Tag Archive | "Lebanon"

International Investing & Business Index


Making international investing and business decisions based around an index of happiness can add depth to your international investment and business decisions.

Understanding what will happen globally is important to everyone’s decision making process on where to do business… where to invest and where to live.

We’ll see below that Ecuador is high on NEF’s (New Economics Foundation) Happiness Index (more on the index in a moment)… but this index is about much more than Ecuador.

This index is about the world… the future…. prosperity and poverty… life and death.  We should know it… especially because it is quite hard to believe.

You’ll see below why:

* Seemingly poor countries may have an advantage in the years ahead.

* The richest countries may not be the best places to invest or start a business.

* How to use new techniques to see what the future may bring socially and economically.

NEF is an independent think-and-do tank that tries to analyze real economic well-being.  NEF’s aim is to improve the world’s quality of life by promoting innovative solutions that challenge mainstream thinking on economic, environmental and social issues.

NEF says:  NEF’s report, the Happy Planet Index: An index of human well-being and environmental impact, published in association with Friends of the Earth, moves beyond crude ratings of nations according to national income, measured by Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to produce a more accurate picture of the progress of nations based on the amount of the Earth’s resources they use, and the length and happiness of people’s lives.

The Happy Planet Index (HPI) strips the view of the economy back to its absolute basics: what we put in (resources), and what comes out (human lives of different length and happiness). The resulting Index of the 178 nations for which data is available, reveals that the world as a whole has a long way to go.  In terms of delivering long and meaningful lives within the Earth’s environmental limits – all nations could do better.  No country achieves an overall ‘high’ score on the Index, and no country does well on all three indicators.

This index is important because everyone is increasingly faced with complicated problems, parts of which are unknown or unreachable.

This index is worth sharing because as I read it,  my first thought was “nonsense.”

Who would have placed the nations of Guyana, Bosnia, Georgia  and Romania above the UK for happiness?  Yet  Guyana is 63rd in the index. the UK 74th.

Here is 63 to 74 on the happiness index.

63. Guyana
64. Belgium
65. Bosnia and Herzegovina
66. Slovenia
67. Israel
68. Korea
69. Italy
70. Romania
71. France
72. Georgia
73. Slovakia
74. United Kingdom

Guyana happier than France and the UK?

I wanted to reject it.

Then it made me begin to realize… the somewhat disturbing fact that as far as potential for happiness goes, Americans are almost at the bottom of this international index… along with the British and most Europeans.

Reading this index made me realize that we cannot use old standards of the past to analyze what will happen in the future.

About the time of this thought, a page from an old John Sanford novel, “The Hanged Man’s Song” came to light.

The prime person in this fiction is a computer hacker… a very logical, scientific thinking person… but who also from time to time uses a totally unscientific way to process information… tarot cards.

The story says:

So I got the cards out, my tarot cards.  I’m not exactly a scientist – I was trained as an engineer-but I have studied the philosophy of science and I’m a true believer.  The tarot as a predictive system is superstitious nonsense. The deck is useful as a gaming device, though and that’s how I use it.

Like this: we are forced to deal with complicated problems, when some facets of the problem are unknown or unreachable, we deal with them in terms of our past experience. That’s almost inescapable. But approaches that are useful with some problems don’t work with others. The tarot deck, when used as a gaming system, pushes you outside past experience and encourages you to think of new ways to deal with it.

Say for example, you are involved in a complicated business transaction and that the group you were involved in a complicated business transaction and that the group you were dealing with, the opposition,consisted of five men and a women. You begin doing the tarot spreads and see a number of indications of female influence.

This does not mean that the deck correctly predicts female influence in the transaction, but suggests that you should sit back and think about the woman on the other side, who might otherwise seem to be just another functionary. Why is she there? What specific influences does she have? Is there a way to approach her that would help the deal?

This has nothing to do with supernatural-it’s simply a human way, and a fairly subtle way to game a problem.

This started me looking at the index more.

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Sustainability and cost of happiness are a part of the index. This is why we grow some of our own crops at our farm… like the lettuce we harvest around our backyard pool.

The Happiness Index pushes us beyond our past experience.  This international index does challenge mainstream thinking.

Imagine Haiti is 41st on the list.  Denmark 105th.

99. Uruguay
100. Ghana
101. Latvia
102. Australia
103. New Zealand
104. Belarus
105. Denmark

That started me thinking for sure.

NEF is composed of some very intelligent people so their approach does have  logic. NEF calls it a new global measure of progress, the ‘Happy Planet Index’.

The NEF logic factors in the short and long term cost of happiness.

