Archive for ‘Reform’

21/10/2014

China’s reform tally since November 2013 policy meeting | Reuters

China’s leadership unveiled a blueprint for some of the most comprehensive economic and social reforms in nearly 30 years in November 2013.

Implementation since then has been slow but steady. China has eschewed riskier, game-changing reform but the incremental steps aim to reach enough critical mass to sustain momentum and help the world’s second-largest economy shift down fairly smoothly after decades of investment-fueled growth.

The following are some of the significant steps taken since the Communist Party Central Committee’s Nov 9-12 policy conclave:

OCTOBER, 2014

Oct 16 – The top economic planner is considering tightening rules for bond issues, according to traders and a leaked document.

Oct 11 – The State Council says it will institute a resource tax on coal while eliminating other taxes to simplify the tax structure.

Oct 9 – China levies tariffs on coal imports in a move to reduce the country’s dependence on the polluting energy source.

SEPTEMBER, 2014

Sept 9 – Domestic firms in many areas no longer require government approval to invest overseas but must register their investments with authorities starting Oct 6.

Sept 1 – The budget law is revised to allow local governments to issue bonds directly.

AUGUST, 2014

Aug 29 – The Politburo approves salary cuts for top officials at big state-owned firms to counter graft and income inequality.

Aug 26 – China cuts on-grid prices of thermal electricity from Sept. 1 to reflect a fall in coal prices.

Aug 20 – The government cuts taxes on high-tech companies, abolishes the need for firms to seek approvals in 68 further areas and additionally allows lower levels of government to approve business projects in 19 other areas.

Aug 15 – China eliminates 21 approval processes for a list of industries and lower levels of government are given the right to approve certain projects in an effort to cut red tape.

Aug 12 – China will raise natural gas prices for bulk buyers and non-residential use from Sept. 1 in an effort to reform pricing.

Aug 4 – Foreign firms in China are allowed to use their registered capital to buy stakes in other Chinese companies.

JULY, 2014

July 15 – The state-owned enterprise regulator chooses six state firms to test out reforms expanding the role of private capital in China’s state sector.

July 14 – China loosens currency controls to make it easier for domestic companies and individuals to set up special purpose vehicles (SPVs) for investments overseas.

July 2 – Banks are allowed to set their own exchange rates for the yuan against the dollar in over-the-counter deals with clients.

JUNE, 2014

June 27 – Regulators lower the threshold for banks to enter the foreign exchange market and removes a layer of approvals.

June 25 – China gives the greenlight to three banks wholly funded with capital from private firms, to be the country’s first private lenders.

MAY, 2014

May 21 – The experiment for China’s first municipal bond market is launched.

May 21 – Private firms are invited to invest in 80 major projects in the energy, information and infrastructure sectors.

May 16 – Financial regulators tighten oversight of interbank loans.

May 16 – China sets up international energy trading center where crude oil futures will be traded for the first time.

May 15 – Securities firms get the go-ahead to expand into new businesses such as the online financial services market.

May 6 – State-owned enterprises to increase dividend payouts by 5 percentage points to up to 25 percent of their profits.

APRIL, 2014

April 23 – Premier Li Keqiang says China will allow private investment in 80 projects in energy, information and infrastructure.

April 22 – Changes to the environmental law seeking stiffer penalties for polluters submitted to parliament.

April 11 – Chinese firms can invest up to $1 billion overseas without seeking approval, China’s top planner says.

April 10 – China allows cross-border stock investment between Shanghai and Hong Kong.

April 9 – The government relaxes price controls over non-public hospital services.

April 2 – The government says will fast-track some spending and cut taxes for small firms, as a way of supporting the weakening economy.

MARCH, 2014

March 31 – Britain and China sign an agreement to set up a clearing service for offshore yuan trading in London. That follows a similar agreement with Germany.

March 24 – China simplifies review procedures for mergers and acquisitions.

March 21 – The securities regulator issues rules for a pilot program allowing listed companies to issue preferred shares.

March 20 – The foreign exchange regulator relaxes curbs on foreign investment in China’s stock market.

March 20 – PetroChina, China’s biggest oil and gas producer, is welcoming private investment into oil and gas pipelines in China, according to chairman Zhou Jiping.

