News from Anguilla.
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LATEST NEWS FROM ANGUILLA....
There was a lot of activity on Anguilla this week. The new Government is quietly getting on with many of the bread and butter (or bread and circuses) things that matter. Many of the potholes have been filled and there are gangs of workmen whacking down the tall grass and overgrown bush by the various roadsides. "What a pathetic thing to put into a newsletter", you may think. Maybe. But it's symptomatic of the way that things are now getting done, rather than remaining stalled. Government is walking the walk rather than talking the talk; that sort of thing. There's a new sense of pride about the place and the national flag can now be seen flying in quite a few places where it could not be seen before.
All of this may or may not have had something to do with the Royal visit (the clean-up activity continued after he left).
The Duke of York's visit this week went like clockwork. The organisers are to be complimented and Prince Andrew seemed to enjoy it all. He certainly came across as quite interested in whatever it was that he was seeing and had taken the time and trouble to prep himself in advance so as to be able to ask some pretty technical questions. This scotched the observation made by someone that he was "No rocket scientist" (how many of us are?!). He delighted many people (and frustrated a few officials) by going on impromptu walkabouts and working the crowds. At the reception at Government House he had this tendency to walk up to groups where not everyone had their eye on the ball. For example, my wife was having one of her chinwags with some friends and HRH came up behind her and asked in all earnesty, "Haven't I met you somewhere before?". To which she replied, in all honesty, "I don't think so!". None of this expected bob-curtseys, no preface of "Your Royal Highness". He came across this group later in the walkabout, which drew from him the observation: "Oh! Not you lot again!!" Couldn't have done better myself! Still this was a better response than he got when he similarly surprised another group containing the wife of a fellow-practitioner on the island (name available on request). She saw him out of the corner of her eye at the moment he started to speak, and was so overcome that she fled! Photos of some of the people at the event can be found at http://www.photo.ai
Apart from thus scaring some residents he did have a busy time. After the BAe 146 landed he was met by The Governor who introduced him to Ministers of Government and inspected a guard of honour. He then did the first of his impromptu walkabouts and worked the crowds at the airport. After being whisked off to Wallbalke House to meet the Trustees involved in the restoration effort, he met with local artists, handed over the keys to an OB Jeep to be used by Radio Anguilla and went on to the Teachers Resource Centre to watch a 10-minute video of "Lenny". He then met Ponchita Richardson, a North Side resident who told him of her plight during the storm. He was bemused when she observed that she still had not located her front door! That evening he attended the reception at the Governor's, before returning to his accommodation at Sonesta Hotel - it was good enough for his mum and dad so it would be good enough for him; I know of people who'd got their spare bedrooms sorted out in case U.K. Government cut-backs didn't extend as far as hotel accommodation : ).
Next day he visited the Environmental Health Department and was briefed on the schools' environmental club (Camp BeAware ), the water lab., and glass-recycling project before looking at elements of the mosquito eradication project (he added that he'd done his bit the previous night by dispatching a mozzie at Sonesta to meet its maker). From there he walked to the secondary school and chatted to quite a few of the 1200 students, before going on to the Arts and Computer classes and then to lay a corner stone, at "Campus B", which contained time capsules That afternoon he lunched at CuisinArt. This was arranged by the Anguilla Hotel & Tourism Association. After that he visited the new Police Station and then walked the short distance to Companies Registry to see a demonstration of Anguilla's unique ACORN system and meet some of the members of the Financial Services Association. That evening he attended a private dinner at The Governor's and the next day limed at Sonesta before departing on Thursday afternoon to Grand Turk, last island on his visit to the Overseas Territories in the Bermuda/Caribbean region.
CLIPPINGS FROM MAGAZINES AND NEWSPAPERS / SCAMS
We're straying from the usual format this week as the clippings and scams item is basically one and the same thing. As is always the case, the following contains material which is courtesy of various publications (who also hold the Copyright) please contact them for subscriptions:
First of all, in the last issue was an item headlined AEGON CAUTIONS IN INTERNET HYPE. I followed through on the share issue of World Online, the Dutch-based internet provider. It was heavily oversubscribed and after a short time, applications were no longer accepted. However, on its first day, it did not sparkle as much as expected and ended up a miserly 1 Euro above the issue price.
