Wealth International, Limited (trustprofessionals.com) : Where There's W.I.L., There's A Way

W.I.L. Offshore News Digest :: January 2009, Part 3

This Week’s Entries :


Now is a time to be very cautious in your personal and financial affairs.

Doug Casey offers a big -- BIG -- picture view of current events here. Interestingly he wrote most of it more than 11 years ago, and only had to add mimimal commenting to bring it up-to-date. His historical perspective was drawn from The Fourth Turning, a 1997 book by William Strauss and Neil Howe which made a fair splash when it came out.

Boiled down to its essentials, the Strauss/Howe theory is that American history has a cyclical element to it -- the old saw that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it writ large. In this case people might learn from history in living memory -- thus, e.g., those who went through terrible wars have no desire to repeat the experience -- but not from that which preceded their lifetimes. Thus, e.g., those who have not directly suffered through terrible wars will not fear war enough to avoid it. Which brings us to today's Baby Boomers and Generation Xers who are in charge: The last truly wrenching war was World War II, which happened before any of them were alive. Now for the rest of the story ...

Everybody wants predictions. The following article does a little better than that, in that I wrote it back in November of 1997, outlining several theories of history, and pointing to a logical way of anticipating what will likely happen to the world at large over the next generation.

As you will read, the methodology I relied upon for anticipating the events that are now unfolding -- 11 years later -- were actually quite accurate, confirming, in my mind at least, that now is a time to be very cautious in your personal and financial affairs.

The article is unaltered in its text from the original, though I have added some current commentary in bold italics.

Foundations of Crisis

Don’t know much about the Middle Ages, look at the pictures an’ I turn the pages. Don’t know much about no rise and fall, don’t know much ‘bout nothin’ at all.” ~~ “Wonderful World,” Sam Cooke

The lyrics quoted above probably describe the average American's knowledge of history about as well as any academic study. Not only do not they know anything about it, and think it is irrelevant, but what they do know is inaccurate and slanted. And they must not think very much about the future either if the amount of consumer debt out there, mostly accumulating at 18% interest, is any indication.

One point of studying history is that it gives you an indication of what is likely to happen now, if you can find an appropriate analog in the past. This is a tricky business because as you look at factors contributing to a trend, it is not easy to determine which ones are really important. Making that determination is a judgment call, and everyone's judgment is colored by his worldview, or Weltanschauung as the Germans would have it.

Let me briefly spell out my Weltanschauung so you can more accurately determine how it compares with your own, and how it may be influencing my interpretation of the future.

I am intensely optimistic about the long-term future. It seems to me a lock cinch that the advance of technology alone -- and nanotechnology in particular -- will result in a future of incredible abundance and prosperity, and that alone will solve most of the problems that plague us. Space migration, intelligence increase, and life extension will be commonplace realities. These things, plus the growth of both knowledge and its accessibility and the concomitant rise of the individual from the group, will constantly diminish politics as an element of life. The future will be much better than anything visualized on Star Trek, and will arrive much sooner. That is the good news.

The bad news is that within the longest trend in history, the ascent of man, there is plenty of room for setbacks, and much of history is a case of two steps forward and one back. My gloomy short-term outlook, and my reasons for maintaining it, is recounted here monthly. Whether it is right or wrong, from an investor's point of view, the short term is more relevant than the long term. Notwithstanding Warren Buffett's great success in going for the long term, Keynes was right when he said that in the long run we are all dead. History shows that goes for civilizations as well as people. The problem is that our civilization is probably just now on the cusp of the long term.

Hari Seldon: Where Are You When We Need You?

Isaac Asimov's classic Foundation trilogy centers around a scientist, Hari Seldon, who invents a science called psychohistory, which allows the fairly accurate prediction of broad trends in society going for centuries into the future. Seldon lives on Trantor, the planetary capital of a galactic empire. The entire planet is covered with a high-tech version of Washington, D.C., devoted to nothing but taxing and regulating the rest of the galaxy. Seldon forecasts that the empire will collapse and Trantor turn into a gigantic ghost town. And of course that is what happens, because it is a novel, and that makes for a good story. It is a good story because it is credible, and it is credible because people know nothing lasts forever, and there is a cyclicality to everything; birth, youth, maturity, senescence, and death. These stages are shared by everything in the material world, whether it is a person, a city, a civilization, or a galaxy. It is just a question of time and scale.

From that point of view everyone knows the future, i.e., we all know that everything eventually dies. But we would like a bit more precision on the timing of their lifecycles. Some gurus believe, or appear to believe, they can actually predict the details of the future. I consider them knaves. People who actually do believe them should be considered fools. That said -- Nostradamus, astrology, channeling, tea leaf reading, and the like aside -- I do think the best indicator of what will likely happen in the future is what has happened in the past. That may seem like an obvious statement, but it is not. There have traditionally been three ways of looking at the problem. Call them theories of history.

Oldest is what might be termed a chaotic view, which presumes mankind does not have any ultimate destination but is wafted on the wings of Fortune or hangs by the thread of Fate. Subject to the arbitrary will of the gods, whether it is the Old Testament's Yahweh, or Homer's Zeus, the future is unpredictable, and prophecy or an oracle gives you as good a read as anything else. I discount this theory heavily.

A second ancient view is that everything is cyclical, and therefore somewhat predictable. History may be viewed like a giant sine wave that is possibly headed somewhere, but the direction is unknown. Or history is really a circle, constantly repeating itself, much like the four seasons of the year. There is a lot of wisdom to the cyclical view.

The third view sees history as a linear sequence, one that is actually headed somewhere. That view holds a special appeal for followers of evangelically oriented religions, particularly Christians (many of whose beliefs have an apocalyptic tinge) and Marxists (who were, until lately, given heart by the "scientific" inevitability their views would prevail). The linear view ties in with the idea of Progress, that (more or less) every day and in every way, things are getting better and better -- although there is also a subculture populated mostly by deep ecology, animal rights, and anti-technology types who believe things are headed to hell in a hand-basket. But they all believe we are headed somewhere in a more-or-less straight line. There can be a lot of truth to the linear view, certainly if you look at the technological progress of mankind over the past 10,000 years, and this view prevails today.

My own view is a synthesis of the cyclical and linear theories. I see history evolving towards an incredibly bright future, but cyclically suffering setbacks, cyclically repeating the same patterns along the way. To me history looks like a spiral, heading off in a specific direction, but always covering the same ground in a different way with each revolution.

That is one reason The Fourth Turning (Broadway Books, NY, 1997) by William Strauss and Neil Howe got my attention. We are all drawn to those who see at least part of reality the way we do. The book is an extrapolation of their last work, Generations, and notwithstanding its literary faults, is simply brilliant. I have never met Howe, but did have lunch with Strauss once about five years ago. The way I see it, although they are both conservatives, neither of them has any particular economic, political, or social philosophy, and they are not trying to grind an ax. Their books are a value-free look at U.S. history, and their conclusions are more credible as a result.

Their basic hypothesis is one I suspect Hari Seldon would recognize, and my thoughts are built on the research Strauss and Howe have done over the years. I suggest you get a copy of The Fourth Turning while it is still in the stores. That's also true for my own Crisis Investing for the Rest of the ‘90s, which has several chapters on related subject matter, and Arthur Herman's just-released The Idea of Decline in the West, which also bears on the subject. With 50,000 new books published every year, very few stay available for more than a few months. If something has appeal, you should buy it now, because it may be hard to come by when you have the chance to get into it. (Of course, I was wrong on that point -- websites such as Amazon and Alibris.com now make it easy to pick up many older books.)

Part II: Generations

Generational conflict has been recognized since ancient times. The twist here is the discovery of several things that have previously eluded observers. One is that the well- known conflict between fathers and sons is only half the story. There are not just two generational types that alternate (e.g., liberal and conservative), but four. The reason for looking at it this way is that a human life can be conveniently divided into four stages: Childhood, Young Adulthood, Midlife, and Elderhood. Throughout all of history, a long life might be considered to be 80 to 100 years, with each of the four stages equaling a quarter of it.

Just as each person's life holds four stages of about 20 years each, each generation comprehends a group of people born over about 20 years. Members of a particular generation tend to share values and ways of looking at the world not only because their parents also shared a set of views (which the kids are reacting to), but because every new generation experiences a new set of events in a way unique to them. They hear the same music, see the same events, are exposed to the same books. Members of a generation share a collective persona. There appear to be four distinct archetypal personae that recur throughout American history. And throughout world history as well, although that is a bit beyond what I hope to explore here.

It also seems, throughout history, that there are periodic crises. About once every century, or about when each of the four generational types has run its course, a cataclysmic event occurs. It generally takes the form of a major war, and it generally catalyzes a whole new epoch for society.

