OIL’s surge up, gaining 4% on Thursday February 05, pushed U.S. Stocks higher with Energy and Material Sectors advancing. The $5.00 OIL move wiped out most of Wednesday losses and is again over the $50.00 a barrel mark sitting nicely at 50.58 (WTI). Upbeat quarterly Company earning also helped the DOW move on a very strong day to finish with a gain of 270 points, now at 17.793.00. Europe Stocks Markets also moved into positive territories.
Three catalysts spurred the Euro to move higher yesterday especially in the EUR/USD pair posting a 130 pip gain.
Rumours were prevalent that the Swiss National Bank is now ready to buy EUROs as the EUR/CHF also made some nice moves up. Secondly The ECB Quantitative easing program is having a significant effect in the recovery of bank lending creating some liquidity for new business. Lastly, the Euro simply hit a series of large stops propelling the often maligned currency to a nice recovery.
The US Dollar had no chance yesterday as the trade deficit in the United States widened as Exports decreased with the strong Dollar sucking in imports. This is the widest deficit since 2012.
Canada also had a trade balance report out that was also negative as Imports outpaced rising Exports according to Joe Nahas. The Markets though were happy as this was not as bad as expected and the Canadian Dollar have a rare good day gaining on all major competitors. OIL going up of course helped buoy the Loonie. The Toronto Stock Exchange also moved into positive territory.
The British Pound has had a wonderful three days of gains, up over 300 pips against the US Dollar. The Bank of England confirmed it will not lower Interest rates and the Manufacturing sector showed that output growth has rebounded, all this has helped the Cable go from strength to strength.
The Euro was the top mover yesterday with the CAD in second place followed by the GBP. Japan’s YEN was the weakest currency, a complete opposite of Wednesday when it finished the day ahead of the pack. How quickly things can change!
Australia – statement on Monetary Policy
Switzerland – statement on their Currency Reserves
Canada – Employment & Unemployment figures
United States – Non-Farm-Payrolls (new jobs created) – Unemployment rate
Yesterday, on November 20, there were a lot of major news reports released around the globe, but surprisingly there were no large advances or declines in the currencies. There were some significant points of interest to glean from the price action such as, the Yen actually won a day against the mighty Greenback with a strong pull-back from the 119.00 area. Reports out have shown some solid profit taking occurred. The Euro had some ups and downs but at the end of the day was exactly where it started EUR/USD at 1.2540 with the 1.2580 area of resistance seems to be holding for now.
We have mentioned many times Gold has strong support at $1280.00 where it held during the Asian session and progressively got stronger during Europe and U.S. times. After a $20.00 move up it did retrace when it got close to the $1300.00 mark and is sitting comfortably at $1190.00 at the close of the day. Despite all the positives for Gold lately, it is still classified in a down-trend and it must break the Daily 50 Moving Average before a change of thought can be entertained. The 50 Daily m.a. is around the $1210 area starting to make a slow turn from downwards to sideways.
Today is Friday, November 21. Note the two previous Friday’s huge gains on Commodities. (November 7, 14 – both close to $50.00 gains). Will the third successive Friday produce similar results?
All this begs the question, is the U.S. Dollar running out of steam? During the last two weeks the Dollar has hardly done anything with the Euro and Yen the only movers where the cross currency EUR/YEN has seen dramatic gains for the Euro posting 6 year highs of -Y149.14.
The EUR/CHF remains still one of the most compelling pairs recently. The Duetsche Borse Group have reported that the Swiss National Bank will most definitely protect that floor at 1.200. The last two days have seen major attempts by the Euro to break out of the range but met with violent knock-backs around the 1.2025 which is Minor resistance. There will be many more attempts before the November 30 Gold referendum which will certainly bring a lot of volatility to price action. This is a Sunday, smart move by the SNB to have the vote when the Markets are closed for retail traders. The Asian open is showing that the Euro may try to test the 1.2025 sooner than later with the first Major resistance clearly shows 1.2050 is the mark to break.
Oil has in the last 10 hours made some significant moves up and is continuing this strength into the new trading day. A $2.40 move up is quite a move. The Canadian Dollar, commodity driven, has benefited right across the whole gambit of major currencies. The U.S. Dollar at this time is the strongest one out there but things can change rapidly.
