What happened in Slovakia sounds like a scenario of a political movie: a private investment company, a bench of political leaders, a backdrop of national elections opposing the outgoing right wing party and the leftist populist candidate, and a secret file released on the Internet.

To me the most hurting is that the corruption operation took place during the integration of Slovakia into the EU. What was supposed to be a democratization and modernization process was completely diverted to serve the interest of the dominants. Open your eyes people, “Europeanization” is not what we have been told… Free market economy, democracy, human-oriented values, transparency and accountability, consumer protection… Where are all these things and how can we trust European institutions? And above all, how can we trust the political class?… Well to that second question, Slovaks already answered with indifference. No one is really surprised by the scandal, but still the governing party stepped down.    

So what are exactly the Gorilla file and the Penta affair?


The Gorilla file: Slovak election overshadowed by huge corruption, protesters toss bananas

For two years, the dossier claims, politicians of all stripes were pocketing kickbacks from members of an influential private investment group. In the wall of the apartment where the clandestine meetings took place was a listening device planted by a secret agent intrigued by why so many high-level visitors were dropping in.

The “Gorilla” files — mysteriously posted online by an anonymous source in December and said to be based on the wiretaps — have rocked the already-raucous world of Slovak politics ahead of elections Saturday. The fallout looks certain to propel populist former leader Robert Fico back into power, even though he himself has been implicated.

The file purportedly documents shady dealings between 2005 and 2006, and suggests investment group Penta bribed government and opposition politicians to win lucrative privatization deals. Politicians from almost all major parties have been tainted in the scandal, named after a beefy Penta guard whose apartment provided the venue for the meetings.

Prime Minister Iveta Radicova’s Slovak Democratic and Christian Union, whose free-market reforms earned the country NATO and EU membership, looks likely to be hit hardest. The party was in power in 2005-2006 and then-prime minister Mikulas Dzurinda is now foreign minister and party chairman.

Polls indicate the party will win only about 5 percent, despite overseeing an economic boom driven by solid growth, strong exports and the implementation of much-needed pension reforms. The early elections were called when the government fell after failing to approve Slovakia’s contribution to an EU bailout fund.

The left-wing Fico, who ruled from 2006 to 2010, says he is innocent and doesn’t recall the meetings he was said to have attended, adding that he couldn’t have influenced any decisions because he was in opposition.

One big winner in the scandal? Fruit vendors. Angry protesters, some in gorilla masks, have taken to the streets in numbers not seen since the final days of Communism to pelt Parliament and government offices with showers of bananas. In Prague, the capital of the neighboring Czech Republic, large painted gorilla footprints have been splashed along the streets leading up to Penta’s offices.

“You can’t really call it a proper election campaign — no programs or goals of political parties have been discussed,” said analyst Miroslav Kusy. “It’s all about these negative issues.” He said Slovaks — for whom “all politicians are just thieves” — could turn out in record low numbers of just 40 percent in a sign of their anger.

The spy agency — SIS — has refused to confirm the file’s authenticity. SIS heads are suspected of sweeping the wiretap findings under the carpet; police are now investigating following the anonymous leak.

Penta has vowed to clear its name.

The group’s Bratislava spokesman, Martin Danko, says the scandal has “undoubtedly negatively hit our reputation in Slovakia” but claims business has not been affected. In Slovakia, the group owns a health insurance company and two banks and has invested heavily in privatized firms.

The file claims that one former economy minister received the equivalent of $13 million for his assistance and that the head of the National Property Fund took in about $9 million. As with all figures caught up in the scandal, they deny wrongdoing…



What is Penta?:

Penta’s initial capital originates from the business that the two founding members, Marek Dospiva and Jaroslav Haščák, conducted in China. In the early 1990s, during their studies in Beijing, they began importing Chinese textiles to chain stores in Czechoslovakia.

Back in Bratislava, Haščák and Dospiva teamed up with their future partner, Jozef Oravkin, and began trading on the newly expanded stock exchange. At the end of 1993, they founded Penta Brokers and acquired two new partners – Martin Kúšik and Juraj Herko. All of the Penta partners had been schoolmates during their studies in Moscow and Czechoslovakia. The business name, Penta, is a tribute to the five original partners who founded the company.

In 1999, Penta was restructured into a holding with its mother company in Cyprus.

In 2005, Penta was changed its structure to that of a standard private equity company. In 2005, Penta decided to diversify its portfolio. Apart from its buyout business, Penta decided to invest in real estate.

