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Sunday, April 20, 2014  
No reason for any kind of euphoria

by Marcel Van Silfhout
A list of people with secret Swiss bank accounts was published in Greece, Marcel Van Silfhout writes

Ah, here we go again. The political atmosphere in The Netherlands, once more, has become a true rollercoaster, fuelled by amazing media turbulence and turmoil. Seldom do I disagree with my own opinion so fast. First, almost the whole country knew of my too naive, optimistic musings last week – I truly thought the country went back to political normality. Liberals and (labour) socialists together in a brand new two-party coalition cabinet? And there’s no reason for euphoria whatsoever.

The cause of all the inconvenience is crystal clear. Just after the new cabinet agreement was proudly presented, it seems (it’s not clear if it’s a fact too) that many Dutch citizens - mainly the middle-class and people with a higher income - will have to pay a few hundreds of euros every month for health care costs. Some people might even have to pay almost 500 euro per month more than they do now. Since then, the public outrage on a nationwide scale has been without limits.

The speed of ‘turning around a national atmosphere’ is stunning. Have we, without understanding this phenomenon, indeed arrived in a era of permanent crisis as explained by Slavoj Žižek, the Slovenian philosopher and cultural critic. Žižek claims that such a thing as ‘crisis’ is one of the basic aspects of the neo-liberal capitalist world we live in, a society that goes from crisis to crisis thus, because, according to the radical left-wing philosopher: “Capitalism can only exist by a continuing sequence of crisis.”

I don’t dare to say if Žižek is right or not, but intriguing are his thoughts. Since the fall of Lehman Brothers (September 2008) the start of the global credit crunch and ‘the almost meltdown of the entire financial sytem’ the word crisis hasn’t been of the radar.

And what if we all, for decades, believed in such a thing as owning huge amounts of money and assets that in fact didn’t exist?’

If it wasn’t real money, only paper or, even worse only digital and virtual? If so, it’s not a financial meltdown with ‘vapourised’ money. The money we thought we had just wasn’t there, credits were fake, they didn’t represent true value.

There’s another explanation for where the money might has gone. Serious and well-informed sources (John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network for example) presented this staggering figure: “21 trillion dollars owned by the richest throughout the world might be stashed in tax-havens; an amount similar to the yearly gross national products of the United States and Japan together.” Just imagine: 21,000,000,000,000 dollars!

In Greece a list of a few thousand people who own secret Swiss bank accounts– which might be an indication of stashed, tax-avoiding money – was recently published.

Other statistics from all over the world are showing similar developments: money earned by the richest is kept away from their countries and no tax is paid on it. So, at the end, aren’t we all Greeks?

Pardon me for my optimism in one of my former column. We all can make a mistake isn’t it? Let’s take a more realistic approach. Of course there’s always hope.

But the fact that a relatively prosperous country as The Netherlands, by far not to compare with crisis-ridden countries like Greece or Spain, has so much public fear, anger and despair, is utterly bad news.

OMAN TRIBUNE

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