“An Economic Plan for Syria’s Future,” by Ehsani

An Economic Plan for Syria's Future
By Ehsani
For Syria Comment: June 1, 2008

Jay Solomon of the WSJ quotes Ambassador Imad Mustapha today as saying: "Peace between Syria and Israel can be achieved, but it requires the full commitment of the U.S.  Syria is genuine in its desire to have the best relationship with Washington".

U.S. Strategists think that Syria's openness to talks is driven by its need to reduce diplomatic and financial pressures from the Bush administration — not a real commitment to a settlement. Washington charges Syria with covertly developing nuclear technologies and undermining pro-Western governments in Lebanon and Iraq.

One noteworthy paragraph in the Solomon article states that:

"Private American representatives who have met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in recent months said he is intent on lifting U.S. financial sanctions as part of a broader peace agreement with Israel. They also said the Syrian leader would like to see his nation's economy more directly integrated into the global economy".

Over the past two years, I have maintained that Syria's economic performance has been largely disappointing. The fiscal situation has steadily deteriorated thanks to an expanding population, a generous subsidy program, and an inadequate tax base. Economic growth has not kept pace with growth in the labor force. Syria's dwindling oil production and export earnings have finally forced the Government to lift some of the subsidies that are draining the state treasury, but this is not enough.

When the U.S. decided to punish Syria's leadership with economic sanctions, many dismissed the tactic as ineffective. In reality, these measures have been having a devastating effect on key sectors of the economy. Just this past week, the Syrian civil aviation system has come to a virtual halt as Syria's national airline had to idle its fleet due to a lack of spare parts for its Boeing planes. Syria is hemmed in. Buying Europe's Airbus has not been possible thanks to economic sanctions. The Russian planes have suffered from safety problems and a lack of spare parts.

The country's energy industry has suffered a similar fate. In order to keep up with massive demand, the country needs billions of dollars in investments in new power generating plans. The sanctions have made this very difficult in spite of the Government's effort to tap investors from the Gulf region. Late this week, Mr. Rami Makhlouf decided that he would not sell his 69% stake in Syriatel "for now". It would seem that President Assad's cousin is making a virtue of necessity. Turkcel decided to halt the negotiations to acquire Syriatel following the application of intense pressure from the U.S. Treasury.

That the Syrian President is intent on lifting the economic sanctions on his country is an implicit admission that the sanctions are having an effect on the
country's economic outlook.

The truth of the matter is that even without the sanctions, the pace of economic reform in Syria has been painfully slow. After repeated promises to launch a securities exchange, the project is yet to see the light of day. The team in charge of the project has failed to deliver. One must either question the competency of those in charge or question the leadership's commitment to this project.

Syria will not be able to turn the corner economically unless it fully embraces the concept of privatization. The government must get out of the business of running failing businesses. The red ink and constant bleeding at these state owned enterprises must stop. The socialist dreamers perched at the apex of the ruling party must admit the failures of their 45-year experiment. 

The government has placed hiring freeze on new employment as it attempts to staunch further bleeding of its coffers. At least 250,000 jobs have to be created every year to absorb the swelling ranks of Syria's population. Only the private sector can provide these jobs, but so far, the government refuses to unleash the full capabilities of the market. Consequently, it hobbles along, tethered by bad management, foreign sanctions, and the lack of decisive leadership at the top. 

Syria must privatize and start its stock market at the same time. The newly privatized companies will be the first candidates to list on the exchange and
will add much needed liquidity to the market. Money that is now pouring into largely unproductive real estate deals should be directed toward industry. If private capital is allowed to take over state industries, employment will rise and not fall. Profitability and accountability will be restored. Businesses that cannot compete will disappear; those that can will thrive. Resources will be more efficiently employed through the free working of the market place, rather than mis-allocated by the whims of clueless government planners.

Syria's leadership must embrace a new economic course with urgency. The economic sanctions have not helped but neither have the government's own policies.

The President himself must take ownership of this critical issue. He must explain to the nation his own economic vision and how he plans to execute it.
The time has come to pick a new economic czar for the country that believes in privatization and free markets. This person must be introduced to the nation during a press conference with the President making the following introduction:

"Dear fellow Syrians: The time has come for our nation to join the global market place in order to raise the living standards of our people. While we have made some strides in this direction by embracing the concept of socialist market economics, we must do more. 

Governments do a lousy job of running businesses. This task must fall to the many able entrepreneurs of our nation. Socialism is an experiment that has not worked. It is time that we admit this and make a clean break from the past. 

I picked Mr. X to be the top economic policy maker in the country. He will report to me directly and will carry out my vision as I outline it tonight. Our first task will be to set up a privatization committee that will oversee the sale of the state owned businesses. The working of this group will be fully transparent. Independent international advisers will be retained by the government to help ensure that the state sells its assets at the highest possible price. Every effort will be made to address the employment situation. It is my conviction that economic growth will accelerate as the state moves assets into private hands.

Higher economic growth will lead to more employment and more jobs. Dismantling a system that has been in place for the past 45 years is not going to be easy. We will not be deterred as we make this historic transition together. May God bless the Syrian Arab Republic and its people. "

Can a Syrian-Israeli Peace Agreement Be Reached?
By Joshua Landis
Interviewer: Bernard Gwertzman, Consulting Editor
Council on Foreign Relations, May 22, 2008

Joshua Landis, who writes the blog Syria Comment and is regarded as a leading Syria specialist, says a prospective Syria-Israel peace agreement is "very feasible" but is skeptical whether it can be achieved quickly. For there to be a deal, Landis says, Israel would have to return all of the Golan Heights, and Syria would have to rein in Hezbollah and stop aiding Hamas. Landis adds that it will be a "bitter pill" for Syria to stop supporting militant Palestinian groups…..

Landis interview translated into Arabic at al-Jamal

By Lina Sinjab
BBC News, Damascus


Damascus street scene
Syria suffers political isolation and domestic economic stagnation

Syria is changing its legislation in order to attract its large number of expatriates back to the country, bringing their skills and capital with them.

President Bashar Assad himself lived in the UK for many years before coming to power in 2000 after the death of his father.

Measures include economic incentives and exemptions from military service. The latter was one of the main reasons expatriates would not even come back to the country to visit their families.

Baha Issa, in his 30s, lived for more than 15 years in the UK and Dubai. He has now left his job as a communications officer for Microsoft to work at the newly established Sham Holding company in Syria. …..