Read more: http://www.pentainvestments.com/about-us/profile/penta-story

Thomas Nicholson: Why Slovakia’s corruption scandal is good for democracy

14 March 2012. He is the man who shook Slovakia. For years, Thomas Nicholson, a Canadian investigative journalist living in Slovakia, tried to publish the “Gorilla” file about corrupted politics in the country. No one would pay attention to it, until the beginning of this year when the documents he had received from a secret service agent surfaced on the Internet. The file had a major impact on the March 10 general elections. “Politicians will have more and more difficulties to continue practice corruption”, says Nicholson, when we met in a Bratislava café on the wake on the election.

Some people say that “Gorilla” pushed more people into social-democratic leader Robert Fico’s arms. What’s your opinion on Fico coming back to power?

I am surprised by how little effect the Gorilla file has had on these elections. The expectation was lower ballot participation because people would lose faith in democracy; the right wing would be absolutely destroyed, because this corruption scandal primarily affects them. They were in power when it happened, but in fact we have had the highest turnout since 2002 (60%). The right was punished but they got a second chance.

There are many positive things about these elections. First of all, the Nationalists did not get back into Parliament. And finally we have Fico as a single party government that will have no excuses, no Nationalists or Populists to blame for corruption or for his failure. It’s a good recipe for a better government than the last time he was in power [2006-2010].

I think all in all, these elections, even though they were bad news for the Right, are about as good as what we could have hoped for. People were tired of instability, stupid arguing and inability to make compromises. Gorilla has not much to do with it in the end. People were tired of instability. Fico himself is not an angel but compared to the right wing he represents stability and that was what people were looking for.

Fico is apparently mentioned in the Gorilla document. Do you think the investigations will continue during the second Fico government?

Fico is not directly threatened by Gorilla, but his party is. Obviously his secretary was in the incriminated flat [in which politicians were meeting members of the Penta financial group and which was wire-tapped by the secret service. The transcripts form the material of the Gorilla file], he accepted money from the Penta financial group to finance his party Smer. Whether he will support or not the investigation, that is very difficult to say. There is lot of public anger about this file, and this anger goes all across the political spectrum. If he wanted to gain political points he would appear to support the investigation. But we know how politics works. He can easily stop it. This file was buried in 2006 by Josef Magala, the head of the Slovak secret service SIS, when police got it under Fico they absolutely failed. So he is not probably going to be enthusiastic about the investigation.

Do you believe that thanks to the revelation of such a scandal Slovakia will become a more democratic country?

I do. It might sound naive, but I have concrete reasons to think that. I don’t think it’s possible anymore for any financial group to do business with the government or politicians, in the future these connections will be very politically fraught with danger for any politicians to have.

As a result of this Gorilla investigation there will be a lot of initiatives that have started focusing on transparency and clarity in politics. I am a good example. I will probably leave journalism to set up a website which will be a database of connections between politics, financial groups and organised crime. It will be publicly available to voters, especially when the next election comes around. All kinds of these initiatives will come up in next four years.

The public has been empowered by knowing how corruption works, it’s a knowledge about oligarchy, politicians, political nominees, how they work. Important is that people know about these connections. You have no governmental groups providing this kind of information. All that changes the environment that we had before. Politicians will have more and more difficulties to continue to practice corruption.

Your book about Gorilla has been banned by a tribunal in Bratislava. But you’ve started publishing some fragments of it anyway in the newspapers. The Penta group, which is considered as a financial shark swimming in the Central European waters, has pressed charges against you. Do you think you can win against them?

The suit against me is 500 pages long. But at the same time they have no foundation to stand on. These people, when they can’t buy someone or scare someone, they run out of ideas because they don’t know anything else. Besides the individual discomfort of being threatened by these people, I don’t need money, I don’t need fame, anything really. And I don’t have anything to lose. As Janis Joplin said a long time ago: freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. I don’t really care about their lawsuit. I have the publishing house Petit Press, who represent me. Whether the court will be for me or against me doesn’t make much difference, because Penta lost in the Court of public opinion and I don’t think anybody is afraid of them anymore. So whatever they win in terms of financial squeeze of my double-mortgage house, they are welcomed to it.



