Family Money: An Alternative View
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.
I receive opinions and commentaries from fund and
investment managers all the time. Some make sense; some are
self-servicing. But I recently received one that takes a clear but
different view on global markets than is being spouted daily from the TV
Written by Robert Skepper of Brewin Dolphin Securities,
London, it made such sense to me that I thought my regular readers -
especially those who are nervous about investing into the markets at this
time - might find it as interesting and thought-provoking as I did.
Robert has very many years of experience in the
financial industry, and now heads up Brewin Dolphin’s Portfolio
Management Service in London. So, like me, he has to get it right more
often than he gets it wrong! This recent commentary for professional
financial advisers I am pleased to reproduce here in full, with Robert’s
kind permission, of course.
A personal view by R.B. Skepper
“We are now faced with two markets - the pre-war
market and the post-war market. As a result of the antics of President
Chirac, it now looks almost certain that Saddam, encouraged by this and
his principal propaganda machine - the BBC - (not The World service) will
not disarm unless attacked physically. The French president has brought
contempt on himself and humiliation on a great country. It is difficult to
find in living memory another example of a head of state who has behaved
so waywardly, with the possible exception many years ago of President
Lumumba of The Congo. He threatened to eat a dissenting member of his
cabinet. The French president also keeps odd company in that part of the
“As to the peace marches and the 120 Labour MPs who
voted against the government, their roots go back directly to the same
group who wanted us to abandon our nuclear deterrent in the 1950s, and to
the pre-war Labour members who voted for our total disarmament in the
Thirties (The Labour leader in the Lords called for the closure of every
army recruiting station in the country in 1928). This disastrous
unpreparedness resulted in Britain avoiding only by a hair’s breadth the
loss of our own freedom in 1940.
“Luckily on this occasion we have courageous
leadership - unlike in the Thirties when we had no leaders, just followers
of popular public opinion, who lacked the courage to warn of the dangers
of the easy way out. The House of Commons voted 3 to 1 in favour of the
government’s strong stance against Saddam, and even the Labour party
voted 2 to 1 in favour.
“The Al Qaeda are stateless desperados, who depend
for their shelter, training establishments, and bases, on evil
dictatorships who accept them in return for money or more likely mafia
style protection. We saw in Taliban-terrorised Afghanistan how they
thrived and multiplied. Like mosquitoes you have to spray the swamps where
they breed. Any softening to a vile regime like Saddam merely reinforces
such dictatorships everywhere.
“Latin America was a morass of dictatorships when
Galtieri of Argentina overstepped the mark and invaded the Falklands. The
same siren voices were heard then advising compromise. But Mrs Thatcher
did not flinch, and within six months of Galtieri’s defeat nearly every
other dictatorship in Latin America had collapsed, and the ‘wailing
wall’ in Argentina had no more missing victims to add to the previous
30,000. To leave Saddam triumphant will just multiply the hiding places
for terrorist activity.
“The market in its pre-war mode is at an extreme of
nervousness. Investors are staying out because they fear the market may
fall further. But stock markets have always been very poor investment
guides at their extremes. In 2000 the market encouraged investors to buy
stocks on ludicrous valuations that stood little or no chance of ever
being justified by future earnings growth. Now the exact opposite has
happened. Markets are discouraging investors from buying shares when
values are so low and dividend yields so high that they offer much better
immediate returns than fixed interest, and the prices assume that there
will be no growth ever again! Strongly established retailers like
Sainsbury, Dixons W.H. Smith offer running yields over 7% and leading
brewers and hoteliers like Scottish & Newcastle, Six Continents, and
Hilton (with Ladbrokes betting) yield in excess of 7%. Pharmaceuticals are
lower than they have been since 1980, yet that industry is certainly
growing; and many engineering companies are selling for about the scrap
value of their assets, let alone their operational value. In the insurance
and savings industry, companies like Legal & General, Aviva, and the
Pru are almost assuming that the savings industry will cease to exist.
Values like this have not been seen in the UK market for years. They are
much more depressed than the early 90s.