Today brings a lighter news day. There is ECB Mario Draghi speaking from Frankfurt, Germany, topic – “reshaping Europe”, could be some interesting price movements here. Later the CAD has CPI, (inflation) coming out with the U.S. having no announcements at all! ATPartnerships
Monday’s trading gave us a mixed bag of results in Currencies, Commodities and Stocks. No real commitments or changes in strategies by London or New York big boys were noted. The important news was out of Japan, the world’s third largest economy, much of their negative GDP Q3 results were being digested by Investors where Japan is now firmly in a recession. The new sales tax that was going to be soon implemented has now been put on hold due to the latest GDP numbers. All these occurrences will lead Prime Minister Abe calling for a new Election! The World should be wary, as Japan’s economic woes could be contagious!
Most stocks did finish higher on both sides of the Atlantic but overall after a busy Monday, the US Dollar stands as the winner with the Euro disappointingly giving back any gains from last Friday’s surge and the EUR/USD is again preparing to pressure the 1.2400 area where some major support has been developed.
Comments from ECB President Draghi out of Brussels about expanding purchase programs (printing money) gave the Euro no chance for gains as selling was the dominant action.
Gold held on and did not give back any of last Friday’s massive gains so this is a victory for the Yellow Metal! A noted area of former resistance and now minor support of $1180.00 and Gold must hold this if it wants to go higher.
Oil prices have declined for the better part of five months and Japan’s weakening demand for Oil is shown in its Q3 results where strong supply growth is proven. Last weeks “Commitment of Traders” showing futures contracts has an Oil increase with speculators (non-commercial) representing an 8th. contact increase in net Longs which is a surprise.
As Corporate profit rises and the average workers wages are disintegrating along with the Middle Class, prominent American analyst Jeremy Grantham is saying, “the system is broken and the inmates are running the asylum.” To simplify, this artificial Boom with appearances of prosperity will not last and lead to real Depression.
For the Tuesday trading start, RBA, Governor Stevens will give an in depth talk about Australia’s economy. The Aussie Dollar did not fare well yesterday giving back much of its gains from last Friday. Important Great Britain CPI – y/y is next, which will give data that shows inflation: German Economic Sentiment is coming out today and is always a market mover, lastly USD -PPI data – again will show consumer inflation,all in all, a day that could see some strong movement. From ATPartnerships
Monday, was one of those typical lacklustre trading days, no major movements in currencies or stocks, no major news announcements to spur volatility. The results are best described as mixed with the US Dollar dipping slightly on Global slowdowns, and the Euro – the 18 nation currency – getting a boost, as “risk appetite” is starting to make an appearance.
One of the bright lights yesterday was the yellow metal, “GOLD”. Slumping European stocks sparked a safe haven demand for the precious metal. With a 10 dollar gain, resistance is now seen at 1250 and support (minor) around the 1232 a troy ounce. The 1250 area of resistance is also at the 50 day SMA, a determining factor of whether longer term upward momentum can be sustained or whether you get a rejection here with bears ploughing back into the market to push price lower again. Also helping the Gold demand came from reports at the German Bundesbank, stating their Countries economy barely grew in the third quarter as business sentiment has deteriorated, therefore, money came out of stocks with some going into commodities.
Lot’s of debate in America over the coming Quantitative Easing policies ending at the end of this month. CNBC’s, Rick Santelli has a short, interesting debate with renown Peter Schiff over the subject from ZeroHege web site.
Will we return to last weeks currency gyrations for Tuesday’s trading? Maybe not today, albeit China has red tag news coming out. Large investors appear unwilling to make fresh bets before Wednesday’s U.S. Inflation Data and Thursday’s European Manufacturing report. Some analysts are warning of a downside surprise in the CPI Inflation with the biggest reaction to be felt in the dollar/yen pair.
Asian news today has important data coming from China. It will be tough for China to restructure with so much corruption amongst officials. They need to reduce the role of bureaucrats, give rural residents more rights, and limit power of state owned firms. Alas, China officials drag their feet slowing down all businesses. The importance of these news releases cannot be underestimated, the quarterly Gross Domestic Product (GDP), coming out soon,at 10:00 p.m. EST. will determine Chinese policy in the short term. Poor GDP numbers are being expected by many analysts. Will China again slowly turn in on itself or start to embrace more democracy? Ask Hong Kong that question and I bet you know the answer!