The four mature generations alive today each represent an archetype. Let's review them from the oldest now living, to the youngest.

Hero Archetype

The "GI" generation, born between 1901 and 1924, includes basically all living people in their mid-70s and older. They grew up and came of age in the midst of the most traumatic years in human history: the 1930s and ‘40s. This was a time of catastrophic financial and economic collapse, world war, political dictatorship, genocide, and virulent ideology, among other unpleasant things; a period of intense turmoil. The times required them to be civic minded, optimistic, regular guys who could be counted on to do the right thing, fit in, and see that everybody got a square deal. As a consequence of what they have been through, they tend to be indulgent parents. As kids they are "good"; as adults they are selfless, constructive, and communitarian. Hero archetypes encounter a Crisis environment in Young Adulthood. Assuming they survive it, the odds are the rest of their lives will be lived in growing economic prosperity, leading to a leisurely retirement.

Artist Archetype

Meanwhile, another generation was being born at the height of the Crisis -- something that seems to occur roughly every 80-100 years -- from 1925-42. This generation, the "Silent," watched these titanic events happen but were too young to take part in them. They were relegated to being protected, while trying to be helpful in the limited ways available to them. They are overprotected as children, when they might be characterized as "placid." They tend to underprotect their own children as a reaction. As adults they are sensitive, well-liked, sentimental, and caring.

Prophet Archetype

Next came the group we call the "Boomers," born from 1943 to 1960. This was the first generation born after the Crisis was over, and they grew up in an environment where their parents (mostly GIs and early cohort Silents) felt obligated to protect them from all the trauma of the preceding years and were desirous of giving them all the things they never had. As kids they are seen as "spirited." Later in life, they tend to be narcissistic, presumptuous, self-righteous, and ruthless. Born after a Crisis, their Childhood years coincide with a rebirth of society, and their Elderhood coincides with another Crisis. More on them below.

Nomad Archetype

The fourth generational type is represented by today's "Generation X," born 1961-81, during what might be called an Awakening period when the Boomers were in the limelight. As a consequence, they were overlooked and a bit abandoned. Their reputation as kids can be summed up as "bad." They are oriented toward survival, which is partially a result of their being underprotected as children. When they become parents, they react and become overprotective. They tend to be savvy, practical, tough, and amoral.

The kids born between 1982 and perhaps 2002 should be another Hero archetype. My own experience with them is that they are shaping up that way. Represented by clean-cut, straight-arrow Power Rangers. Quite a reaction to the sewer-dwelling Mutant Ninja Turtles that were analogs for the previous generation. They are "can do" kids, programmed to do the right thing in a smoke-free, drug-free, eco-sensitive, politically correct world. Like all Hero types, they respect their elders, do what they are told without much questioning authority. That is just the type of person you want to have fighting a war for you, and that is probably just what they will wind up doing. Just like the last Hero types, the GIs. (Iraq was first. Iran next? Or will it be Saudi Arabia?)

It is risky to characterize everyone born in a certain time frame as sharing a persona. After all, people are individuals, not ants or atoms, each like the other. But it is really no different than characterizing people by the country they are from. There is no question in my mind that people share characteristics by virtue of the milieu in which they live, and that is true of time as well as geography. Take a look at the people you know by age groups, and see if they do not roughly fit the brief descriptions.

The interesting thing is that through about 400 years of American history, it is possible to see these generational types repeating themselves. It is not an accident. The characteristics of each type shape the next generation, as well as current events. And events leave a further imprint on all of them.

Making an Example of the Boomers

Just as every generation has its own persona, the character of each generation evolves as it moves through life. The Boomers are perhaps the most relevant example of this. First they were Mouseketeers and Beaver Cleaver clones. Who could have guessed they would mutate into Hippies and even Yippies as they reached Young Adulthood, reacting against everything they had grown up with, everything their parents worked so hard to give them.

They came of age during a period that might be called an Awakening, and it has recurred on schedule five times so far in American history. Awakenings are times of religious and moral ferment, when the youth tend to challenge prevailing cultural values pretty much across the board. Young adults were into New Age things this time around, in the 1960s and ‘70s. At the time it seemed utterly shocking and completely new, but that was only because nobody then alive had seen the previous Utopian Awakening in the 1830s and ‘40s, the Pietist Awakening of the 1740s and ‘50s, the Puritan Awakening of the 1630s and ‘40s, or the Protestant Reformation of the 1530s and ‘40s.

Like all the generations before them that grew up in similar times, they eventually put away the things of their youth. But who guessed that their next mutation would be into Yuppies, whose motto was not "Peace and Love" or "Revolution for the Hell of It," but "Shop Till You Drop" and "He Who Dies with the Most Toys Wins" as they moved into midlife.

But even now the acquisitive mania that characterized the 1980s is ebbing, now that the first cohorts of Boomers are crossing over 50. You can already see the signs of their next stage of evolution, in the judgmental behavior of people like William Bennett (George Bush) and Dan Quayle (Ann Coulter) on the "right," and Al Gore and Hillary Clinton on the "left." They did sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll in the ‘60s. They believe they have fought the war of good against evil in both Vietnam and the segregated lunch counters of the South. They know they were the first generation to have traveled widely thanks to the jet, to have been brought up by television, and had the telephone as a given. They have been there, done that, and now that they are getting older, they are going to make sure that everyone else benefits from their wisdom -- like it or not.

The Boomers are an archetypal Prophet generation, a type born after a secular crisis, just in time to create another one. Get the image of a grim elder, with a well-defined vision of what is right and wrong, calling down wrath, and laying down the law for a troubled nation in chaotic times. That is the type of person who tends to lead countries into wars, as well as through them. Interestingly, the Boomers in America have their counterparts abroad today, especially in China, where they grew up during the Cultural Revolution. Two ideologically driven, righteous groups running two such powerful and alien cultures is almost a guaranteed formula for a millennial-sized crisis. Which should appear, coincidentally, sometime shortly after the millennium. (We are right on schedule.)

Part III: War (So What Is Next?)

The real watersheds in history, crises that make or break a civilization, occur roughly every 100 years. The most recent ones in American history that will resonate without looking up the facts in a reference book are the Revolution, circa 1782; the Civil War, circa 1863; and World War II, circa 1943. We have had other wars, and they were traumatic enough; that is the nature of war. But the War of 1812, Mexican, Spanish, World War I, Korean, and Vietnam wars had nothing to do with the country's survival as an entity, as a civilization. They were optional wars, sport fighting, if you will, by comparison. Wars that occur at a secular Crisis, a "Fourth Turning" to Strauss and Howe, when a Prophet generation is acting as elder statesmen, with Nomads as operational commanders, and Heroes as front line soldiers tend to be total wars that have an ideological underpinning. They are life-and-death struggles not just for the individual participants, but for the civilization as a whole.

That major wars occur at such long remove from each other probably is not an accident. Really catastrophic wars, from at least the days of Troy on down, have usually been the Great Events that resound through living memory. The Great Event of a century forms the thought and character of everyone alive when it happens, influencing them relative to the stage of life they are in at the time. Perhaps that is why a people will collectively do its best to avoid a repeat, at least while there is anyone still alive who saw the last crisis.

(It has been said that war is a force that gives life meaning. And I think that is true, although it is perverse that the most destructive and idiotic activity that it os possible to engage in would just have to be the most important. Maybe, after the orgy of self-indulgence and conspicuous consumption that has characterized the past couple decades, Americans collectively feel they need to prove something. There has to be some rationale for the current war hysteria other than pure stupidity ...)

In any event, the way the current generations line up relative to historical analogs, an excellent case can be made the U.S. is approaching another time of secular crisis, a Fourth Turning, with an expected due date of 2005 -- seven years from now -- plus or minus a few years in either direction. The Stamp Acts catalyzed the American Revolution, the election of Lincoln catalyzed the Civil War, the Crash of 1929 catalyzed the Depression/World War II era. What might precipitate the elements now floating in solution? The answer is, practically any random event that is sufficiently traumatic. Any of the theses of current disaster/action novels and movies will do nicely. Perhaps the accidental or intentional release of a super plague vector. The crashing of an airliner into the Capitol during a joint session. (Close, but not quite.) An all-out assault on the IRS computers by an armed group -- or perhaps the computers just melting down due to the Year 2000 Problem. Perhaps a financial disaster that cascades into the Greater Depression. In any of these, or a hundred other scenarios, the federal government would almost certainly act precipitously and with a heavy hand, which would bring on a whole other set of consequences.