A matter of a few dozen meters
By Akiva Eldar in Haaretz
May 31, 2008

Dan Meridor, who was Yitzhak Shamir's confidant, told Channel 10 this week that Shamir, too, was completely serious about the possibility of an accord with Syria. He says that in 1991, Shamir asked the Americans to add Syria to the Madrid Conference. Meridor also says that Uri Saguy, who was then head of Military Intelligence, convinced Shamir that the first Gulf War had shifted the regional balance of powers and created ideal conditions for negotiations with Syria. But then Shamir had to make way for Yitzhak Rabin.

Though he hasn't been in uniform for some time, Saguy never abandoned the Syrian channel. From time to time, he gets on a plane, in his current capacity as the defense minister's adviser on Syrian affairs, and meets with the people whom Assad, Sr., and then Assad, Jr. entrusted with the Israeli portfolio.

The Syrians are very familiar with his positions. They've read the interviews he gave Haaretz in the past year. In one, Saguy said that at the Shepherdstown talks with Syria in January 2000, then prime minister Ehud Barak got cold feet and missed a historic opportunity for peace with the neighbor to the north.

In the current contacts with Damascus, Saguy persuaded the senior political echelon to forgo the hopeless demand that Syria commit from the outset to cut off its ties with Iran. He reminded them that in the negotiations in 2000, Barak and then U.S. president Bill Clinton did not make this demand of the Syrians. They were satisfied that Syria's representative at the talks, then foreign minister Farouk Shara, did not object to the Shepherdstown document containing a commitment from each of the parties "to abstain from cooperation with a third party in a hostile alliance of a military nature."

Nor did the Syrians protest the section stating each party would ensure its territory "will not serve the military forces of a third party, under circumstances that would adversely affect the other party's security." Hence, if it weren't for its stubborn insistence on a few dozen meters on the eastern bank of the Kinneret, it's quite possible that Israel would now be holding a peace contract mandating that Syria prevent the infiltration and presence of organizations that threaten Israel….

Comments (111)


Pages: « 1 2 [3] Show All

101. EHSANI2 said:

The facts are clear.

Every time governments get involved in the business of running businesses good things don’t happen.

Every time, markets are allowed to function and allocate resources in the most efficient manner, good things happen.

Every time, governments give themselves the mandate to heavily tax people and confiscate wealth, bad things happen.

Penthouses, middle floors and basements exist. Forcing the building to all look the same risks moving all under a tent.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

June 29th, 2008, 11:22 pm

 

102. Qifa Nabki said:

I’ve enjoyed re-reading this thread. Some enormously interesting debates here… Bravo to Sami, Majed, Ehsani et al for maintaining respectful and complimentary attitudes while disagreeing strongly on the issues.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

June 29th, 2008, 11:59 pm

 

103. Zenobia said:

Those aren’t facts. Those are conclusions based on your own analysis.

and if you choose to reduce the world to only the variables that matter to you (or within your ideological viewpoint), it is not unlikely that you can come to the conclusions you were looking for.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

June 30th, 2008, 12:08 am

 

104. majed97 said:

Qifa Nabki,
Thanks for noticing Zenobia’s insensitive remarks.

Zenobia, you’re the one who used a movie and headlines (housing and credit card debt) as back up for your argument against capitalism before dissecting the data. All I did was hold you accountable for your argument. Did I act “capitalist’ in holding you responsible for what you said? It’s been my theme all along…

“Well, right now, this “cycle” has taken us down to a thirty four “year low…”

Zenobia, here you go again, using headlines…Are you relying on Thomas Friedman now to support your argument? You must be kidding… This man has no credibility at all. He is an activist, flip flopping on every issue, depending on which direction the wind is blowing. He is best known for being wrong and manipulative on everything he said, including the Iraq war. Funny how you take the most sensational part of his article (GM at 34-year low) and run with it against the whole capitalist system. Do you know why GM, Ford and Chrysler are in such a poor condition today? Here are two hints…Unions and Government protection against foreign imports. By the way, there are thousands of companies, new and old, that are thriving in this capitalist world, but some of us choose to dismiss them conveniently. The demise of some poorly managed companies doesn’t prove failure of a system.

One other thing must be mentioned here and that is the current economic decline in America and the rest of the world has a lot to do with the terrible foreign policy conducted by Bush and his gang, which as you may know, brought instability and devastation to world economies through soaring commodity prices, particularly energy. I’m sure most of us are hoping those responsible for the mess we’re in today held accountable.

Salam

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

June 30th, 2008, 1:06 am

 

105. Zenobia said:

I think QN is just seizing an opportunity to get his own little slap in to make up for yesterday.

Well Bush and his gang, interestingly enough, hold a very similar economic policy view as you do. Do you notice any irony there, considering that some of the “devastation” they wrought had to do with controlling those ‘markets’ in the Middle East?

I think this is not a conversation now, but a sparing match, and I am not interested in doing that. I think you were rude in a personal and condescending way, and that my criticism – albeit snarky- was not directed at you as a person or as an attack on your competence or source.

I really don’t care where you get your education from or your opinions.
And I really don’t care whether I quoted a “headline” as if this is some strange sin or really low form of debate on a blog.

So, if you think Tom Friedman is an idiot, that’s fine. Sometimes, I think he is spouting nonsense.
But sorry, the credit crisis is not just a headline. It is a reality.
If you want to say that the economic situation in this country is just hype, go ahead.
I disagree.
and that is fine, but you needn’t go on trying to personally discredit me.
I would repeat what I said about social science above, but apparently that didn’t sink in.
I started out saying that you speak ideologically, as Ehsani does. As we all do.
And in case you didn’t know, there are competing economic theories and value systems and ideologies in this country regarding the issues. So, your view, or the establishment view, or Princeton economics does not have a lock on defining reality.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

June 30th, 2008, 1:40 am

 

106. Alex said:

Wonderful debate.

I tend to agree with Zenobia and Sami_D

Income should not be our goal … utility is what counts:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utility

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

June 30th, 2008, 6:21 am

 

107. SimoHurtta said:


The facts are clear.
Every time governments get involved in the business of running businesses good things don’t happen.

Every time, markets are allowed to function and allocate resources in the most efficient manner, good things happen.

Every time, governments give themselves the mandate to heavily tax people and confiscate wealth, bad things happen.

Penthouses, middle floors and basements exist. Forcing the building to all look the same risks moving all under a tent.