Last week was a tough one for the Markets as the U.S. Dow lost 2.7%, the S&P had the worst weekly loss in two years and wrapped up the Friday session 3% lower at 62 points. With stocks selling off, the “VIX”, (measures volatility and can be traded) jumped a whopping 62%. All of this on good news data coming from the States! A lot of the big boys are rethinking their positions. Monday is a partial holiday, Banks closed but Stocks and electronic trading will be as usual.
The European economy continues to decay and will affect US Stocks causing the dreaded word “contagion” as Germany, France, and Italy’s economic growth are all slowing down as deflation starts to take its grip and consumer confidence dropping like an anchor. Germany’s Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble was in Washington last week (IMF annual meeting) and did not receive US criticism very well on the German economy, called “spin doctoring” by the Yanks. German newspapers have had a field day reporting all this which leads to this week’s meetings in Berlin where Germany may have to revise their budget details. He threw some of his own arrows towards the American administration saying, “Writing cheques is not the right way to spur economic growth!”
The US Dollar actually had a slight loss over the week hurt by the “FED Minutes” regarding interest rates, but did finish Friday on firm footing. The Euro held its own and won the battle against the Dollar by about a 100 pips and has opened the Asian session with some strength. There are numerous red tag economic reports coming out this week and Draghi the eternal optimist has a major meeting in Frankfurt on Wednesday where his comments will surely move the market. So lot’s of currency volatility is lined up for the week ahead. Volatility brings opportunity!
Gold had a positive week and is showing some up momentum upon the Asian open, after hitting a low of 1182.97 five days ago, it has had a remarkable bounce of 50 Dollars sitting at 1230.19 with resistance seen at 1240 area. As Europe falls apart Gold should rise. The weekly chart shows an amazing triple bottom dating back to June 2013.
A note of interest for October 26, the ECB is doing stress tests on 130 of the largest banks around Europe to help restore some confidence by showing transparency in their internal business. A lot will be riding on how the markets interpret these results.
Japan spends an amazing 25% of its Central Government tax revenue just paying interest on debt that it has accumulated over the last twenty years with the future not looking any brighter. Deflation has been an absolute nightmare there.
The big news out of China over the weekend is that their chief economic advisor said they will not stimulate the economy with false printing of money every time there is a slowdown, and letting companies go bankrupt will be healthier for the future climate of business in China. Now that is a statement that the US should have used when the Global Financial Crisis hit as they would be far better off now than they are. On the outside the US economy looks good, but inside there are many dark bubbles looming and waiting for a connecting incident to burst and therefore dramatically changing the investing landscape.
THE company known for rugged little cameras used by extreme surfers and snowboarders, GoPro, has new models that may appeal to a more timid demographic.
The first new cameras since GoPro’s blockbuster initial public offering aren’t big reinventions. They’re subtle but important improvements to help the less extreme among us create the whoa-check-that-out perspectives that made GoPro a cultural phenomenon.
One is a $US400 ($455) version called Hero4 Silver that adds a touch screen, finally making GoPro as easy to use as normal cameras. Another is a new version of its palm-size camera that’s cheap enough — $US130 — to lose or break on holiday. A third, the $679 Hero4 Black, will appeal to pros, with a faster processor for shooting video at four times the resolution of high definition.
I’ve had a chance to dangle two of the new GoPros out of a cable car, clamp them to a go-kart and strap them to a “selfie stick”, and the experience was eye-opening. The cameras suffer from a short 2.5-hour battery life, but GoPro is now worth considering as the go-anywhere camera for the rest of us.
Don’t we have smartphones for that? But GoPros can do two things most smartphones can’t: first, you can stick them places a phone may not fit, or you may not like. Second, GoPros have a 170-degree wide-angle lens that makes it easy to capture most situations in focus.
Here’s the problem: nobody really wants to watch our boring holiday videos. Does a GoPro help produce footage of a less thrill-seeking life that is worthy of Facebook and YouTube?
