Blog: I’m back…?

Hello readers!

I know you’ve all been wondering where on earth I’ve disappeared to (just work with me…I like to think people care what I have to say…)

You may remember, I had a stint at The Observer (where I had a few things published and bylined – woo!) and immediately after was caught in the whirlwind that was my brother’s 18th birthday.  I made a return to the stage with a few dances but was particularly busy with the dance choreography of 16 of his friends – all non-Asian – in what proved to be a quite remarkable spectacle of community cohesion in Dagenham.

Since that day 2 weeks ago, I’ve been nursing what I think is a broken wrist (another x-ray coming up soon), catching up with work and, just this weekend, was diagnosed with shingles (eurgh!).

As you can gather it’s all been a bit of a blur.  That said, I’ve still kept my eye out on things that have been happening in the world and there’s so much to say!

So this is me saying I’m back – I hope to have a few things on this blog over the next few weeks and, as always, am grateful to you for taking the time to read and comment.


Article: Sikhs and Muslims should unite over Wisconsin

My second Huffington Post piece has now been published.

You can read the original article here.

The twenties has been an epiphanic decade for me and, generally, the epiphanies have been embarrassing. Just last year, I learnt that “awry” is pronounced aw-rye and not aw-ree. When in primary school, a Sikh friend convincingly told me that the “Kara” (a steel or iron bracelet that form part of the 5 “K’s” of Sikhism) could only be removed if it had drawn the blood of a Muslim. Not thinking about the logistics of this, I went on believing it to be true until I witnessed the tears of laughter from a Sikh friend at university.

As details emerge of the shootings in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, initial reports, as well as the opinions of my Sikh friends, are converging to one point – that these shootings are a case of mistaken identity. The killer reportedly believed Sikhs to be Muslims on account of their turbans and beards. The ignorance of the killer aside, this sets a worrying precedent for the already fractured relationship between Sikhs and Muslims.

In 2001, Balbir Singh Sodhi was murdered at the gas station he owned just four days after 9/11 by Frank Silva Roque for being a “turbanhead”. Since then, there have been numerous instances, both at home and abroad, of Sikhs being mistakenly targeted as Muslims. In 2004, there were reports of a 16-year old Muslim boy being wounded by a ceremonial sword (the “Kirpan”, another one of the 5 “K’s” of Sikhism) at a Vaisakhi festival in Walsall. Two Sikh youths were subsequently attacked in an act of reprisal.

To appreciate the root of the differences between Sikhs and Muslims, we must turn to 17th century Mughal India. Sikhs opposed the forced conversion to Islam by Mughal emperors and, by the end of the century, had established their credentials as the “Warrior Caste” by being the first army in history to destroy the Mughal Empire and conquer Afghanistan. The Sikh Empire established by Ranjit Singh spread over Lahore, Kashmir, Peshawar and Multan in modern day Pakistan, and would rule for 50 years in the Punjab until its defeat by the British in 1849.

Indian and Pakstani independence in 1947 would further disrupt relationships between Sikhs and Muslims. The powerful Punjab region was split along religious lines (much like the rest of British India) and would see both Sikhs and Muslims displaced. Violence erupted along the borders of the newly formed Pakistan and India, leading to deaths on both sides. Today, many Muslims and Sikhs fondly remember their homes in Amritsar (India) and Lahore (Pakistan) respectively – now in opposing states – and despair at the loss of life.

It is this history that keeps Sikhs and Muslims largely independent of each other, even in the UK which has the largest Sikh population outside of India in the world. But there have also been instances of Sikhs and Muslims coming together; the dance group Signature is a Muslim-Sikh duo. Perhaps most notably, Sikhs and Muslims came together during last year’s riots when they joined forces to protect Southall from rioters.

It is this kind of unity that is needed now to prevent a backlash from the attacks in Wisconsin and the difficult history of their relationship. It takes one flashpoint — a misinformed argument or a revenge attack – to create a wave of mistrust and misunderstanding. Just like Sikhs are not Muslims, Muslims are not terrorists. If true, it is alarming that people are willing to go into a place of worship to attack Muslims who had nothing to do with 9/11, just as much as Sikhs didn’t.

Both groups have experience of being a vilified minority, both at the hands of each other and by others. I am proud of my Punjabi heritage (my dad is a Pakistani from the Punjab), have been known to teach Punjabi to my Sikh friends and dance to Bhangra music (who wouldn’t want to?). In this month of Ramadan, Muslims and Sikhs should unite in their condemnation at these attacks, which are not only against Sikhs but against humanity.


