Tuesday, March 3, 2015

What did Greece do with the money? Put on an Olympics, pay higher pensions, hire more government workers and overpay them ? Even if we admit that Greece had a debt to gdp ratio far in excess of the 60% claimed when they joined it was not 120% or 150+% when they needed their first bailout. Even Ireland and Spain's own banking regulators could have applied the brakes to their housing bubbles by simply raising the down payments to get a mortgage or construction loan. They were also bribed to buy (faulty) German submarines and unreliable metro/trams and much else by German firms like Siemens (which profited mightily by use of slave labor, even going so far as to open a branch in the Ravensbruck concentration camp). The Greeks were also inundated by loans from French and German banks, and the so-called bail out was, in fact, a bail out be the poor, long-suffering European tax-payer, including Greek ones, of those banks by the corrupt Euro-political class.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The economic divide between Europe's largest economies widened in February, as a closely-watched survey showed manufacturing output in France contracted at a faster rate than Greece, despite the weakening euro. Output at French factories fell for a ninth consecutive month in February, as new orders dried up and overseas demand fell. This led to a further fall in employment, Markit said, as it described general demand in France as "lacklustre".   By contrast, a stronger rise in new business helped output at German manufacturers expand for the 22nd consecutive month in February. Markit described the latest rise as "broad-based", but said growth was "weak by historical standards"... France will once again miss an important target which all Euro Zone countries agreed to adhere to upon joining the Single Currency.  It is 3%, but not completely sure if that refers to Balance of Trade, Inflation or so.  This month, it will be discussed in Brussels once the figures for 2014 are finalised. France is not doing very well right now and they won't enjoy Germany telling them how to get their house in order. However, I reckon they will escape being punished/penalised - again. ...
Slowly, all the lies of the "recovery", all the skeletons in the closet, and all the bodies swept under the rug are emerging.  Austrian ORF reported that there have been "spectacular developments" in the case of the Hypo Alpe Adria bad bank, also known as the Heta Asset Resolution, where an outside audit of Heta's balance sheet exposed a capital hole of up to 7.6 billion euros ($8.51 billion) which the government was not prepared to fill, the Austrian Financial Market Authority said.
The motor for economic growth is the spending power of the lower and middle income groups. 20% of the pensioners money flows back into the government coffer with VAT.
Those selling must pay taxes, also the manufacturer and farmers that make the products. Selling, buying creates demand that in turn creates jobs.  The UK used quantitative easing, (printing money-leaving the incurred debt to be paid for by later generations) to increase the availability of cash .  Manufacturing is not the economic motor of the UK, the banks that have moved on from lending to businesses now make their money from speculation in 'money products' leaving manufactures without loans and cash strapped like never before.  Without is social safety network and pensions the UK would see consumer power decimated, its the poor that actually keep the UK ponzi scheme afloat.  The new Greek government has pledged to repay in full  obligations to the International Monetary Fund and the European  Central Bank. Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis outlined plans  to swap some debt into new securities and link repayment with  economic growth.   Until now Greece has been paying its debts with a credit card making the debt larger and unsustainable.  The Greeks must return to growth, for the first time since the 2e world war it has a government that could deliver....As the EU's favourite soap - Greekenders - was entering its fifth  season, we wondered if the writers had run out of ideas.  Of course, we still had all our favourite characters - tough, tight-fisted housewife Mrs Merkel, miserable old sod Mr Schäuble, suntanned (crocodile-skinned?) fashionista Ms Lagarde and stylish, suave Italian lothario Mario Draghi.  But with the endless austerity and falling viewing figures, we wondered whether Greekenders was on the way out as Europe's favourite evening entertainment, whether we were heading for what we in the TV business call a "Grexit".  Thankfully the Greekenders writers have responded to public concern about a boring plot with the introduction of two exciting new characters.  There's the flamboyant young second-hand car dealer Alexis Tsipras with his flashing smile, filmstar looks and smooth sales patter.  And there's the new accountant - Yanis Varoufakis. But the new Greekenders accountant is not some boring, besuited nobody. He's a young, shaven-headed,  motorbike-riding smoothie with a Mediterranean charm and a way with the numbers that might even put a bit of fire into the cold, stone-like hearts of grim misery-guts Merkel and crocodile-skinned Ms Lagarde.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The future of Europe looks bleak.