(In the historical context, 9/11 will be viewed as the opening kick-off for the coming Crisis ... and the messianic overreaction of Bush and his cronies as the catalyst for turning things from bad to worse. It may be that Hurricane Katrina, for instance, a completely accidental event, may be blamed for providing a pin to burst the financial bubble -- which would be a pity, since the neocons could then blame it, not themselves.)

There is no way of telling where the Crisis will lead, or how it will end. That is going to depend not only on exactly who is in control, but what they do, whom they are up against, and a hundred other variables we cannot even anticipate. One thing that seems certain is that real crisis brings out strong (although not necessarily wise) leadership. Because of its age and size, it will come from the Boomer generation, and it will be in the mold of Roosevelt or Lincoln -- both very dangerous precedents. The Boomers in Elderhood will be dogmatic, harsh, puritanical, and quite willing to burn down the barn in order to destroy whatever rats they see. Admix that attitude to a time resembling the Revolution, the Civil War, or WWII, overlain with today's ethnic strife, urbanization, financial overextension, and powerful, compact new weaponry in the hands of foreign fanatics out to teach the Great Satan a lesson, and it is a real witch's brew.

If things evolve over the next decade as they did in past analogs, it will be a very un-mellow time indeed. That is assuming things end well, and there is no guarantee they will, as many foreign countries have discovered throughout history. We have been uniquely blessed.

What to Do

Strauss and Howe are not financial types, and their advice is nebulous along those lines. To sum it up, their suggestion is to learn to swim with the tide by not hoping the current good times last forever; the chances of the good times are coming to an end now. They would also advise not sticking your head up above the crowd, something that is always very risky when times are in turmoil. Remember what happened to Japanese-Americans during the last crisis. They suggest that there will likely be a resurgence of nationalism, much as was the case during past crises. It will not be a good time to be a maverick in the U.S., a thought that makes places like Argentina and New Zealand look even more appealing.

(I bought property in both places shortly after this was written, and have been rewarded with a quadruple in both instances -- considerably better than would have been the case in the U.S.)

Strauss and Howe suggest you look to diversify in all things, so everything will not go bad at once. Brace for the collapse of public support mechanisms. Set your roots with your family, because people you can rely on will be at a premium. Heed emerging community norms, bond with like-minded people, and return to basic, classic virtues. This is sound advice any time, but critical if you are rigging for heavy weather.

Assuming you wanted to stay in the U.S., you would rather be on some land near a small town, and far away from a major city. You would want to be self-sufficient in as many ways as possible -- freeze-dried food. etc. Perhaps Howard Ruff will make a comeback with advice like that, which seems quaint today. But then I am nothing if not a contrarian.

(In hindsight, the original article could have been a bit more specific -- other than the suggestions about Argentina and New Zealand. Personally, I believe that unassailable wealth is the best protection against global crisis. For it to be unassailable, your wealth must be at once substantial, free from threat of confiscation, divorced from the whims of the masses, and located in a country or currency that has a good risk/reward profile. Unfortunately, the U.S. does not make the cut.

(In the first instance, the single best way to build wealth now, while there is still time to do so, is in carefully selected gold and other resource stocks. In order for it to be free from the threat of confiscation, at least some part of your wealth needs to reside in a country where you do not. To state the obvious, I would be very cautious about traditional stocks and bonds until we see how things shake out. Rather, get positioned in gold and silver stocks now, ahead of the curve, then sell out for a big profit to the panicking masses and move an increasing percentage of your wealth into tangibles such as gold, silver, and maybe, as part of a diversified portfolio, real estate in especially attractive areas -- but only after the bubble has decisively burst.)

A Parting Parable

In case you have any doubts, I buy the theory outlined above and its many ramifications that there is not room to explore here. It really is scary to think that we could again experience a real Crisis with a capital C. I am not talking about just a bear market in stocks. If it happens, I promise you stocks and mutual funds will be about the farthest things from most people's minds.

At the same time, there is no point in feeling terrorized. This stuff has been going on since the dawn of history. So let me leave you with a parable. I could appropriately quote Ecclesiastes (To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die, a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted, etc., etc.). But everyone knows that reference. Let me rather give you John O'Hara. At the beginning of O'Hara's novel Appointment in Samara, he tells a brief parable, which I will summarize:

There was a merchant in Baghdad who went to the market with his servant. There they saw Death, who stared at the servant in what seemed a threatening way. Later the servant said "Master, lend me a horse. I shall ride to Samara, and there Death will not find me." The merchant did so, then returned to the market, where he again saw Death, whom he approached and asked why he had stared at his servant in such a threatening way. Death responded, "I was not threatening him. I was just very surprised to see him here in Baghdad, since I have an appointment with him in Samara later this afternoon."

(Strange, the location for the proverb, in that this was well before the current war.)

There is no doubt that we are now in the Crisis stage ... which, according to Strauss and Howe's "Turnings" theory, may last another decade or more. Is there any way to escape this economic tsunami unscathed?


U.S., U.K. likely to fall substantially next year following bailouts.

The Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal annual Index of Economic Freedom saw Hong Kong ranked #1 for the 15th straight year -- every year since the Index's inception. Hong Kong is the first answer to those who believe you need lots of government regulation to guide a modern economy. From the utter ruins following the withdrawl of Japanese occupation after World War II Hong Kong grew to become one of the world's most prosperous countries with a low flat income tax, minimal bureaucracy, and consistently applied rule of law. Their only asset is an amazing sea port and a culture of thrift and hard work.

The U.S. ranking dipped from #5 to #6, and that was before the massive governmental economic interference with the advent of the economic crisis and the heavy touch of the Obama minions. Hopefully the dip will torpedo for once and for all the idea that the U.S. is so economically dynamic and free.

The Heritage/WSJ index does not incorporate political freedom. This is probably a good thing. Bogusly favoring "democracies" would not add useful information. Economic freedom and political freedom are really the same in any case.

Hong Kong was rated the world's freest economy on Tuesday (January 13) for a 15th straight year in a ranking by the U.S.-based Heritage Foundation while the United States dropped to 6th place and is likely to fall substantially next year following its bailout of financial and car companies.

The Washington-based Heritage Foundation maintains that economies with the highest level of economic freedom generate the highest levels of prosperity and per capita income. The 2009 Index of Economic Freedom, published by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal, was based on data collected between July 2007 and June 2008 and so does not reflect the deepening global financial crisis since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September.

"It is highly likely that the U.S., the UK and other countries with high levels of government intervention (during the financial crisis) will have substantially lower scores in next year's economic freedom index and will have a lower level of prosperity as well. That is something we are quite concerned about," Terry Miller of the Heritage Foundation told a news conference in Hong Kong.

The United States dropped to 6th place in this year's index from 5th place a year ago while the United Kingdom came 10th out of 179 economies that were ranked. The foundation said it opposed Washington's decision to bail out U.S. financial firms and carmakers hit by the financial crisis, arguing that bankruptcy offered a better way to financially reorganise a company without distorting the market. General Motors would now have some competitive advantage, thanks to government subsidies, over Ford Motor, which did not need emergency government funding, said Heritage Foundation President Ed Feulner.

Feulner said that governments formulating fiscal stimulus packages to help companies weather the financial crisis should include exit strategies. He praised Hong Kong for putting a two-year limit on its decision to guarantee bank deposits in the territory and for not banning short selling of Hong Kong-listed stocks during the crisis.

Hong Kong has consistently been ranked the world's most free economy since the index's launch 15 years ago. It is one of the easiest places to start and liquidate a business, government intervention and corruption are low, as are trade barriers and taxes, and social mobility is high, the foundation said. An autonomous region of mainland China, Hong Kong does not have democracy but the ranking does not include political freedom.

Open, trade-dependent economies Hong Kong and Singapore, which retained 2nd place in the index, are both in recession but the Heritage Foundation said they were likely to recover faster from the global downturn because their openness gave them flexibility.

Asia's economic powerhouses China and India still have some way to go and were ranked 132 and 123rd respectively with their scores little changed from last year. China has cut tariffs but needs to open up its financial sector and improve property rights while in India tariffs are too high and foreign investment is overly regulated.

North Korea was ranked bottom of the index. Zimbabwe saw the biggest decline in its ranking, putting it in next-to-last place following new restrictions on business and fiscal freedom and the world's worst hyper-inflation.

Rank Economy Overall score (out of 100)
  1. Hong Kong 90.0
  2. Singapore 87.1
  3. Australia 82.6
  4. Ireland 82.2
  5. New Zealand 82.0
  6. United States 80.7
  7. Canada 80.5
  8. Denmark 79.6
  9. Switzerland 79.4
  10. United Kingdom 79.0


Relocating efficiently is a science as many people only do it once or twice in their lifetime, so it never becomes second nature. Artful?

