Monday, November 28, 2011

The demonic duopoly?

The assault continues on the demonic duopoly of retailers Woolworths and Coles. The proliferation of their own brands, such as discounted milk, seems to be causing much angst and handwringing amongst diverse section of the populace!

Stephen King from Monash (ex- ACCC) had a good post on this over the weekend at Core Economics.
The manufacturers who have most to fear from home brands are those whose products do not survive on quality but on marketing hype. Those manufacturers risk becoming contract suppliers of home brand products. Home brands will reduce the profits of those manufacturers–but consumers will benefit.
Federal Industry Minister Kim-il-Carr has an opinion posted today and seems to have a fixed mind regardless of any ACCC outcome, or any evidence based research. Again the left / right convergence on populist economics is apparent as Carr basically aligns with Katter. George Megalogenis posted on the decline of economic literacy since the keating era in The Oz at the weekend.

Separate from any opinion on the market power of the demonic duopoly my own opinion is that our food manufacturers are just not very good at branding and marketing. The demonic duopoly have been far more innovative and responsive to societal changes than the food manufacturers who are their suppliers.

Witness the Macro Wholefoods brand at Woolies. This is not a downmarket cheap offering as in the past with home brands but a high quality range branded on the basis of consistent quality above competitors. Their rolled oats makes Uncle Toby's almost chook food in comparison. The polenta is exceptional with local Misty Mountains full cream jersey milk.

Woolworths currently have home brand smoked oysters on specialat $1.40 and the quality is more than acceptable. Reject John West!


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sunbus in real time

Sunbus has a real time bus tracker. A welcome development! We can only hope a smartphone app is not far behind!

As a CBD dweller who has for a period explored the lifestyle of being vehicle free I can only say that this does address one of the bigger problems of public transport in a regional city like Cairns. Public transport also has a status problem. Catching a bus wont get you elevated in social status as I found out!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

TQ wins but does FNQ lose?

The LNP has released a tourism policy. While always reluctant to plunge into partisan politics KS luuncheoned yesterday with a gorgeous local small businesswoman with a strong background in tourism who similarly despaired that 'informal' was the only logical vote. I won't delve into detailed analysis however this stood out:

In making a commitment to enhance and better coordinate tourism development and marketing efforts throughout Queensland, the LNP will establish a new partnership arrangement between Tourism Queensland, RTOs and industry. 

To be known as DestinationQ, this partnership will drive stronger collaboration and more effective development and marketing outcomes, by addressing longstanding diverging views between TQ, RTOs and industry. It will also ensure that TQ is restored to a position of strategic leadership, guiding RTOs and industry in partnership to reclaim Queensland’s title of Australia’s leading tourism destination.

In return for becoming partners in the DestinationQ initiative, the LNP will ensure the expertise and local knowledge of RTOs is properly recognised and utilised in the delivery of destination marketing inititiaves.
Well, here we were thinking the LNP was promoting regionalism whan all this seems to suggest is tighter central control? RTO's = regional authorites like TTNQ. Our local tourism body should not be beyond criticism and reform however I would suggest it may have actually been more successful than TQ?

KS would suggest that the State tourism authorities are themselves self - defeating anachronisms which should in any serious reform be abolished in favour of national and regional marketing. FNQ has nothing to win from DestinationQ, and possibly much to lose?

Starve the poor, destroy the environment, buy local

The quirkily counter-intuitive Freakonomics has posted on the negative economics of the rampant locavore food movement in the USA:
a locavore-like production system would require an additional 60 million acres of cropland, 2.7 million tons more fertilizer, and 50 million pounds more chemicals
KS has always strongly promoted our finest local produce and agricultural potential but always in the context of its appropriate market position and promotion rather than some kind of ideological economic salvation delivered by a mass local food industry. More recently our mejia King Parrot (now LNP candidate) suggested that every dollar transferred to spending on local food would booost our economy by $4! WOW!

Note: WOW is the ASX stock code for Woolworths.

HT Greg Mankiw's Thanksgiving Shopping Advice: And tomorrow, be grateful for the principle of comparative advantage

Friday, November 18, 2011

Behind the Chinese tourism boom

Jack Carlsen from Curtin University has an interesting take on inbound Chinese visitor numbers at The Converation: The real story behind the "boom" in Chinese tourism to Australia.