Blog: Bollywood, The Observer and more…

I know I haven’t written in a while.   I have been incredibly busy at work, not least because I’ve been winding down there ahead of my two-week stint at The Observer New Review (which started today) and with preparation for my brother’s 18th birthday bash in September.  We’re doing a typically Asian OTT Bollywood extravaganza, which means I’m making a return to choreography AND dancing!

I was very kindly put forward for the placement a few months ago and today wandered into the impressive Guardian offices on York Way.  My internship coordinator has been incredibly helpful and they seem to think I have “writing experience” given my previously published pieces, both with The Guardian and other publications.  This has meant they’re at a bit of a loss as to what to do with me!

I’ll keep you posted on developments at The Observer and hope to have pieces published in due course.

In other news, I’ve decided to cycle part of my 30-mile journey to work.  I’m contemplating starting a separate blog dedicated to my bike riding exploits but, given the irregularity of my posts here, I’ll probably wait to see if I can blog about it here first!

So here’s to more articles, Bollywood and bike riding!

Blog: Payday lenders – the speech

The Community Development Foundation  (CDF) is a great little charity/social enterprise that seeks to promote community development and engagement. 

Councillor Akygyina was asked to speak at the CDF’s “Financing local activities” event as part of the LGA Conference 2012 in Birmingham, and my help was enlisted in drafting together a speech (of sorts…!).

Her brief was simple: speak for 5-10 minutes about payday lenders and what the local council is doing to combat it – specifically how Community First (a funding programme from CDF) is helping.

I had a couple of meetings with Councillor Akygyina, worked over the weekend on the speech and now…it’s been published online!

Have a read and let me know what you think!

What councils and councillors are doing to help get finance into deprived communities. 

Let me start by telling you a little bit about my borough and, specifically, my ward. The borough is based in south west London and in the first three months of this year average house prices stood at over £375,000, putting it in the top half of most expensive London boroughs. A detached property costs, on average, £1.6m, the fourth highest in London, whilst a standard semi-detached property is almost £600,000.

This year, the borough will play host to the Olympics tennis competitions and will be the scene of the 126th Wimbledon Tennis Championships. It is also the home of League Two football club AFC Wimbledon, formed after Wimbledon FC moved to Milton Keynes in 2003. And the TV show “The Bill” was recorded in the borough throughout its life from 1984 to 2010.

As for Figges Marsh, the ward I am proud to represent, the picture isn’t quite as pretty.

According to the 2010 Indices of Multiple Deprivation, Figges Marsh is Merton’s most deprived area and ranks in the 20% most deprived areas in England. Levels of income, qualifications and skilled residents are below the national average, whilst benefit claimants are above average. My ward has the highest proportion of single parent households in Merton. There is an eye opening difference between the pound shops on the high streets of my ward and the high-end boutique shops found just 15 minutes west. Over a quarter of our children are going to school without breakfast. Some 20% are given money by their teachers in order to buy lunch. Food prices have risen by 30% in the last five years. Meanwhile, the national minimum wage has risen by just 12% in the same period. But the problem doesn’t just affect the kinds of people you might be thinking of in my ward. Judith Smith from The Charity for Civil Servants says that 85% of their grants go to those on full pay, who are just not able to get to the end of the month without running out of cash. And when they’re running out of cash near the end of the month, who do they turn to?

They turn to companies like Errol Damelin who found the company just four years ago and holds a 10% stake in it, is expected to make £100m after floating his company on the US stock exchange this year. One hundred million pounds. In the last four years. Some of their loans charge over 4,000% APR and even target small businesses. Last week, Premier League and Football League clubs ruled that online lenders like would not be permitted to advertise on their websites from next season.But the problem isn’t just online.

Our high streets have changed beyond recognition. Alongside the boarded up shop fronts of retailers that were on our high streets for decades, foodbanks and charity shops are thriving. The Trussell Trust, a foodbank that operates in the UK and Bulgaria, reported 100% increase in the number of people fed by foodbanks last year. But, perhaps most ominously, payday lenders are popping up at an alarming rate.