March 20 – China lifts ban on equity financing for listed property developers after four years.

March 16 – China sets 2020 targets for urban population growth and registered urban residents.

March 15 – The central bank doubles the yuan currency’s daily trading band against the dollar.

March 11 – Central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan says China’s deposit rates should be liberalized in one to two years.

March 11 – Development of 3-5 privately-owned banks to be tested in Tianjin, Shanghai, Zhejiang and Guangdong, bank regulator says.

March 11 – The cabinet outlines its healthcare reform plan.

March 7 – Loss-making solar equipment maker misses interest payment in China’s first domestic bond default.

March 5 – Premier Li Keqiang promises to wage a “war” on pollution and reduce the pace of investment to a decade-low.

March 1 -Simplified corporate capital registration comes into force. Government data later show 309,500 new firms were registered in March, up 46 percent from a year earlier.

FEBRUARY, 2014

Feb 26 – Beijing details pension reform that seeks to decrease urban-rural economic divisions before 2020.

Feb 21 – The central bank gives operational details for cross-border yuan deals made through Shanghai free trade zone.

Feb 20 – Sinopec Corp, Asia’s largest oil refiner, says it will sell up to 30 percent of its retail business to private investors in a multi-billion dollar revamp.

JANUARY, 2014

Jan 29 – The cabinet sets up a cross-ministry group to boost development of three service zones in Guangdong province.

Jan 22 – Six teams to supervise economic reforms are set up, with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang in charge.

Jan 17 – China’s wealthy eastern province of Zhejiang became the first to implement changes to the one-child policy.

Jan 6 – The cabinet publishes guidelines strengthening regulation of off-balance lending.

DECEMBER, 2013

Dec 11 – Beijing strips 82 powers away from central government ministries. Over 200 administrative approvals are set to be abolished or delegated to local authorities in 2014.

Dec 10 – New standards on performance ratings of officials break the obsession with growth and include such criteria as work safety, innovation, environmental and resource costs.

Dec 8 – The central bank sets guidelines for issuing of interbank certificates of deposit, a step towards allowing markets to determine interest rates.

Dec 4 – The government expands its value-added tax trial to rail transport and the postal service.

Dec 4 – The central bank announces details of financial reform test runs in the Shanghai free trade zone.

NOVEMBER, 2013

Nov 30 – The stock market regulator announces IPO reforms.

Nov 12 – Anhui province, which spearheaded land reform in 1978 announces pilot land reforms, including accelerating the development of large-scale farming, completing land use rights registration before end-2015 and simplifying land transactions.

via Factbox: China’s reform tally since November 2013 policy meeting | Reuters.

24/05/2014

Modi’s Big Chance to Fix India – Businessweek

After five weeks of staggered voting, more than 550 million ballots cast, and almost $5 billion spent, the world’s largest democracy finally has a new leader. Yet the question that has loomed over India’s long campaign remains: What kind of leader is Narendra Modi going to be?

Narendra Modi speaks to supporters in Vadodara, India, on May 16

Modi fought an impressive campaign focused mostly on the right issues. He successfully cast the election as a referendum on who could better deliver jobs, government services, and economic growth: himself or Rahul Gandhi, the ruling Congress party’s heir apparent. The landslide victory of Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party—the biggest for any party since 1984—testifies to Indians’ hunger for decisiveness and efficiency after years of policy drift and corruption scandals.

Yet voters have little idea how Modi will govern. He has given no sign of how far he’ll challenge his own supporters on economic and social policies. Investors expecting miracles are in for a letdown, because India’s political system is bound to intervene. According to JPMorgan Chase (JPM), about 70 percent to 80 percent of regulatory and other roadblocks impeding big industrial projects aren’t within Modi’s power to remove. Even so, he needs to make progress where he can.

A good place to start would be to keep an election promise to introduce a combined goods and services tax—something Modi’s own party has long opposed, because it would force revenue losses on state governments. (Modi could offset some of the losses using central revenues.) He should move to phase out petroleum subsidies. He should give state and local governments greater flexibility in regulating labor markets, land sales, and more. Economic competition among the states is key.

