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.
At a yearend Bonenkai party, an official from the Ministry of Finance, the most powerful entity at the core of Japan Inc., let slip that the Bank of Japan wasn’t doing its job; it was just giving money to the banks which bought Japanese government bonds instead of channeling it into the economy. “That’s why the Ministry of Finance is trying to gain control over the Bank of Japan,” he said.
“I’m wondering how much this society can endure before it explodes,” said Georg Pieper, a German psychotherapist who specializes in treating post-traumatic stress disorders following catastrophes, large accidents (including the deadliest train wreck ever in Germany), acts of violence, freed hostages…. But now he was talking about Greece.