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Angela Merkel blames Cypriots for bankers’ gamblings

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | MARCH 26, 2013

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said today that the new rescue program for Cyprus is “right” because it forces “those who have caused the problem.” to take “responsibility” for their actions. In saying this Merkel blames the people of Cyprus for the debt incurred into by the very same banks the German leader so strongly attacks publicly but defends in private.

The head of the German government was said to be “satisfied” with the result reached this weekend, after seven days of media controversy, political unrest and turmoil that followed in the stock market and that stopped the conditions of the first bailout from taking place.

The plan as it is now known includes a 40% charge on depositors who may not even see their savings ever again. According to the plan imposed by the European Union, Cyprus will liquidate both the Laiki and Cyprus Banks and has already mandated the confiscation of almost half of the funds in accounts with more than 100,000 euros.

“The result reached is right and puts the onus on those who have created the problem. Way it should be,” Merkel argued in a brief meeting with media in Langenfeld.

She added that she is “happy” that a “fair division of the burden” has been achieved with Cyprus temporarily bribing its way out of a financial collapse by stealing 7,000 million euros from its people, while the European Union supposedly lends the country 10,000 million euros.

“First, banks must take responsibility. On the other, it has become clear that Cyprus can count on the solidarity of the European countries,” said Merkel. The Chancellor said in this regard that the EU will support Nicosia in the “difficult road” ahead. In other words, Merkel sees the Cypriot people as responsible for the banks gambling on behalf of the Mediterranean nation, whose people will now suffer greater pain than those in Greece, for example.

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Spanish public debt reaches 77.4% of GDP

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | DECEMBER 14, 2012

Government debt in Spain grew another 1.55% in the third quarter with respect to the second quarter to reach 817.164 million euros, or the equivalent to 77.4% of GDP. This is the highest level ever since the cork popped out of the crisis bottle in 2008.

According to data released by the Bank of Spain, the rise is a result of the increased debt of the central government, which has added 2.24% more to the total reached before this quarter, 695.519 million euros, and that represented 65.9% of the gross domestic product (GDP).

Meanwhile, state government debt declined by 0.48% to 167,460 million euros, or the equivalent to 15.9% of GDP, while the debt of municipalities fell 2.65%, to 43.802 million euros, which is equal to 4.1% of GDP.

Along with the release of data for the third quarter, the Bank of Spain has also updated the second to include the impact of the debt payment plan to Spanish lenders, although the changes do not affect the total amount.

Thus, at the end of the second quarter sovereign debt had grown by 14.9%, placing the burden of debt on GDP at 15.9%, the highest in history and two points over the previous quarter.

Additionally, local businesses increased their debt by 22% in the second quarter, raising the ceiling to 4.3% of its debt to GDP margin, a level that had not been seen before. When it comes to autonomous communities, Catalonia is the most indebted in absolute terms, with 45.754 million euros of debt at the end of the third quarter, followed by Valencia with 25,574,000 million and Andalusia with 18,495,000 million.

In relative terms, Castilla-La Mancha ranks first as an indebted community, with a debt equivalent to 5.7% of GDP, and is followed by Valencia (25%), Catalonia (23%) and Baleares (20.3 %). At the end of the third quarter, public companies owed 55.973 million euros or 5.3% of GDP, which means 0.81% more than in the previous quarter.

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The Immorality Crisis not lack of Transparency caused the Financial Collapse

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | DECEMBER 5, 2012

The European Union countries most affected by the global economic and financial collapse are also some of the most corrupt. But the highest levels of immorality and corruption are not seen at the national level, but on the international stage.

A recent publication by Transparency International which assesses the perception of corruption through a well established index, calls the results “disappointing” in the sense that countries, especially those hit the hardest by the current financial collapse, are corrupt at heart, indeed.

The Index 2012 Corruption Perceptions from Transparency International shows that Greece obtained the worst result of all the European Union with a score of 36 out of 100, in 94th place out of 174 countries in the table. The Hellenic country is below Bulgaria and Romania.

Among the members of the European Union, Spain is in 13th place, after Denmark, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany, Belgium, UK, France, Austria, Ireland and Cyprus. The report from TI shows the stagnation of Spain, the second country in Europe on its way down the cliff. Spain shares the 30th position with Botswana in the latest report of the corruption index.