This piece was written by a freelance writer based in Dominica since 2007, and formerly of Antigua for well over a decade. While not lacking in useful specifics, its strong point is the sense it gives of the science/art of relocating. Note the advice, consistent with every other source of advice we have seen: Before buying your piece of "paradise," rent first!

In the 1960's and onward, the term used for leaving one's country of birth for a fresh start, new life, etc. was to emigrate as opposed to relocate.

Certainly, there were various assisted passages that for the UK applicant at least -- with itchy feet and limited funds -- allowed access to the farthest corners of the Commonwealth, as we knew it, with the emerging economies of Australia and New Zealand probably at the top of the list; can you believe for the princely travel sum of £10 per passenger?

The downside of these adventures was that relatives and friends of the people leaving, considering distance and visiting costs, had no real knowledge if, or when, they would ever see their loved ones again.

Since then, air and boat travel has come on in leaps, bounds and wakes of white water, so much so that "picking up sticks" and moving out to more exotic and less stressful locales is now commonplace -- and indeed, many expat communities underpin the economies of the piece of rock they have selected. But there are a few wary caveats when one is choosing his, hers or their piece of "paradise."

Someone, far more eloquent than I recently pointed out that: "More people have moved to 'paradise' -- only to leave disenchanted within months -- than those who have relocated successfully. The reasons are many. For one, "paradise" is a misconception: "paradise is not a place, it is a frame of mind and one person's paradise is another's empty lot."

The fact remains that more 21st century adventurists are on the move than within any abacus time frame before, but many without the research needed to prepare for all the readjustments that inevitably will kick in as the move takes shape.

Whether it is Siberia or Vanuatu, (South Pacific) -- someone's vision of a better way of life needs to be tried and tested before taking the financial and emotional plunge. For my part, I have been in the Eastern Caribbean for 20 years and of course feel a little more than familiar with the region and its various attractions/shortcomings, so having not being to Siberia, my reference point through this article is pretty much directed to this wondrous Calypso piece of Earth's pie.

A sizeable amount of travelers are presented with their first view of the Caribbean from the deck of a floating town, a.k.a. the transient cruise ship. From the time spent, albeit short in each port, it is still possible to get a sense of what makes some islands tick and why others do not even tock. One, on a trip like this gets to see 6 or 7 separate territories per cruise, all with slightly different cultures and economies, for a fraction of the cost -- and time -- that would be incurred through alternate travel.

The impressions that linger then can be, at a later date, followed up by an extra few days stay on the slice of heaven you have chosen as some serious homework is no doubt in the offing. Images and information of the islands on the Internet cannot match being there in real time. Would anybody in their right mind say, buy an "old masters" work of art on eBay -- without some appreciation of the texture and latent hues? I don't think so.

My "relocation" from the UK was initially a semi-relocation process. As I was involved in the tourism industry, the summer (high) season from May in those heady days, was to work and languish in picturesque Cornwall waiting for the home-stretch month of October to close and then prepare for the winter (high) season in Antigua and reggae. This regular Caribbean round trip went on for about 6 years, so it is obvious that I had a "hands on" experience with this particular island.

Here, wise choices were made: as to which area(s) of the island to live in, quality of housing (let's rent first!), and medical insurance in line with that part of the world, plus general networking and so on. A good lawyer was contacted and retained even though there was not a legal obstacle on the horizon. He understood the laws in Antigua and ensured I was covered for all legalities. Applying for your own P.O. Box A.S.A.P. is advisable. Even better, call ahead and set up an address with a local mail service on the island you are moving to. Then forward items to yourself at your new locale. It can work out cheaper than excess baggage through the airlines.

Into the mix of course, one must remember that retirees were the main group of people seeking a new life abroad up until just a few years ago. Since then, the 35 and upwards have emerged as the most dominant group of intrepid wanderlusters -- for one reason or another -- which inevitably means that their children, if any, will have to be considered in future plans. This brings up the subject of schools and tertiary education in particular.

Some islands have excellent primary and secondary school set-ups -- go private rather than state, the curriculum can be much more interesting -- but the next rung on the ladder of learning can prove a fester of frustrating differences between concerned parents and relatives in general. Top quality universities and colleges do not exist within the majority of Caribbean islands, resulting in the families that have relocated to the region taking the return relocation trip to their country of birth for their teenagers' further development.

Other considerations one should look at include on-island health care and the level of crime, or hopefully the lack of it.

Island hospitals and health care in general can be sensitive issues when it comes to funding and expertise. Each island, presumably, has its main Government administered hospital and some have one or two private clinics that cater for visitors and locals alike. It is worth checking out the small print in any mainland medical insurance that you have taken out closely.

Certain hospitals within the region may not be "recognized" by the issuing insurance company. Consequently, you may find the nearest place to receive treatment within the policy guidelines involves a non-refundable return airline ticket -- just a thought. For those in the Eastern Caribbean, the close proximity of Guadeloupe and Martinique [French territories] allow access to several highly rated hospitals; in fact, the University Hospital in Martinique is ranked #2 in the French medical system.

As far as crime figures go, space in this article does not allow serious analysis, but to put a fine point on it, most offences are locally domestic: linked to affairs of the heart, affairs with hard liquor/drugs, land disputes and petty theft. The "have" and "have nots" syndrome is global, but from an East Caribbean perspective, very few incidents pro rata target expats, tourists or outsiders in general.

For those fortunate enough to land a job with an established firm on their island of choice, the relocation should be seamless. Depending on the package offered, most obstacles will have been sorted, work permits, residency, housing, even gym and golf membership thus downsizing any unwanted stress levels. But for the self-employed/freelance person -- soon to be entrepreneur -- the journey can be more of a cross-country race than a 100 meter dash.

And, starting with work permit application, each island is pretty much in agreement. If you have a special skill or talent you have much more likelihood of your application being accepted than if you are applying for a position that a local could fill. So much so that any job on offer is usually required to be advertised for three consecutive weeks in the country's newspapers or on island radio to give everyone a chance of submitting their resume.

With the work permit in place and a suitable time in rented premises, the future may start to look more than promising than you once thought. The idea of cementing your place -- literally with bricks and mortar -- in the community now seems more plausible. From here, the purchase of your own property is the most sensible move you could make and there is a myriad of real agents out there to guide you accordingly. Whether it is land to build on or a ready constructed house you require, the bona fide companies make it easy for you to access their various listings on the Web from whatever armchair you feel most comfortable in.

For others, with bigger fish to fry, there are commercial businesses that come on the market from time to time. There is no defined pattern, mostly an irregular regularity if you get my drift. Some enterprises have been founded and nurtured by five generations of the same emigrant or local family, with toil and passion. And, many probably will not see the light of day on the property market any time soon.

Others can be recent outside ventures that, for the lack of research into feasibility and sound marketing ideas, have foundered by the wayside and now seek a breath of fiscal wizardry to stay afloat. Then, there are certain businesses that decide to sell at the top of their game and profitability, that sounds like an upside subject, so let us go down that road ...

Dominica is the healthiest and most peaceful place on the planet.

I re-relocated to Dominica from Antigua in 2007 simply to enjoy the holiday home that my partner and I had built 2 years before. The zest and freshness of this climate has to be ingested before any comments are made. Suffice it to say that it is the healthiest and most peaceful place on the planet. Other outsiders that came before us have become well established and prosperous with some deciding to expand their operations and/or put the whole enchilada up for sale -- or lease -- and move on to a new challenge.

One stunning example of this is the Cocorico set up situated in the heart and bustle of downtown Roseau, the capital of Dominica. Cocorico consists of a sidewalk and indoor waterfront café, gift shop, a duty free licence and boutique. At present, the lease is in the hands of Sidonie and Frederic, a wonderful far-sighted French couple who have seen their business grow from strength to strength in the ten years that they have been in control.

The passion and vision applied to this project has reaped considerable admiration from their peers, especially amidst the active upswing of tourism in Dominica from 2007 through 2008. The lease arrangement is based on a renewal every three years.

Looking at Cocorico for the first time is akin to gazing at an artist's palette, so many color themes set in a superb location known as the Bay Front.

Here, through the balmy winter season many cruise ships call in on a daily and weekly basis throughout the rest of the year. 46 additional liners are confirmed as calling vessels from December 2008 through April 2009. People attract people, as everyone knows and many vendors extolling the virtues of Dominican culture are aware of the rewards that volumes of holiday-makers can bring, so there is a lively atmosphere in this area.