In front of our civic centre, I can think of two high-cost lenders on the high street within a five minute walk. One of them is The Money Shop, which in 2006 had 168 shops nationally. In December, it opened its 450th and plans to open another 100 this year. According to the National Pawnbrokers Association website, there are 15 such shops in the postcode of my ward, CR4, alone. A single loan from one of these lenders quickly becomes an all-consuming way of life. With income relatively stagnant, borrowers borrow money from payday lenders to cover the interest on their first payday loan. Then again for the second. And the third. And so on. Eventually, like Steve Perry, author of the book “When Payday Loans Go Wrong”, borrowers can find themselves with 60 different loans in the space of 18 months. Paying back thousands for something that might have been for hundreds of pounds, if not tens (some lenders offer sums as low as £50). Why is this allowed to happen?

As Clyde Loakes, vice chair of the LGA’s environment and housing board has highlighted, local people have little say in the process of premises converting to payday loan companies or pawnbrokers. Councils have limited powers to act under planning rules. All of us are working hard to try and get greater power to shape high streets in the interests of residents. But until legislative changes take place, we must work even harder to limit the growth of this crippling sector.

At Merton, we are doing this. The council and the community have come together. The council continues its commitment to the CAB, over £1m in the next three years, and delivers Money Talk events through its voluntary and community sector partners. These financial information days take place in areas with statistically high rent arrears. We also have a Money Advice Service outreach worker who holds monthly surgeries to offer financial planning advice to those who need it. The community has pulled through too as well.

The Croydon, Merton and Sutton credit union, Croydon savers, has had a very successful year. Membership has increased by 38% in the last year. I would know. I am one of them. Legally, credit unions cannot charge more than 2% a month on the reducing balance. That’s about 27% APR maximum. This is still lower than some high street banks and, of course, considerably lower than payday lenders.

I am working to ensure my residents are made aware of the choices available to them and a lot is happening.

Community First helps bring the community closer by allowing us to support various groups. We have also funded groups that offer financial education to young people in the borough. This is crucial. Young people are already suffering from the excesses of their predecessors. It is absolutely vital that we educate the next generation to prevent them from making the mistakes we might have made.

The story of my ward is likely to be replicated in many parts across the country. Times are hard. But a committed local council and community spirited residents can make it easier.

Together, we can stop it.

Blog: Syria – a history lesson

Courtesy of the excellent Ben Macintyre at The Times.  I thoroughly recommend you read this.

Unfortunately, it is behind a paywall, but this article is too good not to share.  I’ve linked it above but copied and pasted it below for your reading (and learning!) pleasure.

The moral of the story in Syria? Blame the French.

© Ben Macintyre at The Times Newspaper

The Alawites shoring up the Assad regime use hundreds of years of religious persecution to justify their brutality

When the French ruled Syria after the carve-up of the Middle East that followed the First World War, they needed a local group they could rely on, a favoured minority to keep the rest in check and to help to enforce their mandate. They turned to the Alawites, a tough, fierce, mysterious, mountain-dwelling Syrian sect: today Syria is paying the price for the French colonial policy of divide and rule, as Bashar Assad’s Alawite clan clings to power in an increasingly ferocious sectarian conflict.

Syria’s descent into violent protest and bloody repression lies, in part, in the story of the Alawites and an explosive heritage of paranoia, secrecy, persecution and the pursuit of power.

For most of their history, after branching off from mainstream Shia Islam in the 9th century, the Alawites or Nusayris (after their founder, Ibn Nusayr) suffered grim religious oppression. Under the Ottomans, they were regarded as heretics, taxed heavily and brutally repressed when they resisted conversion to Sunni Islam.

“The sect”, wrote T. E. Lawrence, “was clannish in feeling and politics. One Nosairi [sic] would not betray another, and would hardly not betray an unbeliever.”

The sect is a self-described branch of Shia Islam, but its mystical religion remains so shrouded in mystery that its very beliefs are still a matter of some conjecture.

French control of Syria, however, paved the way for the rise of the Alawites. France deliberately set out to divide the region along religious, communal and geographical lines. The Alawites, regarded as a “warlike race” (rather as the British saw the Gurkhas), were encouraged to join the colonial armies and police as a counterweight to the Sunnis and to obstruct the rise of Syrian nationalism.

In 1922, the Alawite district was proclaimed an autonomous state under French protection and was administered separately from Syria until 1942. The French thought Nusayri sounded too close to “Nasara”, a Muslim term for Christians derived from “Nazareth”, and formally changed the sect’s name to Alawites or Alawi, followers of Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet.