The Chinese outbound travel market comprises only about 10% of the total population of China, mainly those residing in the major provinces and wealthy enough to travel overseas. Of those 130 million wealthy Chinese, about 40 million travel overseas annually, of which Australia’s share is 400,000, or about 1%. That is on par with Australia’s share of all international travellers, so it appears that we are “holding our own” in terms of global market share.
However, there are inherent difficulties in targeting market share as an indicator of success, as we cannot control for the actions of our competitors, who are also aggressively targeting the Chinese market, mainly the 100 ADS countries.
The United States, for example, has allocated $50 million for tourism marketing in China and countries like Japan, Korea and Singapore are already attracting Chinese visitors. It may be that other ADS countries are better placed to meet the specific needs of Chinese travellers, particularly those that are price competitive, have more favourable exchange rates, better shopping or a more substantial Chinese diaspora population.
Carlsen goes on to comment on market segmentation of Chinese visitors with a younger demographic for educational purposes being prominent. We have previously commented here on issuess related to educational exports and visas.
The main destinations for all segments are the gateway cities of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide (where most education centres and our Australian Chinese population are located), with the regions receiving only 7% of Chinese arrivals in 2010.
There is also comment on Chinese tourism and cheaper price sensitive package tours. Some can recall when similar problems and issues were voiced about Japanese tourists.

Meanwhile at BusinessSpectator Gary Livermore of trading group Source Co has some interesting comments on shared aspects of Australian and Chinese culture which gives us an advantage over the USA:

Livermore explains that sharing that sense of humour means that we have an advantage in selling tourism, wine and a whole range of services including legal, accounting and management. There are many more opportunities opening up.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

October unemployment bounces back up

The latest ABS unemployment numbers for October have stalled the recent positive trend. The unemployment rate has jumped from 6.4% to 8.7%. With typical volatility that was pretty much all female unemployment. There isn't much positve to say about the latest monthly number and we can only continue to monitor the trends.  

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Warren's corporate body surreality roadshow

Loose Change has previously posted on the body corporate insurance crisis in FNQ. Today there was a seminar sponsored by the national strata association. I have pondered this since lunchtime when I wandered back from the Cairns RSL in a trance, where I had resorted in need of a quick shot after a surreal political experience!

Warren's roadshow went down well with the audience. Not so well with me! he did his usual thing of arriving late to attract maximum attention. However, Senator McLucas spoke of the role of Guvmint to promote more competition in the market. Wazza threw spleen at private insurers and suggested a return to a guvmint insurance office.

Is this surreal! We have a left faction ALP Senator talking market competition and the Federal LNP member demanding socialist solutions! Peter Costello has recently broken ranks with some criticisms of the LNP on this also: Liberals must protect values of freedom and choice; Party discontent simmers over Abbott's populism.

While Wazza won the forum it was McLucas who made the most poignant point that the laws of unintended consequences can never be neglected when it comes to Guvmint action.There was bipartisan support at the finale to support a parliamentary enquiry.

The National Disaster Insurance Review report was also released today. I will resist further comment for now because I have no idea how to sensibly respond!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

wonkish statistics worth a look

OESR has posted residential land and dwelling activity profiles for local guvmint areas in Queensland. That may sound boring but there is some interesting data in here.I had intended to do more but ended up as a quick post back at the time of the OESR demographic seminar in Cairns earlier in the year.

That seminar covered some of the data in these profiles, and particularly how OESR were tracking property development on a more cohesive basis in Council areas throughout Queensland.OESR is doing good work here in providing valuable aditional data.

At their seminar OESR referred to an overhang of stock in Cairns. Low approvals don't reflect the substantial outstanding stock. Only in the last year has Townsville accumulated a stock above Cairns for the first time since that data commenced in 2003. The OESR data on 'operational works approved' is quite recent but very worthwhile. The ratios here are also relevant with the Gold Coast actually below Cairns on 'operational works approval" as a proportion of (quite low commparatively) approvals stock!

Regardless, there are now large development holdings on the market by the receicers to failed developers! Reports in the Cairns Post of interest in the substantial land bank of CEC. Also reports of the holdings by the murky Capital Globe, associtaed with the previous Cairns Mayor, where the Capital Globe CEO was asasssinated in an Islamabad guest house! However, reports in the Post related to marketing by Quaid Colliers for anything is typically less than useless and shoul be taken as pure spin! 

