Friday, October 28, 2005

General strike in Belgium

TheaterBelgian unions are organizing a national strike on October 28th to protest against the reform plans calling for a broad review of the social security and pension system. During the same time China's major metropolitan areas (Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong...) will produce as much GDP as that forgone by Belgium... Europe's welfare systems cannot continue operating the way they do and at the same time we have to acknowledge how absurd the financing of our states is: selling shares will cots you 1% in taxes, while selling a house will cost you 17% in taxes... and last time I looked the financial flows represented over 75 times the flows of the real economy. As an example, in 2003, the average value of about 350,000 transactions going through the CRESTCo clearing and settlement system was  620 billion Euros PER DAY represented a value of about , i.e. almost 3 times the ANNUAL GDP of Belgium, a country of over 10 million souls!

This means that there are ways to finance activities that must remain in the hands of the public sector (the Tobin tax would be interesting to have as a basis for discussion). At the same time, this country needs to rationalize government because a country of 10 million people cannot possibly afford 4 or 5 governments to accomodate indescribable egos,  cultural integrism, personal ambitions and political agendas.

And of course, this strike is an ill-adapted reaction triggerred by people who still think along the lines of outdated ideologies who will not solve anything. Of course, the strike costs nothing to employed people while it causes direct financial damage to entrepreneurs, small business owners and freelance people. Of course, the strike happens on a Friday that is forecast as a sunny day... and guess what? It starts at 10:00 because we don't want to wake-up too early for a protest and it finishes at 14:00 because everybody wants to have an extended weekend.

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