Now, consider this (being freely adapted, for the most part, from a recent issue of "Private Eye"):
"At first, as in all these gambling mania, confidence was at its height and everybody gained. Many individuals grew suddenly rich. A golden bait hung temptingly out before the people, and one after the other, they rushed to the marts, like flies around a honey-pot. "Every day the value of the old shares increased, and the fresh applications, induced by the golden dreams of the whole nation, became so numerous that it was deemed advisable to create new shares. The price of shares rose ten or twenty per cent in the course of a few hours, and many persons in the humbler walks of life, who had risen poor in the morning, went to bed in affluence. "Other schemes, of the most extravagant kind, were started. The share lists were speedily filled up and an enormous traffic carried on in the shares while, of course, every means were resorted to raise them to an artificial level in the market. The public mind was in state of unwholesome fermentation. Men were no longer satisfied with the slow but sure profits of cautious industry. The hope of boundless wealth for the morrow made them heedless and extravagant for today"
The quaintness and style of the language is the only clue that these remarks are not directed to the current share prices of the various dot coms, the greed-fuelled orgy of speculation surrounding various internet-related companies, an e-mania that sees shares multiplying several-fold merely on the whisper that a company is planning some sort of a dot com deal.
No, these words were written by Charles Mackay, more than 150 years ago, in an investment classic "Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds", which has been recently been re-discovered and much quoted by the various Cassandras, from Alan Greenspan downwards. They describe historical precedents such as the tulipmania which gripped seventeenth century Holland, the fever over the Mississippi Company scheme in France and the contemporaneous South Sea Bubble which burst in England in 1720. Since he wrote that book there have been plenty of bubbles. Many of the Victorian era railway companies, especially those promoted in the U.K,. but operated elsewhere, were good examples. In recent times we've seen the Canadian and Australian mining bubbles and the biotech bubble.
Like the e-bubble, a handful of pioneering companies emerge, score big for their founders and early shareholders. Financial pundits, who should know better, announce that they have seen a new future, and it works. The stock market is swamped by wwwannabes. Investors who missed out the first time around pile in. More internet imitators are floated to satisfy the insatiable demand. Private investors pile in, fed on news items about 20-something web millionaires and internet chat-rooms. Even riskier vehicles are created to cart away peoples' money. Otherwise sensible people who previously invested in nothing more than blue-chip companies throw their money into any e-thing that pops up.
All that's left is the final act. The crack in confidence. The rush for the door. The trampling underfoot of small investor late-comers who get wiped out. We saw it happen in the late 1980's, where people were mortgaging their homes and anything else they could get their hands on to buy into the ballooning bourses. Then they lost the lot and therefore the property market went immediately south. Soon the banks are rumoured to be over-exposed and in trouble. Just how close we are to that end-game is anyone's guess, but the betting is that it can't be far away.
It is also important to remember that the public does not always get a fair shake when it comes to dishing out the shares in a hot issue. Time and again shares are allotted cheaply to anonymous clients of the brokers who can unload at an instant profit when the mugs and punters flood in. As a result, those inside have cashed in while those who take them out find themselves locked in. For, in the long-run, there is only ever a one-way market in these shares, something that becomes apparent only when it is too late. Equally not surprising is that the incidence of frauds and attempted frauds on small investors is growing as is evidence of the flakiness of other companies being carried along in the boom.
A few weeks ago, US authorities charged 3 alleged cyber-conmen over the ramping of tiny company NEI Webworld from pennies to $15 in 3 days by posting false information on internet e-mail message boards. In London, earlier this year, similar minnows Monticello and the Coburn Group were pumped 'n' dumped using these online chat rooms to spread phoney tips for the benefit of those already onboard. The collapse of the Versailles Group, the first virtual reality finance company of the internet age, shows how investors (and their money) can be carried away. Not only was the company a bubble. It was also a fraud - turnover and profits being inflated by cross-firing more and bigger loans between group companies - each return trip seeing part of the money left offshore by those skimming the scam, hidden behind entities in the BVI and Liechtenstein. When the company's shares were suspended in December it was valued at over 600 million sterling. Those shares are now worthless.
During the '60s, the story was told of the ever-soaring price of a wartime can of sardines. Eventually the latest purchaser of the astronomically valued can opened it and exclaimed, in surprise, that it only contained sardines. "Of course!" replied the man who sold it to him, "The can was meant for buying and selling, not for opening."
Or, as Charles Mackay put it:
"In times of great commercial prosperity there has been a tendency to over-speculation. The success of one project generally produces others of a similar kind. Popular imitativeness will always in a trading nation seize hold of such successes and drag a community too anxious for profits into an abyss from which extrication is difficult".