CoCo Chic! Is the newest "kid on the block" as part of the Cocorico group and specializes in jewelery, sunglasses and ladies accessories. An adjoining duty-free shop selling liquors and cigars, etc. is another attraction that gives this operation an almost "one stop destination" label that attracts many walk-in customers.

These types of businesses take energy and imagination to fulfill the potential targets that are there and with most of the hard work achieved in this showcase, Sidonie and Frederic now look forward to new ventures -- hopefully in Dominica - and I am sure we wish them well.

To conclude, relocating efficiently is a science as many people only do it once or twice in their lifetime, so it never becomes second nature. Artful? Who knows, but with research and common sense, plus the dream location and lots of luck you will find your special oyster, no doubt!


We have seen some mildly unfavorable comments about the desirability of Dutch Caribbean island St. Martin as an expat destination for Northern Hemisphere refuges. The author of this article would apparently not agree, or not enough to leave the place which has been his home for 15 years. However, it is clearly not all peaches and cream. You must have a flexible approach and set of talents to make a good living there year-round. And you have to be able to take in stride the threat of hurricanes for almost half the year.

Being able to live and work on the island of St. Maarten/St. Martin for over 10 years gave me a great appreciation for this small (37 sqare miles) Caribbean island.

People come to St. Maarten/St. Martin for many different reasons. For me it was a chance to live the adventurous type of Caribbean lifestyle that most people only read about in books. I felt like I was stepping into one of Herman Wouk's or Jimmy Buffett's books about adventure in the Caribbean.

The Island

One of the great things about the island is that it is so multicultural. You can find people from every corner of the planet living on St. Maarten/St. Martin. There are approximately 80 different nationalities living and working together on the island.

This is no longer a sleepy little Caribbean island. It is an island that has something for everyone. Not only can you find great weather, beautiful beaches and warm tropical waters, there are hundreds of restaurants, a wild and crazy night life, lots of casinos where you can throw away your hard earned cash and duty free shopping.

Island Life

When most people think of life on a Caribbean island they picture a Third World type of environment. This is not completely true with St. Maarten/St. Martin. Though there may be some parts of the island that look less than desirable, the standard of living on the island is pretty good.

With tourism creating hundreds of jobs for locals, many are able to have a middle to upper middle class lifestyle. This is especially true among the native Antilleans.

Tourism has also provided lots of jobs for the foreign locals. Many of these jobs are in the boating industry. People who visit the island not only fly in but they come on cruise ships, private and chartered yachts, sail boats and ferries. This creates opportunities for those who have boating skills or who are willing to learn the skills.

Working with boats is not the only place you can find foreign locals working. I had many friends working in the construction business and selling time share and real estate. If you want to live on the island bad enough you can find work.

For me having the right job was the key to surviving on St. Maarten/St. Martin. Sometimes survival meant not only the right job, but also being able to do more than just one job. Mainly I worked in the diving business as a dive instructor/boat captain. The island is not typically known as a dive destination but thousands of divers show up every year to dive.

When I was not or could not dive I was able to find work in the construction trade as a carpenter. This was handy during the slow season or after a brush with a hurricane. The ability to do two different jobs enabled me to live on the island year round.

Quality of life is what makes St. Maarten/St. Martin unique and different from other Caribbean islands. Having a good job gave me the opportunity to experience the great quality of life the island had to offer. If you are going to live on a Caribbean island, you have to enjoy what the island has to offer. If you cannot enjoy it, why even bother living there?

One of the first things you have to think about when you live in paradise is where to live. There are several choices available. You can choose anything from a tiny one room apartment to a fancy villa. If you like the water you can even live on a boat. Your quality of life on St. Maarten/St. Martin will sometimes depend on where and how you choose to live.

I was very lucky to live in some nice places on the island. But the best was the last place we lived. For the last six years on the island we lived in a small but nice apartment high above Simpsons Bay. From our deck you looked right down the runway at the St. Maarten/St. Martin airport. The jets took off right at our house.

From our deck we had a 180° view from Simpsons Bay around to Nettle Bay in the low lands. This was postcard material. We had ring side seats for all the events on this end of the island. From the comfort of our deck we could watch all the sailing regattas, hear and sometimes see live concerts and watch great firework displays. But my favorite was the spectacular Caribbean sunset we saw every night. This is the way to live in the Caribbean.

One of the great things about living on the island was the hundreds of eating establishments. If you like good food, this is the place to be. It has been said that there are so many restaurants on St. Maarten/St. Martin that you can eat in a different one every night and never eat in the same one twice.

These restaurants offered Italian, French, Indian, Moroccan, Indonesian and Oriental menus. Not only do these eating establishments have great food but also a great view. Most are located on or near the water at marinas or beaches. With great food and a great view, what more can you ask for.

For the times that you do not want to dress up and go to a chic restaurant, there are always the roadside grills. The grills are owned and operated by the native locals. They will have ribs, chicken, lobster and some times fish cooking on a home made grill. You can find them in parking lots, people's front yards and some times in a wide spot in the road. Do not let the look fool you. You can find some really great food at these grills. Check out Johnny Be Under the Tree. You will find some of the best ribs you have ever put in your mouth.

The only thing better than having a great meal, is having a great meal on the beach. For me Sunday was beach day. Since I am not one to hang out on the beach and catch a tan (I got enough sun working on a boats all day), I would find a nice beachside grill. I would have a couple of racks of ribs or a big fat lobster, throw back a few cold Coronas and enjoy the day.

Finding a great beach was easy. The island has many great beaches. One of the most popular beaches to hang out at is Orient Beach. Not only is the beach itself beautiful, it has everything from water sports to beach bars. This was a great place to meet friends and relax.

There is no shortage of night life on St. Maarten/St. Martin. For the night crawlers that live on the island there are dance clubs, live music, casinos and hotels that offer comedy clubs and floor shows. My favorite was to join friends for happy hour at one of the many beach bars on the island. There is never a shortage of places to go and things to at night.

There are several special attractions through out the year. These events include sailing regattas, boat shows and live concerts. And if that is not enough, there are always day trips to the neighboring islands of St. Barths, Saba and Anguilla. There is always something to do or some place to go on this island.

Everyday life on the island is not always glitter, glamour and fun. To live here you have to get legal residency, pay taxes and get a Netherland Antilles driving license. This part of island life is the same as back home. Dealing with all that legal stuff is never fun.

I found the best thing to do was to be patient and understanding. Be patient because island time slows way down. No hurry mon. You need to be understanding because this is their island and to live here you have to abide by their rules.

Another thing that concerns those who live on St. Maarten/St. Martin is hurricane season. Every year around the 1st of June (the beginning of hurricane season) the locals start watching the weather. This continues into November (the end of hurricane season).

A close call by a hurricane is not so bad (depending on how close). You get a lot of wind, the sea gets rough and then it is over. It is the hit that hurts.

When the island gets slapped by a hurricane everyone's life gets turned upside down for a while. The tourist and time share owners disappear. Jobs become hard to find. The island becomes a ghost town. The important thing during this time is to do your best to keep working. This is where you find out if you have what it takes to survive.

Hurricanes do not visit the island every year. You may see several years without a major hurricane. I lived in the Caribbean for 15 years on two different islands and survived six hurricanes. Three of these came in one year. The rest where scattered out over the rest of the time I was on the island. Hurricanes do not come around every year, but they do show up from time to time.

Benefits of Living on St. Maarten / St. Martin

People often ask me why I left the Caribbean. Some ask why I moved to the Caribbean in the first place. Very seldom does anyone ask why I stayed. When they do ask I have to say it was because living and working on the island gave me so much. My time on the island gave me the chance to make a living doing something I have a great passion for, scuba diving. I was able to make friends from all over the world. I lived on an island that had white sandy beaches surrounded by a warm, tropical sea. And last but not least it was during my time on the island that I met and married my wife of 13 years. The time I spent on St. Maarten/St. Martin was very good to me.

Someone once told me the island was like a big bowl of gumbo. You put people from all over the world on this tiny rock in the Caribbean, season it with some native Antillean culture and let Mr. Hurricane stir it up just a bit. When it all comes together just right you can get the real taste of St. Maarten/St. Martin


It starts by adopting a new mindset.

Those thinking of leaving the rat race -- for instance, those thinking of expatriating to sunnier and freer climates -- may get stuck at the major issue of how to earn a living. Enter Jonathan Fields, author of Career Renegade: How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love, which came out in mid-January.

According to this book review, Career Renegade has all manner of useful advice and, beyond that, an empowering way of looking at the world: "Career Renegade is not about starting your own business or finding a new job, it is about mastering your work-life so that what you create and build leads to a more meaningful life for yourself and those around you." Judging by Fields' breakdown of the opportunity set for career renegades into 7 categories (below), the book is indeed powerful stuff.