“The UK market - as opposed to the US market - has
suffered from the downward spiral effect of stock market falls feeding
directly through to company profit and loss accounts via the (temporary)
destruction of pension fund asset values, forcing companies to dip into
profits to plug the gap. Though there is a pension problem in some US
companies, traditionally pension policy there has been much more
fixed-interest orientated than here, so it is less universal. But the
spiral will work in the opposite direction as well. Any substantial
recovery in the stock market immediately relieves companies of their
pension problem. What has caused the exceptional falls here will also
contribute to an exceptional rise when recovery comes. Those who have been
panicked out of the market or cannot enter for fear of a further fall will
by definition miss much of the upturn.
“Historically markets have rallied between 30% and
100% in the first full year after a market bottoms. That is when most of
the money gets made, and those who know individual companies well, are
voting with their feet. Director buying in the UK in the last six months
exceeds selling by a ratio of 17:1. They scent at least 100% upside from
these levels. They believe their company shares have fallen to absurd
“I believe the share blitz is actually over. There
will still be the odd doodlebug that hits a company here or there whose
trading turns out to be worse than anticipated. But that, when we move to
the post-war market, an indefinable weight will lift from markets. The
world post-Saddam will actually be a safer place, and the opportunities to
start solving some of the Middle East’s other perennial problems will be
Snap Shot: Camera shake. It’s not just from the drink!
by Harry Flashman
Probably the second most common mistake I see being
committed by amateur photographers is poor technique, which is eventually
translated as fuzzy fotos! It is so common here in Thailand when I tell
you about it, you will see it yourself, over and over again.
There is a reason for it. With today’s Point and
Shooters which are so small that they practically fit in one hand, the
tendency is to do just that - one handed photography! Let me assure you
that while one handed picture taking may look sharp, the end result
photograph won’t be.
Now then, how many times have you seen a photographer
holding the camera in one hand, raising fingers on the other hand, as he
says, “nung-song-sam” (or even “one-two-three”)! The answer is
many, many times. And each one of the resulting photographs is not as
sharp as it should be.
With the larger cameras, SLR’s and the like, it
becomes even more important to avoid camera shake. After all, why spend
thousands of baht to buy super sharp lenses and get soft “blurry”
photographs. You might as well have stuck with a cheap disposable
“camera in a film box” and saved your money for booze - which will
also give you the shakes just as easily but possibly more enjoyably!
The simple fact of the matter is that to get sharp
photographs, the camera must be held still while the shutter is held open.
Now, in most daylight situations if the camera is set on “auto” it
will select a shutter speed of around 1/125th of a second, and while that
sounds “fast” it really isn’t. You will still get noticeable
“softness” in the final print if the hand holding the camera has
allowed any movement.
The secret really is in the grip. And it is a two
handed one. You will not see any professional photographer taking shots
with one hand free. I also recommend that you take a short breath in and
then hold it while gently squeezing off the shutter. Another good practice
is to keep the elbows in by your sides, and even lean against a solid
object, like a telephone pole! Your camera will also most likely have two
“hand/finger” impressions on either side of the camera body. They are
not there for decoration. Use them!
Another trap for the unwary amateur photographer is the
camera strap in the photo routine. Ever got prints back with a strange
blurry dark shape running across the photo? That was the camera strap
hanging down across the lens when you took the shot. With Point and Shoot
compact cameras you will not see this when you look through the
viewfinder, because you are actually looking through a separate viewing
lens system, not through the main camera lens itself.
You will never have this problem if you wear the camera
strap around your neck at all times when taking the shot. If you prefer to
keep the camera in your hand, then wrap the strap around your wrist. The
idea of having the strap is to stop the very expensive, and very delicate
camera falling on the ground where the concussion kills it or into the sea
where it dies a rapid death by drowning.
Camera straps are an important item, not just an
advertising space for the camera manufacturer. Use them!
Lens Caps and Skylight filters
The quality of the camera’s optics dictates the
ultimate quality of your photographs. The bit of glass at the end of your
lens can ruin the end result if it is not clean, or worse still, if it is
scratched can ruin the lens. Skylight filters as the outside element are
really a ‘must’ and if you have not got one, then do so today.
Skylight filters protect the expensive bit and the lens cap is the
final protection. Keep the cap on at all times other than when taking the
shot. Even in the camera bag. Use them!
Modern Medicine: Growing old - (dis)gracefully!
by Dr Iain Corness, Consultant
Last year, my eldest son (29 years old and a strapping
6’6") and I went to the UK to visit my dear old Mum and my sister.