Well, well. Western countries’ governmental systems control companies and markets in countless ways. A rational free market enthusiast could ask himself why, if the markets know what is the best for the whole society. The countries have anti-trust laws, laws to “check” financial market, countless laws and standards for product quality and safety, laws for environment protection etc. Certainly these laws, regulation systems, standards etc were not created because the “markets” and companies wanted them, because they demand “unnecessary” investments and lower the profit margin. The laws, standards etc were created for the protection of the whole society. We could say with “good” arguments that the western governments protect us from the “markets'” unhealthy business practices. It is also fair to say that western countries control markets much more than the underdeveloped countries.

About the taxes. The Federal debts are now more than USD 10 trillion. ALl of us who have studied economics know with what these debts are in future paid. Federal debts are future taxes. Eshani2 enlightened us that American households (110 million of them) sit on a combined wealth of close to $40 trillion. Well sooner or later that over 10 trillion debt must be reduced or at least stop that rapid growing indebtedness. It is a miracle if that can be done without tax increases.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

June 30th, 2008, 9:52 am

 

108. wizart said:

I agree with Alex it’s been a crucial month long debate with healthy occasional heat despite the different freshhold of sensitivity between men and woman on the debate team. I especially credit Zenobia, Ehsane and Simo for keeping this important debate alive with their clear practical knowledge and diverse experience.

My reservations about pure capitalism can be reflected by the following fact based practical essay which might offer Syria’s planners the insight both Sami, Majid and others want to offer as they navigate the issues surrounding economic reform and wellbeing.
——————————————————————