Above all, India’s new leader must also reach out to the country’s Muslims—assuring them that he recognizes they are full and valued citizens entitled to an equal measure of security, trust, and respect. Modi’s campaign was based in part on a simple point: India can no longer afford to muddle through, endlessly avoiding difficult decisions. Now it’s time to deliver.

via Modi’s Big Chance to Fix India – Businessweek.

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19/04/2014

Bank of China vice-president resigns over allegations of affairs | South China Morning Post

A vice-president of China’s fourth largest bank has resigned after he was investigated by the Communist Party’s top discipline body but cleared over suspicions of corruption, Chinese media reported.

scmp_25mar08_bz_boc6_3212399.jpg

Wang Yongli, 50, a vice-president and executive director of the Hong Kong-listed Bank of China, had resigned from the bank effective on Wednesday, the bank said in a statement on Friday night.

Wang, who holds a doctoral degree in economics from China’s Xiamen University, had worked at the bank for 25 years and been vice-president for more than seven. He had been in charge of various key departments within the bank, including finance and IT, before being promoted to vice-president in 2006.

Wang was a hot contender for the bank’s top job when its former president Li Lihui retired at the end of last year, but lost out in the competition to fellow Vice-President Chen Siqing, who was named Bank of China’s president in January this year, reported Beijing-based Caixin magazine.

Caixin cited multiple sources as saying that a “lover” of Wang, who is married, had alerted the Communist Party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection to the fact that Wang, a Party member, had maintained multiple extramarital affairs in violation of party discipline.

The anti-corruption body then conducted months of investigation into Wang but found no evidence of “economic problems”, or corrupt behaviour involving money, said Caixin.

Wang was not charged with any crime, but was placed on a two-year probation within the Party as an internal disciplinary measure, it said.

Bank of China was the fourth largest bank in the mainland and 11th in the world with US$2,226 billion in total assets, according to a ranking by SNL Financial in December last year.

Wang is among the latest senior executives at Chinese state-owned firms to be investigated for romantic liaisons.

via Bank of China vice-president resigns over allegations of affairs | South China Morning Post.

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19/04/2014

Chairman of China Resources removed from office – Sports – Chinadaily.com.cn

Song Lin, chairman of state-owned China Resources (Holdings) Co., Ltd, has been dismissed from office for suspected serious discipline and law violations, authorities said Saturday.

Song was also removed from his office as the Communist Party of China (CPC) chief of the enterprise, said an official with the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee.

The case is being handled according to relevant procedures, the official said.

The news came after the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection announced earlier that Song was under investigation.

via Chairman of China Resources removed from office – Sports – Chinadaily.com.cn.

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21/03/2014

China Wants Its People in the Cities – Reuters

From: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-03-20/china-wants-its-people-in-the-cities

Thirty-five years ago, when paramount leader Deng Xiaoping launched gaige kaifang, or “reform and opening,” China was a much more agricultural country, with less than a fifth of its people living in cities. Since then hundreds of millions of rural residents have left the countryside, many seeking jobs in the export-oriented factories and construction sites that Deng’s policy promoted.

Commercial and residential buildings stand in the Luohu district of Shenzhen, China, on Dec. 18, 2013 In 1978 there were no Chinese cities with more than 10 million people and only two with 5 million to 10 million; by 2010, six cities had more than 10 million and 10 had from 5 million to 10 million. By the following year, a majority of Chinese were living in urban areas for the first time in the country’s history.

Now urbanization has been designated a national priority and is expected to occur even more rapidly. On March 16, Premier Li Keqiang’s State Council and the central committee of the Communist Party released the “National New-type Urbanization Plan (2014-2020),” which sets clear targets: By 2020 the country will have 60 percent of its people living in cities, up from 53.7 percent now.

What’s the ultimate aim of creating a much more urban country? Simply put, all those new, more free-spending urbanites are expected to help drive a more vibrant economy, helping wean China off its present reliance on unsustainable investment-heavy growth. “Domestic demand is the fundamental impetus for China’s development, and the greatest potential for expanding domestic demand lies in urbanization,” the plan says.