Eurozone crisis: Try the Greek yoke on, Herr Hansen
29 February 2012 – Cicero Berlin

What would the life of an average German official be like if the Federal Republic were forced to follow the same draconian austerity measures it is currently imposing on Greece? With the help of some experts, Cicero tries to imagine it.
Marie Amrhein

Let’s call him Eric Hansen. Hansen works in public education in a small town in Hesse. Now and then he takes the young people in his care to the nearby town of Marburg to play in the bowling centre.

In the future, however, Mr. Hansen must consider very carefully whether he wouldn’t prefer taking the kids for a walk in the forest – the tickets for the bowling centre might be too expensive, because Hansen must save where he can. Just like the rest of the country.

Let’s look at the hypothesis that the Hans Böckler Foundation put together with the help of the Institute for Macroeconomic Policy (IMK) in order to understand how the pain of Greek austerity might feel for us in Germany.
Just the beginning of Greek austerity

Eric Hansen’s monthly salary would shrink from €3,250 to €2,760. His health insurance, in contrast, would increase by €530 per year, while VAT would go up from 19 to 22 percent. Hansen, who likes to smoke a cigarette in the evening with his beer, will have to pay a tax increase on alcohol, cigarettes and petrol of 33 percent.

A tense mood prevails among Hansen’s colleagues. In the public sector, the government announces, 460,000 jobs will be cut. German pensioners will have to reckon on €1,000 less a year. This idea is controversial, considering the protests that the announced freezes have already sparked in Germany.

Why are Eric Hansen and the others being left to languish like this? Because, if the demands made on Greece were to shift to our latitudes, the Federal Republic of Germany would have to save some 500 billion euros over five years. IMK expert Henner Will has added it all up and concluded that the troika – the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund – has underestimated the impact of austerity.

In 2011, when Greece was presented with the necessary austerity plan, the official calculation was that the country’s gross domestic product would contract by 2.6 percent. In the end it contracted by all of five percent, and that was only in 2011. And this is just the beginning of Greek austerity.
Country sunk to third-world status

The numbers are dramatic and they speak for themselves. If things go on like this, the Greeks will save themselves into destitution. The more this this off-key chorus on the Greek question has more members, the longer the show will drag on, the more the future of the euro, Greece, and therefore the European Union will become an article of dogma. How does the story end? No one knows.

A glance at Greece might point the compass straight and allow the conclusion that for the Greeks the end of the story has long been foretold, the disaster complete, and the country sunk to third-world status.

In the meantime, our theoretical Eric Hansen has lost his job. The educator had to make some compromises with his unemployment benefits. The state retains €600 per year. That’s how Eric Hansen is saving the euro.


La digestion anaérobie, ou méthanisation, est un processus de dégradation de la matière organique par des bactéries dans un milieu sans oxygène. Dans ces conditions, les micro-organismes transforment la matière organique en méthane.

2 articles pour illustrer les bienfaits de ce procéder: le cas du whisky en Ecosse et le cas du Tofu en Indonésie dont la production est trés polluante.


En Ecosse, le whisky sert à tout

Fabriquer de l’électricité avec du whisky ? Les amoureux de l’alcool ambré penseront certainement qu’il s’agit là de la pire idée qu’aient jamais eue les écologistes. C’est pourtant ce qu’on veut faire à Islay, l’île la plus méridionale des Hébrides, à l’ouest de l’Ecosse, où se fabriquent certains des whiskys écossais les plus réputés. La distillerie de Bruichladdich compte en effet installer des digesteurs anaérobies destinés à transformer les milliers de tonnes de déchets issus de la fabrication de whisky en méthane, puis brûler celui-ci pour produire de l’électricité. Et sept autres distilleries de l’île – Ardbeg, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Bowmore, Caol Ila, Bunnahabhain et Kilchoman – envisagent d’utiliser des systèmes similaires. Si le principe fonctionne, les producteurs de whisky pourront générer une grande partie de l’électricité consommée dans l’île.

Cette innovation est motivée par plusieurs facteurs. D’une part, les producteurs de whisky se soucient de plus en plus de leur empreinte carbone, qui, selon les estimations, est l’une des plus importantes de l’industrie alimentaire. Aucune des principales entreprises ne veut donner de chiffres, mais le seul processus de distillation consomme une énorme quantité d’énergie. A cela s’ajoute le fait que la majeure partie du whisky est exportée dans des bouteilles lourdes et des emballages sophistiqués.

