In which actuaries discuss the credibility of the ONS, lawyers' grammar and defined benefits
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I read with interest and some concern the article by Colin Wilson and Chris Bull with its implication that all those who have benefits linked to RPI have been cheated over the years by the understatement of the index. However, perhaps they can explain in the context of the CPI just how the use of geometric means can be justified. When we go to the supermarket we do not expect the cashier to multiply the prices together. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) website tells us that the use of geometric means mimics the practice of consumer substitution. I cannot see the connection.
When the Government Actuary's Department is next giving advice to the ONS, perhaps they could help them to give more sensible explanations of the figures. Recently, when there was a fall in the year-on-year rate, I heard an ONS spokesman on the BBC giving explanations that seemed to me entirely spurious. On examining the figures, the truth was that in the previous year there had been two months with sharp individual increases that had just fallen out of the year-on-year comparison and not been repeated, but this wasn't mentioned. If the ONS don't understand their own figures what hope is there for the rest of us?
Roy Colbran, 14 July
An old Catholic joke concerns the Cardinal who wrote to the organisers of a church conference to confirm that he would attend. He dictated to his secretary: "I shall wear no clothes to distinguish myself from my fellow clergy." The secretary added a comma after 'clothes'. The Cardinal, of course, remains anonymous.
It seems to be the custom of English lawyers, when drafting deeds, contracts and so on, to avoid using commas. In fact, no punctuation whatsoever, apart from full stops. This can make their texts somewhat difficult to read, but it avoids the Canadian telecoms problem! (Comma sense, June 2012)
Somerset Maugham wrote a short story, The Creative Impulse, about a fictional writer, Mrs Albert Forrester, who "made abundant and exquisite use of the comic possibilities of the semi-colon". I have often wondered whether her character was based (as many were) on a real-life personality. Who could she have been?
Angus Sibley, 29 June
Dream a little dream...
The pension minister's dream product will probably be
a big hit in Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average. Back here on earth, guarantees have a heavy cost, and that cost tends to arise at just the wrong time. I suggest that we should be looking for arrangements that offer reasonable and sustainable defined benefits. I recently outlined such an arrangement, but as far as I know there are no takers.
Brian Jones, 5 July
Responses to Letters, June 2012
Dear Anuj, thank you for becoming a member of the 400 Club. The feedback that you and your club members provide is helping us to deliver our ambitious strategy. The Profession appreciates all the work and support from you and all your fellow 400 club members.
Dear Stuart, your point is a fair one. You may have noticed that the Council elections this year were far more competitive than ever before. However, the election of the president is currently governed by our bylaws and in these it states that it is the elected council members who elect the president.
We are working to make the process around all of our volunteer opportunities more open and transparent - from the advertising research working groups to the president. This is a welcome development for all and we will therefore have an open nomination process for president in the near future.
Memoria Lewis, membership director,
The Actuarial Profession
The editorial team welcomes readers' letters but reserves the right to edit them for publication. Please email [email protected] The deadline for receiving letters for the September issue is 8 August.