The American Civil War fades away. It now appears that a new social unrest has taken root in America. But the debate was to be fought in the economic world. The question was, how should the government interact with business? The issue splits into two main views, that of Laissez-faire, and that of General Welfare. Laissez-faire is a rather straight-forward philosophy. It can be best described by saying that the government should have absolutely no interaction within the business world. These thinkers trust that the government’s sole purpose is to protect life and property, and that the role of government should end there. The tree of Laissez-faire has many branches, two of which are classical economics and Social Darwinism. Believers in classical economics base most of their philosophy on mercantilism and its effects. They have no doubt that government interaction with the business world is inept, and can only hurt economic growth. Social Darwinism was a popular belief. It grew from studies of Charles Darwin, and his publication, The Origin of Species. Charles Darwin argued that species had not been created, but had evolved. But most importantly to the philosophy of Social Darwinism, Darwin theorized that evolution takes place by survival of the fittest. It was that idea in the survival of the fittest that became the backbone for Social Darwinists. The Social Darwinists believed that the involvement of government in business interfered with the natural selection of those that were best suited to survive. On the other side of the issue was the general welfare state. The philosophy of the general welfare state, called the Social Gospel, was advocated in part by Christians in the United States. They believed that individuality had gone too far and that it was necessary for government involvement. Increased urbanization and industrialization also led to the belief in the general welfare state. It was the opinion of these thinkers that laissez-faire was not the answer to the problems of economics. Laissez-faire may have been a significant step in the evolution of economics to many people, but there were also many silent threats that it carried. Without government protection, big business can exploit the many people that make it work. Such exploitation could be brought about in low wages and poor working conditions, long working hours, and many others. Many believed that government protection was needed to insure fair competition and high standards of morality. In the 1860s oil became more and more essential as an everyday item. Its demand grew dramatically. The main use at that time for oil was kerosene. Kerosene was used in several ways, although its most popular use was in lamps. Crude oil needs to be refined to produce products such as Kerosene. Pennsylvania was the main location that oil refining was done in the 1860s, but times were changing. The Lake Shore Railroad helped Cleveland become one of the new centers for oil refining. It was obvious that the railroads were invaluable to the oil business. In the new refining city of Cleveland, Ohio, a new refining company was created. This company was the Standard Oil Company, owned primarily by John D. Rockefeller.John D. Rockefeller is a legend of the business world. He started a relatively small oil refinery in Cleveland, Ohio in 1870. In just two years, it grew into an enormous monopoly, producing ninety percent of the nations refined oil. His business ethics have been hotly debated because of many apparent rebates and other schemes. The Standard Oil Company’s success can be attributed to Rockefeller’s business aptitude. Aside from his great business qualities, the Standard Oil Company’s success in the oil industry is because of the secret illegal rebates by the railroads. A rebate in the railroad business is a reduction in shipping fares in exchange for promised use of the railroad’s services. These rebates were brought about through the South Improvement Company, which was set up in 1872. The South Improvement Company was designed with one mission, to destroy all competition to the Standard Oil Company, and other companies that were part of the South Improvement Company. It was started by several large corporations, including the Standard Oil Company. Rockefeller is reported to have met with other oil businesses and tell them that if they do not join the South Improvement Company, they will be wiped out of business due to the lower shipping rates given to the South Improvement Company. Eventually the public gained knowledge of this conspiracy through . After nonstop opposition, the railroads eventually gave in and stooped giving the rebates. The South Improvement Company collapsed in April of 1872, and the Congressional Committee on Commerce denounced it as one of the most gigantic and dangerous conspiracies ever committed. After the failure of the South Improvement Company, the Standard Oil Company also tried secret pacts and bribing. Rockefeller’s objective was to keep the price of crude oil down. If he could buy oil at cheap prices, transport it at low rates, and could sell the refined oil at high prices, he could make enormous profits. Through his deceiving ways, Rockefeller turned the Standard Oil Company to one of the most famous monopolies of all time. He had turned the oil refining industry away from free market competition and towards monopolization. Ida Tarbell, lady journalist and famous muckraker, became John D. Rockefeller’s greatest nemesis. As a journalist for the popular McClure’s Magazine, Ida Tarbell was hired by S.S. McClure at the age of thirty-seven. She became an immediate sensation with readers. By 1900 McClure’s was reaching 350,000 homes thanks to her. She became known for her biography on Napoleon, and then her series on Abraham Lincoln, which took her four years of research. But she earned her place in the history books for her pursuit of the Standard Oil Company, and the Famous Tycoon that ran it, John D. Rockefeller. In the October, 1902 issue of McClure’s Magazine Ida announced that she had finished her research on the most perfectly developed trust in existence (The Gentlewomen and the Robber Barron 185). For two years and in eighteen installments, Ida Tarbell revealed the scandalous nature of the Standard Oil Company and its primary owner, John Rockefeller. She gained her knowledge of the monopoly, through interviews with business people with first-hand knowledge of the Standard Oil Company, and Rockefeller. As the months passed, Ida Tarbell published her installments, which portrayed Rockefeller as a ruthless tycoon, obsessed with taking over control the oil industry. Miss Tarbell urged her readers not to support monopolists such as Rockefeller. She argued that a thing won by breaking the rules of the game, is not worth winning (The Gentlewomen and the Robber Barron 190). In 1909, the Standard Oil Company was accused with violation of the Sherman Act. On May 15, 1911, the U.S. Supreme Court had finally come to a decision. It found the Standard Oil Company, guilty (The Gentlewomen and the Robber Barron 191). Essentially, the supreme court agreed with Ida Tarbell. Ida Tarbell’s study of the Standard Oil Company had raised a controversial question. Is it better to have free competition, with fierce survival of the fittest, or is it better to have industry fall under the control of a single dominance which could maintain order and profits (The Gentlewomen and the Robber Barron 192)? Ida Tarbell wrote and published many other works of literature after that of the Standard Oil Company, but none had such an impact on society. Ida was and is a role model for women of all ages, races, and social classes. She proved that a woman can gain the same amount of admiration and respect as a man. The issues of Laissez-faire versus General Welfare and competition versus Monopoly were becoming more and more hotly debated. It was time for the U.S. Government to start taking sides and making decisions. This was done through the U.S. Supreme Court. By the mid 1880s people were starting to take notice to the fact that the practices of John D. Rockefeller in the oil industry was not an isolated phenomenon. The same practices of monopolizing were happening in the meat packing, copper, steel, coal, sugar, and countless other industries. It was obvious that Adam Smith’s philosophy of laissez-faire was leading the economic world into one populated and governed by monopolies. The question was, whether or not to do anything about that. The question started to get answered in 1887 by the Interstate Commerce Act. The Interstate Commerce Act was the first of several laws that were a turning point on the governments position of Laissez-faire and monopolies. The Interstate Commerce Act was designed to prevent particular unfair actions, taking place within the railroads (The Supreme Court Decides 37). Examples of such unfair actions are rebates, discrimination, ‘unreasonable’ rates, and several others. In 1890 the Sherman Anti-Trust Act was passed. This act was designed to forbid unfair competition among large firms, and essentially, make monopolies illegal. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act was written with very broad language, which left it to the courts decide how to interpret it (The Supreme Court Decides 37). We would now have to wait to see how the courts would use these new weapons against monopolies. It was soon found out how the courts would use the Sherman Act in the court case, U.S. v. E.C. Knight, 1894. The court case revolved around the purchase of four sugar refineries in the Philadelphia area, by the American Sugar Company. This purchase gave the company control of 98% of the nations’ sugar refining capacity (The Supreme Court Decides 38). The American Sugar Company was found not guilty of attempting to monopolize. This loss seemed to make the Sherman Act look like a failure, and for the time being it was. Several other businesses were taken to court, and only a small percent were won by the government. After Theodore Roosevelt took office as president, the prosecution of big business with the Sherman Act was altered, to the disadvantage of big business. Theodore Roosevelt took forty-four different businesses to the supreme court. The most famous one was U.S. v. Standard Oil, 1907. The Government claimed that John D. Rockefeller led his Standard Oil Company to a monopoly through illegitimate means. The Government won. This lawsuit was one of the most dramatic because the government was taking on the largest corporation in the nation at the time (The Supreme Court Decides 39). It now appeared that the government and the courts had made their decision. There was to be no Laissez-faire economy, and monopolies would not be tolerated in the United States of America. What role the government plays in the regulation and intervention of American life is not just a eminently debated issue from the past. It is an issue that has proved to be a major concern and interest of almost all Americans. It is the feeling of many people that business should be unregulated by the federal government. But there are also those many Americans that believe that the government should regulate the growth and behavior of economics, to protect the American Citizen. These two opposite opinions are one of the main divisions of political parties. The Republican party is one that is very attractive to big business. It stands for smaller government intervention in the business world. The Democratic Party stands for larger government interaction in the economy and lives of America’s citizens. It stands to protect the citizens from the dangers of small government intervention. Many people fear a large unregulated economy. It is possible that an economy can run out of control and exploit the consumers and workers. This was illustrated by a study of the Standard Oil Company, headed by the ruthless’ Rockefeller. When a business is able to monopolize within a single industry the outcomes can be potentially devastating. The abuse of consumers is no longer a difficult task. When a consumer has no choice but to purchase from a certain company, that monopoly is able to regulate prices to whatever they deem ‘fair’. It is not always the consumer that is defiled. One may overlook the common worker. When there are no unions to watch over the treatment of workers, employers may exploit them. Long work hours with little pay, and poor working conditions were just two of the many cruelties that early muckrakers uncovered. It is also possible that too much government control over the economy can be present. This is why our present day society exists in a mixed economy. In a mixed economy, private ownership is combined with some government control. This system attempts to eliminate inefficiencies inherent in capitalism or socialism alone. It is in this mixed economy state that a potential median between both philosophies is found. But our philosophies are always changing, as is our government.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

June 30th, 2008, 12:47 pm

 

109. wizart said:

Oil edges up in Asia, stays above $140
Tuesday July 1, 1:43 am ET
By Alex Kennedy, Associated Press Writer
Oil edges up in Asia, staying above $140, on concerns about Iran, dollar weakness

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) — Oil prices edged higher Tuesday in Asia, staying above $140 a barrel, amid concerns about tensions between Iran and Israel and a weakening dollar.
“You have supply-side concerns, such as the rhetoric on Iran, that will likely keep a floor under prices,” said Victor Shum, an analyst with Purvin & Gertz in Singapore. “I don’t see much resistance to $150, which could happen in the coming weeks.”

Oil also rose on expectations the European Central Bank will likely raise interest rates at its next meeting on Thursday, a move that would help strengthen the euro against the dollar, Shum said.

As the dollar has weakened, investors have been piling into oil contracts, betting that they will gain, thereby offsetting the dollar’s decline. Since the start of the year, crude has shot up nearly 50 percent.

Light, sweet crude for August delivery rose 35 cents to $140.35 a barrel in Asian electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange, midday in Singapore.

On Monday, the contract soared to a record $143.67 a barrel. It later fell back to close at $140.00 on reports of weakening U.S. oil demand and end-of-the-quarter profit-taking by traders.

Traders were still anxious about tension in the Mideast after the commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards warned that if his country is attacked, Tehran would strike back by barraging Israel with missiles and that it would control a key oil route in the Gulf.

