Friday, 20 July 2012

Bankrupt? Ireland or Belgium?

Ten years ago I had a discussion with an Irish "free-marketeer" type - you know, the ones who are all socialists now?  He predicted that Belgium would soon be bankrupt.


This, I might add, was the sort of person who thought Michael McDowell and Charlie McCreevy were economic geniuses. 


He wasn't alone back then of course, with media commentators from all Irish outlets eulogising the pair and their decades-late brand of Reaganomics-for-beginners. 


Back then, of course,  the Irish - or at least a disproportionate number of them, from postpeople to the likes of the Quinn family  - were movers-and-shakers, cut-and-thrusters, and go-getting property investors. 


You know, the kind of people who made Ireland bankrupt?


A recent visit to Belgium prompted me to think of this... and whatever Belgium's economic difficulties, it certainly seemed to be functioning and wasn't joining the ranks of the EU's  bailout nations.  Its capital's transport system consists of bus, tram and an underground network.  Its healthcare is truly excellent.  Its roads are pretty good.


Downsides?  Well, the bi-lingual nature of the country is a bureaucratic and administrative nightmare (it is officially tri-lingual, including German-speaking parts close to the eastern border) but at least that is real and genuine rather than imagined and engineered as in Ireland... more on that next week.  


Then there are the Madame PeePees.   Even if you spend a couple of hundred euro in a Belgian department store, and three pairs of jeans will see to that, you'll have to part with another 50c to the lady that minds the toilet if your bladder demands it.   Madame PeePees are as much a part of Belgium as Riverdance and failed would-be property tycoons are in Ireland.


I suppose every country has its piss-takers.


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18 comments:

Dusty Roads said...

True about the Madam Peepees, but their toilets and washrooms are spotless. Les Madames also prevalent in Germany and France, maybe we should have them here?
I went to look around Lough Gur yesterday as I'm emigrating soon (again!), and wanted to visit a few places - probably for the last time - before I go.
The toilets at the visitor centre are dreadful: run-down, odourous and the floor had an inch deep puddle of I hate to think what.
There was a few foreign tourists there. I wonder what they thought of our attitude to public hygiene?
Anyway back to Belgium: OK, the department stores might be a bit pricey, especially in Brussels, but I always found it a very inexpensive country. Motorway restaurants excepted, the food (and beer!) was first-class and cheap, B&B's are reasonable and filling your car up was not the heartbreaking experience it has become here.

John said...

Yep,GM, Ireland loved to point the smug finger at other countries during the "Tiger" days, we were the success of Monetary economics and its guru, Milton Freidman. I was in Manchester on Tuesday and at the rail station, I was served by a young Irish woman at the M&S there and 2 of the station cleaners were Irish. Interesting to see all things reverting to the way the Irish Elite have run this place for the last 80 years. By, the way we are emigrating in Jan. 2013 to UK. We have had enough.

John said...

Hi,Dusty Roads, where are you off too? I was in Germany 12 years and I thought I was back for good, but no such luck. I am glad to have made the decision to go, the hardest part was to make that decision in the first place. We are off to Swansea, not the hottest city but a decent University to work at.

The Gombeen Man said...

Jasus lads... the blog will have nobody left to read it with you all emigrating. Most of the gobshites left behind will still be following Dev's blueprint-for-a-shambles-of-a-country and wrapping themselves up in the green-white-and-gold or their ruling class's nation state.

I'll be sorry to see you go but yis are right... So I'll wish you both all the best. I lived away for a good few years too John - England and Luxembourg, with a stint working in a German Werbemittel factory. Sometimes I deeply regret coming back to the stupidity and madness.

You're right Dusty, Belgium's a nice enough place. Funnily enough, the jeans were actually cheaper than here... and that was in a store called INNO, which isn't exactly Dunnes Stores.

Hope you don't mind me asking, along with John, where you are off to?

GM

John said...