L’un des whiskys les plus écologiques de la planète

Sur Islay, il y a également l’impact environnemental des nombreuses tonnes de déchets qui sont déversées chaque semaine dans le détroit par un pipeline. Mark Reynier, le propriétaire de Bruichladdich, dont la distillerie produit 46 000 caisses de 12 bouteilles par an, paie une facture annuelle de 20 000 livres [22 700 euros] pour le seul transport de ses déchets en camion-citerne jusqu’au terminal du pipeline. La digestion anaérobie devrait permettre à la fois de supprimer cette dépense et de fournir 80 % de l’électricité consommée par la distillerie, dont la facture s’élève à 36 000 livres par an. A ces économies s’ajouteront les subventions accordées par le gouvernement pour la production d’énergie renouvelable. D’après Reynier, “les digesteurs représenteront environ 300 000 livres en dépenses d’équipement et il ne faudra donc que trois à cinq ans pour récupérer leur coût”. Il compte utiliser cette innovation pour présenter le Bruichladdich comme l’un des whiskys les plus écologiques de la planète.

Cette technique intéresse aussi les producteurs de whisky pour d’autres raisons. Le réseau d’alimentation en électricité d’Islay est obsolète : il consiste en un câble unique qui relie la petite île à la Grande-Bretagne. Du coup, les sautes de tension, amplifiées par les besoins importants des distilleries, peuvent nuire au fonctionnement des ordinateurs et autres équipements électroniques. Produire de l’électricité sur place permettrait de résoudre en partie ce problème.

C’est Biowayste, une société du Northamptonshire, qui va équiper Bruichladdich en digesteurs. “Il y a 5 000 petites entreprises alimentaires en Grande-Bretagne”, explique le PDG de Biowayste, Barry Howard. “Toutes génèrent des déchets et paient pour s’en débarrasser. Nous pouvons transformer ces déchets en électricité sur place et faire économiser ainsi de l’argent aux entreprises sur leur élimination et sur les factures d’électricité. Nous pouvons également utiliser le système pour générer de la chaleur.”

Une forte réduction de la pollution marine

Ces équipements s’avèrent lucratifs : pour chaque mégawatt/heure généré à partir d’une source d’énergie renouvelable, l’entreprise qui le fournit reçoit du gouvernement deux “certificats d’obligation pour les énergies renouvelables” [mesures d’incitation à la production d’électricité à partir d’énergies renouvelables mises en place au Royaume-Uni en 2002], l’un pour la production d’électricité et l’autre pour l’utilisation de la chaleur générée. Ces certificats peuvent ensuite être revendus à d’autres entreprises qui ont besoin de compenser leur pollution.

Selon David Protherough, responsable de projet pour la société Re-JIG (Recycle-Jura/Islay Group), installer des digesteurs dans les distilleries permettrait de réduire la pollution marine et de diminuer la circulation des camions-citernes sur les routes de l’île : “Les producteurs sont emballés, déclare-t-il. Nous espérons maintenant que les distilleries fabriqueront tellement de biogaz qu’il y en aura assez pour alimenter également une partie des véhicules de l’île. Si nous ajoutons cette source d’énergie aux systèmes marémoteurs et aux hydroliennes déjà installés sur les côtes, Islay deviendra l’une des régions les plus vertes du Royaume-Uni.”



En Indonésie, on va (peut-être) carburer au tofu

Chaque jour, 300 000 mètres cubes de méthane sont libérés dans le ciel de la ville de Bandung, dans l’ouest de l’île de Java. Ces énormes volumes de gaz proviennent des résidus liquides de l’industrie du tofu et sont produits aussi bien par les petits que par les gros fabricants, qui jettent directement ces déchets dans les canalisations d’eau ou dans les rivières. Le méthane a un potentiel de réchauffement global [qui mesure l’influence d’un gaz sur le climat mondial] vingt fois plus élevé que le dioxyde de carbone et participe au changement climatique.

Neni Sintawardani, une chercheuse du centre de physique à l’Institut indonésien des sciences (Lipi), a démontré que chaque année les quelque 500 fabricants de tofu de Bandung utilisaient 2,4 millions de tonnes de soja. “En calculant grossièrement, on peut estimer que la ville de Bandung est inondée chaque année par 16,8 millions de mètres cubes de résidus liquides acides et extrêmement concentrés issus de la fabrication du tofu”, explique Neni.