“Among the countries hardest hit by the crisis are Italy and Greece — both join Spain on their way to total collapse — as corruption in the public sector is a major problem,” said Corbus de Swardt, spokesman for the NGO. He then added that “the fight against corruption is one of the keys so that Greece can emerge from the crisis. True point, although the type of corruption that pulled Greece down to the abyss, did not necessarily originate inside the  country. As it happens in most nations, the bureaucrats who manage the destiny of countries and their people are front men and women whose work is to be ‘YES MEN’ and who represent the interests of the European oligarchy; where the highest levels of corruption emanate from.

In Germany and France, De Swardt believes that “one of the main problems is the relationship between politics and business.” The report reveals the existence of interest groups and a culture of secrecy. He is particularly concerned about the funding of political parties in Germany. Interest groups of course are not limited to women’s rights groups or unions, but to large conglomerates of companies that operate locally and outside the countries and who dictate the policies that the governments follow.

At a press conference Wednesday in Madrid, the President of Transparency International Spain, Jesús Lizcano, innocently advocated for giving good training to staff. He also called for issuing punishments to institutions that do not comply with transparency.

In this context, Antonio Garrigues Walker, executive committee member of IT, reminded people that in the past 18 years, corruption has increased gradually but forcefully mainly because, he said, that most countries do not have transparency laws in place. But reality shows otherwise. Countries with significant rules and regulations about transparency also suffer the consequences of corruption mainly because the rules on transparency are written for the people, not for the corrupt politicians in government and the corporations, who always manage to find back doors and legal windows to get away with cheating the system. Therefore, the crisis is not one of corruption, but of morality. Corruption is just the direct result of a society whose morality has been removed.

“Transparency is an absolute obligation of institutions and an absolute right of citizenship,” said the lawyer, who also lamented that countries like Spain have a civil society that is “weak and dependent.” In his opinion, corruption is “a true leukemia” especially in the economic system and transparency is the instrument to combat it.”

The agreement among most of the attendees is the “truly alarming” intensification of corruption worldwide. The highest levels of corruption speakers said have been seen during the current global financial collapse caused by the corrupt financial system upon which the world functions and which is managed by a few powerful elites.

Since the first Corruption Perceptions Index was published in 1995, both Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian countries remain at the top of the corruption ladder, even though the index does not always shows it. That is not a surprise as many of the oligopolies that are the source of corruption are established there. Outside Europe, countries such as Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia are three of the most corrupt in the world.

Although the Transparency International Index is just a main stream kind of thermometer which superficially gauges the levels of corruption around the world, it is a good starting point. Its results however contrasts with the reality of corruption and transparency. It is important to remember that in the case of the TI Index, it only reports the “perception” of corruption and not the real, factual levels in a country. That is why in its 2012 edition, countries like the United States, Uruguay and Germany hold distinctive positions, despite the fact these countries are submerged deeply into a sea of corruption. Another caveat is that the TI Index only includes the perception of corruption in the public sector and leaves out its twin out-of-control unregulated corporations.

Do we need a global index to know how bad corruption is in a determined country? Not likely. A more faithful gauge would be an honest look around the city and country where we live.

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Portugal Approves Polemic Budget Amid Massive Public Protests

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | NOVEMBER 27, 2012

If anyone wants to understand how much disregard governments have for their people, it will suffice to look at Portugal. The country is one of the European nations in worse condition, which caused massive public protests on the streets of the capital Lisbon as well as other cities. Despite the protests and the Portuguese government approved an ever more austere budget after 224 members of Congress discussed and voted for it.

Meanwhile, outside the Congressional building, thousands of people called by the unions and various civic associations, screamed and protested peacefully against the same budget in a desperate attempt to stop it, or at least to voice their anger. Eventually, enough votes from the coalition government conservative CDS-PP PSD decided to approve the text. All opposition (Socialist Party Portuguese, Portuguese Communist Party, the Left Bloc and the Greens) spoke against it.

The multitude of protestors included unionists, housewives, unemployed, students and others. One of these protesters carried a banner with a simple and powerful message: “Get me out of this film.” In one corner, a young man seemed to use a cardboard stand to solicit that people signed his petition against the upcoming move to privatize the water supply.