To get there, China’s policymakers know they have to loosen the restrictive hukou, the household registration policy that today keeps many Chinese migrants second-class urban residents. China will ensure that the proportion of those who live in the cities with full urban hukou, which provides better access to education, health care, and pensions, will rise from last year’s level of 35.7 percent of city dwellers to 45 percent by 2020. That means 100 million rural migrant workers, out of a total 270 million today, will have to be given urban household registration.

To prepare for the new masses, China knows it must vastly expand urban infrastructure. The plan calls for ensuring that expressways and railways link all cities with more than 200,000 people by 2020; high-speed rail is expected to link cities with more than a half million by then. Civil aviation will expand to be available to 90 percent of the population.

Access to affordable housing projects funded by the government is also expected to rise substantially. The target is to provide social housing (roughly analogous to public housing in the U.S.) to 23 percent of the urban populace by 2020; that’s up from an estimated 14.3 percent last year, according to Tao Wang, China economist at UBS Securities (UBS) in Hong Kong. That means providing social housing for an additional 90 million people, amounting to about 30 million units, over the next seven years, Wang writes in a March 18 report.

The urbanization plan appears to face several big challenges. First, the government wants to maintain restrictions on migration to China’s biggest cities, which also happen to be its most popular. Instead, the plan calls for liberalizing migration to small and midsize cities, or those with less than 5 million. Whether migrants will willingly flock to designated smaller cities, rather than the megacities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen, is an unanswered question.

Another obstacle to faster urbanization is that the plan doesn’t propose how to reform China’s decades-old land tenure system. Changing the system could allow farmers more freedom to mortgage, rent, or sell their land.

Finally, one of the most daunting problems is figuring out how to pay for implementing the ambitious urbanization targets. The cost of rolling out a much more extensive social welfare network will be substantial (today, most Chinese in the countryside have far lower levels of medical and pension coverage, as well as far inferior schools); building the new urban infrastructure will also be expensive.

 

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09/03/2014

* With legal reforms, China wants less interfering in cases, fewer death penalty crimes | Reuters

China has curtailed the power of the ruling Communist Party’s Political and Legal Committee, a secretive body overseeing the security services, to interfere in most legal cases, scholars with knowledge of the situation said – a significant reform at a time of public discontent over miscarriages of justice.

Zhou Qiang, President of China's Supreme People's Court, attends National People's Congress (NPC) in Beijing, March 7, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

The move, which has not been made public by the party but has been announced in internal meetings, would clip the wings of the party’s highest authority on judicial and security matters.

Interference from the committee has led to many wrongful convictions, many of which have been widely reported in the press and even highlighted by President Xi Jinping as an issue that needs to be urgently addressed.

Part of a package of legal reforms, the move signals a willingness by Xi’s government to reform its court system as long as it doesn’t threaten the party’s overall control.

China’s highest court, the Supreme People’s Court, will delivers its work report to parliament on Monday, which could detail some of these reforms.

But the party would still have final say over politically sensitive cases such as those involving ethnic issues and senior politicians – like the disgraced former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai, who was last year found guilty of bribery, corruption and abuse of power, and jailed for life – and would use the courts to convict citizens who challenge its authority.

via With legal reforms, China wants less interfering in cases, fewer death penalty crimes | Reuters.

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05/03/2014

How Committed Is China to Reform? A Tip From ‘The Old Perfessor’ – China Real Time Report – WSJ

One of the most important questions in the global economy is the commitment to reform by China’s new leaders. Are they more reform-oriented than the last crew, who talked a lot about economic reform but often didn’t carry through?

China Real Time did a quick analysis based on the philosophy of Casey Stengel, the garrulous former manager of the New York Yankees and Mets known by the nickname “The Old Perfessor.” As Stengel often said, “You can look it up.” So we did.

In his just-delivered 2014 work report, Premier Li Keqiang, used the word “reform” 84 times in his lengthy address.  Last year, former Premier Wen Jiabao used “reform” a mere 51 times.

“Transformation?” Mr. Li, 17; Mr. Wen, 5.

What would Mr. Li like to reform? Among many other things: socialism, markets, government, agriculture, science, investment, taxes, finance and schools.