To answer, I spent last Thursday as a tourist in my town of San Francisco, with one GoPro in my hand and another strapped to my head. The itinerary included riding a cable car and go-karts, taking a boat ride around San Francisco Bay, and trampolining by the Golden Gate Bridge. I continued testing the cameras through the weekend, capturing more ordinary moments: a mountain hike, a drive around town and a sunset. Even then, I found myself taking shots with the GoPros I couldn’t — or just hadn’t — with other cameras.
GoPro isn’t the only small camera on the market; Sony and Garmin make models that are only a tad larger, and smartphone maker HTC has hinted at a coming waterproof camera. What makes GoPros so effective is solid imaging technology in a tiny package that doesn’t feel precious. You accessorise them with a collection of straps and clamping doodads that encourage experimentation.
The new cameras tout improved sensors and processors that mean better shots and more creative options.
Since the top-model Hero4 Black shoots 4K video at 30 frames a second, I used it to zoom in on the Golden Gate Bridge when I couldn’t get close enough to fill the frame.
The image quality isn’t as professional as a digital SLR camera but it is impressive for such a portable package. I also made a cool time-lapse video of a sunset by making the GoPro take a 12-megapixel photo twice a minute over a few hours; both Hero4 models can take up to 30 of those a second.
For video, you’re able to shoot up to 120 frames a second — the number of still images that combine to create motion — letting you use GoPro’s editing software to slow down the action and make anyone look like a character from The Matrix. A button lets you tag interesting moments that you want to find quickly when it comes time to edit. I wish GoPros also had GPS technology so I could tag locations, too.
According to DD Photographics in Sydney “Previous models may have helped extreme athletes capture insane video but they didn’t have LCD screens and were cumbersome to use. The addition of a display to the Hero4 Silver makes it much more user friendly”.
Alas, the built-in screen is only on the new Hero4 Silver model. The Hero and Hero4 Black have streamlined their menus but still must be controlled with three buttons and a dim black-and-grey screen on the front. I recommend the Silver model for anyone but the pros.
My biggest reservation is that both Hero4 cameras I tested still have too-short battery lives — about 2.5 hours. Anyone thinking about taking one on vacation will want to carry a few battery backups. To get video and photos online, I used GoPro Studio on my computer. GoPro’s editing software is powerful but lacks a simple way to post to the internet.
Tuesday’s currency wars had the Yen the clear winner against the mighty US Dollar, the Euro, and the British Pound. Reports show Global growth is the major concern as risk appetite continues to fade with disappointing data out of Germany weighing heavily on Global equity. Stocks slumped worldwide as the IMF is again giving warnings about risk and growth and so the Yen got rewarded.
On Friday 03 October, the EUR/USD hit the magic support of 1.2500, the ultimate “Line in the Sand”, and bounced significantly. The question from yesterday’s trading was, can the Euro maintain this momentum up against the mighty dollar? Answer: yes it can and yes it did, as during the last 12 hours it has steadily moved up… At the moment price sits at 1.2670 area which has minor resistance there and must break it before it can keep going.
Gold and Silver parted company with Gold staying strong and keeping its gains, on urgent Asian demand, whereas Silver retraced strongly 0.48 cents and has found support at 17.12 but certainly looks like it could try another move up. Usually these two move in tandem.
Overall the Dollar correction is minor at the moment, yes, some large short orders have been squeezed out, but tomorrow’s FOMC meeting will hold all the cards for further direction for the Dollar. A hawkish read is anticipated and will be released late NY session. A fed rise in interest rates for the States is still on course for mid 2015 as growth and inflation are expected to rise. The ECB is still happy to see a falling Euro as Banks in Europe just do not see any investment opportunity, so they just buy bonds to make their balance sheet look good, therefore leaving growth and inflation continually stagnant.
For today, news from the Asian front has Chinese data HSBC Purchasing in the services industry coming out with the question asked “Will this rock the Aussie Dollar?” as the Australian economy is very sensitive to Chinese data. The rest of the day shows no red tagged news announcements, but all eyes will be on the Dollar, Euro and Yen as we lead up to that all important FOMC meeting.
Nicholas J. Johnson knows how to fool you. But at least he’s honest about it, unlike some of the people he writes about in his first novel, Chasing the Ace.