Those comments, reported Saturday in Iran’s conservative Jam-e-Jam newspaper, came after Israeli military exercise over the Mediterranean Sea that was seen as sending a message to Iran to curb its nuclear ambitions.

Iran is the world’s fourth-largest oil exporter and OPEC’s second-largest exporter. About 40 percent of world oil exports pass through the Gulf.

Traders were also digesting news from the Energy Information Administration, which reported Monday that U.S. oil usage in April was lower than previously estimated, falling to 4.2 percent to 19.768 million barrels per day from 20.631 million. That was 3.9 percent lower than in April 2007 and the lowest level for the month in six years.

“We’re starting to see demand destruction in the U.S., but in China and other developing countries, we still see demand growth,” Shum said. “It could take several months before recent fuel price hikes in developing countries start to slow oil demand in those places.”

The dollar was little changed at 106.07 yen in Asian trading Tuesday, while the euro was also nearly flat at US$1.5752.

In London, Brent crude futures were up 57 cents at $140.40 on the ICE Futures exchange in London.

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

July 1st, 2008, 7:43 am

 

110. majed97 said:

SimoHurtta,

“About the taxes. The Federal debts are now more than USD 10 trillion. ALl of us who have studied economics know with what these debts are in future paid. Federal debts are future taxes.”

And your solution is… bigger government, more spending and larger deficit, right?!? As you said, those of us who “studied economics” know how deficits are created and how they damage economies by weakening currencies; causing high inflation and interest rates, resulting in widespread economic distortion. All of the options used to finance government spending have adverse consequences. Taxes discourage productive behavior, imposing high tax rates on work, saving, investment, and other forms of productive behavior. Borrowing consumes capital that otherwise would be available for private investment. Government spending consumes almost half of Europe’s economic output, one third higher than the burden of government in the U.S. Not surprisingly, a large government sector is associated with a higher tax burden and more government debt. Bigger government is also associated with subpar economic performance.

Simo said: “Western European countries adopted “free markets” 10 – 20 years ago, when they already were on the “top”

Have you wondered why those countries would change course to privatization if they were on ”top” doing so well?!? They did so because they were near collapse. More on that later…

Simo said: “When we watch the best countries by nominal GDP the list is lead by Luxenbourg (=financial “safe haven”) then come Norway, Qatar, Iceland, Ireland, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and Finland.”
Simo also said: “North European countries have the highest tax levels in the world (and we have had them for a long time), high social security, free education, best workers rights, longest holidays etc. Why these countries which are no beacons of free trade are so successful in economical terms?”

Again, “those of us who understand economics” don’t use workers rights, holidays, free education, or other unfunded bloated social programs to measure economic progress. I’m not sure where you studied economics, but the economics I was taught measures economic progress based on: real GDP, Unemployment rate, Productivity, Investment, Inflation, labor participation, innovation…Here are few startling economic comparisons for you:

Per capita economic output in the U.S. was $37,600, more than 40% higher than the $26,600 average for EU–15 nations.

Real economic growth in the U.S. over the past 10 years (3.2% average annual growth) has been more than 50% faster than EU–15 growth during the same period (2.1%).

The U.S. unemployment rate is significantly lower than the EU–15 unemployment rate, and there is a stunning gap in the percentage of unemployed who have been without a job for more than 12 months (11.8% in the U.S. versus 41.9% in EU–15 nations).

Living standards in the EU are equivalent to living standards in the poorest American states (roughly equal to Arkansas and Montana and only slightly ahead of West Virginia and Mississippi, the two poorest states).

Manufacturing productivity grew twice as fast in the U.S. as in Western Europe over the past eight years.

Overregulated labor markets contribute to the high unemployment rates in Europe. An anemic growth rates is also a consequence of high tax rates. There is a correlation between bigger government and diminished economic performance. Here are some findings by the world’s top economic institutions and publications:

IMF: “Tax induced distortion in economic behavior results in a net efficiency loss to the whole economy, commonly referred to as the ‘excess burden of taxation,’ even if the government engages in exactly the same activities—and with the same degree of efficiency—as the private sector with the tax revenue so raised.”

A study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas also noted: “Growth in government stunts general economic growth. Increases in government spending or taxes lead to persistent decreases in the rate of job growth”

An article in the European Journal of Political Economy found: “We find a tendency towards a more robust negative growth effect of large public expenditures”

Study in Public Finance Review reported: “Higher total government expenditure, no matter how financed, is associated with a lower growth rate of real per capita gross state product”

An article in the Quarterly Journal of Economics reported: “The ratio of real government consumption expenditure to real GDP had a negative association with growth and investment,” and “Growth is inversely related to the share of government consumption in GDP, but insignificantly related to the share of public investment”

A Public Choice study reported: “An increase in GTOT [total government spending] by 10 percentage points would decrease the growth rate of TFP [total factor productivity] by 0.92 percent [per annum]. A commensurate increase of GC [government consumption spending] would lower the TFP growth rate by 1.4 percent [per annum”

Study in Public Choice reported: “A one percent increase in government spending as a percent of GDP (from, say, 30 to 31%) would raise the unemployment rate by approximately .36 of one percent (from, say, 8 to 8.36 percent)”

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development acknowledged: “Taxes and government expenditures affect growth both directly and indirectly through investment. An increase of about one percentage point in the tax pressure—e.g. two-thirds of what was observed over the past decade in the OECD sample— could be associated with a direct reduction of about 0.3 per cent in output per capita. If the investment effect is taken into account, the overall reduction would be about 0.6–0.7 per cent”

A National Bureau of Economic Research paper stated: “A 10 percent balanced budget increase in government spending and taxation is predicted to reduce output growth by 1.4 percentage points per annum”

An IMF article confirmed: “Average growth for the preceding 5-year period…was higher in countries with small governments in both periods. The unemployment rate, the share of the shadow economy, and the number of registered patents suggest that small governments exhibit more regulatory efficiency and have less of an inhibiting effect on the functioning of labor markets, participation in the formal economy, and the innovativeness of the private sector”

I won’t bore you with more hard numbers from numerous other ECONOMIC studies.