Mainstream thinking uses measurements like growth of GDP… but ignores the relativity involved. If GDP rises 10% this is considered good.  Traditional thinkers do not ask what is the cost of this growth to our environment. How much will we, our children and grandchildren have to pay in the future for this current growth?

Nor does the mainstream paradigm compare the happiness efficiency of a nation.

The NEF Happiness Index takes into account whether a culture is using more than its fair share of the Earth’s resources.

This creates a new international ranking of environmental impact and well-being and reveals a very different picture of the wealth, and poverty of nations.

Environmental Efficiency

NEF’s view is that Happiness Efficiency is a phrase and concept worth knowing and using in consideration of the overall (long and short term) success of a nation.

We all know the benefits of efficiency. Now we have a way to measure a really important long term efficiency.  We could call it the “cost per smile” or “laughter earning ratio”.

This really makes sense because it is the inherent nature of all living things to strive for happiness and satisfaction and avoid stress.  If the population of a nation needs to do and spend a lot to attain it… that nation is likely to have economic problems due to its lack of efficiency compared to other nations.

NEF’s index combines environmental impact with well-being to measure the environmental efficiency with which countries provide long and happy lives.

The results are surprising, even shocking.

The index shows a very different hierarchy of success than we normally assume.

For example, the US is a disappointing 114th in happiness ranking behind  countries like Mongolia, Malawi and Chad.

106. Mongolia
107. Malawi
108. Russia
109. Chad
110. Lebanon
111. Macedonia
112. Congo
113. Madagascar
114. United States of America

NEF’s report also says:

“It is clear that no single nation listed in the Happy Planet Index has got everything right. But the Index does reveal patterns that show how we might better achieve long and happy lives for all, whilst living within our environmental means. The challenge is – can we learn the lessons and apply them? Governments the world over have been concentrating on the targets for too long. If you have the wrong map, you are unlikely to reach your destination”, says Nic Marks, head of NWF’s Centre for well-being.

The HPI shows that high levels of resource consumption do not reliably produce high levels of well-being (life-satisfaction).  This suggests that it is possible to produce high levels of well-being without excessive consumption of the Earth’s resources.

The report also shows that a culture can have a long, happy life with a small environmental impact.   America and Germany have similar life satisfaction and life expectancy. Germany’s Ecological Ecological footprint is barely half that in America.   This means that Germany is twice as efficient as the USA at generating happy long lives based on the resources they consume.

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Sustainability is important for long term happiness which is why we bought a farm with lots of spring fed water, like this stream that flows in our backyard.

How can we use this index in business and investing?

I am not sure how accurate this index is or how important it will be.  Accuracy is not all that important though because, if nothing else, this index is a thought process put together by intelligent people that can help us see and think outside the box… something we always need to do.

We must always ask, what comes next?  This index might help us answer this question by adding one more small light that reflects of what might be in the days ahead.  Now we can see better how a country is doing now plus how the cost of the current success may affect the future.

Thinking outside the box is almost always a criteria for long term success. For those who believe this, NEF’s Happiness Index will help make them happy!

Ecuador is 25th on the index.  See the top 25 countries on the index and more about Ecuador’s Index here

Gary

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Read the NEF  report at www.neweconomics.org/gen/m1_i1_aboutushome.aspx

Ecuador Iran Excerpt


A number of readers have asked about Ecuador and Iran so here is an excerpt from our latest Ecuador Living report.

Some of the ideas apply to interaction between radicals in all of the Middle East and the West and how they can affect our wealth, business and investing.

The idea that Iran is a great enemy intent on attacking us is great for selling news, but a bad leader or two does not reflect the entire population.  Many of us in the US did not agree with some of the leaders our the last administration.

IF  Iran is to become more involved in the West and that’s a very big IF, I do not see it being any great deal. The only risk Iran poses is if many people give them a lot more concern then they deserve… as certain leaders in the West gave Saddam Hussein.

I do not claim in any way to be a great global military strategist but that thinking has some support from the thinking of other  who I do think are good at strategic global thought such as… Lee Kwan Yew.

I worked and spent a lot of time in Singapore during the late 1960s and early 1970s so I recall vividly the way Singapore used to be.

Lee Kwan Yew had a lot to do with Singapore emerging from a form of colonialism that included a lot of poverty to one of the wealthiest societies in the world.

This means it is fitting to read some of Lee Kwan Yew’s thinking that could apply to Ecuador and Iran now.

Lee Kuan Yew outlines the risks of relying on the local press succinctly in a 2007 interview with  UPI’s editor at large, Arnaud de Borchgrave.