The 34-year-old former Canberran – a magician, comedian, writer and consultant – says, “I basically have spent most of my life doing research about con artists and scams.”
He wanted to write a true-crime book about some of the people and scams he had encountered but says, “It was difficult to separate fact from fiction.”
Chasing the Ace is “about the nature of con artists – why they do what they do”.
And unlike confidence tricksters, he has scruples about telling the truth and ripping people off.
“I used to think it was because I was a coward but the real reason is because I feel really bad for people who are conned. It’s a horrible experience.”
While a home robbery is an invasion of space, he says, being the victim of a scam is an invasion of the mind.
Nicholas Johnson performed in the former Knick Gnat Circus, as a youngster. Photo: supplied
So he decided to write a novel that would admittedly be fiction while still incorporating what he had learned.
Set in Melbourne, Chasing the Ace alternates chapters by two narrators: veteran con man Richard Mordecai, who’s old and tired and jaded and ready to retire, and 19-year-old Joel Fitch, who loves movies about confidence tricksters like The Sting, Matchstick Men andCatch Me If You Can and wants to join their ranks. Richard scams Joel but the younger man sees it as a learning experience and they form an uneasy partnership that eventually leads to danger for both of them.
How can international or Australian brands flourish in China?
I think from an advertising standpoint the most important thing is for brands to stay curious about this culture and be respectful about it.
I’ve worked on many global brands where they’re from the perspective of New York or London or even in this region, and far too often there are people who still talk about ‘one size fits all’, ‘why can’t we just re-cast in Asians but in the same spot?’ Or ‘oh yeah, this is a universal truth it will work everywhere’. No it isn’t, the nuances are so different.
Even within China itself, the different tier markets have very different cultures and even local brands have a hard time grasping that. So for an Australian or any international brands trying to come in here, it sounds cliché, but you need to have the right insights, and by insights I don’t mean putting a few people in a room and asking what’s up, it’s really having your finger on the pulse of what’s happening and being able to ask the right questions. The thing about China is that the truth lies in what they’re not telling you versus what they are telling you, you really have to read between the lines and find out what that is and once you get that you can really connect with them.
Just to give you an example, Johnny Walker came into this market nine or 10 years ago officially. There was no affinity with the ‘Keep Walking’ campaign, which was a campaign that worked everywhere around the world easily, but in China ‘Keep Walking’ meant nothing. They go ‘what has keep walking, inspiration, achievement and success got to do with drinking?’ They couldn’t connect the two. So from an outside perspective it’s so obvious, but they couldn’t understand it. It’s when we did that campaign and we explained to people in the right kind of narrative that success comes when your buddies help you achieve it and then they go ‘oh, now we get it!’ And then we started building that bridge, the first couple of years were terrible. We spent a lot of money, it was winning awards but no one was understanding it!
The conditions in China, they’re not short of choices right now. Everything has a million choices for them right now, once upon a time you had two choices of athletic shoes, now two pairs come out every other week. You’re talking about a very saturated market right now, it’s not about managing the loyalty of your consumers, it’s learning to manage the disloyalty. You know for a fact that they’re going to pick other things, but what’s going to make them come back to you? That’s a very different perspective.
For Australian agencies looking to open up in China, what would be the key thing to remember when looking at the market?
There are so many choices right now. When I was in New York, there were certain agencies that go ‘well I’m not going to be in New York, I might be in San Francisco or LA’, but China, for some reason everybody wants to be there. You’re talking about competition from all of Europe, all of Australia and New Zealand, all of the US, all converging in the same place.
The question they should ask is all China needs right now is a new ad agency – what is your point of difference? There has to be a new model of an agency, what is the next model is a very critical question.
Everyone assumes money grows on trees in China, it’s big, there’s opportunities. It is a huge market and there are lots of opportunities but the model of which you make money is very very different. You find yourself working on a car account that pays you the fraction of what you would get in Australia, so would you then be able to set up an agency and put in some top-gun creative directors, but you’re making a fraction in terms of the revenue, how do you reconcile that? If you can’t figure that out, don’t start an agency in China.
What is your take on the state of creativity in the region?
