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Vol. 31 No. 5
September-October 2009


Treasurer's Column:
When You Walk through a Storm . . .

by John Corish

During the past 12 months the global financial situation and the states of health, or otherwise, of individual national economies have been analyzed more frequently and with more concern than ever before. And not without good reason, because the rapidity with which the current global depression descended upon us and its severity are without precedent. We have become almost immune to hearing about new records being set for losses by heretofore profitable and trusted banks, to the size of company bankruptcies, and to the disappearances of what were household names in the commercial world. Thankfully, we have also seen concerted action by the major financial countries and we can at least hope that the worst has now passed.

Before writing this column I read through the Treasurer’s Columns published in Chemistry International for the past five years. Two of these reported significant increases in our reserves culminating some two years ago in an overall value of our portfolio of in excess of USD 5.5 million. So how have we fared during the current financial difficulties? Well, the blunt answer is not too badly and we are certainly still afloat and with the ability to continue to run the full range of our important programs and to plan with confidence for the upcoming major opportunity that will be provided us in 2011 by the International Year of Chemistry. Given the spread of our financial activities, it would have been quite impossible for us to escape unscathed from the current storm. However, the prudent investment policy adopted and adhered to by our Finance Committee as well as the decision taken some years ago to bill national subscriptions in national currencies rather than only in U.S. dollars and to carry part of our capital in a Euro account has protected us from the worst of the recent downturn.

The values of the three elements of our income stream, national subscriptions, profits from our publishing activities, and investments, have all been maintained. Our investment income is from long-term bonds and has not been adversely affected, and the billing in national currencies has, taken on average, been of benefit to us. The value of some of our other investments, which are in equities, has fallen and resulted, at the worst point, in a loss of just less than 30 percent of the value of our portfolio. The Finance Committee at its meeting this year considered all our holdings and these have all now been carefully reviewed. The most recent figures to hand show a steady increase in the value of our portfolio since the beginning of this year. In overall terms, there has been a significant recovery and the portfolio has now regained in excess of 40 percent of its losses. This is due in part to the improvement in the markets and also in part to the increased valuation of our Euro holdings. Even in these uncertain times it is reasonable to suppose that this recovery will be at least partially maintained as the world recession is expected to recede and markets to continue to regain value. More detailed figures can be found online in the Financial Report presented to Council in Glasgow on 5 August 2009 <www.iupac.org/symposia/conferences/ga09/council_agenda.html>.

There are two further points that have been made before in Treasurer’s Columns, but which bear repeating, particularly during this financially difficult period. The first is to remind ourselves that IUPAC will need to actively pursue alternative sources of income, including sponsorship, if we are to maintain and increase our current range of activities. In particular, extensive fundraising will be required for our effective participation in the IYC in 2011 and I am glad to be able to report that this has been included in the planning process. The second is to stress again that the enormous range of activities that is carried on across the full spectrum of our subject and its applications represents extraordinary good value for money. Critically, it is made possible through the project system only by the dedicated efforts of so many members of IUPAC divisions, standing committees, and their task forces and other groups which do the work voluntarily. To them we continue to owe an incalculable debt of gratitude.

If by some chance you do not know the words of the next line of the anthem used in the title of this column, they are “Hold your head up high,” and we can certainly do that.

John Corish <jcorish@tcd.ie> has been treasurer of IUPAC since January 2008. He has served IUPAC at many levels since 1979, including chair of the Subcommittee on Materials Chemistry, president of the Inorganic Chemistry Division, and member of the Finance Committee.


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