And what would he transform? Industry and foreign trade mostly.

It won’t be easy to do all this, Mr. Li warned:  “China’s reform has entered a critical stage and a deep water zone,” he told delegates to China’s rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress. “We  must rely fully on the people, break mental shackles and vested interests with great determination.”

Or as  Mr. Stengel reportedly said: “Without losers, where would the winners be?”

via How Committed Is China to Reform? A Tip From ‘The Old Perfessor’ – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

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05/03/2014

* China to ‘declare war’ on pollution, premier says | Reuters

China is to “declare war” on pollution, Premier Li Keqiang said on Wednesday at the opening of the annual meeting of parliament, with the government unveiling detailed measures to tackle what has become a hot-button social issue.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang gives an address during a news conference with French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault (not pictured) in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing December 6, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Mark Ralston/Pool

It is not uncommon for air pollution in parts of China to breach levels considered by some experts to be hazardous. That has drawn much public ire and is a worry for the government, which fears any discontent that might compromise stability.

“We will resolutely declare war against pollution as we declared war against poverty,” Li told the almost 3,000 delegates to the country’s largely rubber-stamp legislature in a wide-ranging address carried live on state television.

Curbing pollution has become a key part of efforts to upgrade the economy, shift the focus away from heavy industry and tackle the perennial problem of overcapacity, with Li describing smog as “nature’s red-light warning against inefficient and blind development”.

“This is an acknowledgement at the highest level that there is a crisis,” said Craig Hart, expert on Chinese environmental policy and associate professor at China’s Renmin University.

“Their approach is going to have to be pro-economy. I think they will pump money into upgrading plants. This could be another green stimulus although it is not being packaged that way.”

China has published a series of policies and plans aimed at addressing environmental problems but it has long struggled to bring big polluting industries and growth-obsessed local governments to heel.

Li said efforts would focus first on reducing hazardous particulate matter known as PM 2.5 and PM 10 and would also be aimed at eliminating outdated energy producers and industrial plants, the source of much air pollution.

China will cut outdated steel production capacity by a total of 27 million tonnes this year, slash cement production by 42 million tonnes, and also shut down 50,000 small coal-fired furnaces across the country, Li said.

The 27 million tonnes of steel, equivalent to Italy’s production capacity, amounts to less than 2.5 percent of China’s total, and industry officials have warned that plants with another 30 million tonnes of annual output went into construction last year.

The targeted cement closures amount to less than 2 percent of last year’s total production.

The battle against pollution will also be waged via reforms in energy pricing to boost non-fossil fuel power. Li promised change in “the way energy is consumed and produced” through the development of nuclear and renewables, the deployment of smart power transmission grids, and the promotion of green and low-carbon technology.

The National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), the country’s economic planner, said in its report that new guidelines would be issued on relocating key industries away from urban centers to help tackle smog.

via China to ‘declare war’ on pollution, premier says | Reuters.

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05/03/2014

* China signals focus on reforms and leaner, cleaner growth | Reuters

China sent its strongest signal yet that its days of chasing breakneck economic growth were over, promising to wage a “war” on pollution and reduce the pace of investment to a decade-low as it pursues more sustainable expansion.

An attendant serves tea for China's President Xi Jinping during the opening session of the National People's Congress (NPC) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, March 5, 2014. REUTERS-Jason Lee

In a State of the Union style address to an annual parliament meeting that began on Wednesday, Premier Li Keqiang said China aimed to expand its economy by 7.5 percent this year, the highest among the world’s major powers, although he stressed that growth would not get in the way of reforms.

In carefully crafted language that suggested Beijing had thought hard about leaving the forecast unchanged from last year, Li said the world’s second-largest economy will pursue reforms stretching from finance to the environment, even as it seeks to create jobs and wealth.

After 30 years of red-hot double-digit growth that has lifted millions out of poverty but also polluted the country’s air and water and saddled the nation with ominous debt levels, China wants to change tack and rebalance its economy.

“Reform is the top priority for the government,” Li told around 3,000 hand-picked delegates in his first parliamentary address in a cavernous meeting hall in central Beijing.

“We must have the mettle to fight on and break mental shackles to deepen reforms on all fronts.”