The Alawites dominated the military elite when Hafez Assad came to power through a coup in 1970. Although the two million Alawites make up only 11 per cent of Syria’s population (in a country that is 75 per cent Sunni), the sect dominates the Syrian state, monopolising almost all positions of power.

While publicly playing down sectarian divisions and courting other religious minorities who feared Sunni domination, the Assads packed members of their Alawite clan into every organ of state: the ruling Baath Party, the civil service, the intelligence service and, above all, the military and security elite. Some 70 per cent of professional Syrian soldiers and 80 per cent of officers are Alawites. The Shabiha, the vicious militia responsible for the worst mass killings, most recently in al-Qubair, is almost wholly composed of specially recruited and well-paid Alawite thugs.

The Assads have effectively taken their co-religionists hostage, providing money and housing for poor Alawites in return for blind loyalty, and so closely identifying the sect with their regime that many Alawites fear, probably rightly, that the fall of the House of Assad could lead to wholesale retribution by the Sunni majority.

The aggression and paranoia fuelling the horrors of al-Qubair and Houla reflect the isolation, suspicion and secrecy embedded in Alawite history. The Alawite faith, developed in closed and defensive mountain societies, is an extraordinary and fascinating amalgam of beliefs, incorporating elements of Christianity, Gnosticism, Zoroastrianism and Phoenician paganism. The faith does not encourage pilgrimages or fasts, has no mosques, regards prayer as unnecessary and maintains rituals with strong Christian overtones, such as the drinking of consecrated wine.

Alawites believe in the divinity of Ali, but also venerate a wide variety of prophets, beginning with Adam, including Christ, and even taking in figures from classical antiquity such as Plato and pre-Islamic Persian sages.

Above all, Alawite beliefs are cloaked in concealment. Women are not eligible to learn the religion and some elements of the faith are known only to a select few. Alawite religious rites are performed in secret, in line with the custom of taqiyya, the tradition of hiding one’s beliefs to escape persecution. As historians have pointed out, a society wedded to the idea of secrecy has created a fertile seedbed for the Mukhabarat, the feared Syrian military intelligence apparatus that has underpinned the Assad regime from the outset.

The existence of Alawite control was taboo under the Assads, who espoused a secular philosophy and claimed to be blind to sectarian differences while building up one of the most clannish governments in the Middle East. Now this domination is under threat, Assad is whipping up Alawite fears to defend himself: arms are reported to have been distributed to Alawite communities within Sunni areas and the Shabiha has been unleashed on towns linked to the opposition. The systematic murder of children by forces of the regime represents a new increase in the sectarian conflict; as in Bosnia, Rwanda and Nazi Germany, the Syrian state is now involved in a war of ethnic cleansing.

While the Syrian resistance is anxious to appear genuinely national, the fight against Assad is overwhelmingly Sunni-dominated: the opposition Syrian National Council has 311 members, of whom no more than ten are Alawites.

Assad knows that his best hope of survival lies now in fomenting sectarian divisions in the hope that, as the split between Sunni and Shia starts to spread beyond Syria into the wider Middle East, the threat of outside intervention will grow ever smaller.

As Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary-General, has observed, Syria now faces the “spectre of all-out civil war” — a war between tyranny and the forces of democratic change, between a corrupt and murderous elite and an impoverished populace, but also between different religious sects, separated by ancient beliefs and a violent history.

“Shabiha” is Arabic for ghosts, and the name is ghoulishly apt. Hundreds of years of religious persecution, the accidents and manipulations of colonial domination, a divided country ruled through force and fear — these are the ghosts that stalk Syria’s past and its future.

Article: Billy Elliot – Lessons for the UK Economy

I’ve decided to join the wonderful world of Huffington Post blogging.  It really is a blogging behemoth.

My first article has been posted and I hope to continue posting; I’d quite like to make it a more regular thing but time pressures of a full-time job that has nothing to do with mainstream politics can make this difficult!

The original post can be found by clicking here.

On Wednesday evening, I was at the Victoria Palace Theatre in London to watch Billy Elliot: The Musical. A magical evening was made more magical thanks to the appearance of Sir Elton John, whose music and lyrics have contributed to the show’s 7-year longevity and critical acclaim – including an Olivier and a Tony Award – to celebrate what was to be its 3,000th show.

