Unholy Path

Deplatforming is alive and kicking, and apparently not affected by the pandemic. Controversial US filmmaker Michael Moore was loudly booed after the release of his latest documentary in which he questions the dogmas surrounding climate change. The film was met with cries of shame and calls to outlaw its showing.

Planet of the Humans, available for free on YouTube, wants to showcase the hypocrisy of the green movement and dispel its myths. If the documentary succeeds in doing so or not is rather beside the point as one would rather leave that judgment to viewers.

Much more telling is the almost hysterical fanaticism displayed by those who proclaim to worry about our orb’s future. In what amounts to mob rule, Mr Moore is being silenced not with argued reason but by a large posse demanding he just shut up. Whilst calling for his blood, figuratively one hopes, those offended by the documentary seem to have missed the point Mr Moore is trying to make, namely that the environmental movement has sold its soul to big business.

Planet of the Humans also tries to engage with the proverbial 800-pound gorilla that stalks the planet but remains ignored by most: global overpopulation. The filmmaker argues that the transition from carbon-based energy sources to renewables merely tries to lessen the environmental impact of an economic model that can only exist be the grace of perpetual growth. The smaller ecological footprint so obtained may then free up room for yet more growth and larger populations. Mr Moore doesn’t think this way of life is sustainable and advocates for more profound change.

The exceptionally strong backlash against a heretic trying to question established truths shows the worrisome nature of the global environmental movement which has come to resemble a religion in the way it supresses dissent. Whilst nobody seriously disputes the gravity of the earth’s predicament, not even Mr Moore, the banning of free thought sets the ecologically self-righteous on an unholy path to hell – a reportedly very hot place.

Bitcoin’s coming of age? May’s historic halving taking place in a new era

The Bitcoin price will hit ‘at least $10,000’ even before the four-yearly ‘halving’ event taking place in two weeks, predicts the CEO of one of the world’s largest independent financial advisory organisations. 

The prediction from the chief executive and founder of deVere Group, Nigel Green, comes as the price of the world’s largest cryptocurrency suddenly soared by more than $1,500 on Thursday, moving it to its highest value since February.  It peaked at $9,400.

It comes ahead of May’s highly anticipated halving event. Occurring every four years, halving means that less and less Bitcoin – which is limited to 21 million units – will be mined.

In 2012, the number of new Bitcoins issued every 10 minutes fell from 50 to 25. In 2016, it went down from 25 to 12.5. Now, in the 2020 halving, it will drop from 12.5 to 6.25.

Mr Green says: “We see the cryptocurrency market already significantly picking up pace ahead of the historic event in May.  

“Investors are now increasing their exposure to Bitcoin as the halving – only the third in its 11-year history – will push up prices sharply due to the dramatically lower supply combined with a steady demand and increasing awareness of digital currencies.”

Previous Bitcoin halving events have prompted impressive price climbs. The 2016 halving triggered a 300 per cent jump in the value of Bitcoin.  

But the 2020 one could be even more remarkable, believes the deVere CEO.

He notes: “May’s event could herald Bitcoin’s coming of age. 

“It will, of course, drive prices higher – but, in my opinion, the jump could be even more impactful due to these unprecedented times.

“The digitalisation of our lives is accelerating at a faster pace than ever before. We’re in an exciting new era driven by technology.

“This new world needs new ways of doing things to fit the new normal.  Clearly, one of those things which is needed now more than ever, as the world becomes ever-more digitalised and globalised, is digital and global currency, such as Bitcoin.

“This will not have gone unnoticed by investors who are increasingly piling into cryptocurrencies.”

Mr Green continues: “Also, these unusual times have forced central banks to increase monetary supply. By printing never-seen-before amounts of money, traditional currencies are devalued and inflation fears rise.

“This will also drive investors towards decentralised, non-sovereign digital currencies.”

Mr Green concludes: “The excitement of the forthcoming rare halving event, together with the new era we’re in, will drive the price of Bitcoin exponentially and sustainably.

“I believe we can expect it to hit at least $10,000 before the May event itself.  

“Beyond that, we could see an explosion in the price of Bitcoin due to real-world issues it addresses and increasing adoption.”