Idle factories will be shut, private investment encouraged, government red-tape cut and work on a new environmental protection tax speeded up to create a greener economy powered by consumption rather than investment, Li said.

via China signals focus on reforms and leaner, cleaner growth | Reuters.

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10/01/2014

Urban renewal (1): New frontiers | The Economist

THE furniture market in Foshan claims to be the biggest in the world. It boasts a bewildering mix of things to sit on, sleep in and eat at. One shop, named the “Louvre”, offers a range of styles from neoclassical to postmodern, which an assistant defines as a cross between European and modern, suitable for “successful people”.

The market, which sprawls over 3m square metres (32m square feet), showcases the manufacturing powers of Foshan, a city of 7m people in the southern province of Guangdong. The city is an archipelago of industrial clusters, dedicated to furniture, textiles, appliances, ceramics and the equipment required to make them. These clusters have produced some of China’s most successful private firms, such as Midea, a maker of household appliances, which began as a bottle-lid workshop, and now employs 135,000 people, generating over $16 billion in revenue in 2012.

Many economists worry that China will succumb to a “middle-income trap”, failing to make the jump from an early stage of growth, based on cheap labour and brute capital accumulation, to a more sophisticated stage, based on educated workers and improvements in productivity. But no economy, let alone one the size of China’s, moves in lockstep from one growth model to another. Some regions always outpace others. Provinces like Gansu, in China’s north-west, are still struggling to wean themselves off state-owned mines and smokestacks (see article). Other parts of China’s economy are already comfortably high-income, according to the World Bank’s definition. For example, Foshan’s GDP per head was almost $15,000 in 2012, higher than in some member states of the European Union.

Foshan best represents China’s “emerging economic frontier”, according to the Fung Global Institute (FGI), a think-tank in Hong Kong. With the help of researchers from the National Development and Reform Commission, China’s planning agency, the institute is studying Foshan for clues about the rest of the economy’s future.

Foshan’s example is relevant to other parts of China, it argues. Unlike the nearby metropolis of Shenzhen, it was never a special economic zone. Unlike neighbouring Guangzhou, it is not a provincial capital. It also shares many of the country’s growing pains. Lacking oil and coal, it is prone to electricity shortages. It is heavily polluted and highly indebted: its government pays 47% of its tax revenues on servicing its liabilities. Wages are going up, land is running out, and growth is slowing down. To tackle such problems, China’s Communist Party endorsed a long list of bold reforms at its long-awaited “third plenum” in November. Economists welcomed the list even as they worried that officials would fail to implement it. But in China, implementation is often a process of gradual diffusion not abrupt transition. Some of the principles proposed by the plenum are already in practice in Foshan. Some may have been inspired by it.

The third plenum resolved that the market should play a “decisive” role in the allocation of resources. In Foshan it already does. In the early 1990s Shunde, one of the city’s districts, pioneered the sale of government-backed enterprises to their managers, workers and outside investors. Foshan now has about one private enterprise for every 20 residents. In 2012 they grew twice as fast as the remaining state-owned firms.

November’s party plenum also called for private capital to play a bigger role in public infrastructure. In Foshan over the past nine years the government has allowed private firms to bid for over 500 projects, including power generation, water plants, and rubbish-incineration plants, according to Liu Yuelun, the city’s mayor. Ahead of the party’s call to consolidate the state bureaucracy, Shunde district had already slashed the number of its departments from 41 to 16.

Another national aim is to unify parts of China’s land market, allowing rural land to be leased on similar terms to state-owned urban plots. In the 1980s Foshan had already created a shadow market in communal land, which villagers leased to budding industrialists, contrary to national law that reserved such land for rural purposes. Because these land rights were technically illegal, many big firms eschewed them. But that made them all the cheaper for scrappy, small firms willing to live in the legal shadows. This grey market allowed Foshan’s industrial clusters to grow organically, according to economic logic rather than arbitrary land laws, argues the FGI. It also allowed villagers to reap some of the gains of Foshan’s industrial transformation. By 2010, the FGI calculates, the average Foshan resident owned property worth almost $50,000.

via Urban renewal (1): New frontiers | The Economist.

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