C’est en s’appuyant sur des calculs en microbiologie qu’elle avance également le chiffre de 300 000 mètres cubes de méthane émis par jour lors de la fermentation du soja. Il faut ajouter à cela une petite quantité de vapeurs d’acide sulfurique qui peuvent irriter les voies respiratoires. Ce jeudi midi justement, une terrible odeur s’élève des caniveaux de Cibuntu (banlieue de Bandung) qui charrient les résidus de tofu. Cette puanteur contraste totalement avec l’image du tofu de Cibuntu, célèbre pour la douceur de sa texture et sa saveur délicieuse. Depuis 2010, avec l’aide des étudiants de l’institut polytechnique de Bandung et de l’université technologique de Nangyang, à Singapour, Neni étudie les résidus de tofu jetés dans les caniveaux de Cibuntu. Ses analyses révèlent un taux d’acidité très élevé, ainsi qu’une teneur en substances chimiques solubles et oxydables de 20 000 milligrammes par litre.

Selon Neni, ces déchets pourraient êtres recyclés en biogaz, qui serait alors redistribué dans les locaux des fabricants de tofu afin d’alimenter la cuisinière ou les réchauds pour la cuisson du soja. “Nous possédons déjà la technologie nécessaire à ce processus de recyclage, nous l’avons mise au point en laboratoire, explique-t-elle. Mais son implantation sur le terrain est difficile, parce que les fabricants de tofu sont méfiants et que son coût de production est élevé.”

Anton Sunar Wibowo, le chef du bureau de la planification et des infrastructures de la communauté urbaine de Bandung, accueille avec enthousiasme cette idée de production de biogaz et va la mettre à l’ordre du jour lors d’une prochaine réunion de travail. Selon lui, la construction d’un réacteur de biogaz pour recycler les résidus liquides de tofu pourrait être inscrite au programme national de l’aide aux communautés. “Nous en sommes encore à la phase d’approche des fabricants de tofu et de leur famille pour qu’ils acceptent cette idée, précise Anton. Le plus important, c’est déjà qu’ils changent leur mode de fonctionnement et cessent de jeter les déchets dans les canalisations d’eau.”






Crippled by debt, propped up by European powers, handicapped by an ineffective administration: uncompromising diagnoses of Greece’s ills are not new. The text that follows, drafted by 19th century French writer Edmond About, has re-emerged in the European press.
Edmond About

Greece is the only known example of a country that has lived in bankruptcy since the day that it was born. If such a situation were to prevail in France or England for just one year, we would see terrible catastrophes. Greece has peaceably lived with bankruptcy for more than 20 years. All of the country’s budgets, from the very first to the one just out, have been in deficit.

In civilised countries, when the sum of revenues is not sufficient to cover the budget for expenditure, the difference is made up by an internal loan. However, the Greek government has never tried to obtain such a loan and any attempt to do so would have been in vain.

The powers that protect Greece have been obliged to guarantee the solvency of the Greek state so that it can negotiate with external lenders. But the loans thereby obtained have been squandered by the government without any benefit to the country: and now that this money has been spent, the guarantors have no other option but to have the good grace to pay the interest, which Greece cannot reimburse.

Wealthy property owners succeed in frustrating the state

Today, the country has given up all hope of paying off its debts. And if the three powers continue to pay indefinitely in its stead, Greece will not be much better off because its outgoings will always be greater than its income.

Greece is the only civilised state where income tax is paid in kind. Money is so rare in the countryside that there was no option but to adopt this method of collection. The government initially appointed tax collectors who courageously set about their task, but thereafter failed to fulfill their obligations to the state, which was powerless to constrain them. Now that the state itself has taken charge of the collection of tax, the costs have proved considerably greater while the income obtained has barely increased.

The taxpayers have followed the example of the tax collectors: they do not pay. Wealthy property owners, who wield significant influence, succeed in frustrating the state by bribing or intimidating its agents. The agents, who are poorly paid and may be dismissed at every change of minister, do not defend the interests of the state as they do in our country.

Their sole aim is to cultivate the rich and powerful and to line their pockets in the process. As for the small property owners, who are called on to pay for their wealthy neighbours, when they are not protected by their own poverty, they have powerful friends to ensure that their goods may not be seized.

In Greece, the law is not the intractable entity that we know. Tax collectors are careful to listen to the taxpayers, sure in the knowledge that when formality has been swept aside by brotherly feeling, it will be easy to reach agreement. The Greeks know each other very well and like each other a little. But they have virtually no acquaintance with the abstract being we call a state, which they do not like at all. Finally, tax collectors are prudent: they know they should avoid exasperating their countrymen, that there are bad stretches on the road home and that accidents can happen.