There’s a lot of work being done, words like digital and content are being overused. There are a lot of work being done in those areas. If you were to ask me right now name me two pieces of work out of China in the last year that is amazing, I don’t think I can name that, which is shocking. There is a lot of work done, but a lot of average work. What you see in awards shows is not reality. I would like to see famous campaigns that win at Cannes that I have seen in the market.
In Asia what could be done to better prevent scam?
The failure to sell work is the first reason for people to resort to scam because it’s an easy way out – ‘why do I have to go there and learn about the client, the business and partner with them and build something when by agency wants me to win something, I’ll go do that’. It’s painful.
To be honest, and no disrespect to clients, you find clients who are very risk adverse, they have a huge amount of pressure. At any given point of time clients presented with the safer route, ensuring yourself 15 per cent growth, versus taking a more brave route that you could get 80 per cent growth, would choose the safer route. That’s the situation, that’s the conditions.
It takes time, if you really want to make a significant difference in this market, this industry, take the harder one. Get good work out that really effects culture. No one ever remembers the Grand Prix that never ran, they want enduring campaigns that continue to change peoples lives, there’s so few of those now. There’s so many talented people out there, which is why I think it’s a crime.
The first issue is the inability to sell and I think there are agencies now that are completely built around winning awards, staffing people just to win awards, that’s not helping either. Worst of all, it’s not helping a new generation of creatives coming through the business because they think that’s the way to go. If we continue doing that we’re going to get a lot of ‘oh yeah, here’s China winning another 23 Gold Lions that have never seen the light of day, what’s the point?’ I find that to be pretty tragic. If this keeps up then no one wants to be in award shows any more, we’re seriously thinking about not doing them any more, what’s the point?
Apart from scam, what are the biggest challenges facing creatives?
Having talent is actually the major issue for me right now. As a creative director, I’m having trouble finding guys who are bankable people, who understand the culture and can just do great ads, great work. They are few and far between. I find it difficult because of inflated salaries and guys who have risen through the ranks of creative directorships through scam, and I go ‘do I really want to give you a $50m account when you’ve never done anything that’s seen the light of day?’ To be honest, it’s not the agency saying it, it’s the clients. They’re going ‘no, I’m sorry but I need my numbers, my KPIs met, I don’t trust that guy’.
That’s a hard thing from a creative director’s standpoint, finding the right people who can understand the culture. Since I’ve gotten to China I’ve been trying very hard to create the Chinese brand of advertising, what is that Chinese voice? I don’t think we’ve actually cracked that yet, which is a shame. If you look at Thailand they have a very distinctive voice in advertising, likewise with Australia. There’s a distinctive brand of communications, a certain humour, a certain scale and production value. I don’t know how to describe that China brand of advertising, which is an issue.
Challenges faced by creatives could be a number of things. They face very difficult clients, very difficult circumstances. You have huge brands in China, in Asia for that matter, who are spending huge amounts of money. Research has gone from a point where it’s used prevalently to where it’s used in a really stupid way, it’s demoralising for a lot of creatives. It’s killing the industry. Great marketers aren’t making any decisions that are based on market experiences any more, it’s all based on what 12 monkeys said in a room. That is one of the biggest problems. It’s a cyclical problem because agencies then find it hard to hire people, they say ‘Oh you have a Coca-Cola account, I’m not working on that, they research everything.’
Also research has other problems, research drains a lot of resources in the wrong places. You’re just burning out the creatives, that’s why we have people dying from overwork. These are serious issues. People are doing all these revisions and when they’re not creating they break down. It’s a contagious problem in the industry. Clients haven’t acknowledged that and not enough agencies have raised their hands and said we’re not going to do business like that.
I for one have my guys work really hard, we make it a point to strike that right balance. We are very careful about our choice of clients, we say ‘look you have to behave a certain way and if you don’t, then you’re not our client’. We have to make those tough decisions. And again, this is a cyclical problem because than you have your mothership coming in and looking at you and saying ‘China’s a big market, you should be making a lot of money’ and I have to say, no I can’t work my guys anymore. It effects the quality of work, it effects the creatives who want to do great work.
There is more talent in Asia then anywhere else in the world, they’re just going down the wrong path.
In terms of talent, what type of skills are you looking for?
