global is
- 9,93% for the last 12 months (Q3 2014 report)
- 6.3% over the last 10 years
- 5.6% since Jan 1998.


Singapore


The Central Provident Fund, which has a balance of S$260 billion contributed from worker salaries, is entirely managed by the Singapore Government. The government guarantees an interest of 2.5 to 4%, with an average of slightly more than 3%.

The CPF money is reportedly invested by GIC. The reported annualised returns are
- 12.4%,
- 7.0% and
- 6.5% for the five-year, 10-year and 20-year time periods respectively.

In return for the guaranteed return of about 3%, the Singapore government takes away any investment returns over that. For example, for the last five-year period, the investment return is 12.4%. The CPF interest is about 3%. The government management fee works out to be about 9%. This is 100 times more than the management fee rate (0.09%) for the Norway government pension funds.


Oct 1, 2014

Citizen dividend: Everything is ready, except for the East wind.

Red Cliffs Battle. Waiting for the East Wind (From Wiki)
In the famous Battle of Red Cliffs during the time of the three kingdoms in China 2000 years ago, the defender had all the battle materials and soldiers prepared and waited for the East wind to blow, to bring the fire across the river to the attacker.

In Alaska, the Alaska Permanent Fund was set up 3 decades ago. Within a few years, the wind of citizen dividend started, and the investment money from the fund has been flowing in to Alaskans' pockets for 3 decades. This year, every Alaskan will get US$1884.

In Singapore, the permanent Singapore reserve was set up a few decades ago. Money has been pouring in to the permanent reserve with nothing coming out. It is big enough to easily distribute a citizen dividend of $10,000. When will the wind of citizen dividend blow?

In many countries, e.g., UK and Switzerland, that are looking at a citizen dividend or a universal basic income, their biggest problem is looking for the money. In quite a few countries, e.g., Singapore, Kuwait and Norway, the money is already there. Waiting. Waiting for citizens to really believe that they are owners of their country's sovereign wealth funds and other public properties.

Everything is ready, except for the East wind.

Sep 16, 2014

The Founder of the Singapore Permanent Reserve

Singapore

The Singapore Reserve is permanent. It cannot be used by the Prime Minister, Cabinet or Parliament without an explicit written agreement from the elected President. Half its investment income can be used by the Parliament.

For comparison, the Alaska Permanent Fund is permanent. It's income is distributed as an annual citizen dividend to all residents. It's income can be diverted and used by the Alaskan politicians with a change to the Alaska Dividend law.

Aug 29, 2014

Return our Citizen Dividend. "People need to quit demanding jobs and start demanding justice."

Why you have the right to a $5K dividend from Uncle Sam | Making Sen$e | PBS NewsHour: (Aug 27, 2014)

This post on citizen dividend has quite a few gems.
"Dividends from common wealth, by contrast, unite society by putting all its members in the same boat. The income everyone receives is a right, not a handout. This changes the story, the psychology and the politics."
"A national dividend system would be simple, fair and immensely popular. It would rest on the principle of shared ownership, not redistribution. Once set up, it would be market-based rather than tax-funded. And it could gain support across the political spectrum: conservatives from Sarah Palin to Bill O’Reilly have lauded Alaska’s dividends."
"Our times demand a reliable flow of supplementary income as well. The best way to provide that is to pay dividends to everyone from wealth that’s logically ours."
From progress.org (Aug 28, 2014), on the above post about citizen dividend:
"What’s needed is for regular people to feel enough self-esteem to demand a fair share of what’s already ours just like the rich feel when winning an enormous share of what’s not theirs. We’re not broke. There is a surplus. It just needs to be shared. People need to quit demanding jobs and start demanding justice."
When will more people around the world be more like Alaskans, demanding their share of their own state's resources?

When will the Alaskans be more Alaskan, demanding a better share of their own state's resources? They only get a quarter of what the state gets from the oil companies, which is a small fraction of the oil wealth. I think Alaskans get less than 10% of their oil wealth in citizen dividends.

Aug 26, 2014

Want to raise the minimum wage? Take it to the ballot. A citizen dividend?

Want to raise the minimum wage? Take it to the ballot.:
by Claire Zillman @clairezillman AUGUST 19, 2014
Ballot initiatives have been used to push minimum wage laws through especially stubborn states. Take New Jersey for example. In January 2013, Republican Governor Chris Christie vetoed minimum wage legislation that state lawmakers had passed. At the polls ten months later, New Jersey voters approved a ballot initiative to boost the state’s minimum pay from $7.25 to $8.25 with 61% of the vote.
“A higher minimum wage is incredibly popular,’ says David Cooper, an economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute. “If legislature is not being responsive to the public’s desires, advocates are going the ballot measure route because it’s been successful.”
Is there a similar way to decide a citizen dividend or a universal basic income through the ballet?

Aug 23, 2014

We own the resources, but the politicians negotiate the selling price. Part 2

From Guardian

This is a global problem where politicians are in charge of selling the citizens' resources. Citizens have to watch their resources carefully.

In the USA, in the 1920's, a politician was convicted for accepting bribes from oil companies in return for oil leases. (Wiki on Teapot Dome scandal)

In Nigeria, there is a report in 2012 of how $35 billion oil revenue was lost.
"A top Nigerian anti-corruption crusader was asked to prepare a no-holds-barred report on the rotten state of country’s oil industry. He delivered. Nigerians now have a clear idea of just how much their government has squandered on inefficiency, mismanagement and personal bank accounts, and they’re not happy."
 The Guardian reported:
"The most damaging allegation involved the state oil firm and oil companies Shell, Total and Eni, which together owned a subsidiary company called Nigeria LNG. This company acted as a middle man, buying oil on the cheap from the government and selling it on to international markets at a vastly inflated price. Ribadu's report estimates that if the government had just sold the oil at market price, they would have made an additional $29-billion."
There are international conferences dedicated to this global problem.

One example.

Citizens Against Corruption in Natural Resource Management, a 2008 workshop by IACC, International anti-corruption conference.
Summary
The exploitation of mineral deposits and oil both offer huge scope for corruption. This workshop explored practical ways to mobilize civil society organizations to fight corruption in the management of natural resources, drawing lessons from two case studies. The first case deals with the misappropriation of oil revenues in Azerbaijan while the second case addresses the situation where unscrupulous commercial operators bribe poorly paid local officials in Mongolia.
This quote is from the report from Azerbaijan:
While the government has the main responsibility to manage the country’s oil revenues wisely and to account for its actions to the general public, this will not happen without effective public oversight. Thus, civil society -- broadly defined to include the independent media, business associations, research institutes and active individuals as well as advocacy NGOs -- can and must play a key role in demanding good governance and government must be persuaded to accept this oversight. (From Vugar Bayramov, Anti-corruption Initiatives in Oil Sector in Azerbaijan: Do Civil Society Organizations Matter?)