Loans are only granted to governments believed honest enough

Nomadic taxpayers (shepherds, woodcutters, coalmen and fishermen) have made it a point of honnor to avoid paying any tax. They believe, as they did in the time of the Turks, that their masters are their enemies and that a man’s most noble right is the right to hold on to his money. It is for this reason that until 1846, Greek ministers of finance produced two revenue budgets. One, the current fiscal year budget, indicated the sums the government ought to receive; the other, the administrative budget, indicated what it hoped to receive.

And as finance ministers are more prone to errors in favour of the state when calculating probable resources, they also had to produce a third budget detailing the sums that the government was sure to collect. For example, in 1845 for the produce of olive trees on public land, which is regularly collected from private taxpayers, the minister noted the sum of 441,800 drachma in the budget for the current fiscal year. He was hoping (that is to say in the administrative budget) that the state would in fact receive 61,500 drachma.

However, this hope was in itself presumptuous because in the preceding year, the revenue to the state generated by this item did not amount to 441,800 drachma, or even 61,500 drachma, but only 4,457 drachma and 31 lepta, that is to say approximately one percent of the amount due to the state. In 1846, the minister of finance decided not to draft an administrative budget and the custom fell into disuse.

Greece’s outgoings are as follows: the servicing of public debt (both internal and external), the civil list, funding for parliament and government ministries, collection and administration costs, and miscellaneous costs.

If I had to advise a government that had doubts about its own strength, its credit, the affection of its supporters and the prosperity of the country, I would say: “By all means take out a loan.”

Loans are only granted to governments that are well established. Loans are only granted to governments that are believed to honest enough to honour their commitments, and loans are only granted to governments that lenders want to maintain in office. Nowhere in the world does the opposition lend to the government. Finally, lenders can only grant loans when they have the necessary funds themselves.

A state ever absent
Well over a hundred and fifty years later, Die Zeit repeats the truths written by the French visitor to Greece Edmond About, who described the lack of communication in the Greek government and the abnormal number of employees in an obsolete state.

The Brussels authorities will do everything they can to save Greece, assures Die Zeit, but these reforms will be futile and ineffective, as Greece has not built a truly modern state structure.
The concept of “state-building” is familiar primarily in regions devastated by war. Now, though, the concept applies to a country inside the European Union. For the state that the Union wants to shield from the threat of bankruptcy does not exist.


I would retain two things:

– Greece has never been in a situation where a normal Country can borrow money but lenders still managed to give it a lot. That really questions the work and intelligence of the financial partners. Mistakes have been made..

– A real State framework is fundamental in an economy and the weakness of the Greek State is probably the most important element explaining today’s situation. I didn’t need to read this article to be convinced of that. But it’s pleasant to see a German newspaper emphasizing it, especially when the German government is one of the main supporters of giving the tax collection control (main State’s prerogative) to a European entity. 

Et si je laissais ma place à un jeune ?

La seule manière de résoudre le problème du chômage des 20-30 ans, c’est de se débarrasser des plus de 50 ans, affirme, un brin provocatrice, une journaliste quinquagénaire.

16.02.2012 | Lucy Kellaway | Financial Times

Royaume-Uni – The Independent

Il y a quelques semaines, alors que je perdais mon temps sur le site lugubre du Forum économique mondial de Davos, je suis tombée sur des statistiques déplaisantes. Ces dix prochaines années, il y a aura 1,2 milliard de jeunes sur le marché du travail et ils n’auront que 300 millions de postes à se partager. A côté de ces chiffres brutaux figurait une invitation à rédiger une contribution sur les moyens de résoudre le problème. Dans un élan d’enthousiasme, j’ai aiguisé ma plume, convaincue d’avoir la bonne réponse à la question du chômage des jeunes. Las ! En y regardant d’un peu plus près, je me suis aperçue que le concours s’adressait uniquement à la “communauté mondiale des jeunes façonneurs” [Young Global Shapers Community], composée à ce que j’ai compris de “personnes exceptionnelles” âgées de 20 à 40 ans.

Aussi exceptionnels que soient ces individus, je suis sûre que leurs contributions ne vaudront pas grand-chose. Les jeunes façonneurs doivent plancher sur le sujet suivant : “Que pouvons-nous, la communauté mondiale et moi-même, faire pour créer des emplois pour ma génération ?” Mais aucun d’entre eux ne peut faire grand-chose – parce que nous, les vieux façonneurs, sommes en travers du chemin.