Don't worry, GM, we still have the internet. I will leave Ireland, but Ireland will never leave me.

Dusty Roads said...

Hi John and GM,

I'm off to Turkmenistan of all places. It's an oil and gas job. The state controls all of their natural resources and even gives all their citizens free petrol!! But of course, that would be too socialist for our politicians wouldn't it?
Our lot give away our natural resources alright, but they give it to the likes of Shell...

I live(d) near Limerick. I and almost everyone else around who was not working in construction was working for Dell. I worked for a company that worked for a company that worked for Dell. And that was the case with many companies in the locality - they worked for Dell, and ONLY for Dell. So when it was announced on the news that 2000 people would lose their jobs that was wildly inaccurate. There were many small factories, hauliers and other suppliers that shut down too. My little firm of 25 employees went to the wall and never got a mention even in the local papers. A conservative estimate (repeat conservative) is that 8000 lost their jobs.
That's why I don't know whether to laugh or cry when I hhear announcements that '30 new jobs will be created'. Hate to sound like a begrudger, but I can't help thinking 'big deal'.

I was in Saudi for a year, but the contract ended, so I came back for a brief rest (not much else to do here), meet up with my ex-colleagues who have all been on the dole for the past 3 or 4 years and commiserate with them, tried to sign on and was treated with a mixture of suspicion and contempt, oh the joys of it.
Nothing like a few weeks at home to cure the homesickness, is there?

But it's also nice to see that some people are optimistic about the future, you hear things like 'ah sure, things'll pick up again'.
My usual answer to this kind of comment is to ask 'and how?'. Just watch those frowns appear! Thinking of having another building boom are we? Scratcg that one out. How about we invite multi-national companies to our over-priced and geographically remote nation? Well if it was so attractive dell would still be here, wouldn't it? And I wouldn't be going abroad...

Strictly speaking I shouldn't complain about emigrating as I'm a Plastic Paddy (as many of the population are fond of reminding me), born and raised in England by Irish parents. But I'm an Irish citizen, lived here for 20 years and think of it as home, for all it's faults.

I'll miss the scenery, my friends and my dog. But I won't miss the biased newspapers, our embarassing shower in the Dail or the weather.

Thanks for the blog GM, don't think I've ever disagreed with anything you've written, and good luck John.

John said...

Respect, Dusty Roads, that was a very interesting read and you are dead right, many small companies were wiped out and I was in Limerick a few months ago and I was shocked by how it had declined, empty shops etc., you are correct to go, as you have to make something happen for yourself. England has always provided the safety valve here and the powers that be were delighted to get people exported out of here. Best of luck and look forward to your future posts, cheers, John.

PonyKearney said...

brilliant piece Dusty - I left ireland in 1986 and stìll am infuriated with that gormless 'it's the will a god' approach to life there. I don't think i've ever disagreed either with the musings of His Excellency GM and like john - not being in the country doesn't affect my adherence to the blog. A bit off topic but Dusty did refer to the embarrassing shower in the Dail. GM you remember how we used to refer to the fab four in the blog header. Given the colouring you've used and the state they've brought the country to - might we rechristen the 'The Four Green Fiends' and we'd even have a tune to go with them. Pb

Dusty Roads said...

@Pony and John,
Thanks for the kind words - and that was only my second comment here, despite following GM for the past few years - I just had to get it all off my chest.

I'll still follow the blog from abroad, and maybe throw in my tuppence worth from time to time.

Peace.

Dakota said...

"from postpeople..." Very PC GM.

Ehhh...don't think you'd get many butch Marys doing the Madame Pee Pee bit GM. Such jobs are beeneeeath such fine specimens. You see GM, Irish women have been bitten by the capitalist bug, and are as masculine as the lads (could also be a smigen of historical legacy here as well). Hence what you get GM is a hybrid which seeks a - business - partner and not a husband, while simultaneously being capable of saving people from burning buildings. Ultimately producing offspring (wrapped in eiderdown an/or lace and fluffy stuff) who will be completely bewildered by their gender within "society". GM unfortunately there was probably more women standing in those 24 hour cues for pokey "apartments," in nowheresville than men. Testosterone and oestrogen is probably more dangerous than testosterone alone.

