Thursday, 16 June 2011

Agricultural Investmernt

You can't open a financial paper now without someone trying to flog you Ukrainian farm land.  Agriculture is now flavour of the moment with professional investors and they are keen to get you to invest in their funds. But hang on a moment. Why tell us now. I mean why didn't they tell us five years ago when land was seriously cheap and no one wanted it? Well not quite no one. I am rather proud of the fact that when I gave the after dinner speech at the Oxford Farming Conference some four and a half years ago I ended it by telling my audience: 'To go out and buy land, it's cheap.'  Those who acted on my advice will have seen their money treble.

But let's take our hats off to a really canny investor who not only guessed the market right but put his money where his mouth was, investing an eye watering £50 million in farm land in 1999 when he brought the Prudential Insurance agricultural estate of some 28,000 acres of Grade 1 & Grade 2 land.  The name of that clever man - The Duke of Cornwall who, of course, is rather better known as the Prince of Wales.

Incidentally you will not go far wrong with your investment strategy if you always do the opposite of the Prudential Insurance company. The duchy of Cornwall I expect sold equities at near the top of the market and invested in farmland at the bottom, the Prudential sold farmland at the bottom and, i suspect, invested the proceeds in equities at the top - you don't get much dumber than that. 


Monday, 13 June 2011

Organ Donor

I have just filled in a form for a new driving licence and ticked the box asking whether I would be willing to donate my organs in event of ending up in a bloody mess on the road.  Coincidentally my boys came home for the weekend and proudly displayed their Donor Cards which they had signed up for at school.  Now as I believe in the principal of 'Do unto others as you would be done by' it follows that it would be rank hypocrisy not to sign up as a potential donor unless I had some religious belief which precluded me accepting a organ in the event of my kidney or whatever packing up.

I have not though signed up as donor, nor have my sons, to allow National Health hospitals to dish out our freely given organs to foreigners.  According to the Sunday Times Kings College Hospital in London has been paid over  £1.0 million for carrying out some 22 liver transplants on foreigners over the last two years.  Now there are two points here. First the Kings College Hospital seems to be undercharging by a ridiculous amount. I would suggest rich foreigners in need of a liver would happily cough up ten times the paltry £50,0000 the hospital is currently charging. The second point is that we offer our organs free. If the certain NHS hospitals want to make money out of them then they should pay the heirs of the recently dead person for the privilege.  Why shouldn't someones grieving wife or family not receive a cheque if the beneficiary is not a Brit but a fat Arab? 

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Overseas Aid

I think I have cracked where Cameron is going wrong. The Spectator informs me that a pollster -one Alan Cooper - has the ear of the Prime Minister - now that I think is the problem. the Overseas Aid fiasco is a typical example of how polls can mislead - ask an average Brit if they think it is a good idea to give 0.7% of GDP to third world countries and they will probably say -yes - not wanting to look mean and anyway 99% of those asked wouldn't have a clue what GDP was anyway.  Tell them though - some years later that - say - the Paras coming back from a tour of Afghanistan - must lose their 'para' pay in order to make an annual saving of £4.0 million to help pay for this vast amount of Overseas Aid and most Britswill be f  ****** furious.

Cameron's mistake is not to realise that opinions are like the wind. One minute the wind is from the South and seems set fair - the next it has veered to the North West and there is a gale blowing which could sweep you out of office.  If he has a brain he will back down on Overseas Aid otherwise it will come back to haunt him. Various newspapers have declared open season on Overseas Aid and it is an absolute racing certainty that a succession of scandals will be unearthed over the next year or so. Lastly, of course, it wouldn't be so bad if African, Middle Eastern and Asian potentates brought Jaguars and Range Rovers to drive around in, but what really pisses off the average Brit is seeing his hard earned taxes recycled into Mercedes Benz.