Q: So what is your recommendation about Iran’s nuclear ambitions?

A: Is it now unstoppable. They are a very old civilization. Unlike the Arabs, apart from Mesopotamia valley, they rank with the Chinese, as history’s two principal civilizations worth talking about. And I think the mullahs and others want to go back to the days of empire.

Q: So should we be talking to them at the highest level, the way Henry Kissinger went to China?

A: (Chuckle) But you haven’t got a Kissinger or a Brzezinski to do that anymore. Where is the successor generation of geopoliticians?

Q: In fact, democracies don’t produce great statesmen anymore. Why?

A: You now have, and I don’t know how long this phase will last, mass media domination, owned by a group of media barons who want constant change for their balance sheets.

Q: So the power of mass media has made it impossible for a great statesman or woman to emerge and last any length of time?

A: I’m not sure. It depends on the nature of the crisis that must be faced. When a real crisis sets in, a matter of life and death, opinion formulators realize this is no time to be pontificating, but a time to stay the course with someone who understands what this is all about.   Short of that, the media help put a leader on the pedestal and then start chopping away at the pedestal until he/she falls in disgrace. That’s part of the cycle of constant change. Watch Sarkozy in France. They hoisted him up to prominence and now they’re already attempting to bring him down through his personal life.  Well, yes. But it’s also the enormous pressure of media competition and the giant appetite for advertising revenue, what television program gets what viewership, or eyeballs, or clicks online. Never mind the consequences. If you get the advertising, you win.

Q: When I last interviewed you in May 2001, I asked you what concerned you most about the next 10 years, and you replied, “an Islamist bomb, and mark my words, it will travel.” Four months later, we had Sept. 11. Secondly you said, “China and India’s challenge to the global status quo.” Do you still have the same concerns about the next 10 years?

A: Not quite. The Islamic bomb has traveled already (in Iran). I’m not sure how this will now play out. The U.S., the Europeans, even the Russians, will have to make up their minds whether to allow Iran to go nuclear. The Russians are playing a game, posing as the nice guys with Iran, supplying nuclear fuel, and making it look as if America is causing all this trouble. But if I were Russia today, I would be very worried about Iran acquiring the bomb, because Russia is more at risk than America. The risk Israel runs is another dimension. Russia is at risk because whether it’s the Chechens or Central Asian Muslim states that were former Soviet republics, none are friendly to Moscow. Next time there’s an explosion in Moscow, it may be a suicide bomber who isn’t wearing an explosive belt or jacket, but something a lot bigger. It would certainly be in Russia’s interest to say at some future point to Iran, “this far and no further.” It could also be that Russia no longer knows how to stop it, in which case the Russians will be opening the door to a very dangerous world of nuclear proliferation. You can be quite sure that if and when Iran gets the bomb, the Middle East will go nuclear.

Q: Which raises the question of the United States or Israel bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities.

A: (long silent pause) … I can express no views on that.

Q: As I travel in moderate Muslim states in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, I ask heads of state and government how many extremists, or would-be jihadis, they estimate live in their midst, also how many fundamentalists who support openly or secretly the jihadi cause. The answer is usually 1 percent and 10 percent. In a country like Pakistan, that translates to 1.6 million extremists and 16 million supporters. On a global scale, that comes out to roughly 14 million extremists and 140 million sympathizers.

A: Yes, but I do not see them winning, and by that I mean able to impose their extremist system. I can see them inducing fear and insecurity, and causing fear, but they don’t have the technology and the organization to overwhelm any government.

Q: So how do you assess the global threat since Sept. 11? What are we doing that’s right and also that’s wrong?

A: Even if we can’t win, we mustn’t lose or tire. We cannot allow them to believe they have a winning strategy, and that more suicide bombers and WMD will advance their cause and give them a chance to take over.

Q: Did Iraq have anything to do with al-Qaida?

A: Of course not, as became clear in the daily sessions the imprisoned Saddam spent with his Arabic-speaking FBI interrogator over several months before his execution. But U.S. authorities were convinced Saddam was secretly supporting al-Qaida with weapons and training and maybe even WMD. So therefore the imperative became the elimination of Saddam.

A: (Laughs for several seconds) We should learn to live with it for a long time. My fear is Pakistan may well get worse. What is the choice? (President) Musharraf is the only general I know who is totally secular in his approach. But he’s got to maneuver between his extremists who are sympathetic to Taliban and al-Qaida and moderate elements with a Western outlook. We forget that right after Sept. 11 he was given a stark choice by President Bush: either you abandon your support of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan or face the disintegration of Pakistan. There is an interesting study of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency that says 20 percent of the Pakistani army’s officer corps is fundamentalist.