Jonathan Fields is an extraordinary sort. A corporate lawyer by training, a severe illness -- Jonathan says his body "rejected his career" -- led him to quit law and follow a path of his own making.

After a stint as a personal trainer followed by the founding and eventual sale of a successful training business, Jonathan found his true passion in yoga and opened Sonic Yoga, one of the most successful yoga studios in the country, with an also quite successful line of instructional DVDs. Not content to realize just one dream, he started advising first friends and later clients on marketing and PR, eventually launching his own marketing and copywriting business.

Still not content, he decided to share some of the lessons he had learned in blazing his own trail, starting his blog Awake @ the Wheel and eventually writing his new book, out this week: Career Renegade: How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love.

What is a Career Renegade?

A career renegade is someone who takes charge of his or her career and makes it work to fulfill their own passions. That may mean starting your own business, as Jonathan has done several times -- but it does not have to mean that. It could mean switching careers and going to work for a different company, or it could mean reshaping your attitude towards the job you already have -- whatever it takes to transform your work life into a meaningful career -- one that woill not eat you up from the inside out.

Finding Your Passion

Being a career renegade is all about the passion. If you are not passionate about your work, even if it is work other people would kill for, you will eventually start resenting it.

The problem is, a lot of passions do not seem to offer any reasonable ability to make a living. That is where Career Renegade comes in -- in a nutshell, the book advises you to stop looking for the reasonable opportunities and start making unreasonable ones.

Consider Liv Hansen. Liv is a formally-trained artist whose career seem to be following the same path thousands of other newly-minted BFA graduates have followed -- out of college, into unemployment and desperation and, finally, a McJob with no hope for advancement. Meanwhile, the artistic drive withers on the vine, frustrated for lack of money for materials, time not spent job-hunting, and calmness for reflection.

At the end of her rope, Liv took a job in her parents' bakery. Soon, she realized that the cupcakes she was decorating could be her canvasses, and icing and melted chocolate her paint. Customers lined up just to look -- and ultimately buy -- her creations, to the point where her family was able to drastically enlarge their business and Liv was able to assume the role of artistic director and cupcake visionary.

That is a renegade career, one that simply did not exist until someone thought it up or stumbled into it.

Getting from Here to There

Make no mistake, Career Renegade is about careers. That is, it is about (as the subtitle says) making a living at something you love.

To that end, it is packed with detailed information about transforming your passion into a money-making concern. Fields breaks the opportunities for career renegades into 7 categories:
  1. Redeploying your passion in a hungrier market. That is what Liv did. There are already plenty of markets for the arts, and they are hard to break into. Liv turned her passion loose in a market that had not previously had much use for artists, the baking world.
  2. Refocus and mine the most lucrative micro-markets. Produce a product aimed towards a small but wealthy audience, who will pay a premium for the distinction. Think Apple.
  3. Exploit an information gap. Find out what people need to know about some activity and provide that information. That is basically what Jonathan Fields did in writing Career Renegade. People want more meaningful careers but do not know how to create them, so Jonathan shows how.
  4. Exploit gaps in education. The world does not just need information, it needs skilled teachers to convey that information effectively. If you can teach something there is a demand for, you have got a great opportunity.
  5. Exploit gaps in gear or merchandise. Invent or bring to market a product that does not exist but will make a big difference to people pursuing some activity. Jonathan discusses a woman who invented a non-slip yoga mat for high-intensity styles of yoga (where people sweat a lot). Or think of the after-market in iPod products -- a market that was invented out of thin air when the iPod became popular.
  6. Exploit gaps in community. People are social animals in a society that more and more works against social behavior. Provide community and people will love you. Liz Strauss, for example, has built an incredibly popular forum for people to just talk at Successful (and Outstanding) Blog -- which has grown into a very successful conference (SOBCon) and speaking engagements.
  7. Exploit gaps in the way a service or product is provided. Make it easier or more compelling for people to use your products, by delivering them where everyone else ain't. Think on-site car washes, online education, aerobics videotapes way back when, and so on.
Regegade careers are not only about having ideas, though -- they are about implementing them, and to that end Career Renegade is packed with information about researching, launching, marketing, and running your own business.

Someone to Lean On

Being a Career Renegade does not mean you have to go it alone. In fact, one of the reasons people choose renegade paths is to escape the isolation and lack of connection traditional career paths often engender.

The last section of the book is all about getting support. Jonathan devotes a whole chapter to tips on how to convince your family and friends that you are not crazy -- a key step that too many soon-to-be-failures ignore. You need your family's support -- especially if you are the one who supports them financially and you are about to imperil their standard of living, or even just seem to. They need reassurance that you are not going through a mid-, quarter-, third-, 3/8th-, or other-life crisis. You need them have that assurance so they can get behind you and help you get where you have got to go.

Another chapter deals with finding mentors and advisors, people who can provide you with the information and know-how you need to run your renegade career, or can help you find that information on your own. Jonathan pays special attention to the new social media and social networking platforms that are re-shaping the modern working world, and helps the reader leverage those platforms to build their renegade careers. Conclusion

Jonathan Fields' Career Renegade is well-written, thoughtful, and ultimately good, solid advice. Parts of it, the parts dealing with launching and running your own business, read like a saner, more profound Tim Ferriss, but there is enough new stuff here, especially around social networking, to offer even die-hard 4-Hour Work Week devotees something to chew on.

Beyond the practical advice, though, Jonathan offers a mindset, a way of looking at the world. Career Renegade is not about starting your own business or finding a new job, it is about mastering your work-life so that what you create and build leads to a more meaningful life for yourself and those around you. It is about taking charge of your career and refusing to dance to anyone else's music. It is, in short, powerful stuff, and comes highly recommended by this writer.


Driven by desire to protect City of London, say rabidly anti-offshore state worshipers.

The UK government is being coy about joining the U.S. and other O.E.C.D. member states in their anti-tax haven push. Of course the usual leftie suspects think this is just awful. The accusation by one of their number that the UK is protecting international financial center the City of London is probably on the mark. If true, it indicates the UK government is actually given to occasional fits of sanity. Will wonders never cease?

The UK has failed to join a new international crackdown on financial secrecy and tax havens by more than 50 countries, including Germany, France and Spain -- part of a package of measures to restore the world's economy to health.

Failure to participate in the formation of the new Taskforce on Financial Integrity and Economic Development, launched in Washington, D.C. this week, is part of a pattern of UK opposition to key financial transparency reforms. Campaigners argue that the UK's seeming desire to protect the City of London threatens to isolate Britain as international momentum for fundamental changes to tax secrecy grows.

Richard Murphy, the forensic accountant who is a key member of the taskforce, said: "The UK was invited to participate. They have not and they show no indication that they will engage with this. Other European partners are interested and we have seen what has happened in the States. It is obvious Obama is interested yet the UK remains coolly indifferent."

We have encountered Murphy previously -- see here and here. He is a major mover behind the leftist "wipe tax havens off the face of the earth" Tax Justice Network. The fact that both "tax" and "justice" appear in their name tells you as much as you need to know.

The taskforce is demanding that the beneficial ownership, control and accounts of companies, trusts and foundations be available on public record to facilitate due diligence. It wants mandatory exchange of information between tax and governmental authorities on income, gains and property received by non-resident individuals, corporations, and trusts and that offences for money-laundering charges be harmonised across the world. It also calls for an end to the practice of transfer pricing, whereby companies manipulate the cost of trading goods to reduce the tax.

Last night, the Treasury said: "We are committed to addressing these issues the taskforce has raised through the G20. We are definitely putting these issues on the agenda."

But last autumn, the UK opposed the upgrading of a United Nations sub-committee on tax to powerful intergovernmental status. It has also voiced concern about reforms to the EU's savings tax directive, which will close tax avoidance loopholes. And last week, a leaked letter by Alistair Darling exposed the UK's negotiation stance before the G20 summit this April in London. Darling stressed that the G20 must maintain open, lightly regulated capital markets.

This stance could put Britain at odds with the Obama administration. Aides say he will stamp down on tax haven abuses in a move that could raise $50 billion (£35 billion).

Note that $50 billion is absolute peanuts compared to the amount of money that is being thrown around in a futile effort to revive the economy by the Obama administration. As we have argued for time immemorial, the anti-offshore effort is about monitoring and control -- not tax evasion per se.


Long threatened and often delayed actions requiring visas for foreign visitors to the U.S. and passports or passport cards for U.S. citizens reentering from Caribbean jurisdictions where that was not previously required either have now or will soon go into effect. Next up: Requiring permission to exit the U.S.?