For those not in the know, Billy Elliot is the story of an eleven year old motherless boy in County Durham who trades in his boxing gloves for ballet shoes, set against the backdrop of the 1984-85 coal miner’s strike in the UK. It was estimated that the strike cost the economy some £1.5 billion.

With the UK currently in double-dip recession, the struggles of Billy’s widower father and his coal-mining colleagues were a little too close for comfort; the sentiments on stage, representative of 1984, didn’t seem too different from the sentiments I read or hear about in 2012.

I already despair that we don’t seem to have learnt any lessons from the banking and subsequent economic crisis from 2008 – credit rating agencies are still able to influence market movements (just ask France and Greece in recent months) and bank bonuses are set to rise by between 5 and 15 per cent in 2012.

But in digging a little deeper as to what the UK was like in the year of my birth, the UK I know today doesn’t seem to be all that different to Billy’s.

In 1984, The European Court of Human Rights ruled in favour of Surrey businessman, James Malone, who accused the police of illegally tapping his phone. Leveson take note.

The Labour Party started the year 3pc points ahead of the Conservatives in the polls, riding the wave of discontent over Thatcher’s economic policies. By the end of the year, Labour were 9pc points behind. Miliband Jr. take note.

Perhaps most enlightening is that UK unemployment today has reached the levels we would have seen in 1984. UK unemployment stood at a record 3.3 million, whilst youth unemployment reached a record 1.2 million. Today, unemployment stands at around 2.6 million, whilst 1.03 million young people are unemployed. Grayling take note.

In fact, some of the key events of that year – the expulsion of 30 Libyan diplomats following the death of PC Yvonne Fletcher, protests outside the Houses of Parliament, the wave of goodwill for the Royal family following the birth of Prince Harry and Everton winning the FA cup – would not look out of place in today’s papers. Except, perhaps, the Everton story.

But the point is this – we’ve been here before. The general malaise surrounding the UK (save for this week where Diamond Jubilee celebrations give us, and the papers, a chance to get away from Leveson it all) is something we’re accustomed to. But the key difference is that half way through this year, the UK doesn’t seem to be learning from some of the positive lessons of 1984. This last week has been more about sharp u-turns, rather than attempting to climb through the traffic on the mountain en route to that thing they call “economic growth”.

1984 saw the start of the FTSE 100 index; whatever you might feel about financial markets, you have to admit it showed bold ambition. It was perhaps this kind of ambition that attracted Nissan to open a car factory in the UK for the first time. The Queen was cutting ribbons at a new airport terminal in Birmingham and the very British Vauxhall car company doubled its market share with its European Car of the Year, the MK2 Astra. Britain was very much open for business.

I appreciate that I’ve glossed over the privatisations of British Telecom, the Trustee Savings Bank (Lloyds today) and the share sale of British Gas, but the point about generating economic growth by making the UK open for business is important.

The last few years should have taught us that big business can mean big failures and you can go too far. But given that “economic growth” seems to be the rallying call – even from non-tax paying heads of the IMF– Britain’s entrepreneurial spirit must be rekindled quickly. That might mean creating favourable conditions for businesses to thrive; revamping education to encourage innovation, creativity and enterprise (1984 was the year the GCSE was announced as the replacement for O-levels); and creating industrial hubs that create the scope for apprenticeships and new employment opportunities. Economic cycles are repetitive but present opportunities to take some positive lessons too.

The beginning of the second act in Billy Elliot starts with a not-so-complimentary performance of “Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher” and chants of “Maggie! Maggie! Maggie! Out! Out! Out!”. Two years into his term, Cameron still has the opportunity to prevent a rewrite of that song.

Blog: Personal finance lessons for UK PLC

My economics degree, career in finance and debt issues have taught me a few things:

  1. Economists have a tendency of overcomplicating pretty simple matters by slapping things onto a graph;
  2. Financiers, in the main, are finding out what works and what doesn’t by trial and error – they don’t control markets, the markets control them
  3. Speculation enslaves economies – credit rating agencies and market traders live by them.  They forget that markets have no memory
  4. Government budgets are pretty pointless “statements of aspiration” rather than anything concrete – it almost invariably leads to disappointment and has taken on an almost ceremonial quality

But perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learnt is that managing debt (like losing weight) is hard, it’s slow and, fundamentally, it’s easy.