A: There is very little, if anything, the U.S. can do to influence the course of events in Pakistan that wouldn’t make matters worse. Any U.S. interference in Pakistan would result in Pakistan’s four provinces becoming four failed states. And then what happens to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal? It’s a horrendous festering problem. The Feb. 18 elections may bring a little clarity and hopefully democratic stability to Pakistan, but I am not holding my breath.

Q: So you do feel that NATO’s future is at stake in Afghanistan?

A: No doubt about it. But you should also realize Afghanistan cannot succeed as a democracy. You attempted too much. Let the warlords sort it out in such a way you don’t try to build a new state. The British tried it and failed. Just make clear if they commit aggression again and offer safe haven to Taliban, they will be punished.

Q: If NATO collapsed in the wake of a failed campaign in Afghanistan, would that be a major concern of yours in Singapore?

A: Not immediately, but overall the balance of power would be upset.

Q: In whose favor?

A: China and Russia. They would be faced with a much weakened West in the ongoing global contest. I can also see the danger if America loses heart and says to hell with it all because the Europeans are not helping and the Japanese are blocking this and that, and tokenism from all the others. Let’s not forget that what we’re all enjoying today is the result of Pax Britannica and Pax America over the past 100 years. So don’t give it up.

Q: But in the Gulf, if the U.S. and/or Israel bombed Iran’s nuclear facilities, Iran has formidable asymmetrical retaliatory capabilities?

A: But let me repeat, they cannot conquer you. Hezbollah cannot conquer Lebanon. They can create trouble for the non-Hezbollah Lebanese. So micro actors can cause a lot of trouble for your friends, but they can’t eradicate them.

You can read this entire report as an Ecuador Living subscriber and see why if there were to be a military concern in Latin America it would be over China…not Iran..

ecuador-iran

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There were two articles readers have recently mentioned.

The first article began, QUITO – Iran will finance two new power plants in Ecuador and extend a 40-million-dollar loan for business development, officials from both countries said Thursday, three months after the first visit by an Ecuadoran president to Tehran.

The second:  Iran, Ecuador Eye Military Ties As U.S. Prepares to Withdraw from Airbase Friday, May 29, 2009, by Patrick Goodenough, (CNSNews.com) – As the United States military prepares to vacate an airbase in Ecuador in the fall, the leftist government responsible for its upcoming departure is looking to Iran as a future military partner.

While I do not feel that nuclear power or expanded military might are good things, I do believe completely in the global economy and in expanding the wealth of all.

ecuador-iran

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trout pond.

One can argue about all the numerous conflicts in the world but if we boil it down to the few most important, one of the biggest tensions in today’s society is that there are a few very wealthy people and many, many poor.

For decades my premise for economic expansion has been based in part on the belief that most people, if given a choice, will spend their time doing positive things, like working at something they love for increased material wealth and great fulfillment rather than living a guerilla’s life.  A poor soldier’s living conditions are  generally not pleasant… the pay low… the risk extreme.  That life, however, is better than one of complete hopelessness and despair.

If Ecuador Iran cooperation can help make more poor Ecuadorians and Iranians rise out of poverty… I say…”go for it!”

There are many potential and huge benefits to be gained by bringing Iranian business to the West. Maybe Iran being closer to the West will help it integrate?  Current events in Iran suggest that many of the population would be happy to do so.

ecuador-iran

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I have had an opportunity to observe Correa and the people of Ecuador react for a couple of years now.  At times I have been quite close… such as when I took this photo.

Ecuador-photos

Correa is in a strong political situation at this time. One thing that could destroy his popularity quickly would be the perception in this 90% Catholic country that he is introducing Islamic radicalism.  Therefore Correa may line up with Iran for some money… and to gain leverage in his dealings with the West… but a major integration would surprise me very much.   One bombing in an American hotel in Quito or Guayaquil and Correa’s popularity would be toast.

There have been worries about his friendship with Chavez. There are these worries of Correa with Iran. There have been worries about South America pulling away from the US dollar.

Yet so far none of these fears have affected life, happiness, opportunity, real estate values or  law and order in Ecuador.

In short anyone who never heard of or ignored all these fears and moved optimistically forward is better of than those who did not.

Most of the press are writing about the world sliding into recession. Many articles in the Western press make it sound like there’s little opportunity and great danger everywhere.

Good. Their doom and gloom creates positive global investing opportunity for those of us who can see through the illusion.

ecuador-iran

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Regards,

Gary

We hope you’ll join us to learn more business and investing opportunities globally as well as Ecuador.

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