Fake News

Idle hands are the devil’s workshop and so is an idle mind. Being cooped up at home is an open invitation to bodily harm and unhinges the mental balance as well. The wielding of potentially lethal tools to craft do-it-yourself hobby objects that usually offend any lingering sense of aesthetics is bad enough, but the proliferation of idle time is even worse and leads to spooked minds ready to believe just about anything.

Some people eager to identify and eliminate a culprit have taken to setting transmission towers alight in the belief, both sincere and pathetic, that 5G signals somehow cause a potent virus to emerge out of the aether. In an ironic touch, most torched towers had no 5G transmitters installed. The only thing the arsonists manage to accomplish were localised outages of the 4G mobile network, hampering the work of emergency responders.

Earlier this week another bit of fake news went viral when it transpired that the novel corona virus had supposedly escaped, or was released on purpose, from the den of evil scientists in China. That nugget of misinformation was attributed to Professor Tasuku Honjo, a Japanese immunologist who in 2018 received the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in recognition of his discovery of the programmed cell death protein (PD-1). Prof Honjo, it was said, had studied the corona virus whilst working in China. His conclusion: the virus is man-made.

None of it was true. Anyone bothered enough to google the professor’s name would have been able to dismiss the story in a heartbeat.

However, millions of believers couldn’t be bothered the check the facts but did manage to find the time to retweet or share the story. When faced with the truth, many instantly detected a cover-up and expanded on their conspiracy theory.

There is nothing strange in people searching for explanations to strange phenomena that transcend their understanding of the world. Every major event, from the assassination of JFK and the death of Elvis to 9/11 and now the pandemic, births a number of wild theories that seems inversely proportional to the impact and importance of the occurrence.

Though there is nothing new in this, the internet does speed up the dissemination of fake news and widens its reach considerably. The velocity and ferocity with which alt-truths propagate undermine the confidence in both science and politics – the two pillars that must provide guidance and comfort to societies cowed by the pandemic. Once the trust in authority is gone – and it is slowly going – only cacophony remains whilst people are cast adrift rudderless and clueless. Fake news going viral represents, in fact, a danger greater than any real virus.

How a Financial Consultant Can Help You

For most people, money is one of the primary driving forces in their lives. After all, you need it in order to buy food, shelter, clothes, and all other goods and services. 

Money causes stress while also providing a sense of security. Much of your time and effort are invested in your career to provide a certain standard of living for your family and to prepare for retirement. 

A skilled financial consultant can help you reduce debt and make the most of your money. This article takes a look at the reasons why you should consider working with an advisor to prepare for the future.

They Help You Understand Your Goals

Believe it or not, many people have no idea what they really want. Even though the average life expectancy is around 73 years, few people approach the future with any sort of goals in mind.

A lot of the population lives paycheck to paycheck, without much rhyme or reason to their financial decision-making. 

A chartered financial planner will ask a series of questions designed to encourage you to think about the future so that you can plan accordingly. This will enable you to be conscious of the financial decisions you make going forward rather than simply winging it as you have in the past.

They Help You Develop a Plan

Once you’ve figured out some of your long-term goals, you’ll be able to develop a plan for how to actually reach those goals.

A good plan provides structure, enabling you to create a step by step roadmap that can be adjusted year after year as your wealth grows and your goals shift and change. 

Advisors are skilled at building a financial investing plan. This will be specifically tailored to meet your needs. The more specific you can be about what you want out of life, the more they can help.

They Show You the Best Ways to Invest

There are many ways to invest your money. Each type of investment tool offers different degrees of risk and reward. The key is to understand how aggressive you want to be in building wealth.

This requires working closely with your advisor.

Be open and honest. This will provide valuable information that will help them know how best to proceed. It’ll also help them find the most efficient resources and tools to utilize when managing your wealth.

Keep in mind that an experienced financial advisor will explain all the investment options that are available, along with the pros and cons that come with each. 

Don’t feel pressured to invest too aggressively, but also listen closely to their advice. Try to be as open as possible to educated advice regarding ways to maximize your investment funds.

They Help Avoid Stupid Investments

It’s important to remember that your financial advisor is an expert. Investing is a complicated business, with an incredible amount of data to track and variables to consider. 

Because of this, it can be easy to make a mistake, to chase a trend that’s leading to a dead-end, or to find yourself excited about an investment opportunity that will only end up costing you money and causing frustration and pain.