Simo said: “Well, Finland did build much of its core industries using state owned companies (mining, steal, power, telecommunication). We also had a very regulated markets until the 80’s. Including that only Finnish citizens could own Finnish companies share, well there were some exceptions with a special permit. Finnish land could be bought by foreigners only when Finland joined EU. When Finland opened its financial markets in the late 80’s (wast credit expansion) it partly joined with the collapse of Soviet union (major trade partner of Finland) created a very serious depression in the beginning of 90’s (one of the worst in capitalistic countries history).”
Simo also said: “It is still to early to say is the free market “theory” really successful in the end. Certainly there are many areas of economy where privatization leads to unhealthy development. For the customers, not for the new owners. In Finland for example the privatization of electricity production has led to a rapid increase of the price (and an astonishing rise in the worth of managements options). An other example of not a very successful privatization here is the mandatory motor vehicle inspection business. The prices have multiplied and the one’s who bought the inspection stations (cheaply) from the government have become astonishing rich considering their business’ difficulty level”

I think it’s time to dispel the myth surrounding the so called Scandinavian/European economic success. Since some on this board are fascinated with Finland, let’s examine this very tiny country of 4.5 millions first.

Dr. Risto E. J. Penttilä (Director of Finnish Business and Policy Forum) exposed the fundamental misunderstanding regarding Finland’s economic achievements over the past decade. “Fifteen years ago the country was in a limbo: the banking system had all but collapsed, public debt was running out of control and unemployment rate was soaring over 20%.” Finland’s success is not a story of a static Finnish model as you may think. Quite the opposite, it is a story of radical changes. Some people believe that Finland’s success is based on a static economic and social model developed in the 1970s. According to the myth the Finnish model was tested in the early 1990s, when Finland entered the most severe depression of any OECD country, and passed with flying colors. Nothing could be further from the truth. Finland’s economic and social model did not survive the crisis. It was transformed during the crisis. The transformation was radical. In fifteen years Finland moved from a closed economy to an open free market economy. Prior to the 1990s Finland’s economy was strongly regulated. There was a very low degree of investments both into and out of Finland. Labor markets were controlled by trade unions. All welfare services were produced by the public sector. “The creative destruction of the old Finnish model began in the mid-1980s with a (botched) deregulation of the financial markets. It was hugely accentuated by the demise of trade with the Soviet Union (which had accounted for more than twenty percent of all trade). And it was brought to a climax with a crisis of public finances in the early 1990s.” The crisis began a series of fundamental reforms. Corporate taxes were cut. The tax system was streamlined. Conditions for welfare payouts were reformed. The banking system was restructured. A very tight fiscal policy was followed. The pension system was changed. As a result Finland managed as the only country north of Germany to adopt the euro in 2002. Still, not everything in Finland is rosy. Unemployment rate is still around 8%. Taxes are high; wages are low. As a result a lot of people have difficulties making ends meet. According to a recent study, more than half a million Finns (that’s 12% of the population) live within a risk of poverty as defined by the European Union. Yet, Finland has come a long way. “Today Finland is a liberal market economy with a relatively well-functioning labor market. The only part of the old Finnish model that still exists is the municipal sector and that very sector is today the biggest headache of Finnish decision-makers.”

Sweden:
Here is an article by a Swedish economist, Stefan Karlsson, on the Swedish myth: http://www.mises.org/story/2259

The current situation is Sweden has a vast budget deficit (55% of GDP) and (close to) deflation, which in turn made it expensive for companies to invest. Fortunately, the EU forced the Swedish Central Bank to lower the interest from an average of 15-20% to 5-6% during late 1990s. Still, the unemployment is approximately 14%, but 10% are “hidden” by the government in student and trainee programs, costing the government enormous amounts. When Sweden joined the EU in 1995, the country had lived on credits for almost 50 years, and suddenly had to pay back. Over a night, the currency plunged over 30% and the interest rates skyrocketed to 750%.

“In the early 1950s, Sweden was still one of the freest economies in the world, and government spending relative to GDP was in fact below the American level. But between 1950 and 1976, Sweden experienced an expansion in government spending unprecedented during a period of peace, with government spending to GDP rising from about 20% in 1950 to more than 50% in 1975. Virtually every year, taxes were increased while the welfare state expanded relentlessly, both in the form of a sharp increase in the number of government employees and ever more transfer payment benefits.”

“During the first 20 years, relentless government expansion took place seemingly without major problems, as Sweden benefited from rapid global growth, although Sweden’s growth had already started to slip in relative terms, from well above average to just average. This changed in the 1970s after Olof Palme, from the left wing of the Social Democratic party became Prime Minister. Palme stepped up the socialist transformation in Sweden, rapidly increasing anti-business regulations and sharply increased payroll taxes. The payroll-tax increases, along with increasing wage demands from unions, made Swedish businesses highly uncompetitive on the global markets, something which Palme decided to solve by devaluing the Swedish krona. As a result, price inflation rose sharply, leading to repeated devaluations. Popular discontent from the economic woes created by the global economic downturn, the massive tax increases, the increased regulations, and the increasing inflation enabled the center right to come into power in 1976, breaking 44 years of uninterrupted Social Democratic rule. The situation has, however, changed tremendously throughout the 1990s. From being a country, in which almost all areas were strongly influenced by a socialist government, most of the government-regulated companies now are parts of the free market.”

Based on a study by Harvard International Review, in 1993, the Swedish system (model welfare state) could no longer handle the artificial employment rate created by the injection of government jobs into the system, massive government spending, and inflation that governmental policies had not addressed. Simply put, the government was growing too fast to be sustained by the private sector. By 1990, government spending matched 57% of the GDP, government jobs accounted for 33% of total employment, and annual inflation hit 10%. All of these factors led to a spike in unemployment between 1992 and 1993, constituting an implosion in the model welfare state.

“Sweden has come far since the economic crisis of 1993. Due to stringent reforms made in response to the economic faults of the 1990s, government spending is still large, but has been limited. Over 90% of Sweden’s industrial production is now privatized. These gains in private sector growth are a direct result of massive deregulation of industries in response to the early 1990s recession.”

However, despite a decade of reform, many dormant problems remain and have started to manifest themselves in recent years. High tax rates and government programs continue to create distortions, and the issues of the past are beginning to resurface. Government injection is not sustainable in the long run.

“Because employee benefits are so generous, many abuse the system by faking illnesses and escaping work. Absenteeism is the largest unaccounted-for contributor to the discrepancy between government data and actual statistics. Also fueling the inaccuracy is the number of people either supported by or working for the government. Because the government is taking so much money from certain citizens and gifting it to others, there is a corresponding loss of consumerism on the side of the former and loss of a drive for productivity on the latter. Because of the abuse of social programs, many welfare benefits are not serving to help the masses, but are instead being milked by undeserving individuals.”

