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The poverty lie : European crisis countries hiding their wealth ?

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  • The poverty lie : European crisis countries hiding their wealth ?

    The german weekly "Der Spiegel" has put a study by the european central bank (ECB) on the front page that comes up with interesting, for some surprising, and heavily debated ( at least in Europe ) conclusions : That the standard method of measuring countries wealth ( by mostly looking at public finances), which is also the base of most analyses of the "Eurocrisis" might lead to highly disputable results. According to the ECB, that has tried to measure and compare private household wealth in the countries of the Eurozone, where the common ( at least in the anglophone press) narrative goes that the stingy, export hungry Germans and northern Europeans should pay more for the poor South, the country with the second highest private wealth is actually far from northern Europe. It is Cyprus, that has only recently gambled over a 100 % of GDP bailout that involved all the usual ugly stereotyping and name-calling. Germany by the way ranks lower in private wealth ( in average net wealth as well as median wealth) than even two other "crisis countries", Spain and Italy, in the case of Italy even remarkably lower, and also behind France.
    The ECB, headed by an Italian (Mario Draghi) and a Portuguese (Vito Constancio) can hardly be accused of spreading german propaganda by the way.
    And obviously attempts have been made to both whitewash and criticize the study. Of course, Germans went through various rounds of expropiatation in the 20th century, war devastations, expulsions, the western german governement imposed a reconstruction levy on the wealthy in the 50s and many eastern german households had to start from the bottom up in the 90s. That means Germans had much less opportunities to transfer wealth through generations than in other countries. And then german tax authorities are arguably much less forgiving and generous than in Italy, Spain or Greece. Which does not mean that Germans today are actually poor. And of course permanently unstable currencies and economies in the South led to people making "lasting" investions, like houses, lands etc. whose value was artificially inflated in housing and real estate bubbles that came crashing down in recent years ( and in some cases after the data was collected). And of course Germans have reasonably funded social and pension systems which some countries in question do not have.
    But still the findings of the study are igniting heated debates in Europe :

    The numbers are potentially explosive. For instance, the average German household has assets of 195,000, almost 100,000 less than the average Spanish household. The average net wealth of households in Cyprus is 671,000, more than three times the German value. Italian and French households are also significantly wealthier than their German counterparts.

    The differences are even more pronounced when it comes to median net wealth, which is the level that the lower half of the population just reaches and the upper half exceeds. On this measure, Germany, at 51,400, is actually in last place in the euro zone. The corresponding value for Cyprus is five times as high. Median net wealth is even higher in crisis-rattled Portugal than in Germany.



    Which means that there is plenty of money to be collected by the crisis countries --in their own backyard and without imposing any additional austerity measures or calling for more "solidarity" :


    Southern Europeans in a number of countries have traditionally paid no taxes on a good share of their income, which is one reason households with far smaller incomes have been able to accumulate substantially larger assets than German households.......

    On the Iberian Peninsula and in Italy, the hidden economy makes up 20 percent of GDP, compared with almost 25 percent in Greece. By comparison, it only constitutes about 13 percent in Germany, and significantly less than 10 percent in other euro countries, like Austria and the Netherlands.

    The greater the importance of moonlighting, the lower the tax revenues. The shadow economy deprives Spain, Italy and other countries of dozens of billions of euros in tax revenue each year, and has been doing so for decades.





    The average wealth of Greek households may seem high, but the country ranks near the bottom in Europe in terms of tax revenues. In 2011, tax revenues, including social security contributions, amounted to 35 percent of GDP, compared with an EU average of 40 percent.

    Greek authorities are also making very little headway in their fight against tax evasion. Lists exist of delinquent doctors, wealthy people unwilling to pay their taxes and tax fugitives in Switzerland. There are also lists of undeclared swimming pools (which are subject to a tax) and proud owners of luxury yachts whose incomes are barely large enough to pay taxes. But the tax collectors continue to come up short. Last year, tax authorities were expected to drum up 2 billion in back taxes to help pay off the country's debt, at least under the conditions imposed by the troika consisting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the ECB and the European Commission. The actual figure was barely 1.1 billion.


    Basically the study shows that reasonable public finances do not automatically indicate wealthier people with more assets, as well as desastrous public finances do not automatically mean poverty. And that the "Eurocrisis" is much more than just a question of cutting and spending. It is the woes of enforcing the same rules on the people of a continent, with diverse economic models and cultures. But that understanding could also help :

    Poor Germany: It Is Time for a Debate on Euro Crisis Burden Sharing - SPIEGEL ONLINE

  • #2
    Re: The poverty lie : European crisis countries hiding their wealth ?

    Voland, can this be explained with the differences in Germans (mostly) renting their homes and people owning them in the other nations you mentioned?

    ?


    • #3
      Re: The poverty lie : European crisis countries hiding their wealth ?

      Originally posted by tsquare View Post
      Voland, can this be explained with the differences in Germans (mostly) renting their homes and people owning them in the other nations you mentioned?

      Partially yes. The reasons for that are mainly two :

      1. The war devastations

      2. mentality/culture related

      The WW II bombings also led to the destruction of plenty of living space, in some cities well over 50 % of all houses/flats. Additionally millions of expellees and refugees from the lost eastern territories needed a roof above their heads. Therefore the governement was giving tax incentives to construction developers and investors to invest in housing projects. The governement was additionally paying subsidies if the owners agreed to affordable renting conditions, at least for a certain amount of time. At the same time the rental market was liberalized , which made german flats an interesting investment. In countries like Spain or Italy the state was in contrast to that dictating rents, and rent contracts could be for example inherited. That is (among other things) why money was predominantly put in home ownership.

      Another factor is the lack of a german subprime market, and that is mentality related. Germans are probably too fiscally conservative for that. Banks simply wont offer you a mortgage, if you cant cough up a significant amount of the money yourself like 30-50 % ( in cash !) and/or significant collateral and with certainty a reliable income. They would rather tell you to get lost. That has largely kept people with lower and/or unreliable incomes out of the construction market and spared Germany a real estate bubble like other countries. Additonally Germans are traditionally VERY hesitant to go in debt, and that is why many are life-time renters, even if they could afford their own house.
      Other countries with a high degree of renters and not owners are for example Switzerland or Austria.

      That alone will not explain the measured wealth difference, but is certainly a part of the picture.

      ?


      • #4
        Re: The poverty lie : European crisis countries hiding their wealth ?

        Corruption being the underlying cause of this world's broken economy, further centralization/consolidation of power will only serve to make matters far, far worse. The Keynesian socialists have long since proven they are undeserving of public trust, and should be beaten in such a manner that they never rise again to torment humanity, including those among them claiming to be conservatives, and the international banking cartel that spawned an economics that has no basis in science.

        Here's an out-and-out lie that's quite typical of the internationalists...

        Whether youre talking about Karl Marx or John Maynard Keynes, capitalism today has changed and I think inclusive capitalism is about giving a broader opportunity for people to participate.

        Evelyn de Rothschild
        There is no such thing as "capitalism today". Nothing is more antithetical of capitalism than central banking. Period. But tell that to the ignorant masses that have no understanding of science-based economics. Here's the puff piece if anyone cares to read it...

        Sunday Interview: Sir Evelyn de Rothschild: 'To be rather abrupt, I don&rsquo;t think there&rsquo;s been a great change since 2008' - Telegraph

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