For those traveling to U.S. islands in the Caribbean such as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, sadly the rules have changed yet again.

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is a new fully automated, electronic system for screening passengers before they begin travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. Voluntary ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel to the United States, and Visa Waiver Program travelers are encouraged to apply for authorization as soon as they begin to plan a trip to the U.S.

Beginning January 12, 2009, eligible citizens or nationals from all Visa Waiver Program countries must obtain approval through ESTA prior to traveling to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program.

There are currently 34 countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary , Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, (South) Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

More Information can be found on this website.

The Department of State (USA) reminds all Americans that travel documents will be required at all land or sea border entry points as of June 1, 2009. On that date, under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) U.S. citizens will be required to present a government-approved document that denotes both citizenship and identity when entering the United States.

The U.S. Passport Book and the U.S. Passport Card are the premiere documents that denote both citizenship and identity. ... The U.S. Passport Card is a wallet-sized document designed specifically for new systems being installed at land border crossings to facilitate inspections. A Passport Card costs $45 for an adult and $35 for a child under age 16. When applied for in conjunction with a passport book or by a previous passport holder who is eligible for renewal, the Passport Card costs $20.

The Passport Card is valid only for entry to the U.S. at land border crossings and sea ports of entry when traveling from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean region, and Bermuda. It is not valid for international air travel. The U.S. Passport Card is designed for the specific needs of the northern and southern border resident communities. It is not a globally interoperable travel document like the traditional U.S. Passport book.

First-time applicants or those under the age of 16 can apply at any of the more than 9,400 passport application acceptance facilities throughout the United States. Current passport holders, who are eligible to renew, can apply for a passport card by mail.


Continuing from the previous Digest post here ...

  1. Are You Following the Wrong Exercise Program?
    Your exercise program might not be right for you and your goals. Here’s how to tune your exercise regimen to make it right for you. (Craig Harper)
  2. Making Meals Easier: A Few Healthy Eating Ideas
    Easy ideas for healthier eating from three nutritionists. (Thursday Bram)
  3. How to Lose Weight Watching TV
    Exercise ideas you can squeeze into the commercial breaks of your favorite shows. (Craig Harper)
  4. Five Ways to Pick Up the Exercise Habit Again
    Get back in shape after falling off the wagon with these tips. (Aaron M. Potts)
  5. 20 Foods To Snack On For Enhanced Productivity
    If you are going to have a snack, why not have one that gives you more energy, helps you think better, or eases stress? (Kavit Haria)
  6. 15 Reasons Why You Are Not Losing Weight
    You are eating healthy and still not dropping the pounds? Maybe you are over-indulging on one of these supposedly healthy but really fattening foods. (Craig Harper)
  7. How To Lose Belly Fat
    Helpful tips on working towards a slimmer stomach. (Mark McManus)
  1. 50 Ways to Make Your Home More Organized, More Attractive, and More Efficient
    Tips from Lifehack readers about home organization. (Dustin M. Wax)
  2. 10 Keys to Work/Life Balance
    Approaches to maintaining a healthy relationship between your work and the rest of your life. (Dustin M. Wax)
  3. T.H.U.M.P. – 5 Ways to Deal with Irresponsible People
    How to get irresponsible people out of your life -- or at least make them less dangerous. (Aaron M. Potts)
  4. 5 Simple Steps to Be Happy – Finally
    FIgure out what makes you happy and start doing it! (Alex Shalman)
  5. Punctuality Counts
    Being on time might not seem that important, but it portrays confidence, respect, and command. Check out the follow-up, How to Be On Time Every Time, for tips on breaking the late habit. (Dustin M. Wax)
  6. 34 Tips for Your Younger Self
    Lessons Lifehack readers wish they had known when they were younger. Required reading for young people of every age. (Joel Falconer)
  7. 10 Morning Rituals For The Healthy Entrepreneur
    How you start your day can make the difference between success and failure. Start it right with these productive habits. (Kavit Haria)
  8. 11 Tips to Carve Out More Time to Think
    When it feels like you do not have time to form a complete thought, follow these tips to get things back under control. (Scott H. Young)
  9. What Is It Going to Take to Make You Happy?
    All that stands between you and happiness might well be your failure to figure out what would make you happy. (Dustin M. Wax)
  10. 80 How-To Sites Worth Bookmarking
    A smorgasbord of sites to help you do just about anything. (Thursday Bram)

Continued here ...


The plague of Dayplanners, Blackberries and the like that have insinuated themselves into the culture in the last 20-odd years, with the "busy-ness" epidemic that followed in their wake, are a mixxed bag. We do not believe one can manage or plan one's way into a fulfilling life. That takes deep thinking and working things through at the fundamental level, and no amount of doing can substitute for that. But once it comes time to engage in the doing that organically derives from the background work, you may as well be productive. Why not?

This article tells you why you should subcontract the job of creating a personal productivity system to a specialist, like Stephen Covey of 7 Habits of Highly Successful People fame. Your intutitive approach is probably suboptimal. And how well do you even follow that? Enough said?

One of the biggest barrier to productivity in most people's lives is their resistance to adopting a productivity system. Some read a lot of productivity books and sites like Lifehack and feel like they can take a little bit from here and a little bit from there and call it a day. Others hate the idea that someone like Stephen Covey or David Allen could know their own needs better than they do, and so reject the idea of using "someone else's" system.

Can't we just create our own productivity system?

Well, the short answer is yes, we can -- or we could, maybe, if we could, but we cannot, so no. The long answer is this post.

What do you do well?

Consider an entrepreneur. Let us call her "Vita Siddiqi". Vita imports beautiful silken cloth from Bangladesh for the home sewing crowd. She not only knows all the characteristics that make a bolt of cloth a great bolt of cloth, she knows where and how to get it for the best possible price, how to arrange the shipping to minimize extra costs, and how to market and distribute her cloth so that it ends up in the hands of the men and women who use it, at the most desirable cost and convenience to them.

Go Vita!

Now, do you think Vita should also write her own contracts, do her corporate taxes, design her company letterhead, and hand-print her brochures and catalogs? Should she also harvest the silk, weave the cloth, load it on the ship, pilot the ship to the U.S., unload it at the docks, and hand-deliver it to her customers?

If you are a rational person, you probably agree with me that no, she should not. Vita should stick with the things she does well and let other people who are better skilled at those other jobs handle them. Anyone who took every aspect of her business into her hands like I have just described would have to be crazy -- and would not be in business very long.

The fact is, all of us have certain things that we have defined as our core competencies and that we have learned to do very well, and trust other people with other competencies to handle the stuff we cannot do for ourselves.

Productivity is a Skill

One of the things that is rarely taught -- and is thus largely learned only by those who willingly pursue its study -- is the set of skills and habits that lead to effective management of our time, tasks, and attention. It turns out that the mind is quite complex when it comes to matters of productivity, and that few of us have the leisure, background, or desire to pursue the intricacies of the mind, develop a system, test it, implement it, and refine it.

Fortunately, there are some who have chosen that path. Just as David Allen probably should not do your job, you probably should not do his -- compiling and synthesizing what we as a society have learned about what makes us productive into a set of principles and best practices that anyone can learn.

Systems are systematic (duh!)

Because folks like Stephen Covey have immersed themselves in the world of productivity for years or decades, they have learned to minimize conflicts within their systems. While Covey's 7 Habits may or may not appeal to you, they are at least internally consistent. Covey did not grab a little piece from here and a little piece from there, toss it all together with a dollop of his own famous Covey-style dressing, and dish it out.

As I said, the mind is a sensitive thing, and the tiniest of discrepancies can set up a wave of cognitive dissonance that can easily tear our productive lives to shreds. By adopting a tested and refined system, even if it is not the perfect system for us, we at least minimize those dissonances.

Systems create habits

When we adopt a system, we start learning new habits. The commitment to a new set of principles and behaviors causes us to do things "by the book" and if we stick with it, after a fairly short time we start to follow its precepts automatically.

We cannot get this from "our own" systems, since they are already built around our existing habits -- usually around our unexamined existing habits. They do not challenge us to stretch out, to explore the real meaning behind the various things we do, or to strive for improvement.

Systems limit options

It is true, adopting someone else's system is not very creative. It is not an expression of your deepest self.


Systems are a little autocratic. Authoritarian, even. They say "my way or the highway" and leave little room for creative experimentation (and fall apart fairly quickly when people start messing with them).

There is a good reason for this. Assuming you want to do things, having options is the very worst thing. Research has shown repeatedly that when presented with two options, we are very good at maximizing our own self-interest. But when presented with more than two, we experience "decision paralysis" and often will resist acting at all. Which is not the road to greater productivity or greater happiness.

