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http://www.businessinsider.com/astonishing-photos-of-prewar-afghanistan-show-everyday-life-in-peaceful-kabul-2013-2?op=1

A friend forwarded this link to me and I wanted to share it. It's amazing to think how normal Afghanistan looked before a few decades of war made it into such a mess.

Hi Kuppy, I think one of the overlooked reasons for UK economic growth is the payment protection insurance payouts equivalent to 1% of GDP over 18 months. Everyone in the UK has had a letter, text or call about claiming this.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-25635819

I don't follow the UK economy closely. My hunch is that much of the developed world's economy is being artificially pumped up by various stimulus measures--though this one may be a bit more arbitrary than most of the government programs.

good morning kuppy, your cuba travel blogging is very interesting and i’m really enjoying the pictures and your thoughts so i wanted to thank you for sharing. i don't know if you've heard of michael totten but he's a smart geopolitical traveler and commentator with a focus usually on middle east, balkans, etc but coincidentally he happens to have just gone to cuba. you may find it interesting and if you have any reaction i'd love to hear it

http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/blog/michael-j-totten/welcome-cuba
http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/blog/michael-j-totten/once-great-city-havana

I enjoyed Michael's writing style and thanks for pointing him out to me--I've also enjoyed some of his other pieces. For those looking for more on Cuba, I think you'll enjoy Michael's pieces. My only comment is that Michael makes the place seem much more gestapo and closed up than I percieved it. It seemed that everyone I met with had something disparaging to say about the Castros, and they weren't in the slightest bit concerned with telling you about it (loudly and publicly)--even if you didn't ask.

Enjoyed your write-up and photos on Cuba. Thanks for that.

Did you/will you invest there?

Guess you have to stay tuned for the next edition (when I have time to finish writing it...) haha

In all seriousness, I am excited to invest in Cuba, but my government says it's illegal. I'm sure there are ways around it, but in a place like Cuba, you need to be on the ground to monitor your investments and let's just say that I have my arms full in Mongolia. It's not like they have direct flights between the two either....

Been enjoying your writing and pix from Cuba. Two problems I have with Cuba as a potential investment. First, when the Castros are gone, Cuba will still have a populace like many in the third world which doesn't understand the concept of going to work every day, calling in sick before taking a day off, and receipt of money being contingent upon being productive rather than just knowing someone who sees that you are taken care of. I am sure that you have seen this in many parts of the less developed world. Indeed the industrious people of Cuba not only have been leaving there for the past 64 years, but are seen as immoral by the majority. The second problem is unique to Cuba. The United States has allowed itself to handicapped by its policies on Cuba while other developed countries maintain far better diplomatic and commercial relations with Cuba. We have given the rest of the world a huge headstart for business opportunities in Cuba. Your thoughts on these handicaps?

You didn't mention the third and most obvious issue with investing in Cuba--basically there are a few dozen poor islands in the Carribean and Cuba is already wealthier than almost all of them. What makes Cuba advance further? Take out the top 10% of Puerto Ricans, and the average Cuban is already on par with other 90% of Puerto Ricans, and PR has all of the advantages of being part of the US. What's Cuba's upside from here? Or stated another way, why won't Cuba just decline to become the Dominican Republic or Jamaica? I don't have an answer, except to think that it's doing well, even with the chaos of communism. Freed of Communism, it will prosper in a way that the other islands haven't.

As for your first 2 questions; it has only taken two decades for most of the former Soviet countries to become quite wealthy with sizable middle classes. There was a chaotic transition period on the way there, but people are very adaptable. If you tell them that they have to work in order to have nice things, they'll start working. That said, some former Soviet countries are still "sorting things out"

On your second point, America has really made a mistake by not allowing people to invest in Cuba as we will be at a competitive disadvantage when the transition happens. That said, there are something like a million Cuban exiles overseas and most of them live in the US. When they open the island to US investment, many of these people already have friends and relatives on the ground, ready to help them deploy the capital. Which country is in better position; Spain with a few Spanish hotel chains that are active in Cuba--or the US, with a million Cubans that have family members in Cuba, that they've been supporting for decades?

Apparently, Russia is unbelievably cheap even by their own historical standards. Average PE valuations of 5. I know they aren't big into rule of law, but there is a lot of downside already priced in. Have you taken a look? Maybe you need another vacation?

I'm a fan of Russian equtities. I just don't know what the catalyst is.

I would point out that the PE is somewhat deceptive as a few large energy companies keep the whole index PE down. Strip out those energy companies and PEs are still cheap, but not as cheap as you may want, given how the law's are still very "interpretive."

Lots of interesting maps:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/01/13/40-more-maps-that-explain-the-world/

I enjoyed this link and have re-posted it for readers that may be interested.

Kuppy

Hi Kuppy,

I have been following your adventures ever since Mr. Fleckenstein introduced me to your website. Bill and your websites are a welcome change from the drudgery of reading mainstream financial media/ press.

My question relates to the current real estate environment in the world as you see currently. I am an Indian working in London. I would be obliged if you can offer your comments on the below:

1) UK: UK and specially London looks extremely expensive to me as wealthy investors all over the world seem to have parked their money here. There is additional froth due to the Govt's "Help to buy" scheme. At the same time, I end up paying £25k in rent over a year and I find myself fighting the feeling of "getting left out" often.

2) India: Real estate here has gone up a lot in the past few years (in some places >5x in 10 years). Do you follow Indian market at all?

3) Spain/ Greece: Am hearing stories of people snapping up properties here at good values.

4) Zimbabwe: Some locals I work with are quite bullish on prospects here if the USD peg stays.



I know you are a busy person; any comments on above would be highly appreciated by me.

Unfortunately I don't know much about these topics. Let me take a quick stab.

1-if it doesn't seem cheap, don't force the investment. If you are buying to live in for more than a few years, then you can be more flexible on price, inflation will likely bail you out if you have a long-term mortgage.

2-Nope

3-I'm sure there are bargains.

4-Do you really want to invest in an illiquid asset in a country without laws? Things may have changed in the 2 years since I visited Zim, but at the time, I didn't feel like property assets were all that cheap, especially compared to the risks.

Brilliant piece on Cuba. Your insights into the places you travel are priceless!

Thanks, much appreciated.

Kuppy!! is CGG coming?

Only if you build it... haha

 

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