An experienced advisor will help you avoid as many mistakes as possible. They have the training and skills needed to identify bad trends and unreliable sectors in the marketplace.

It can be hard to trust someone with your money. Especially when you feel like you’ve discovered a great investment opportunity. Yet, trust is exactly what will be required in order to build the level of wealth that most people only dream of.

They Provide a Sounding Board

A good advisor will also be a great listener. This might not sound like a big deal, but it’s actually one of the most important qualities to look for when seeking an investment professional.

You should never feel hesitant to talk to your consultant like a real person. Tell them your hopes and feelings. Mention ideas you’ve been thinking about, and never feel stupid for asking tons of questions.

Remember, they work for you. They are there to answer questions, provide feedback, and help give you confidence that your future is on the right track.

They Help Enforce Financial Discipline

Saving money isn’t fun. It can be a huge challenge. 

After all, it’s much more exciting to spend money on shiny new toys rather than sock cash away for the future.

This is another reason why an experienced consultant is so valuable. They will help you keep your eyes on the prize because they won’t have any emotional attachment to your finances. This means they can approach making smart investments and building your wealth from a purely educated and logical vantage point. 

They Help You Connect With Other Professionals

Your financial advisor will also connect you to a good lawyer and accountant. This will help ensure that your money matters are legal, and keep any potential tax issues from arising.

They Help You Relax 

Finally, knowing that you have an experienced consultant on your team will help you relax. You have a pro working for you, after all.

They’ll choose investments that will make your money work for you, and grow your wealth day after day. You can rest assured knowing that when you’re ready to retire, you’ll have the resources to enjoy your golden years to the fullest.

A Guide to the Benefits of Hiring a Financial Consultant

Planning for retirement can be confusing. Fortunately, hiring a skilled financial consultant will help make the process a little less stressful.

Click here to learn how to form an investing strategy for European markets.

Frayed Nerves

Disconcerting new from Germany. The corona reproduction rate (R) has crept back up from 0.7 to 1, meaning that every person carrying the virus, knowingly or otherwise, on average infects one other person. The news, not entirely unexpected after last week’s easing of the lockdown restrictions, prompted Dr Lothar Wieler of the Robert Koch Institute to call on Germans to stay at home ‘as much as possible’. The federal research institute is charged with disease control and prevention.

Dr Wieler also revealed that the mortality rate of German covid-19 patients has been rising steadily and now stands at 3.8 percent, higher than the global average estimated by the World Health Organisation (3.4%), but well below the rates reported by neighbouring France and Belgium. The discrepancy can be attributed, in part, to differences in the way corona deaths are tabulated. In its tally, Belgium includes deaths recorded in care homes of patients who had not been tested for the virus. Many other countries, including Germany, only include deceased hospital patients diagnosed with covid-19.

A much more telling set of data is being supplied by national statistics institutes that crunch vast volumes of historical data to extract a specific and remarkably precise ‘normal’ number of deaths for each week of the year. Using this data, an excess number of fatalities can easily be obtained and expressed in absolute and relative terms. The numbers also serve to reveal ‘hidden deaths’: suspected corona deaths who passed away without having been formally diagnosed.

Statistical data show that between 11 March and 25 April, the number of deaths recorded in New York City was 309 percent higher than what might have been expected in normal times. The discrepancy between the ‘excess deaths’ and the reported number of covid-19 deaths amounts to about 4,000.

Over roughly the same period, Spain experienced a mortality 67 percent higher than the statistical normal with 9,100 excess deaths not officially accounted for. In Belgium those numbers are 34 percent and 600 respectively. Much criticised for its apparently relaxed attitude to the pandemic, Sweden records a relatively low 18% peak in the number of excess deaths. However, the country’s actual corona mortality rate is amongst the highest in Europe.

This is perhaps a good time to remember Mark Twain and his timeless observation that ‘there are lies, damn lies, and statistics’. The numbers are, for the most, incomparable and only hint at a trend. Used to compare the performance of national authorities in their battle against the virus, statistics are of limited use and may even promote alt-truths. For now, there is no magical bullet and each country fights the pandemic as best it can.

However, it is still slightly disconcerting that as lockdowns are eased, the virus’ reproduction rate promptly creeps up. Though that may have been expected, it also stresses already frayed nerves.