The Swedish government does not produce much of anything, nor does it generate profits from abroad. What results is taxing of jobs created and paid for by the same government, creating a cyclical dependence on bureaucracy.

Conclusion: “Big government is Sweden’s main problem. For all intents and purposes, it is impossible to have a tax system conducive to growth when government consumes more than one-half of economic output. To be sure, Sweden could ameliorate some of the worst features of the current tax system by reducing top marginal income tax rates. But such reforms merely make the best of a bad situation. Sweden needs to fundamentally re-think the welfare state and move to an economic system based on self-reliance and economic opportunity.”

http://www.freedomandprosperity.org/Papers/sweden/sweden.shtml

Europe as a whole:
Olaf Gersemann, an international news editor of the Financial Times, cited few important facts about the European economy: “For while there is persistent mass unemployment in many European countries— with jobless rates hovering near double-digit levels in Germany, France, and other parts of the continent for most of a decade now. The inescapable reality is that the economies of the major countries on the European continent are basket cases: They produce the unemployed by the millions. Even more frightening, European economies are creating a new kind of stratified society, in which a substantial and growing minority is shut out from the labor market permanently through absurdly high minimum-wage requirements and overly strict regulations (like the employment protection laws that can make it almost impossible to fire people).”

In the three largest European countries with the largest economies (France, Germany, and Italy) stagnation, joblessness, and low or no growth are now facts of life. Together, these countries account for about three fifths of the Euro Zone’s economic output, and they have not been healthy for years. Britain, which has similar model to America, has thrived over the last decade. Its unemployment rate is half the Euro’s, its growth has been almost twice the level of the Euro Zone, poverty is declining in Britain, and business creativity is rising.

“Measured simply as GDP per hour worked, productivity is not much higher in the United States than, say, France. But America is close to full employment, whereas in Europe millions of poorly educated people can’t find an employer willing to pay them the artificially high minimum wage or willing to take a chance on such hires because they may be impossible to fire in the future. In other words, Europe seems to be productive only because a large portion of its people are simply left out of the productivity statistics (and working life).”

“The real problem in Europe is the involuntary unemployment of millions, because of economies that do not grow. That is the reason for the lower output and smaller incomes in European societies. More specifically, the U.S. labor market is much better equipped to integrate workers who may be disadvantaged high school dropouts, the very young, the very old, women, immigrants. Consider this: In the U.S., the employment rates for citizens and immigrants are virtually the same. In Germany, the working age immigrant population doubled over the last 25 years, yet the number of immigrants with jobs didn’t rise at all.”

Europeans sense that their economic systems are failing. They have noticed that their beloved welfare and regulatory systems no longer provide the economic security they used to. Consider a poll conducted among 11,200 Europeans. The German market research company GfK asked people what they considered the most important challenge facing their respective home country. “In each of the Big Three countries, the largest share of respondents spontaneously named unemployment as the most pressing problem: 38% in Italy, 58% in France, and a staggering 81% in Germany. (In the U.K., which is much closer to the laissez-faire economic model, the share choosing unemployment as the major national problem was a minuscule 4%).”

The attitude still most widely held in Europe is that it is the job of politicians to distribute and redistribute society’s goods like jobs, income, or wealth. They want politics, not competition, to govern economics. “Asked in April 2005 whether competition is good for economic growth and employment, only 45% of Germans strongly agreed. In both France and Italy, the share was only 29%. Germany’s federal government currently taxes away about 44% of the nation’s output, and the government has long insisted this is not enough. Germans, in other words, are behaving like people on the sinking Titanic who insist their drinks be shaken, not stirred.”

When economic performance got bad enough in a number of European countries in the recent past, majorities decided they were ready to change course. A good example is Great Britain which made a sweeping move toward the American model, cutting taxes and regulations, and inviting many U.S. corporations to set up bases under business-friendly conditions. Ireland exploded in prosperity, and today enjoys a per capita income about 20% higher than in France or Germany. The Netherlands has made some sensible policy changes. So has Denmark. The government there has maintained fairly high unemployment benefits, but it has made it easier for employers to fire employees; and gotten tough on people who receive welfare benefits yet don’t actively look for jobs. The result is a labor market that is more Americanized than any other in continental Europe, and an unemployment rate near U.S. levels.

Ireland has dramatically changed its fiscal policy in the past 20 years. In the 1980s, government spending consumed more than 50% of economic output, and high tax rates penalized productive behavior. This led to economic stagnation, and Ireland became known as the “sick man of Europe.” However, the government decided to act. As one economist explained, “After a stagnant 13-year period with less than 2% growth, Ireland took a more radical course of slashing expenditures, abolishing agencies and toppling tax rates and regulations.” The reductions in government were very impressive. A Joint Economic Committee report explained: “This situation was reversed during the 1987–96 period. As a share of GDP, government expenditures declined from the 52.3% level of 1986 to 37.7% in 1996, a reduction of 14.6% points.” Ireland has been able to keep government from creeping back in the wrong direction. Little wonder that a writer for the Financial Post wrote that “Ireland’s biggest export was people until the country adopted enlightened trade, tax and education policies. Now it is the Celtic Tiger.”

New Zealand also has an impressive record of fiscal rejuvenation. Government spending has plunged from more than 50% of GDP to less than 40% of economic output. One former government minister justifiably bragged: “When we started this process with the Department of Trans-portation, it had 5,600 employees. When we finished, it had 53. When we started with the Forest Service, it had 17,000 employees. When we finished, it had 17. When we applied it to the Ministry of Works, it had 28,000 employees. I used to be Minister of Works, and ended up being the only employee.… We achieved an overall reduction of 66% in the size of government, measured by the number of employees.” It is especially amazing that New Zealand was able to accomplish so much in such a short period of time. In the first half of the 1990s, “Real spending per capita fell by 12%.” This fiscal reform, combined with other free market policies, helped New Zealand recover from economic stagnation.

Slovakia is another success story, which may prove to be the most dramatic. After suffering from decades of communist oppression and socialist mismanagement, Slovakia is becoming the Hong Kong of Europe. With a 19% flat tax and a private social security system, Slovak leaders have charted a bold course that includes significant reductions in the burden of government. Government spending has plummeted in just seven years from 65% of GDP to 43% of GDP.

I can go on and on citing hard ECONOMIC facts exposing that romantic fiction called “European success”. Enough said.