While there we decided that father and son might like to go and explore
the nightlife in the fairly large city close to my sister’s rural
retreat. Upon asking where we should go in town for some drinks and
dancing, I was told by my junior sibling, “Oh there’s nothing for you
there!” “What do you mean?” I replied. “You’re too old!” was
the answer. Resisting an immediate urge to give her a clip behind the ear
for insolence I said, “But what about him?” pointing to 6’6" of
youth and enthusiasm. “Oh he’s too old too,” was the response. What
a sad indictment of today’s world! At 29 years of age, this young fellow
was considered to be too old to go out and enjoy himself? Of course, for
me at age 60, as I was then, it was practically sinful to even contemplate
There is an unfortunate tendency in the western world
to write everyone off after the age of 25 it seems. But why should this
be? The only real difference between “old” people and “young”
people is that the older group have much greater experience. There is
precious little of substance worth doing that older people cannot do. And
I am not talking here about people under the magic (and arbitrary) 65 year
retiral age. I am talking about anyone still wandering around the planet
unaided, no matter how old they are. For example, if you are 80 years old
and want to do a parachute jump, can anyone tell me why not?
The reason I say this, is that by the time a person is
80 years old, they have a fair idea of what they can or cannot do. After
all, they’ve had that same body for 8 decades, they must know it pretty
well by now. The problems you come up against when deciding to do
something is not usually a “physical” restraint, but a mental one. You
get conditioned by the western society that you are ‘over the hill’
and you must sit in the corner and quietly rot away.
Well, that’s exactly what will happen to you if you
do sit quietly in the corner! Like any living creature, you need
stimulation (and I’m not talking about the ‘stimulation for hire’
bars), and mental stimulation will get you going physically as well.
Forget about your chronological age and think about things that you want
to do - and then work out how you are going to do these things.
Obviously, if you are 80 years of age and you tell me
that you want to run a mile in 4 minutes, this is not only impossible, but
it is silly! However, if you tell me you want to take up running and want
to train for the marathon, I will say, “Go ahead!” I might suggest
starting off with shorter distances and work on from there, but the
concept is the same - if you want to do something - go ahead and do it.
Do not accept “age” as a barrier to anything. Work
out how to do it and get on with it. Live life to the fullest, every day,
for as many days as you have got left!
Heart to Heart with Hillary
This might sound crazy, but I am having a problem with women
in this country. It’s not finding them - it’s getting rid of them that is
bugging me. Every time I have a liaison the girl appears later that day with a
suitcase and make-up bag and is ready to move in and settle down. Is this normal
for this country, or is it just that I pump iron and am very good looking? I am
not a Cheap Charlie either. What can I do Hillary? Is it just because I am a big
I like your style, Hunk, so shy and humble. I just hope
that one of these days one of these liaisons doesn’t pop your ego, because you
will end up flying backwards around the room for 3 minutes before coming to
rest. Why don’t you just post your bank balance on the internet as well? Are
you a big catch? No, Hunk, my Petal, you are a big sucker who cannot see past
the end of your Spandex exercise outfit. It’s time you found better girls to
take home. As an additional item, buy a copy of the book “In the Bedroom Out
of Trouble” by Bud Knackstedt and Oiy Ford, The English Thai Version. ISBN
0-9644569-3-1. Just exactly what you need to keep you out of grief, achieve more
depth in your relationships, avoid legal and embarrassing personal problems and
generally improve your life!
I want to be rid of the easy bar scene and sincerely want to
settle down with a “nice” Thai girl. The person I am looking for will be
professional, educated and attractive and will have never worked in the
entertainment industry. She should be single and have no children. It would be a
bonus if she spoke English, but that is not needed 100%. Where do I find my
Your lady will be easy to find. Just join in on the end of
the queue of other hopeful males all chasing the illusive butterfly. When you
get to the top of the queue, she’s yours! Honestly, what is wrong with you
gormless guys? Stop looking in the entertainment industry and look for
professional women who work in the same field as yourself. If your profession is
propping up a bar, then you’re already in the right place for the sort of mate
you need, but if you are a professional join the necessary chambers of commerce,
service organizations and the like. Your princess is out there, it’s just that
you have to kiss a lot of toads if you are not looking in the right place.