So the Germans probably don't want the deal with Greece to go ahead, but Merkel will still get it through parliament.  See, it's not the EU that is non-democratic, it's endemic in Europe.  Germany’s biggest-selling mass-market newspaper has said “Nein!” to the new bail-out deal agreed by the Eurozone for Greece.  Bild has launched a new campaign against the deal, printing a massive “NEIN!” across an entire inside page, and encouraging readers to take selfies holding the page up and send them in for publication.  “No more billions for greedy Greeks,” the newspaper adds, in only slightly smaller print. The page is printed in the blue and white of the Greek flag, instead of Bild’s more usual red and white.   With a daily circulation of some 2.5m Bild is hugely influential in German society. Though it is printed in broadsheet format – allowing for a particularly large “Nein!” – it is decidedly tabloid in tone.   Selfies of readers brandishing the “Nein!” had already begun flooding in on Thursday morning, with many holding it up in their offices or outside their homes.

Lars Riiser, a banker had stuck it to the window of his office on the upper floors of one of Frankrfurt’s skyscrapers, with a view of Germany’s financial capital behind.  Another man, Steffen Beier, brandished it out of the window of his car. Some readers took the selfie holding up iPads showing the headline instead of a newspaper.  The stunt comes ahead of a vote on the new deal in the German parliament on Friday, and is a sign of the deep resentment in many sections of German society against what is seen as being forced to bail out Greece for the profligacy of its own governments and banks yet again.   Many in Angela Merkel’s own Christian Democrat party are unhappy with the deal, and 22 MPs indicated on Thursday that they intend to defy the party whip and vote against it.  There is no chance of the deal being defeated, because Mrs Merkel’s coalition has a huge majority of several hundred, but so many defection from her own party would be a symbolic blow... Moments ago the Bank of Greece presented its latest, January, deposit data. And it's a doozy: following a record €12.2 billion monthly outflow, greater in absolute and relative terms than anything experienced during any of the previous Greek crises and bailouts, the total amount of Greek corporate and household deposits has now tumbled to just €148 billion. This number is in line with some of the more pessimistic expectations, and brings the total cash holdings at Greek banks to the lowest level since August 2005.Currently suffering the biggest bank run in history . 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Eurozone finance ministers have approved reform proposals submitted by Greece as a condition for extending its bailout by four months, officials say.  The Eurogroup said it had agreed to begin national procedures - parliamentary votes in several states to give the deal final approval.   The measures proposed by Greece include combating tax evasion and tackling the smuggling of fuel and tobacco.  The European Commission said earlier they were a "valid starting point".   Eurozone finance ministers - known as the Eurogroup - then held a conference call before giving their backing to the Greek proposals.  "We call on the Greek authorities to further develop and broaden the list of reform measures, based on the current arrangement, in close co-ordination with the institutions," the Eurogroup said in a statement.  The agreement had "averted an immediate crisis", said European Commissioner for Economic Affairs Pierre Moscovici.   "It does not mean we approve those reforms, it means the approach is serious enough for further discussion," he added.  'Lack of clear assurances' .  However, International Monetary Fund (IMF) head Christine Lagarde was quoted as expressing reservations about the reform proposals.  "In some areas like combating tax evasion and corruption I am encouraged by what appears to be a stronger resolve on the part of the new authorities in Athens," she wrote in a letter to the Eurogroup.  "In quite a few areas, however, including perhaps the most important ones, the letter is not conveying clear assurances that the government intends to undertake the reforms envisaged."