With the Eurozone seemingly teetering at the precipice of economic oblivion and the government seemingly clueless about which to do first – cut or grow (Cameron today in a speech at the IoD said, “deficit reduction and growth…they are not alternatives.  Delivering the first, is absolutely vital in securing the second…we cannot blow the budget on more spending and more debt”) – perhaps the solution lies not in the corridors of academia or the glass walls of the City but somewhere much closer to home.

Open any personal finance/debt advice website and you’ll find the following bits of advice – UK PLC could do worse than to learn from them:

Check your credit file

There are a few critical questions you’ll need to address here:

  • Have you been the victim of identity theft – are creditors out there thinking you’re France?
  • Are there inconsistencies in your credit file – did you pay the Saudis or Big Scary Banks Ltd when you said you would?
  • Are you on the electoral roll? – are you still registered to determine affairs in foreign countries or registered to vote in your own?
Once you’ve had a good look, call Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch ratings agencies to correct these errors.  But caution: credit ratings agencies don’t really know what they’re doing but get paid a lot to determine things that, frankly, they are inept at doing.  Nevertheless, it’s good to keep them sweet.

Budget for your critical payments first – mortgage, council tax etc.

  • Make sure you’re housed, fed, watered and breathing whilst paying for any associated costs.  Maybe UK PLC should make sure houses, food, water and…er…breathing…is readily available
  • If you’ve got contractual obligations to, I don’t know, unscrupulous governments anywhere else well…you’ve signed a contract.  Just make sure they’re paid – you don’t want a visit from bailiffs for this or run the risk of (re)possession
  • Avoid risk of default – no one wants to feel the wrath of the agencies even though you shouldn’t really be thinking about borrowing at all.

Budget for your minimum payments on non-critical debt – credit cards, loans, overdrafts

  • You owe money to Big Scary Banks Ltd so negotiate a minimum payment plan.  Oh and remember, Big Scary Banks Ltd also owe money to other Big Scary Banks Ltd.  You might default with them, but they’ll probably default with someone else. Either that or they’ll create sub-prime funerals and exotic derivatives to make sure they don’t.  Because that’s just what you do.
  • Keep your payment plan printed and on the wall in front of you for everyone to see.  They’ll support you if you know what you’re up to.

Streamline your spending

  • This isn’t the same as cutting.  This is about going on price comparison websites and making sure you’ve got the best deal. By all means, get rid of what you can do without (such as payments to the “Exclusive Golf Club memberships at the Across The Atlantic Club”), but try and get the best deal.
  • But remember this, because you ARE a government and not an individual, it’s just that little bit easier to make things cheaper for you by making it yourself.
  • Take your own lunch to work instead of buying it from Pret.  Or China.
  • Think of ways to pay out less money to people WHO ACTUALLY WANT TO EARN MONEY THEMSELVES! Young people.  The unemployed.  Able-bodied lazies.
  • See “Invest in Yourself” for some more ways to streamline your spending

Snowball your debts by tackling your most expensive ones first

  • This is great, and really easy to do.
  • Tackle your most expensive debts first with the extra money you “save” as a result of taking in your own lunch
  • For a moral victory, tackle the smallest debt first and give yourself a pat on the back.  Like not making life difficult for old people.  Or children with “special educational needs”

Commit to saving for a rainy day and find more ways to save more

  • Aim to save at least 3 months worth of income for a rainy day.  Don’t touch it.  Put in an ISA and watch it grow tax-free.  Or send it to Switzerland.
  • Set up a savings and investment club and call it “The United Kingdom”.  Get everyone who’s in the club to commit to saving and investing their savings too.  You’ll see everyone getting a little bit more responsible with their money.

Invest in yourself – it might be your only way to earn more

  • The above plan will keep you stable and cutting debt for a while
  • But of course, the more money you earn, the easier it becomes
  • You might have streamlined by taking your own lunch in, but how about building your own cars? Here’s what happens – you get people who you’re paying benefits to working and PAYING YOU TAXES (earning money) and what they create is bought by other people PAYING YOU VAT AND OTHER SUCH TAXES (earning money).
  • How about learning a new skill or undertaking a qualification? We know you’re loved up with service industries but the Chinese aren’t genetically different to us that makes them better with computers.  Or are they? Maybe they are…
  • Be healthy in mind and body too – don’t be afraid to start losing weight or taking up a new hobby.  It’ll help you tackle your debt problem and keep you in it for the long haul.  Weight loss could include less fixation with what the papers say (at parties) and your new hobby could be running government (instead of trying to run the economy).