Dear Hilary (sic),
I have been visiting Thailand regularly for the last 6 years
and during the 3 visits I have made in the last 12 months I have grown
particularly fond of a charming young lady from your country. We exchange email
across the globe on a regular basis in which she tells me (against the trend
displayed by farang ladies) how handsome, loveable and understanding I am.
Yesterday I received a mail from her explaining that she was in a real spot of
bother because she is sick and can no longer work. This has lead to her being
unable to pay her rent. Now although she doesn’t like doing so, she has
requested that I send her some money, and she has given me the bank details of a
charitable young Thai gentleman who has offered to marshal my transactions for
her. I immediately went out and auctioned all my possessions and have withdrawn
my savings from a high interest account. I was wondering oh Helpful Hilary (sic)
if you could (a) tell me the most tax efficient method of transferring my funds
to my Tilac, and (b) if you would consider running some sort of charitable event
to help her in her moment of plight?
Yours in sincerety (sic),
What an amazing coincidence! Your initials remind me of a
horse, and probably the back end of it too, my Petal. A tax efficient method for
funds transfer would be to just send everything in cash to the kind young Thai
gentleman, who I am sure will not pay tax on the windfall, so you can rest
assured that whatever your Tilac gets has been tax free, less handling, freight,
banking, grafting, slicing off the top, placing under the table and other minor
charges against the sum which the young man in question will have had to impose.
Unfortunately for your Tilac the only charitable events Hillary runs are for the
Preservation of Champagne and Chocolates Foundation, of which Hillary is the
proud patron. One other small point, GG, my name is Hillary, with two ells.
Please get it right in future, especially when you send me the next letter
asking if I know how to find your young lady who will have gone up-country for
an unspecified period of time to an unspecified address. By the way, in your
letter you didn’t mention the name of your Tilac. Her name isn’t Pisinurai,
A Slice of Thai History: The Japanese invasion of Thailand, 8 December 1941 (part one)
by Duncan Stearn
It is generally believed that the war in the Pacific
commenced with the Japanese surprise attack on the United States naval and
air force base at Pearl Harbor in the Hawaiian Islands on Sunday 7
In fact, the reality is that the attack on Pearl Harbor
was preceded by two events which took place in the early hours of Monday
morning 8 December. The date discrepancy is due to the International Date
Line: Monday 8 December being the same time as Sunday 7 December in the
eastern Pacific and the United States.
According to a report published in the London Gazette
in 1948, possibly the first offensive action of the war in the Pacific
took place on 7 December when the Japanese invasion fleet, led by Admiral
Kondo, shot down a British Catalina flying-boat which was attempting a
reconnaissance in the Gulf of Thailand.
Without any doubt, the first major offensive action was
a landing by Japanese troops at Kota Bharu on the north-east coast of
British Malaya at 12:25 a.m. (local time) while the second act was the
invasion of southern Thailand at 1:05 a.m. on Monday 8 December, despite
the existence of a mutual friendship pact between the two countries. Just
20 minutes later Japanese planes began bombing the United States Pacific
Fleet in Pearl Harbor.
The Japanese military only allocated a total of five
divisions, comprising the Twenty-Fifth Army under General Yamashita
(83,000 men) and the Fifteenth Army under General Lida (55,000 men) as
well as two air divisions, to the conquest of Thailand, Burma, Malaya, and
Singapore. The invasion plans and the forces required were gathered
together on Hainan Island in the South China Sea.
The slow moving troop transports of what was known as
the First Malaya Attack Force left Hainan under destroyer escort and
headed south on 4 December. Admiral Kondo’s main force of two
battleships and six heavy cruisers followed soon after.
By 6 December the British in Malaya were made aware
that a large Japanese amphibious force was heading towards the Gulf of
Thailand. However, bad weather prevented early detection and it wasn’t
until the late evening of 7 December that elements of the Japanese force
were sighted anchoring off Kota Bharu.
As it became increasingly clear that war with Japan was
almost inevitable, the British military command in Malaya had drawn up a
contingency plan entitled ‘Operation Matador’ which called for a
pre-emptive strike across the border into neutral Thailand to thwart any
Japanese passage through that country.