Alors j’ai décidé de participer quand même à la compétition. Mon texte est très bref, ce qui, je l’espère, sera un soulagement pour les juges. Il se résume à un mot : démission.

Cette vérité inéluctable, dérangeante, s’est imposée à moi avec force au fil des mois, à force de rencontrer des “vingtenaires” et trentenaires  brillants en quête d’un emploi de journaliste, du mien en particulier. Je me débarrasse d’eux en leur débitant des platitudes sur le marché difficile de la presse, mais ils ne sont pas dupes. La vraie raison pour laquelle ils ne peuvent pas faire mon travail c’est que c’est moi qui le fais.

Il en est de même dans presque toutes les professions. Les jeunes ne peuvent pas progresser parce que partout c’est ma génération autosatisfaite qui est en place. La seule façon de résoudre le problème serait de flanquer dehors toutes les personnes d’un certain âge, disons au-dessus de 50 ans.

Avant d’aller plus loin, je voudrais que les choses soient claires. Ceci n’est pas une lettre de démission. J’ai bien l’intention de continuer à profiter de ma vie. Mais je ne peux pas m’empêcher de pointer du doigt l’évidence, même si cela dessert mes intérêts. Désengorger le marché du travail par la force contribuerait à résoudre la question de l’emploi des jeunes, mais beaucoup d’autres problèmes aussi.

Il s’agit en gros de savoir s’il vaut mieux être démoralisé et sous-employé pendant dix ans au début ou à la fin de sa carrière. La réponse est facile : il est évidemment préférable d’être plus actif au début. Contraindre des gens à l’oisiveté alors qu’ils débordent d’énergie et sont au maximum de leurs capacités mentales est un gâchis scandaleux.

Et puis, ma génération est gâtée depuis trop longtemps. Nous avons acheté nos logements quand ils étaient tout juste encore abordables. Nous avons bénéficié d’un enseignement gratuit et notre retraite est assurée. Tout cela est formidable et j’en ai bien profité. Le moment est venu de payer.

Ce qu’il y a de beau avec les jeunes, c’est qu’ils ne coûtent pas cher. Remplacer les vieux par des jeunes, cela ferait baisser les salaires et, permettrait de régler par la même occasion le problème de la rémunération des dirigeants. Quasiment tous ceux qui gagnent des sommes ridiculement élevées ont plus de 50 ans. Si on s’en débarrassait, la rémunération des directeurs généraux s’effondrerait.

J’ai soumis cette idée à plusieurs de mes contemporains et tous répondent que c’est de la foutaise. Ils marmonnent quelque chose sur le “mythe du partage du travail”, avec une lueur de panique dans les yeux. Puis ils ajoutent : pensez à ce qu’on perdrait en expérience. Ce à quoi je réplique qu’on surestime parfois l’expérience. De toute façon, je ne préconise pas de confier des postes importants à des enfants, mais à des quadragénaires, qui ont quinze à vingt ans de métier.

Mais, protestent mes interlocuteurs, si quelqu’un atteint le sommet, c’est qu’il est bon et c’est ridicule de se débarrasser de bons professionnels. C’est vrai jusqu’à un certain point, mais il y a à coup sûr de bons professionnels aussi parmi les gens plus jeunes. En tout cas, je pourrais faire des exceptions à la règle pour permettre à certaines gloires vieillissantes – elles sont très très peu nombreuses – de rester en poste.

Quant au reste d’entre nous, nous les quinqua et sexagénaires sans emploi, que ferions-nous ? Nous pourrions vendre notre expérience comme consultants. Nous pourrions changer d’activité et prendre un nouveau départ. Nous pourrions créer notre entreprise, et en cela notre expérience s’avérerait certainement précieuse. Nous pourrions vivre de la plus-value réalisée sur notre maison. Ou nous pourrions retourner à l’université. J’ai toujours trouvé que c’était du gâchis que des jeunes fassent des études inutiles d’anglais et d’histoire alors que les quinquagénaires en tireraient bien davantage profit.

Non, décidément, je ne peux pas dire que l’idée m’enchante. Je dis simplement que j’y crois. Et je vais la soumettre au jury du concours. Je vois que le lauréat gagnera 10 000 euros. J’espère ne pas gagner – mais si c’est le cas, j’aurais besoin de cet argent.


February 14th, people marched against the FPI.