Salam

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

July 3rd, 2008, 3:48 am

 

111. wizart said:

Facing High Gas Prices
And Time Crunch,
Commuters Start Biking

One rainy morning earlier this year, T.J. Kelly, general manager of Sportgenic, Inc., a start-up sports media company in San Francisco, was sitting in traffic on the bus ride to work and noticed a surprising number of bikers outside. Mr. Kelly, a bike enthusiast, started crunching numbers.

With gas hovering around $4.69 a gallon; parking ranging from $17 to $30 a day; a monthly bus pass costing $80 a month, or adding up to $150 a month on a purchase-per-ride basis, his commute — a combination of car and bus — was costing him close to $600 a month. Plus, with the 12-to-16-hour days he’d been putting in at work, he’d been struggling to find time to exercise.

The bus ride took about 55 minutes each way. Biking takes 50 minutes each way, plus about 20 minutes of shower time at the gym on the first floor of his office building. “It all just clicked,” says Mr. Kelly, who decided to turn his workout into his commute.

Frank Colson moved to the Bay Area from Texas in February to become Sportgenic’s senior director of ad operations. “Being in California I had to find a way to be outside more,” he says, adding that back in Houston he was a five day-a-week gym guy.

When he noticed Mr. Kelly coming up the freight elevator in the morning, bike in tow, Mr. Colson — also a bike enthusiast — decided to jump on the bike-to-work bandwagon.

The two co-workers now bike to work together, logging more than 75 miles per week, and have also become good friends outside of the office.

Mr. Kelly, 36, is married and is 6 feet tall and 190 pounds. Mr. Colson, 33, is married and has two children. He is also 6 feet tall and weighs 215 pounds. They both live in Mill Valley in Marin County, Calif.

The Workout

Three to four mornings a week Mr. Kelly and Mr. Colson bike to and from the office. They come from two different directions in Mill Valley, but meet in between and continue into San Francisco’s financial district. The ride is 14 miles each way and is often faster than driving or taking public transportation.

Once they’re over the Golden Gate Bridge, traffic and congestion pick up, particularly around the Embarcadero near Market Street, which is busy with cars, buses and cable cars.

Would you commute by bike?

What kinds of incentives would you need to do it? If you’re already riding to work, share your thoughts and advice in an online forum with Jen Murphy. The ride is far from leisurely. Mr. Colson and Mr. Kelly push each other to keep a challenging pace. Mr. Kelly says he tracks the calories he burns on the ride to work on his heart rate monitor. When he rides alone he burns about 515 calories, but if Mr. Colson is with him he usually burns around 715.

Mr. Kelly has also introduced Mr. Colson to the Bay Area mountain bike scene. They try to put in about two hours trail riding one night per week and about three hours either on Saturdays or Sundays. “I try to show him a new spot each time we go riding so he can know the trails around Marin,” says Mr. Kelly.

There is a Club One Fitness Center in their office building and as an incentive for employees to keep fit, Sportgenic pays for employees who use the facility at least eight times per month. Mr. Colson says he still tries to get to the gym a few afternoons a week to “blow off steam.” He’ll typically work up a sweat on the elliptical machine or StairMaster and then focus on his upper body for weightlifting. And Mr. Kelly tries to get down to the gym for spinning classes on days he doesn’t bike to work.

THE WORKOUT

Monday: Mr. Kelly takes spinning class. Mr. Colson does either the elliptical or StairMaster and circuit training at the gym.
Tuesday: 100-minute round trip bike commute to work for both
Wednesday: Mr. Kelly takes spinning class; Mr. Colson does either the elliptical or StairMaster and circuit training at the gym.
Thursday: 100-minute round trip bike commute to work; two-hour evening mountain bike ride for both
Friday: 100-minute round trip bike commute to work for both
Sunday: Three hours of mountain biking for bothThe Diet

Before Mr. Kelly got married one year ago he did the South Beach diet to trim down and lost about 25 pounds. His diet now mirrors a modified version of South Beach. He focuses on proteins and vegetables while avoiding sugar and white bread and other similarly starchy foods.

In the morning Mr. Kelly has an Accelerade, a sports drink similar to Gatorade, but with more protein, before he leaves for work. He brings his lunch, usually a salad topped with a protein like chicken. Mr. Kelly says eating healthy snacks throughout the day prevents him from binge eating and he tries to stock his office drawers and home pantry with nuts, string cheese, whole wheat crackers and peanut butter. However, now that his wife is pregnant, he says that the Ben & Jerry’s in the fridge is very hard to avoid. Mr. Kelly says dinner is usually some sort of chicken dish, salad and rice.

Mr. Colson doesn’t eat before he rides. When he gets into San Francisco he buys what he calls “bad foods” like bagel-and-egg sandwiches for breakfast, but makes healthier choices, like sushi or a salad, when he buys lunch. His wife usually cooks dinner for the family — something healthy like a lean chicken dish. Mr. Colson says he keeps a bar of dark organic chocolate hidden at home for when he wants to indulge.

The Cost

Mr. Kelly bought his Specialized Allez Elite II road bike for $1,800 about six years ago and says he’s ready for an upgrade. His big purchase last year was a Specialized Enduro Expert SL mountain bike ($3,400). Mr. Colson bought his road bike, a Specialized Tarmac Pro, for $3,200 off eBay. The Gary Fisher Sugar 1 mountain bike he rides on weekends cost $3,200.

The Effort

Mr. Colson has a work computer at home but Mr. Kelly usually finds himself lugging his laptop back and forth. The evening ride home is far more dangerous with more traffic on the road. There have been some near misses, but no injuries so far.

The Benefit

When Mr. Kelly commuted by bus he did work on his computer or phone. The bike ride forces him to have down time.

“It’s an awesome way to clear my head,” he says. Mr. Kelly says biking to work also makes his weekend activities more enjoyable. “If I maintain a higher level of fitness I’m not miserable, sucking wind trying to keep up with my buddies,” he says. “I can ride and enjoy it.”

Mr. Colson says he that thought he was fit when he was working out for an hour, five days a week at the gym in Texas. But since he started riding to work and on the weekends he has lost about 20 pounds and four inches from his waist.

Mr. Colson says that biking to work is also one way to take advantage of living in California. “You pay a premium to live here,” he says, so you want to take advantage of it and find ways to be outdoors.”

Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

July 3rd, 2008, 3:55 pm

 

Pages: « 1 2 [3] Show All

Post a comment