Systems are conscious choices

When we adopt a system, we make a conscious decision to learn the habits and skills set forth in that system. This is quite different from the way we normally pursue greater productivity.

For example, at some point or other you have probably experienced the urge to "get organized". Maybe you came into the office on a Saturday and spent the whole day getting everything neat and orderly, catching up your back filing, clearing your desk of clutter.

But you never ask yourself why you put your files in a certain order, or why you have placed your office supplies on this shelf and not that one. Most likely, you cleared your desk by creating a place for all the fiddly little bits that do not go anywhere at all, without wondering why you have fiddly little bits getting in your way.

In short, you have let the same habits and thought-patterns that led to your disorganization in the first place determine the process of getting organized. As if! What you have not asked is why you got disorganized in the first place -- maybe those books were on your desk and not "where they belong" because where they belong is not a place that feels natural to you -- it is too much work to retrieve them when you need them.

Adopting a system forces you to face these tendencies, and to ask "why?" about all the things you do. And if the system is well-designed, it gives you a good reason in answer to that "why?"

Learning a productivity systems teaches productivity

In the process of implementing your chosen system, whatever it is, you learn how to put together and implement a system.

That seems rather obvious, does it not? But think about it -- do you really know how to create and implement a productivity system? If you did, would you be looking for advice on being more productive?

That is nothing against you. Like Vita, you do not know how to make silk or drive a ship or create a productivity system. But the last, you can learn -- by implementing a productivity system. By consciously embracing new, seemingly unnatural and unintuitive habits. By experiencing the way a well-designed system fits together.

In fact, you are probably learning enough that, once you have implemented a system -- whether it is Allen's Getting Things Done or Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Successful People or lesser-known systems like Leo Babauta's Zen to Done or Nick Cernis's Todoodlist or anything else -- and lived with it for a while, you will probably start having a sense of what you need to do to create and implement a system that works better for you.

And that is the real value of these systems -- they teach us not only how to be more productive, but what our own specific needs are so that we can be even more productive and, ultimately, fulfilled.


It is widely accepted that the human brain is not well-wired to make important decisions that have longer-run implications under pressure. The primitive and insistent parts of our brains evolved to help us survive under simpler but more dangerous conditions than we now live in. The fight-or-flight mechanism, as well as our more basic drives (food, territory, sex, etc.), have an immediacy to them that calls for instant decisions. When the implications of the decision stretch out over months and years those instincts may well lead us down the wrong path.

What is needed is a way to engage the frontal lobe of the brain, which is able to conceive of time and potential unfolding patterns in at least a semi-detached and objective manner. The author here has a a process to kick that way of thinking about a problem into gear. He does not mention them, and we have never tried them, but there are certain supplements we have heard of over the years which are said to calm one down with no loss of cognitive functioning. They certainly seem worth seeking out and considering if you know you will be faced with a pressure situation and will have to be able to think clearly and quickly.

Thanks to the nature of life and society, we are often forced to make our most important decisions under pressure. Whether that pressure is caused by a lack of time, emotional duress, or something else entirely, it is hardly the best state in which to make reliable decisions. Without a way to switch into an objective mindset -- or at least a process to deal with decisions objectively -- you could wind up making a bad decision that will bite you for years to come.

Almost every important decision I have ever had to make has been made out of necessity and under pressure of various kinds, and that has given me the chance to work out a process that I can use to work through them in a detached way. You can never eliminate all the bias that comes from emotions and circumstances. Subjectivity is inherently part of being a human being. But you can minimize that bias through the use of a reliable process and make the most of a bad situation. Here is how.

1. Know the Situation

Knowledge is power. The better you understand the decision and all that it entails, the more likely you are to make a good decision. The first step of the process is to put your research skills to use and study the relevant material, study it until you are intimate with it.

Employ various research techniques. Do not rely on anecdotal evidence, such as the opinions of trusted friends, but acquire it -- it matters. Hard information matters, and some people would say it matters the most, but a healthy mixture of hard information and the opinions of those who have "been there and done that" is best in my opinion. It serves to reduce the sway that media manipulation by marketers or vested interests may have wielded through the bias in (what seems to be) objective texts.

You want to know the big picture, and you want to know the fine print. Leave no stone unturned, because the small pebbles in their aggregate have just as much weight as the big rocks.

2. Know the Outcomes

From the certainty of information, you must turn to the tentative vacillation of prediction. There is no way you can know the future, but the knowledge you have gathered will help you to get closer to it. Make the best prediction you can as to the outcome of the various options you have at your disposal. What are the short-term effects? What are (more importantly, usually) the long-term effects? Will the effects of my decision affect the lives of others and how?

It is too easy to get caught up in the minutiae of your decision and make your final choice based on small factors or short-term effects. After doing heavy research, the quality of your decisions can be affected by familiarity blindness. So it's important to take a careful look at where each decision puts you in a week, a month, a year, a decade. This helps you regain your perspective.

3. Consult with the Objective

Talk to objective people -- people who are not your friends -- who are experts or knowledgeable in the area you need to make a decision in. Research as done in the first step is about finding out all the information that is out there already. It is static information and cannot be tailored to your situation because it (should) just describe what is. Objective experts can look at your situation, and without emotional attachment to you, give advice on the best course of action.

But what is objectively the best course of action as far as an expert is concerned is not always the best course of action. It usually is, but subjectivity does play a part. If you do not feel you could live with the results of the decision they suggest or it does not align with your core values and beliefs, it is not stupid to pass the advice over. Seek a second opinion or go for the next most workable suggestion on their list.

4. Commit

The thing about difficult decisions, and decisions you need to make under pressure, is not just that they are hard to make in the first place. It is that they are hard to commit to. If you have followed a sound process for determining the best course of action, and the advice you have attained is sound advice, the best course of action should be clear by now.

That does not mean it is the easiest course of action. The best one rarely is the easiest. Be sure when you make your final decision, and commit to it. Start implementing it as soon as your situation allows, because once you have made the first steps it is harder to fall back into your indecision.

We have all just entered into a new year, and an uncertain one at that. It is a time when many people want to make changes in life and make big decisions, and we also live in a time when many more people are facing difficult times than they have had to in years past. So it seemed pertinent to suggest a way of dealing with these things, and I hope these guidelines help you through.

It is impossible to give a process of flow chart-like proportions that will hold your hand throughout every step of the decision-making process. That would be great for making the best choice even when the pressure of the world is doing your head in, but the situation that comes with each decision changes too much for that. We are left to deal with principles that are flexible enough to help us through many different situations, but they are solid principles, and followed properly, the finer steps will reveal themselves.


EU Funds Plan to Boost Dominica Tourism

We’re from the EU and we’re here to help you.

The Dominica government has embarked on a program designed to improve the competitiveness of the tourism sector, which contributed over EC$160 million ($60.8 million) to the economy last year and created more than 2,500 direct jobs. The efforts are being undertaken under the Tourism Sector Development Program (TSDP), a 2-year program which is being financed under the European Union's Special Framework of Assistance to the tune of €2.7 million ($3.87 million).

"The overall objective of the program is to improve the competitiveness of the tourism sector through the development of rural tourism and linkages with agriculture; increased destination marketing; and building the capacity of major tourism institutions like the Ministry of Tourism and the Discover Dominica Authority," the EU said in a statement. In the first year of the program, through the Rural Tourism Development component, emphasis will be placed on the construction of tourism centers. A number of groups in rural communities will also be assisted with training in the areas of business development and e-marketing.

For the second year of the program, beginning next July, consideration is being given to refinancing or rehabilitating existing hotel properties, establishing a Hospitality Institute at the Dominica State College, and promoting a Champion of the Tourism Master Plan among other things. The Tourism Sector Development Program is intended to build on the results achieved in the Eco-Tourism Development Program (ETDP) which ended in June last year.

Dominica Government Secures US$9.16 Million From CDB for Sea Defense and Road Work

Rehabilitating facilities damaged by Hurrican Omar.

The government of Dominica has secured a soft loan of US$9.16 million from the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank to assist in financing the rehabilitation of sea defenses and road works in the village of Point Michel damaged by the passage of Hurricane Omar. The Board of Directors of the Caribbean Development Bank approved the amount at their meeting in Barbados last week.

The project is designed to assist in the speedy rehabilitation of Point Michel's sea defenses and road infrastructure and the restoration of its productive capacity. This includes the restoration of road links which facilitate the movement of people and goods to the villages along the south-western coast of Dominica.

Hurricane Omar also caused extensive damage to Dominica's fishing industry. Boat engines, fishing equipment and boat houses in 13 communities along the west coast were also damaged and more than 500 fishermen were affected.