The Bill

The global cost of the corona pandemic now approaches the $10 trillion mark. This is the price of the handouts, tax deferrals, and loan guarantees extended by governments trying to nurse their societies back to health. Only a fraction of that money may, in the fulness of time, be recouped. Since the depth of the recession that the virus thrust upon the world is still an unknown quantity, nobody knows for sure who and what is able to survive the pandemic. In Europe, most governments guesstimate that only about 65 percent of the deferred taxes will get paid. Up to 20 percent of the loan guarantees extended may be invoked at some point.

Budget deficits are quickly rising to levels not seen outside times of war. Debt burdens keep pace, limiting the financial wiggle room of states as preparations are made to slowly resuscitate economies. Though most economists agree that states had no choice but to act decisively, some begin to wonder who is going to pay for the enforced largesse.

Absent a global debt jubilee, the piper must be paid – eventually and presumably. This crisis has no winners, apart from a few billionaires who somehow managed to add to their fortune whilst sipping drinks aboard mega yachts anchored within swimming distance of a welcoming tax haven. Earlier recessions were local or regional in nature and could count on strong growth elsewhere to find a way up.

Not so this time around. China sputters and nears its own day of post-corona reckoning with a regime increasingly lashing out at any and all forms of dissent in a rather sorry display of gutted self-confidence. To paraphrase Karl Marx, China’s current posturing at home and abroad masks the inherent weakness of its system. Despite the unbelievable antics of its president, the United States will be fine. The country still holds the master key to the global financial system. As always, the US dollar rules supreme in a troubled world. Not even President Trump can scare investors away from the mighty dollar – and that’s saying something.

Europe is not nearly so lucky and will be hard-pressed to come up with novel solutions to remain an economic power of note. Were it not for the almost pig-headed refusal of the Frugal Four to engage in acts of creative bookkeeping, solutions could be found such as the Spanish suggestion to issue consols – perpetual bonds that pay interest but are redeemed at the issuer’s convenience. Consols are an interesting tool to kick the proverbial can not just down the road, but into interstellar space.

The idea that the debts incurred by the pandemic must be paid, and the vast volumes of credit injected into the Eurozone economy since 2015 must be taken out (i.e. the money destroyed) seems ludicrous. Such a rigorous approach to financial management will most likely result in a very long period of lacklustre growth, high unemployment, and political turmoil. Deflation also remains a distinct possibility. Business as usual is probably not on offer for the foreseeable future. To navigate the post-corona era without creating another politically volatile lost generation, out-of-the-box thinking is needed. That’s not something to expect from Europe’s Frugal Four.

Towards economic recovery: a simple, quick and targeted way for authorities to support those most in need

As political leaders across Europe are contemplating how to best prepare the restart of our economies, European Fintechs Loyaltek and Paynovate launch the Unity Card (unitycard.eu): an initiative enabling authorities to financially support certain segments of the population, such as the most underprivileged, but also to specifically target local retailers and merchants who’ve had to close their businesses. 

The special payment card, which will exceptionally be free to municipalities as the first, local level of power, can be delivered anywhere on the Old Continent in as fast as 2-4 weeks and avoids cumbersome logistics and administration, allowing for effective, ultra-targeted, monitorable and evolutive socio-economic measures on the road to economic recovery.

Brussel, 24 april 2020. As the Corona curves are slowly but surely starting to flatten, the focus is gradually shifting towards the next challenge: relaunching the economy. Whilst national governments and international institutions across Europe and the world are announcing unprecedented crisis measures, it remains to be seen if these will be enough, and especially, whether the aid can be deployed quickly enough to save those in need today. Therefore, decisive action needs to be taken today rather than tomorrow.

With a view to this, European FinTech pioneers and veterans Loyaltek and Paynovate are teaming up in a unique proposal to political leaders, with the aim of offering citizens much needed and rapid financial support by means of the Unity Card. As innovative as it is useful, this debit card can be limited for use in a certain geographical area (e.g. one municipality) as well as a certain types of predetermined shops or businesses, in this case those that have been forced to close during the current crisis: hotels, restaurants, bars, hairdressers, DIY-stores, clothes stores… As such, it is the perfect instrument to stimulate the local economy and prevent the money disappearing to foreign e-commerce websites, being sent to family abroad, or saved.