This is good stuff from OESR and deserving of analytical attention!

Death Star closes in

A few weeks ago now the evil death star Goldman Sachs consortium came back with another recapitalisation offer for Redcape, the ex-Hedley pub fund. Holders receive 2.59c per security under the current offer. When Goldman made its initial proposal three months ago the offer was 8c per security. So, that ongoing tragedy continues to go well for suffering investors eh?!

Hedley floated Redcape (HLG) in 2007 at $3.50 amidst extraordinary hype from local mejia .........

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Financial Sustainability Report

The Financial Stability Review is an assessment of Cairns Regional Council’s capacity to meet its financial commitments by Queensland Treasury Corporation. It's part of the process for the business case for the proposed Entertainment Precinct.

The parrot cage commentariat has gone off in response. The QTC report has done what Treasury reports should do in challenging assumptions and highlighting risks. While there is, I think, still a business case to come it is difficult to see a political way forward for the project in current format.

The report is of interest in itself and worth a look so I will resist any comment on the project, and cultural industries which should be a comparatvive advantage for Cairns, until a later post. The position of CRC is rated as sound, with a strong balance sheet and low debt, but with a negative outlook which is related to broader economic conditions and risks. Most of the noise is around the operating cost of the project and the sustainability of rate increases in a weak economy. In that context it was employee costs which caught my attention in the review.

There is a reference in the opening summary to a risk that "if the next EBA outcome results in greater than
4 per cent growth, a possibility in light of the economic conditions in the region". This struck me as a bit odd? The reference here is to basic wage price growth and not employee numbers. Employee costs are covered in more detail later in the review.

Employee benefit costs are 33% of Council operating expenses. Employee costs have increased by 8.5% p.a. over the past 5 years. This is not attributable to growth in employee numbers but rather a 7.7% p.a. growth rate in FTE (full time equivalent) salaries. Average salary per FTE increased from $63,344 in 2009 to $73,438 in FY 2011. That is clearly not sustainable. The current EBA was struck in 2009 and expires next year:

Under the current EBA, annual wage increases are the greater of 4.0 per cent per
annum or the Australian Bureau of Statistics Wage Price Index (Public Sector)
Catalogue number 6345 which has averaged 3.8 per cent over the last two years.

CRC has advised that factors leading to employee expenses increases greater than 4
per cent include increases in employee overhead costs (i.e workers compensation),
employee classification increments and the payment of overtime.
The 7.7% seems a large increase above the base EBA rate regardless of the explanation. Why the base rate increase should be above the relevant index anyway also deserves query? There has been a trend for some years of public sector wages increasing at a faster rate than private. This graph below of the relevant wage price index from ABS shows how public sector wages have risen past private sector since 1997. 

I would have thought the employment profile of Council quite broad, ranging from professionals to labourers, and not unrepresentative of the broader labour market? Once upon a time there was an expectation of lower public sector wages as a consequence of job security.

The review notes that employees have been granted job security guarantees beyond any amalgamation requirements. The employee costs in the review are based on lower than historical increases in total employee costs of 5.4% but with similar EBA agreement:
Employee wage price increases are forecast at 4.0 per cent for the full forecast period
FY2012 to FY2021, which is in line with the current Enterprise Bargaining
Agreement. This agreement expires in 2012, however negotiations are expected to
result in at least a similar annual increase in light of the high unemployment and poor
economic conditions in the region.
I can't get my head around this rationale that weak economic conditions should equate to relatively high public sector wage outcomes?  It all sounds Greek to me!

Note: The NSW and Vistorian Guvmint policy is to restrict public sector wage rises to 2.5% without explicit productivity tradeoffs. Perhaps QTC should do a scenario of what infrastructure could be afforded with that outcome? The Australian has previously editorialised on this:
Wage costs need to be held to the inflation rate, currently 2.9 per cent, or less if budget deficits are to be reduced and funds freed up for infrastructure

Thursday, November 10, 2011

National Regional Profile

The National Regional Profile from ABS has some interesting data to play with for Cairns and the Far North.