I’m looking for guys who are good creatives, who know how to make a good ad, period. You’d be surprised how many people come out of school and we’re hiring them when they have these nice case studies and portfolios and we look at them and ask what’s the idea? They don’t know how to make ads, they know how to make great case studies but there’s not an idea in it. So people who are extremely talented who know how to make ads, communicators, be an expert.
The problem is specialisation is completely underrated and faded away, I like to think I’m an expert communicator and I like to think a kid coming out of school, graduating with a degree, says ‘I’m in advertising, I need to communicate really well’. I don’t find that’s easy to find these days, I’m looking for people like that. I’m looking for people who want to change the world, I’m not looking for creatives who want to win awards.
The Sindh education department’s alleged agreement with the United Kingdom to offer around “30,000 prestigious British Bachelor’s degrees without students having to travel to the Britain” appears to be a scam, The Express Tribune has learned.
A press statement by education minister Nisar Khuhro, which was released to the media on Wednesday, claimed that “the department has, despite strong opposition from other countries, won a provisional five-year contract with the UK.”
Dr Fazlullah Pechuho, the additional chief secretary of the Sindh education department appears, however, to be on a different page. “The Sindh education department has not made any such agreement with the UK,” he said.
“The education minister is not authorised to sign an agreement under the rules of business that give this authority to the education department’s secretary,” Dr Pechuho told The Express Tribune. “I have not signed the alleged agreement.”
Dr Pechuho said that even if somebody has signed such an agreement he cannot endorse it. “We have our own Higher Education Commission-prescribed rules for awarding degrees as well as accreditation to foreign degree-awarding institutions,” he explained. “How can we offer UK’s degrees just like that?”
The secretary felt the minister must explain what happened but Khuhro failed to respond to any calls or text messages. His spokesperson, Shakeel Memon, failed to answer who the contracting party was and which British university will be giving these Bachelor’s degrees to the students in Sindh.
UK High Commission unaware
What had made the education minister’s announcement even murkier was the British High Commission’s unawareness of this agreement. Khuhro’s official press statement had claimed that the contract was an agreement between the “Sindh education and literacy department and the United Kingdom”.
Jonathan Williams, the press attaché and deputy head of communications at the British High Commission in Islamabad, stated that neither the British government nor the UK Trade and Investment, which is a government department that works with businesses based in the UK, had anything to do with this agreement.
“Nobody in our High Commission is aware of this contract,” Williams told The Express Tribune. “Universities, not only in Britain but across the world, do make agreements with foreign governments but there obviously are laws that govern such agreements.”
He added that the student scholarships offered by the UK government were given through the British High Commission but the UK entity mentioned in Khuhro’s statement, Higher Learning Partnerships, is a non-government organisation.
Credible or not?
This Newcastle-based organisation is running a single-page website for student registration, www.sindh.org.uk, which is being operated through the UK and was mentioned in the education minister’s press release. It stated that Higher Learning Partnerships in collaboration with the Sindh education and literacy department proposes to introduce United Kingdom Bachelors’ degrees commencing July 2015.
The organisation is a private limited company, registered in the UK on May 17, 2013, under registration No 08533906. The organisation, under the directorship of 53-year-old Philip Morris, has declared its Standard Industrial Classification of Economic Activities codes as 85421 (first-degree level higher education) and 85422 (post-graduate level higher education) for operations in the UK. But neither does it possess a website on its name, nor does it hold any record of achievements to its credit.
Against this backdrop, the Sindh education minister has asked potential students, aged between 17 and 30 years, to register via the website before October 14. ‘Sindhi students’ will not need to go to the UK but the learning and examinations will take place in Pakistan, the minister has claimed. The cost for the three-year course will be approximately Rs850,000 and 20% of the courses will be further subsidised through an endowment fund that, according to the minister’s statement, the UK has agreed to set up. According to Khuhro, the admission seats are limited to 6,000 placements per year.
“At present, only 3,000 Pakistanis are able to attend UK universities every year and this number is decreasing because of visa and other issues,” said the minister’s statement. For those who can obtain a UK visa, the total cost of education can be up to Rs16 million. “To obtain exactly the same Bachelor’s degree for only Rs850,000 while students can continue to attend to their responsibilities at home is a massive step forward for Sindh,” it added.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 28th, 2014.