Everyone is convinced that the newly approved budget is going to make life worse yet some more. It’s true. The text includes, among other measures, a brutal tax increase described by the opposition as a genuine “tax bomb” aimed at wiping the government’s debt and to achieve the goals imposed by Portugal’s new owners, the Troika. The Government argues that a budget is conditional and that its scope to develop another one is very low given the need to adjust spending to meet its commitments.

The cuts are affecting many and especially the Portuguese salaried middle classes, which already carry the enormous weight of the economic downturn in a country that was ‘rescued’ in April 2011 to avoid bankruptcy.

So, starting next year, several sections are taken out from Portuguese Income Tax to raise more revenue in addition to a 3.5% general tax on everyone that will start in January. The hardest hit groups under this new tax scheme are retired people, those who receive unemployment benefits and others who get government subsidies for health benefits. In general, higher taxes, fees and surcharges will all increase for the  Portuguese population and such increases will equal a complete full salary. Government workers and those who are retired will continue to live without their yearly bonuses paid to them once a year, but that was cancelled by the government a year ago.

Indeed, 2013 will be much tougher for the Portuguese people. The economy, according to the government, will fall by 1%, consumption will drop by 2.5% and unemployment will climb to 16.8%. There will be cuts, yet without specifying if they will reach Health and Education. Everything will work a little worse. It is expected that the country achieves a tiny sign of a recovery in 2014, if anything at all, said today the Finance Minister Vitor Gaspar.

The problem is that last year, Gaspar said the same thing referring to 2013, which has made it less likely that people and experts believe what Gaspar says.

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Greek government imposes more Austerity

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | NOVEMBER 8, 2012

The same worn out ineffective policies that have done nothing to help Greece come out of the dire situation it has been for years have found more support at the highest levels of the Greek government. Congress in that country had the guts to adopt more of the same hunger causing measures that took Greece from being in a bad recession to a complete and open economic depression.

The Greek government managed to give new impetus to the austerity policies demanded by the EU and the International Monetary Fund but that were again rejected on the streets and partially in Parliament, where the new austerity measures were approved with a very small majority. For Greece, however, this late awakening by some of its congressional leaders, may be too little, too late.

On Wednesday the Greek Parliament approved the latest round of austerity measures with 153 votes in favor, 128 against and 18 abstentions. One congressman was absent during the voting.

The so-called coalition government led by banker accomplice and Prime Minister Andonis Samaras, gained control of 175 of the 300 seats in Congress which facilitated the approval of the measures, despite the last-minute challenges issued by some opposition leaders.

The new austerity package includes, among other goodies, the dismissal of about 25,000 government employees by the end of 2013, reduced pensions and health co-payment.

“We voted to remain within Europe or return to the drachma, international isolation, social insurrection and civil war,” Samaras said in Parliament during the debate period previous to the approval of the list of demands written by bankers in Brussels.

“Some of the measures included in the bill that we voted today should have been adopted years ago. Others, such as wage and pension cuts are unfair and that is something we should not hide,” confessed Samaras. During the debate, which was hoarse and thick with shouts and interruptions, the opposition branded the new austerity package as “unconstitutional” in both its content and the procedure for approval.

As in many other countries, the artificial sense of emergency, gave Congress little or no time to actually read the 279 pages of the proposal that did not get to Parliament until late Monday. The same has been done in countries like the United States, when George W. Bush and the American Congress approved the TARP legislation and when they decided to bailout banks and General Motors.

Congressman Dimitris Papadimulis, warned after the vote that the new measures “will hurt seriously the Greek society and the economy” and called on the population to “prevent it” fighting against a government which he said had experienced significant losses. The rejection of the new austerity measures, both before and after the approval was clearly felt on the streets of Athens, as people participated of a general strike of 48 hours.

Before the vote was taken, anywhere between 100,000 and 200,000 people showed up to Syntagma Square, just outside Congress to demand the rejection of the legislation. Although the protests remained largely peaceful, the approval of more austerity resulted in riots between protesters and police. The disturbances spread along the avenues and squares nearby, where protesters resorted to burning garbage containers and destroy barricades placed along the streets.

Police actions against the protesters rendered at least 70 people arrested. Most of the Greeks who tried to put some pressure on Congress to reject the new austerity policies remained outside Parliament premises while they shouted and demanded that their voice be heard. As in all other occasions, the Greek leadership did exactly the opposite; they listened to the bankers and not their people.

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