The Cairns Post covers serveral aspects and expresses concern at the numbber of older cars. Queensland economy watch has some comparative data on population density. It was the taxation statistics that caught my attention although data is only available up until the 2009 tax year. The total nummber of taxable and non-taxable individuals declined in 2009 for the Cairns SSD. Aggregate taxable income also fell that year. Updated data for 2010 would be interesting ........

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thai's takeaway MSF?

MSF Sugar has come out of an ASX trading halt this morning with an announcement that its 22% Thai shareholder, Mitr Phol, has made a takeover offer to acquire all outstanding shares at $4.45 per share. This is a 30% premium to recently traded prices. The offer is conditional on Mitr Phol reaching a 50.1% stake.  MSF has traded higher earlier in the year before sugar prices have pulled back in recent months.

There is also a current takeover battle for Proserpine Mill, including an offer from Tully Sugar, now Chinese controlled. Mossman Mill maintains its independence. MSF is an ASX listed company with a substantial local shareholding via a previous merger with Mulgrave Mill. MSF recently relocated its HQ to the thriving business centre of Gordonvale.

We can expect a revival of debate on foreign ownership of our agricultural assets, including possibly xenophopic commentary. 

Update: Bizarre headline in the Cairns Post: Far Northern sugar  mills look to offshore lifeline. A lifeline? Hardly, and a complete misrepresentation! The usual suspects in the parrot cage are provoked.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Strong dollar not chasing tourists away?

The ABS has released the latest stats for Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia, Sep 2011. 
Business commentator Michael Pascoe has responded with a query on the impact of the currency on inbound tourism: Strong dollar not chasing foreigners away.

Everyone knows the Australian tourism industry is dead because the high Australian dollar means we can't compete for foreigners' business – but like many things that "everyone knows", it's not true.
Although I suspect Pascoe overstates his case he does also point to the strong growth in outbound tourism and the changing mix or our inbound tourists. China is growing strongly while the USA and Japan decline.

The latest big spend by Tourism Australia is providing half of  a $10 million marketing budget with Jetstar with the primary focus on boosting Japanese travel to Australia. That's a very nice deal indeed for Jetstar as it launches its Japanese domestic business, but it's also targeting a population that is shrinking and an economy that's going nowhere much either.
Cairns is the classic example of an Australian tourism destination doing it tough. Australians increasingly are getting their tropic hit a little more exotically – our September departures for Thailand were up 38 per cent on last year, 17 per cent more of us took off for Indonesia and 11 per cent for Singapore, but travel to the USA and Italy were up 16 and 17 per cent respectively.
But it's the fall in Japanese tourism that the FNQ locals seem to be focussing on. Stroll the streets of Cairns and there's no shortage of signs in Japanese, but nowhere near as much Chinese. On the current trend, Chinese visitors to Australia will outnumber Japanese by two to one within months.
Australia presently is winning a surge in Chinese travellers almost by default. It's early days with the industry still in learning mode. You can't yet rely on the average hotel offering noodles or congee for breakfast as a matter of course. The Chinese market itself is fundamentally different with the average new tourist more interested in bright lights, big cities and theme parks than beaches and bush. That average tourist must be catered for, while a marketing strategy is necessary to educate and lure the above-average for our particular delights.
Or we can continue to just whinge about the two-speed economy, the strong dollar and pine for the good ol' days.
 Macrobusiness has a different take on the ABS Stats: No joy for tourism

I will try to expand on previous comments on the Qantas dispute in relation to some points from Pascoe, and maybe take a closer look at the ABS data to resolve the differing perspective of Pascoe from Macrobusiness. In relation to Japanese tourism the Yen has been one of the stronger currencies v the $AUD although Australia would still become a more relatively expensive destination for the Japanese. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Google Trends & Insights

Nicholas Gruen at Club Troppo has posted on some recent research that Google Trends is a more reliable forecast indicator than a couple of the world's leading consumer sentiment indexes:
Forecasting Private Consumption: Survey-Based Indicators vs. Google Trends”, SIMEON VOSEN* AND TORSTEN SCHMIDT, RWI, Essen, Germany

