Regarding the Euro bailout funds, Slovakia should be proud to be the country to cry out the Emperor has no clothes. Europe’s banks cannot be allowed to fail is an axiom of which I’m getting very tired. We had it last year with “too big to fail”.
Why should banks operate on other rules than small businesses? If at Foliovision, I invest our time and money badly no one is coming to rescue us. Despite our real contribution to the Slovak economy as a genuine exporter, we live by market rules.
Banks apparently live by different rules. When they crank risk up and make bad investments, the politicians in their pockets ride to the rescue with packages which can make up to 10% of GDP. The money the politicians are giving away to the banks are the taxes small successful companies like us pay.
The whole scheme resembles a casino operating on the following principle: the players who win are allowed to take away their winnings. Well and good. But when they lose, they are allowed to run up an unlimited tab. When the tab has gone up too high and they can’t even pay for their meals and drinks, the tab is reset. The money they squirreled away at home when on a winning streak doesn’t get touched. They keep their houses.
Any idiot could win under such circumstances. Why are these derivatives traders are considered “masters of the universe”? There were other words for such parasites in past centuries. Let’s start with Highwaymen.
The EFSF (European Financial Stability Facility) is an obligation which I do not want to take on for myself or for the next generations. It’s clear Greece is going belly up: they have not tightened their belts to the extent required for further support. Let Greece resolve its own issues. As a major tourist resort with a mild climate, Greeks are unlikely to starve or freeze to death.
On the other hand, a Greek default would cost Italian, French and German banks a lot of money. Good. Let them be more careful with their investments going forward.
Like Robert Sulik, I’m not anti-Euro.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: If the euro only causes problems, why doesn’t Slovakia’s government just pull the country out of the euro zone?
Sulik: I don’t see the euro as the problem. It’s a good project. Everyone involved can benefit from it — but only if they stick to the ground rules. And that’s exactly what we’re demanding.
But the existence Euro should not be an excuse to take taxpayers’ money and hand it off to fat cat bankers who pad their salaries and bonuses and expenses at will.
All the treaties signed up to date do not allow this kind of financial shenanigans and I see no reason to cave in now. Back to Sulik:
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Which ground rules should we be following?
Sulik: We have to observe three points: First, we have to strictly adhere to the existing rules, such as not being liable for others’ debts, just as it’s spelled out in Article 125 of the Lisbon Treaty. Second, we have to let Greece go bankrupt and have the banks involved in the debt-restructuring. The creditors will have to relinquish 50 to perhaps 70 percent of their claims. So far, the agreements on that have been a joke. Third, we have to be adamant about cost-cutting and manage budgets in a responsible way.
If the banks go down, people will lose their savings is another sword held over European voters necks. Nonsense. Nearly all countries have depositer insurance. If a bank cracks, the depositors will get their money. Shareholders and management may not. Next time, perhaps they will be more careful.
We live in a climate of fiscal restraint in Slovakia. It seems to be working as we are a growth economy. Time for other Europeans to catch up with Slovakia and China.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Nevertheless, banks could run into significant problems should they be forced to write down billions in sovereign bond holdings.
Sulik: So what? They took on too much risk. That one might go broke as a consequence of bad decisions is just part of the market economy. Of course, states have to protect the savings of their populations. But that’s much cheaper than bailing banks out. And that, in turn, is much cheaper than bailing entire states out.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Does one of your reasons for not wanting to help Greece have to do with the fact that Slovakia itself is one of the poorest countries in the EU?
Sulik: A few years back, we survived an economic crisis. With great effort and tough reforms, we put it behind us. Today, Slovakia has the lowest average salaries in the euro zone. How am I supposed to explain to people that they are going to have to pay a higher value-added tax (VAT) so that Greeks can get pensions three times as high as the ones in Slovakia?
SPIEGEL ONLINE: What can the Greeks learn from the reforms carried out in Slovakia?
Sulik: They have to make cuts in the state apparatus. The Slovaks could also give them a few good ideas about the tax system. We have a flat tax when it comes to income taxes. Our tax system is simple and clear.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: One last time: Do you honestly believe the euro has any future at all?
Sulik: I believe the euro has a future. But only if the rules are followed.
Yesterday I was speaking with a highly placed Greek political figure. I commiserated with him about the conditions of the loans: selling off most of the national assets to the banks and international financiers. He laughed charmingly and looked me in the eyes.
“Why should we be worried? What has been privatized can be renationalised after a change of government. What belongs to the Greeks remains with the Greeks. We will never be made slaves in our own land.”
At last the cynical bankers have met a match in cynical Greeks. One must not only beware of Greeks bearing gifts. One must be careful of Greeks accepting gifts.
It’s very sad to watch humanity tumble down the path to revolution and ruin and war again. The right to skim the cream from the economy with little or no contribution to the collective well being did not work out very well for the Ancien Regime in France in 1789. Men, women and children were pulled from their houses and beheaded to put an end to misuse of privilege.
When the world banking system is destroyed, the ill gotten gains and privileges of our current generation of politicians and bankers will avail their children very little. We are heading to a global reset. Hopefully, a minimum fo blood will be spilt. But if we are not careful, the inequal redistribution of wealth will lead to an endless world war.
How foolish the greedy can be.