Add it up
Although there has been an enormous amount of publicity about the financial condition of the eurozone countries, about their deficits and their debts, there is one aspect that has barely been mentioned, and yet it is perhaps more significant than anything else. That question is the settlement of trade differences between countries. When a country spends more than it receives, it must pay the difference, and a country that receives more than it spends must receive the difference. When the eurozone was set up, it was agreed that these settlement differences would be done through the ECB, through a mechanism originally called Target-1, and now called Target-2. But the problem is that this has never been done. The differences are all outstanding. The German Bundesbank is owed €495 billion by the ECB for trade settlements. This asset is more than two-thirds of the Bundesbank’s entire balance sheet. Yet, not only is this not mentioned in the main accounts, but one can only find it in the foot notes. Similarly, the ECB is owed roughly the same amount of money by various other eurozone countries. If the Bundesbank is not paid, it becomes bankrupt. If the ECB is not paid, the ECB will be bankrupt, and will not be able to pay the Bundesbank. And yet, nothing is being done about this. Mrs Merkel and Mr Sarkozy continue to live in fairy land.
A curious thing
There is a baffling question, which no one seems to have an answer for, but which, in my opinion, is extremely significant. In 1961, about 15 million men were employed in the U.K. Today, the figure has barely changed, being 15.4 million. In 1961, very few women worked – perhaps half a million – certainly not more than 1 million. But today, 13.5 million women work. Where did these 13 million jobs come from? Furthermore, many of the jobs that were previously held by men are now held by women. What happened to the men? Are they not working, and if they are, where are they working?
The only part of the employment universe that has seen vast increases is government employment, and everyone knows that large numbers of women now work in government, which means we pay them. In short, families which do not have women working, are asked to pay for the families where women do work. Yet no one objects.
What Fabio frets about
Some weeks ago, there was a row during a football game, between John Terry, the English captain, and Anton Ferdinand. One might think that this was an event of no importance, and that such things occur all the time. But, on this occasion, the matter was given enormous importance because Mr Ferdinand accused Mr Terry of “racial abuse”. Terry was arrested by the police, and will have to appear in court. Furthermore, many people felt, and said, that John Terry should not play for either England or Chelsea until after his court hearing. Now this is absolutely amazing. It is a basic principle of English law that everyone is deemed innocent until proven guilty. And yet, an enormous number of people wanted John Terry to be considered guilty before he had even appeared in court. Furthermore, this is not a matter than can easily be decided in court. It is just one man’s word against the other. They have different stories, and one, or both will lie. What is the point of a court hearing?
But the aspect that is the most incomprehensible is why should “racial abuse” be taken so seriously. If one player verbally insults another player’s mother, or his courage, or his honesty, or his sexual ability, that is not considered serious enough to be taken to court. There was the famous incident in the World Cup some years ago, when Zidane, the great French player, head butted an Italian, who had insulted Zidane’s mother. Yet, the Italian was not criticised, and it was Zidane who was criticised, the opposite of the Terry/Ferdinand encounter. Personally, I would not mind anyone mentioning my race or nationality, because at least that would be true. But I would very much object to having my mother’s chastity insulted, or to have my sexuality, my courage, or my honour questioned. Why are the Anglo-Saxons so obsessed with race?
An American lawyer who is now in the financial world, Demetri Marchessini lives in London.