As early as July 1941, the British War Cabinet in
London were painfully aware that the Japanese occupation of northern
Indo-China in September 1940 meant Malaya and Singapore were vulnerable to
air attack without the need for Japan to gain access to air bases in
southern Thailand. The British also required at least 24 hours’ notice
to launch ‘Operation Matador’ but as the Japanese did not issue a
declaration of war it meant the plan was effectively useless.
Politically, Pibulsongkram, the Thai prime minister,
faced a dilemma. By the middle of 1941 it was clear that war between Japan
and Britain was almost inevitable. He realised he could not expect any
military support from either Britain or the United States and, after Japan
moved troops into southern Indo-China in July 1941, he declared Thai
neutrality, stating the Thai army would resist any and all incursions by a
foreign power. He even publicly threatened to implement a scorched earth
policy to deter invaders.
This was a public reversal of a statement he had made
to the Japanese Naval Attache in Bangkok in late September 1940 that he
would not oppose any Japanese landings in southern Thailand in return for
an agreement on neutrality and a promise to help restore territory lost by
the Thais to the French and British in the previous half-century.
Although the Japanese believed they had an agreement,
albeit secret, to transit through Thailand unopposed, the Imperial General
Staff nevertheless prepared for a resisted invasion. Pibulsongkram knew
the Japanese were too well armed and trained for Thailand to hold out for
very long, and protracted resistance would lead to his removal from power.
Nevertheless, the prime minister was not completely
certain the Japanese would be victorious against the British and Americans
and he was therefore reluctant to commit Thailand wholly to Japan. It was
his aim to see Thailand be on the winning side in the coming war.
Therefore, with Japanese forces massing at his borders
and an invasion force sailing into the Gulf, Pibulsongkram mysteriously
left Bangkok and could not be contacted by Japanese officials who came to
ask if he would honour the secret agreement to allow their forces
unhindered transit through Thai territory.
Social Commentary by Khai Khem
Let’s get our act together while we still have time
Our March 14 issue was filled with letters regarding
the dangerous and flagrantly recklessness of motorcyclists in Pattaya City
and its surrounding areas. The problem is receiving widespread publicity.
Motorcyclists in Pattaya don’t have the sense they were born with, and
create total havoc in traffic. They are not the only ones who drive
without consideration, but they are the most noticeable.
More than the recent crackdown on drugs, lethal traffic
conditions will certainly freak out tourists. I watch foreign tourists
trying to cross Pattaya’s streets and most of them look dead scared.
Motorists also drive far too fast for conditions on
Sukhumvit Highway and if anything untoward happens they are going too fast
to prevent an accident. The highway patrol officers in the area are
obviously not doing their jobs anymore than our traffic police are
maintaining order on city streets.
Sukhumvit now divides a city that is admittedly more
populous than official census figures show. Sois and streets that lead to
Sukhumvit spill traffic out onto the highway where cars and trucks are
speeding at 120 kilometers per hour. Businesses line both sides of this
road and to enter or exit any one of them is to create a potential
Banglamung District needs to build an overpass that
will allow traffic to bypass the most congested sections from Naklua to
South Jomtien. Pattaya business people should not see this as a threat to
their livelihood. We should allow traffic that is headed to another
destination to go on its way unimpeded. People who are going to Pattaya
will come. Those who are headed somewhere else will continue on no mater
what. The improved traffic flow can only benefit everyone in the area.
If Chonburi doesn’t start forward planning with
common sense, they are courting more headaches for the future. What will
happen when we get our legal gambling casinos and the influx of people
doubles and triples? We are already asking residents to go without water
in certain areas so that tourists can swim in hotel pools and take long
hot showers. We lack the space and infrastructure for the population we
already have. But still we are greedily luring more and more people to
Local residents have to live with these hardships since
they have no choice. Tourists can move on if they are disappointed or
We may get a horseracing track built in Chonburi
Province. If memory serves me that means hosting hundreds of thousands of
people on race days. Between that, casinos, more tourists and more Thais
from other provinces moving here for jobs, how on earth will we handle the
added demands on water, roads, increased traffic, communications, garbage
and overcrowding? Must we always wait until we are in a crisis mode before
To be fair, I sympathize with officials whose job it is
to handle these problems and come up with ideas on how to either solve
them or at least ease them. A handful of willing leaders and civil
officials cannot make these changes work by themselves. Some very good
plans have been stalled because of lack of corporation from our own
citizens. Perfectly reasonable schemes which could improve conditions in
our city descend into squabbles and stubborn resistance through
Thailand is still a very free country and Thais do
value their freedom. We do not, however, have to live in permanent mayhem
to emphasize that fact. Public unity and cooperation for the betterment of
our society is not necessarily bending under the yoke of slavery. We can
take the Middle Path and preserve our freedom without acting like stubborn
and willful children every time we are asked to obey the rules.