Whether it’s to support merchants who have had to close their business or to help a mother feed her children: our leaders, from municipal to national level, are looking for ways to mitigate the effects of the lockdown and prepare for a return to normal life and economic recovery,” explains Robert Masse, founder and CEO of Loyaltek and expert in the field of card payments. “But time is running out, and the question arises as to how to allocate these various resources as quickly and efficiently as possible, while at the same time avoiding any risks of fraud and ensuring that public money serves its intended purpose, to the extent of creating a win-win situation and benefiting society as a whole.”

The Unity Card has a maximum value of €250 and works just like a regular debit card on payment terminals. The validity period can be adapted in function of the needs and intended support. Users can check the remaining value thanks to a QR code on the back, while an extranet allows the issuing authority to monitor, analyse, manage and even adjust the way its cards are being used, all in real-time. And thus, once again in this crisis, it’s new technologies that are offering relief in a situation which at first seemed insoluble.

“In a spirit of social commitment, our R&D teams wanted to make themselves useful against the horrors of the Corona virus. Ultimately, it’s the pragmatism and the potential of this solution which convinced us to set up the necessary partnerships to deploy it throughout Europe,” concludes Robert Masse. “The name, which of course stands for solidarity, came naturally, and we have decided to offer the first 5,000 cards to each of the municipalities that want to work with it, given that they’re the ones closest to the situation on the ground. Implementation costs are kept to a minimum and amount to a fraction of the usual costs of similar ‘traditional’ measures. Moreover, we do not take any margin on the transactions.”

The solution proposed by Loyaltek and Paynovate has proven its worth before in Germany at the time of the migration crisis, when authorities distributed thousands of similar cards to manage the allowances of Syrian refugees, allowing them to provide in their most basic needs by purchasing from local merchants.

The appearance of the Unity Card can be personalised if necessary. It is distributed either directly to the beneficiaries or by group transmission to the competent authority, which can then further distribute it. The payments made by citizens with the card are managed together with the rest of the merchants’ payment traffic, while cardholder support is ensured by Loyaltek or the ‘customer’ himself, i.e. the issuing authority.

Loyaltek NV is a European leader in limited range cards and manages numerous gift card and professional expense cards programmes in 14 countries. Its clients include Sodexo, Ingenico, Total and a great number of major commercial real estate players. They call on Loyaltek’s expertise for specific and technically advanced projects.

Paynovate NV is one of the six Belgian issuers of electronic money, regulated by the National Bank of Belgium and authorised to issue payment instruments in all European countries. Paynovate is also a principal member of Visa and Bancontact.


In the good old days, the likes of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez entertained their people with seemingly unending ramblings about nearly every topic under the sun. Both rulers are dead now, but a few presidents still cling to notions of omniscience and feel the need to shine their light on issues they know virtually nothing about.

Sometimes it just cannot be helped, and one must take US President Donald Trump to task over his increasingly bizarre behaviour during the daily Coronavirus Task Force briefings staged at the White House. On Thursday, the event descended to a new and painful low as the mightiest man on earth, sporting his signature fake tan, took leave of whatever senses he had left to suggest sunlight and Lysol as possible cures for covid-19.

Whilst President Trump kept blabbering, oblivious to the ridicule he sparked, renowned scientists such as task force coordinator Dr Deborah Birx barely managed to hide their disbelief and stupefaction at so much nonsense being spouted by a single person. Taking to the lectern, President Trump philosophised at great length about cleansing the insides of the human body with some sort of disinfectant and later suggested covid-19 patients could be bombarded with bright light to kill off the virus.

Immediately after he was done, Washington State emergency authorities rushed out a tweet, warning citizens not to try out any of the president’s suggestions. Reckitt Benckiser, the British maker of Lysol, warned that its disinfectants under no circumstance should be administered into the human body.

The very event that means to reassure the American public that the federal government is doing all it can to contain the virus and battle the disease, has now become a stage for the dissemination of crackpot solutions and dangerously silly ideas. It is a daily show lasting up to two hours that features an emperor without clothes, sycophants too afraid to point out the obvious, and a few scientists trying to make the best of a very bad situation.

