“Volkswagen has chosen to wipe out PSA,” said a source in President Hollande’s entourage. PSA Peugeot Citroën, Europe’s second largest automaker, is teetering. Volkswagen Group, Europe’s largest automaker, is an invincible giant—that wants to reduce overcapacity in Europe “on the backs of the French,” the source said. Hence a secret plan, a desperate, misbegotten, and taxpayer-funded deal.
On Friday, the mayor of Futaba, a ghost town of once upon a time 7,000 souls near Fukushima No. 1, told his staff that evacuees might not be able to return for 30 years. Or never, for the older generation. He spoke in Kazo, Saitama Prefecture, where the town’s government has settled. It was the first estimate of a timeframe. But it all depends on successful decontamination. And that has turned into a vicious corruption scandal.
New Year’s Eve is the main event: 1,193 vehicles were set on fire. But it’s a year-round passion, with over 40,000 vehicles going up in smoke. A tradition no one has the balls to explain. In a country whose unemployment is climbing with incessant brutality, and whose automakers are bogged down with uncompetitive products in a morose market. But there’s an industry that is booming. The lottery.
Technology transfers, whether on a contractual basis or through theft, have long bedeviled companies that want to benefit from China’s cheap labor and 1.3 billion consumers. Automakers, aerospace companies, technology outfits…. it’s the price they have to pay. But when it seeped out that the largely state-owned nuclear industry in France was trying to sell its secrets to China to make a deal, oh là là!
Shocked and appalled—that was the reaction to the shopping-season debacle in the US. It was triggered by MasterCard’s ugly report. But now there’s a new term to describe “consumer spending,” “consumer debt,” and ultimately “trade deficits” when they occur as a function of such uplifting concepts as “holiday season” and “Christmas” whose magic is boiled down to just one issue: how much did everyone spend?
Santa Claus has gotten into a snarl-up with Australian immigration over his visitor visa, and he might not be able to deliver his goods…. “A Last Minute Technicality,” a video by Australian comedians Clark and Dawe, 2.5 minutes of hilarity and plenty of jabs at the modern political and bureaucratic world.
“We’re engaging in trench warfare,” proclaimed Alain Afflelou, head honcho and founder of an eyewear company with 1,200 stores in France and other countries. He was talking about the tax fiasco that split France in two. He was done with his country. He’s moving to London. One of France’s so-called fiscal exiles. And now there are “unprecedented waves” of them.
On Friday before Christmas when nobody was paying attention, when people were elbowing their way through department stores or heading out for vacation, the European Commission issued its report on bank bailouts in the European Union—a dry document with mind-boggling numbers that left out the most important fact.
One of the pillars of the Japanese economy has been its exports. That pillar has been crumbling for years, but the deterioration this year has progressed at a phenomenal pace. At fault: China and Europe. But beyond the noise, Japanese companies have been investing their valuable yen overseas, and it’s making the deficit structural. An ugly combination.
“Paradox” is what the New York Times called France’s ability to attract more foreign investment than any country other than China and the US. A paradox because it shouldn’t. Investors should be scared off by labor laws, tax rates, the cost of labor, and mud-wrestling bouts over nationalizing some industrial plants. But turns out, multinational corporations pay practically no income taxes in France. And it has reached the boiling point.