Friday, February 27, 2015

Bucharest, Romania — Outside the National Anticorruption Directorate in downtown Bucharest, more than a dozen reporters and cameramen stand around chatting. It’s a weekday afternoon, and they know it’s only a matter of time before the next high-profile Romanian shows up to face charges of corruption.  Even a few years ago, Romania's powerful and well-connected were able to line their own pockets with impunity, earning the country deserved notoriety as one of Europe's most graft-ridden nations.  But today, in a perfect storm of external pressure from the European Union and internal public anger, Romania's crackdown on corruption is almost routine. With an independent and tenacious special prosecutor's office driving the effort, the country is making dramatic strides in holding elites just as accountable as the common man.   Yet as part of the country’s ascension into the EU, which they joined in 2007 along with neighboring Bulgaria, Romania – where graft reaches to all levels of society – was required to clean up its act.  “It started because we had the right mix of external pressure from the European Commission and internal pressure from the population,” says Laura Stefan, an anticorruption expert and a former director in the Romanian Ministry of Justice.  Yet, she adds: “When this started, there was no trust in the state. A lot of people were skeptical, and it took a long time and a lot of strong cases to convince people.”  In 2003, the country established the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), a specialized prosecutor's office tasked with fighting corruption and graft. Initially the DNA targeted lower-level figures, but within a few years it was aiming far higher, and the number of people convicted of high-level graft of more than 10,000 euros ($11,300) has risen accordingly.  Last year 1,138 individuals, including politicians, businessmen, judges, and prosecutors, were convicted of corruption in Romania, up from 155 in 2006. This included 24 mayors, five members of parliament, two ex-ministers, and a former prime minister, not to mention seven judges and 13 prosecutors. Those convicted include politicians of all stripes, irrespective of party lines.    This year the headlines have continued to pile up. Last week Monica Iacob Ridzi, a former sports and youth minister, was sentenced to five years in prison for abuse of power and corruption. A few days earlier, a former transportation minister was also jailed, sentenced to two years for taking bribes while in office, including getting a house built for his mother free of charge.  These days Romanian news channels are fixated on the rapid fall from grace of Elena Udrea, a glamorous MP, former tourism minister, and recent presidential candidate (she finished fourth) who was arrested in mid-February on charges of money laundering, influence peddling, and taking bribes. Pundits had a field day when Ms. Udrea asked for permission to refurbish and decorate the cell she was being held in under preventive arrest.  Some 7 percent of politicians elected in 2012 have been convicted or are currently under investigation for corruption, according to estimates. The DNA’s conviction success rate is over 90 percent.  The DNA’s biggest conviction to date has been that of former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase (2000-2004), who was sentenced to four years behind bars in January 2014 for bribery and blackmail.  “Right now it is ugly, but it is a sign of progress, it shows willingness,” says Cristian Ghinea, director of the Romanian Center for European Policies, a Bucharest-based think tank.    Last November, just days after an anticorruption candidate won Romania’s latest presidential election, lawmakers were once again called to vote on a controversial amnesty bill. This one would have opened the way to releasing any inmate serving up to six years in prison for non-violent crimes – which would have included most of those serving time for corruption.  This time the vote was almost unanimously against the bill.   If there were clear-cut signs that no one is now safe from investigation, it has been in recent weeks, as first Udrea, the former presidential candidate, was arrested, and then Iulian Hertanu, the brother-in-law of Romania’s Prime Minister Victor Ponta, was detained. Mr. Hertanu was allegedly involved in embezzling funds worth around 1.75 million euros.  “The area of untouchables has gotten smaller and smaller with time,” says Ms. Stefan, the anticorruption expert.  “People are seeing for the first time, if you steal you go to jail, no matter who you are. This is the way it should be, but we need to keep the momentum.” (source  CS Monitor)

Kaiser Merkel has spoken.We must all obey!

The EU Commission has approved proposals to create a single European energy market.
The Energy Union plan would give the Commission more influence in the negotiation of gas supply contracts.  It is partly designed to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian gas, at a time of tension over the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The proposals still need to be approved by member states and the European Parliament. The Commission says they will give customers more choice, bring down prices and cut down on the use of fossil fuels.   "This is about Europe acting together, for the long term," said Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.  "I want the energy that underpins our economy to be resilient, reliable, secure and increasingly renewable and sustainable."  However critics accuse the Commission of trying to wrest control from member states, while green groups say it should be doing more to cut greenhouse gas emissions.  'More intelligently'   EU countries import 53% of their energy at a cost of around €400bn (£293bn; $454bn), according to EU figures.  Some member states take all their gas from Russia. In total, Russia supplies 23% of the EU's gas, making it Europe's biggest supplier.  But the deteriorating situation in Ukraine has led to fears of disruption to gas supplies. Russia cut off supplies to Ukraine last June in a dispute over unpaid bills, before agreeing to restore them as part of an EU-brokered deal.  "Current events show the stakes - as many Europeans fear they may not have the energy needed to heat their homes," Mr Juncker said.