We should all be exceedingly grateful to the many thousands of dedicated civil servants and professionals who keep the United States federal government on an even keel by ignoring to the best of their ability any instructions from above. They must try and keep this up for another 271 days until the inauguration of the 46th president when a sense reason may resurface in the White House. Donald Trump may then replace that poor man James Buchanan as the worst president in US history – a full 44 notches down from Honest Abe. The other possibility does not bear thinking about.

Intensive Care

Just like a particle accelerator produces a string of strange phenomena, a pandemic-stressed economy churns out elements that do not comply to long-standing theories. Negative interest rates and oil prices are but two of the curios that breeched the walls of convention. The former already existed in the pre-corona era, whilst the latter represents an event never observed before.

Another economic law that ended on the scrap heap of busted myths is the inverse correlation between inflation and unemployment as evidenced by the Phillips Curve, named after the New Zealand economist who studied centuries’ worth of economic data to prove his point: when inflation creeps up, unemployment numbers ease and vice versa.

To crunch the numbers and illustrate the effects of shifting spending priorities, ‘Bill’ Phillips in 1949 designed and built a hydraulic computer that used coloured water and an intricate web of pipes, sluices, and reservoirs to mimic the path travelled by money as it trickles through society.

The MONIAC (Monetary National Income Analogue Computer), also known as Bill’s Financephalograph, provided its builder and others with the insight that a trade-off exists between a strong economy and low inflation. The consensus is that Mr Phillips would have won a Nobel prize had he not passed away, aged 60, in 1975.

According to prominent economists, the Phillips Curve no longer seems to reflect or predict present-day reality. Actually, its elegant path was first broken in the 1970s when stagflation reigned supreme and economies suffered both high rates of inflation and unemployment. This gave latter-day monetarists such as Milton Friedman the courage to dismiss Mr Phillips’ research as irrelevant to longer-term economic trends.

Although both sides of the debate presented vast volumes of evidence to support their stance, it looks as if facts on the ground have created another reality altogether: just before the pandemic struck, most advanced economies shared a set of similar, yet historically unique, features: low growth, low inflation, and low unemployment. This was not supposed to be possible.

Thus, we unknowingly may have entered the realm of the bizarre years ago. The threshold seems to have been the banking crisis of 2008 and the Great Recession that followed in its wake. This is when strange phenomena first appeared, perhaps reflecting the bewildering patchwork of solutions implemented to keep weakened economies on life support. The patient never fully recovered and has now been returned to intensive care.

UnionBank bolsters COVID-19 ‘Stay-At-Home’ with range of digital services

In response to the Philippine government’s “Stay At Home” directive as part of the ongoing enhanced community quarantine, Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) continues to process a growing number of digital transactions and remains business-as-usual (BAU), throughout the ECQ.

For the month of March, UnionBank logged a nearly 160% in daily sign-ups to its online and mobile banking portals, and enabled more than 500,000 credit card transactions and well over 1 million Instapay and PesoNet fund transfer transactions. Importantly, the bank waived all its fees on InstaPay and PesoNet since the start of the ECQ and has extended this to April 30.  

Most significantly, UnionBank also registered a tremendous surge in new accounts opened “100% digitally” through the UnionBank Online platform, as this was 2700X higher than year-ago levels.

These robust figures come amid reports from several consumer monitoring groups that the behavior of banking customers may be changing, preferring to use digital channels during the lockdown.

UnionBank president and CEO Edwin Bautista said the coronavirus crisis could be the turning point in customers’ shift-to-digital – to safely access their funds, do transfer, make payments and apply for credit.

 “This represents a tremendous new opportunity for banking in the country as this should reduce the number of Filipinos who remain unbanked.  As this happens, we at UnionBank are fully prepared with the digital infrastructure already in place to offer full banking services to more people, more conveniently and more cost-effectively,” Bautista said. 

Along with its digital platforms that enable the public to bank from home, UnionBank also rolled out its 5G-enabled mobile van called 5G-Bank On Wheels (5G-BOW) to serve people’s banking needs during the ECQ.  

With its 5G-BOW clients can withdraw, pay bills, transfer funds, open an account and do balance-inquiries with faster, more robust bandwidth and internet connections, powered by its unique 5G technology.

In terms of its brick-and-mortar branches, UnionBank was able to keep 94% of its branches open, outside of those in medical quarantine and local lockdown areas; while safely keeping close to 90% of employees working from home in compliance with government guidelines.