In this study we introduce a new indicator for private consumption based on search query time series provided by Google Trends. The indicator is based on factors extracted from consumption-related search categories of the Google Trends application Insights for Search. The forecasting performance of the new indicator is assessed relative to the two most common survey-based indicators: the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index and the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index. The results show that in almost all conducted in-sample and out-of-sample forecasting experiments the Google indicator outperforms the survey-based indicators. This suggests that incorporating information from Google Trends may offer significant benefits to forecasters of private consumption.
Journal of Forecasting, 30, 565–578 (2011)
Ricardian Ambivalence has been playing with Google Trends searches on 'unemployment benefits' as a leading indicator for Australian unemployment. He has also employed a Google correlate feature to identify the closest correlation is with body piercings! I'm not sure if my Google skills are adequate but after a short play around it was difficult to get any meaningful specific results for Cairns because of inadequate data. However, these were the search results on a couple of broad terms: 

'Cairns Australia' (all regions): The spikes here are cyclones Yasi and Larry.

Great Barrier Reef (all regions): The letters flag news report links where 'B' is Steve Irwin's encounter with a stingray, and 'D' is the grounding of the Chinese ship.

Both these appear to show quite negative long term trends, or do my Google and interpretative skills need upgrading?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Cairns Economic Future Plan

With momentum building towards a state election the Queensland Government has released a draft Cairns Economic Future Plan 2011- 2015 for consultation. There is nothing surprising or unexpected in the core strategy:

1.Building on strong industries – Continued industry development for the region’s current strengths in tourism, agriculture and food, aviation services, and marine maintenance.
2.Diversifying the regional economy – Innovation, investment attraction and industry development for new sectors that capitalise on what is special about the Cairns region – tropical expertise, defence, mining services, renewable energy and education. This will also open new job opportunities for skilled workers.
3.Getting the business environment right – Support for regional infrastructure and fundamental economic development, such as support for small to medium enterprises (SMEs).
There is nothing surprising here and while there may be disagreements of priority, emphasis (spin) and implementation there doesn't  really appear to be much variation between parties on core strategic dirction for Cairns. Although I may update that with more nuanced thoughts and observations upon reflection.

Feedback can be provided to before 21 November, 2011.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

What was Australia's biggest corporate collapse?

The Senate this week released the report of its inquiry into The impacts of supermarket price decisions on the dairy industry. Queensland dairy farmers are not happy with the report which basically backs the milk consumer as the winner. A sentiment previously supported here at loose change.

An interesting post on this at Club Troppo caught my attention: The farm lobby, bloodied - but probably unbowed:

It’s amazing that farmers’ complaints on this issue were ever taken seriously. Indeed, the obvious takeaway from the report is that people in the farming business are all too ready to point to economic and regulatory issues that don’t actually exist. Were farm groups embarrassed by any of this? Not a bit. They reacted as they so frequently do, posing at the same time as rugged individualists and pitiable victims of capitalist forces beyond their control.
Troppo also points to a recently published book, Breaking The Sheep's Back, by Charles Massey. Massey has a background in the wool industry and has written a detailed account of the industry's decline. He has estimated that the collapse of the wool reserve price scheme "precipitated what, in today's monetary values, stands as the biggest corporate-business disaster in Australian history" 

Reviews of the book can be found at the SMH: Shrunken industry fleeced by politics and greed, and also by historian Ross Fitzgerald at The Oz: How an industry got fleeced:

Massy's fascinating expose demonstrates with considerable force the unforeseen effects that key ideas about "helping" an iconic industry via staunch protectionism, tariff walls, and other government interventions, have had in the not too recent past.
Fitzgerald's description of Wool Board chairmann William Gunn as "energetic but fundamentally wrong headed" is a description that could equally apply to some more prominently outspoken agrarian socialist politicians today.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Herritage award for cruise terminal

The Australian has a report today on the 2011 Architectural Awards with some glowing references to the refurbished Cairns Cruise Terminal. Sadly, too late for a similar refurbishment of the old Cairns Yacht Club.
ROMANCE isn't a quality much regarded in contemporary architecture but the jury for the 2011 National Awards of the Australian Institute of Architects knew it when they saw it. The refurbished cruise boat terminal in Cairns, which won The Lachlan Macquarie Award for Heritage, is an elegant timber shed, updated with steel and glass inserts, that is redolent with its history as a tropical gateway to the South Pacific.  It would have been easy to substitute it with something as shiny as a cruise ship but it has withstood 100 years of storms and cyclones and it’s not easy to replace that kind of atmosphere.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Why do we expect others to buy our tropical expertise?