Also Dusty Roads, I would also like to echo the genuine sentiments of the other posters and GM here, by congratulating you on making the decision to leave Ireland. Live.

The Gombeen Man said...

@ Dusty and John. Well, great to hear you'll still be tuning in from Swansea and Turkmenistan. And we all wish you both the best for the future.

@ Ponykearney. "Four Green Fiends"... I love it. Great.

@ Dakota. Yes, PC central is Gombeen Nation. Sure we can surprise people sometimes! Yes, the days of the queues are gone... it's a stampede in the other direction nowadays.

Dakota said...

Ahhh but has the lessons been learned? No, most definitely not. It all begins and ends with the individual. If Nature is ever to be properly Nurtured you can bet its genesis won't be in Ireland GM. It would have to happen in the U.S. or UK first and then be passed by a series of unofficial Quangos in charge of Subtle Mind Control first.

Fractious small minded societies always veer towards squalor and corruption.

pony'o'boy said...

oh and don't forget 'each one was a jewel' xx pb

Rhondda Cynon Taf said...

Just to say that Swansea is a fantastic place to live (it's about 30 miles from where I live). Great beaches and a Premiership football team. Living in Wales I meet lots of people from Scotland (they prefer the weather here) and fom Ireland (they like it here because there are lots of other Irish people living here). I haven't met one who wants to go back to their own country. I suppose Wales has all the benefits of the UK but isn't England. By the way, if you bring school age children here they will have to learn Welsh in school. As a Welsh speaker I think that they should. I have also not met any Scottish or Irish parents who complain about our language. Best wishes for where ever any of you move to.

Anonymous said...

"it certainly seemed to be functioning and wasn't joining the ranks of the EU's bailout nations" You're joking? Belgium didn't have a government for 541 days! It's debt-GNP is near 100%, and it's Flemish hate the Walloons and the Walloons hate the Flemish and they both hate the Arabs. It is a mini-EU all in itself, and by that I mean ditheringly indecisive and unlikely to survive another 10 years...

John said...

To Rhonda Taf, thanks for that, the people are very friendly, we only had a day to make the big decision and it rained so we could not see much. But my wife got a scholarship in Applied Maths.at the Uni there, was refused one in Ireland(no reason given, and we need Maths teachers???). We are looking forward to the move,my little one speaks Russian so no problem with Welsh. We both look forward to making a contribution to Wales, thanks again.

Dakota said...

"Belgium didn't have a government for 541 days" Eh, Ireland didn't have one for the last 90 years...

"It's debt-GNP is near 100%" Hmmm not far off Irelands then...

"and it's Flemish hate the Walloons" And in "Eire" the Catholics hate the Protestants officially. Both hate the Christians, and Non believers etc...

"and they both hate the Arabs" TO TRANSLATE...That's just an Irish way of saying they hate anything perceived as different.

"It is a mini-EU all in itself, and by that I mean ditheringly indecisive" Sweet God you really know how to make me laugh...Could you please tell me, what was the last four years - and counting - in this GULAG?

"and unlikely to survive another 10years..." Maybe so: but the Saints wept, I can't stop laughing...not at you illustrious little Irelander notions, but you don't seem to see the irony, that is, Ireland may actually still remain in it's present form beyond 10 years. Ireland will still be an Island full to Gombeens and Belgium for all it's faults will still have superb infrastructure and far superior architecture.

There are none so blind as those who refuse to see.

The Gombeen Man said...

"Belgium didn't have a government for 541 days" Eh, Ireland didn't have one for the last 90 years...

Quite. And we don't have to fast forward 10 years to be bankrupt but for the bailouts.