It’s hardly surprising that the UK has lost this valuable trophy rating, since the policy of the UK coalition government has produced little except more austerity and depressed consumer demand, which in turn, accelerates the pace of austerity. Now
the Italians have thrown their general election result into the European melting pot. It seems that forming a government in Italy will be well nigh impossible, given the political statement and somehow, it seems highly appropriate that a stand-up comedian, Beppe Grillo, should have been this catalyst for change. Where is Italy in particular and the eurozone in
general going after this fiasco? Looks like nowhere fast.
Another Italian conundrum is also coming up fast. With the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI happening later this week, a conclave to elect a new Pope is likely to be speeded up. Given the church scandals that have emerged so far, who knows what else is in the woodwork and about to emerge? The sensational news of the resignation of Cardinal O’Brien of Scotland is hardly likely to be the last scandal of its kind in the race to find the new Pope. Watch this space!
Amid all the general economic gloom comes more from France. Since Francoise Hollande became the French president last May, the French economy has been going steadily downhill. Now, it seems, it isn’t in much better shape that those on the periphery of the Eurozone. The first nine months of his presidency have been an economic disaster for France.
The latest forecast shows that French unemployment rates are about to return to the worst levels seen since 1997. There’s also bad news for French businesses and households with the news that electricity prices are set to soar by 30 per cent between now and 2016, a mere three years away.
While France depends for much of its electricity on nuclear generation, the country now has to invest heavily in renewables, so that close to a quarter of electricity will be generated from renewable
resources. This is going to cost French consumers dear, as most of the increase in energy prices will be due to investment in these new resources.
At least, one cheap new offer has come along, the TGV at bargain prices. SNCF, the French railway company, is introducing a new low cost Ryanair style TGV service, which will operate from Marne la Vallee, near Paris, to Lyon airport and Marseille. Some of the initial tickets on the route were priced at €10, but the rest of the tickets will be low cost, too, with those for under 12s priced at a mere €5 each. The only snag is that to make room for more passengers on the new Ouigo service, the bars on the trains have been removed.
Another interesting piece of news from France is the election to the Academy Francaise of an Englishman, 74 year old Michael Edwards, an academic and poet. His wife is French and they live in Paris. His two previous attempts to get elected failed, so it’s third time lucky in this unusual precedent.
Meanwhile back at the ranch here in Ireland, things just go from bad to worse. The upcoming property tax may well be the cause of the next uprising in Ireland. The tax authorities are collecting the new tax. Draconian powers are being used to make sure that every house in the country is registered and then in order to ensure that the tax is paid, the tax authorities are being given the power to dip into people’s personal bank accounts and to deduct it from social welfare payments
and other sources of income.
Since 40 per cent of the population of Ireland is now estimated to be living on the breadline and another recent survey shows that three-quarters of Irish families can’t even pay their energy
bills, it’s not hard to imagine the consequences of this new tax. Countless thousands of families will find themselves compliant with the new tax, yet will become destitute of funds to keep themselves going. This new tax is going to turn into the latest bureaucratic nightmare in Ireland. As for the government in Dublin, it seems blissfully divorced from the reality of everyday living for so many people and more than happy to dream up a brand new tax every week.
Just this week has come news of yet another household charge, or tax. At present, people with television sets have to pay an annual TV licence fee. But since so many people now don’t watch television on traditional TV sets but on tablets and the like, the government plans to bring in a broadcasting charge payable by every household. Even if a family doesn’t have anything beyond a
portable radio, they will still have to cough up.
In the general election two years ago, the two parties that now form the coalition government promised a clean break from the corrupt and incompetent practices of the previous government, which had ruined the country. Now it’s been revealed that the present government has been stuffing boards and agencies with its political supporters - nothing has changed. No-one in Ireland now believes anything the government says it is going to do, except impose further taxes and charges. And
as for the coalition government in London, Paddy Power should run a book on how long it’s going to last,now that the LibDems seem to be imploding.
In the meantime, what’s next week’s tax in Ireland going to be? We’ll have to just wait and see. In the meantime, we are surviving perfectly well with no television. It’s four months since the switchover from analogue to digital, a change we didn’t bother making, and I must admit that in the intervening weeks and months, we haven’t missed the telly one little bit. It’s the source of just so much audio-visual junk and the news on telly isn’t exactly an enlightened source to tell you what’s really going on in the world. Television is also becoming totally infested with utterly irrelevant entertainment news in line with much of the media industry. More prozac for the masses!
Just this week, I was reading about a young Irish nurse, well qualified and skilled, in a good job
hospital job here, who has decided to emigrate. As the latest news came through about the current proposed round of pay cuts for Irish public service workers, she said she couldn’t care less. She has got herself a good nursing job in Australia, where her takehome pay is going to be double what she gets in Ireland. Her only thought was that she was just to so glad to be getting out of Ireland. The country seems permanently mired in recession and the absence of original political thinking on how to cure the country’s ills is quite astonishing. Many people will admire this nurse for what she is doing and many of Ireland’s best and brightest young people are going to follow suit.
That’s it for this week, another dull and dreary week in the Eurozone, to match the weather. The Italians have now got a standup comedian calling the shots and saying that the traditional political systems have failed completely. Maybe every European country needs its own Beppe Grillo to engineer an escape into a more inspiring future!