In order to protest against radical islamist violence toward minorities, more and more people take to the street. Someone has been seen brandishing a pig plush and a sign hostile to FPI.

Policemen declared that they can’t protect the protesters from the Islamic Defenders Front known locally as FPI, a vigilante group known for raiding bars and nightclubs, to flourish over the last decade.

In more recent times, the FPI has expanded to target religious minorities. The group has forced the closure of churches in West Java and was allegedly at the center of a brutal mob attack on a minority Islamic sect, the Ahmadiyah, that ended in the fatal beating of three of its members in February 2011. The shift in tactics and increased focus on religious minorities has spurred a smattering of citizens to finally speak their mind.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono remains passive regarding the situation.


Global post 

Courrier International 

February 20, 2012, 11:22 AM EST By Omar R. Valdimarsson

Icelanders who pelted parliament with rocks in 2009 demanding their leaders and bankers answer for the country’s economic and financial collapse are reaping the benefits of their anger. Since the end of 2008, the island’s banks have forgiven loans equivalent to 13 percent of gross domestic product, easing the debt burdens of more than a quarter of the population, according to a report published this month by the Icelandic Financial Services Association.

The island’s steps to resurrect itself since 2008, when its banks defaulted on $85 billion, are proving effective. Iceland’s economy will this year outgrow the euro area and the developed world on average, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates. It costs about the same to insure against an Icelandic default as it does to guard against a credit event in Belgium. Most polls now show Icelanders don’t want to join the European Union, where the debt crisis is in its third year.

The island’s households were helped by an agreement between the government and the banks, which are still partly controlled by the state, to forgive debt exceeding 110 percent of home values. On top of that, a Supreme Court ruling in June 2010 found loans indexed to foreign currencies were illegal, meaning households no longer need to cover krona losses.

“The lesson to be learned from Iceland’s crisis is that if other countries think it’s necessary to write down debts, they should look at how successful the 110 percent agreement was here,” said Thorolfur Matthiasson, an economics professor at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik, in an interview. “It’s the broadest agreement that’s been undertaken.” Without the relief, homeowners would have buckled under the weight of their loans after the ratio of debt to incomes surged to 240 percent in 2008, Matthiasson said.

Iceland’s $13 billion economy, which shrank 6.7 percent in 2009, grew 2.9 percent last year and will expand 2.4 percent this year and next, the Paris-based OECD estimates. The euro area will grow 0.2 percent this year and the OECD area will expand 1.6 percent, according to November estimates. Fitch Ratings last week raised Iceland to investment grade, with a stable outlook, and said the island’s “unorthodox crisis policy response has succeeded.”

Iceland’s approach to dealing with the meltdown has put the needs of its population ahead of the markets at every turn. Once it became clear back in October 2008 that the island’s banks were beyond saving, the government stepped in, ring-fenced the domestic accounts, and left international creditors in the lurch. The central bank imposed capital controls to halt the ensuing sell-off of the krona and new state-controlled banks were created from the remnants of the lenders that failed.

Activists say the banks should go even further in their debt relief. Andrea J. Olafsdottir, chairman of the Icelandic Homes Coalition, said she doubts the numbers provided by the banks are reliable.  “There are indications that some of the financial institutions in question haven’t lost a penny with the measures that they’ve undertaken,” she said.

As a precursor to the global Occupy Wall Street movement and austerity protests across Europe, Icelanders took to the streets after the economic collapse in 2008. Protests escalated in early 2009, forcing police to use teargas to disperse crowds throwing rocks at parliament and the offices of then Prime Minister Geir Haarde. Parliament is still deciding whether to press ahead with an indictment that was brought against him in September 2009 for his role in the crisis. A new coalition, led by Social Democrat Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir, was voted into office in early 2009. The authorities are now investigating most of the main protagonists of the banking meltdown. Iceland’s special prosecutor has said it may indict as many as 90 people, while more than 200, including the former chief executives at the three biggest banks, face criminal charges.

Larus Welding, the former CEO of Glitnir Bank hf, once Iceland’s second biggest, was indicted in December for granting illegal loans and is now waiting to stand trial. The former CEO of Landsbanki Islands hf, Sigurjon Arnason, has endured stints of solitary confinement as his criminal investigation continues.

That compares with the U.S., where no top bank executives have faced criminal prosecution for their roles in the subprime mortgage meltdown.

According to Christensen at Danske Bank, “the bottom line is that if households are insolvent, then the banks just have to go along with it, regardless of the interests of the banks.”