That was the question that should be raised, and came to mind again, with this post today by Stephen King from Melbourne Business School: Jingoism, spin and Holden cars.

Oh no! Not our Aussie Icon, the Commodore. That would be like having a Dane design the Sydney Opera House or having the Sydney Harbour Bridge designed and built by an English firm.
In the Banana Republic of Cairns we seem to think that everything should be done locally. Anything contracted outside the region is regarded as treason and brings media outrage.  At the same time we are arrogant enough to think that our 'tropical expertise' is something and others around the world should buy from us. The hypocrisy is rank but such is the state of political populism and the parochial culture of Cairns.

So to the engineers – on your logic Aussie engineers should not be designing any ‘off shore icons’. Damn – there goes all that work in Asia and suddenly makes a lot of Australian engineers unemployed..

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ocean Spirit locals card debacle

As a cardholder Loose Change was quite peeved to receive this letter yesterday as he had only used his reef card once this year. Ocean Spirits has now been sold and the cards will no longer be accepted with 5 months still to expiry.

Ocean Spirits introduced the card last year. While there were problems booking at peak times the cost of $200/single and $350/family provided affordable reef trips for locals. Last years offer was to include Rum Runner out of Cape Trib, however this boat never went back into the water for last years season. I did eventually get value for money last year so decided to renew.

This situation is not uncommon with this kind of offer. Diners who bought into last years Table 52 card offer may have found that Pier Bar would not accept thheir 2-for-1 card after a change of ownership through the year. When Angus & Robertson went into administration earlier this year they controversially changed conditions and dates on gift vouchers, requiring additional cash expenditure equivalent to the value of the voucher redeemed. The  administrator indicated that holders of unused gift vouchers may register to become unsecured creditors.

The Cairns Post has a report on this today: Families angry after unlimited reef trip passes axed 5 months before expiry, which includes some robust commentary. Complaints to Queensland Fair Trading are suggested  by Choice, and some further inquiries here are intended also, and perhaps with ACCC. Clearly there is an issue with consumer protection in this area.

The seller of Ocean Spirits, Macro Corporation Limited, is an ASX listed company, and as that was its only operating business there is a good deal of public information available. The business was sold for $3.8million to Jai Tourism & Leisure, believed to have Indian connections. The proposal documentation provided for shareholder approval in September indicates that purchase price adjustments would include "an amount where the Seller has received prepayments for services to be provided by the Ocean Spirit Business after Completion". Presumably any adjustment didn't include the prepaid reef cards!

The deal did not include the Ocean Spirits IV dinner cruise vessel which is up for sale separately as Macro's only remaining tourism asset. A follow-up post may be required after further investigation of account details, particularly some messing about with boat valuations which drew some attention and qualification from the auditor.

Meanwhile, we reef card holders can console ourselves that while we may not be bound for Michaelmas Cay, the good chaps at Macro intend to retain an ASX listing and divert any remaining funds from the sale, to which we have selflessly contributed, into mining and commodities trading.


transit visas for PNG

After some recent posts on student visas with relevance to foreig students, it was of interest to stumble on this in The Oz: Visa rules driving business abroad.

RESTRICTIVE Australian visa rules are robbing Queensland companies of spillover revenues from the mining boom in neighbouring Papua New Guinea, business groups are claiming. They have urged the Australian government to set up a special processing zone for workers passing through Cairns as they head for the PNG boom.
Cairns businesses have complained to the government that newly wealthy PNG corporations have shifted conferences from Australia, including holding a $100,000 meeting in Singapore, because of the difficulty obtaining visas for their directors and other staff.
Note: Link may require (currently) free registration.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Changing State of Global Poverty

The Changing State of Global Poverty
"We estimate that between 2005 and 2010, the total number of poor people around the world fell by nearly half a billion people to under 900 million in 2010. This means that the prime target of the Millennium Development Goals – to halve the rate of global poverty by 2015 from its 1990 level – was probably achieved around three years ago. Whereas it took 25 years to reduce poverty by half a billion people up to 2005, the same feat was likely achieved in the six years between then and now. Poverty reduction of this magnitude is unparalleled in history; never before have so many people been lifted out of poverty over such a brief period of time."