We have to remember that Thailand is what we make it.
Foreigners do not run this country - Thais do. If we take a good look
around and don’t like what we see, we have only ourselves to blame. When
we make the effort, do the work and improve our lot in life, we can also
take the credit.
Thais can make a difference; each and every one. A good
deed, a thoughtful plan, an act of kindness and respect will have impact.
Lawless chaos and the philosophy of “every man, woman and child for
themselves” is not the Thai way. Or at least it didn’t use to be.
We must find a way to cultivate the finer aspects of
the Thai national character and promote more public cooperation. We do
have a choice. Pattaya can forever be tainted with a bad reputation and a
sleazy image, or we can stop the play-acting and get our act together.
Women’s World: Choices
by Lesley Warner
Do you ever reflect on your life and wonder about the
choices you have made? Do you think, “Did I really make that choice or
was I persuaded into it by others?”
I did some interesting research to find out how women
make choices/decisions regarding their life.
One of the first choices we are presented with that
will affect our lives is studying for our future. The choice to continue
into further education, get out there in the workplace to earn money or
travel the world backpacking for excitement. Friends and family will
endeavor to influence all our early choices.
Around about the same time your boyfriend wants you to
experiment with sex, do you say no and possibly loose him, take the pill
(and mum mind find out) or rely on condoms to prevent getting pregnant? If
you got pregnant, what would you do? Would you keep the baby and give up
all your expectations for your future career, would you have an abortion
or give the child up for adoption?
Supposing you choose a career and are very successful;
how will a family fit into your life later on? Can you face being a
housewife and mother after being a successful career woman, or should you
give your child to someone else to look after?
Research reports that more women leave it later to have
a family these days. Then by the time they reach the thirties they face a
myriad of weighty decisions about career, home, love, marriage, and
babies. Even these days society has its expectations on how a woman should
behave. Regardless of the ‘so-called’ free choice of women today, that
deep-seated feeling that the woman should be at home to take care of the
children is still there.
Maybe this is a decisive factor in making more women
choose to remain single and pursue their own dreams and challenges and
direct all their energies into their careers.
Do you ever find yourself not purchasing an item of
clothing, because although you like it your partner doesn’t think it
suits you; yet deep inside you your instinct tells you that it looked
great? Unfortunately, women appear to have this inability to make
decisions for themselves when they are in a relationship. Always referring
to the man, where as the male side of the relationship seems to be quite
happy to make a decision for both parties. I’ve discussed it with many
women and come to the conclusion it’s because women are constantly
trying to please their man whereas men really please themselves or think
they “know what’s best for both of us”. This could stem from the
fact that in the majority of relationships the male is the main
breadwinner. But on the whole it appears to be the dominant male syndrome
and for some reason we accept it, although the majority of women would not
admit that they do so. The only choice that really seems to be the
woman’s is: “What are we going to eat today?”
I asked several ladies of my acquaintance how they felt
about making important decisions and the majority had to think about it.
They then decided that they talked about important issues with their
partner, but really left it to their partner to make the final decision. A
good proportion of them said that until I made them think about it they
didn’t even realize what they did.
Two ladies told me that they were very successful after
a divorce, when they ‘took the bull by the horns’ and followed their
dreams and made their own choices, and that it was quite exhilarating.
When I asked why they spoke so reflectively they both said, “Well that
was before, now I’m in a relationship.” I thought goodness, we are a
sorry lot if a man is all it takes to take away our dreams and
self-esteem. And it’s not the man’s fault, it’s ours. The majority
of men say, “It’s up to her what she does.”
I’m sure most married women who read this column will
say, “But my husband and I always discuss our decisions.” I’m sure
you do, but who’s idea do you usually end up with?
Making decisions is a major life skill we have all
obviously developed in reaching “adulthood” or so they say. Sometimes
of course it is easier to go along with some else’s decision, as then
you can’t be blamed later for making the wrong one!