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And we thought we had it tough!

EuropePosted by Christian Mark Taylor Tue, April 30, 2013 22:07:03

The euro zone unemployment figures are out today and they are not a pretty sight at all. With celebrations in the Netherlands due to the abdication of Queen Bea, celebrating her time on the throne, rather than celebrating she has abdicated (abdication is a Netherlands tradition) to the misery of Spain. You can find both extremes of the spectrum all within one economy.

It is truly frightening to see the unemployment rate in Greece and Spain at 27.2% and 26.7% respectively, while Austria and Germany have the lowest at 4.7% and 5.4%. Add on to this youth unemployment of 59.1% in Greece and 55.9% in Spain and the magnitude of the crisis in the euro zone can be seen.

When a local economy has negative growth for 2 consecutive quarters it is considered a recession, and when its GDP declines by more than 10% then you are in a depression. Spain is fighting for its survival and has 6 million now unemployed, the last time that happened was in 1976 the year after Franco died. What is more scary is that in the Great Depression of the 1930s, Hitler came to power when unemployment reached 6 million! Desperate people take desperate measures and are willing to do anything to protect and provide for their family.

The problem Spain has is there are still no good signs on the horizon as economic forecasters predict a negative growth for the remainder of 2013, that will mean 10 quarters of decline, but it will also mean unemployment will rise even higher. In country such as Spain who do not pay unemployment benefits to anyone who has been out of work for more than 2 years, there will be some seriously desperate people! If the unemployment rate continues to rise, how on earth is the economy supposed to generate growth? It is the private sector that generates growth, but businesses have no staff and they have no customers with any money to buy anything. The cash flow has been broken and it needs to be restarted again.

We can consider ourselves fortunate even if we are finding it tough. The UKs unemployment rate is currently at around 7.8% or 2.5 million. What would we be like if we were at Spain’s rate? It would mean around 8.8 million unemployed!!! The reasons why we are thankfully not even close to this rate is due to a number of reasons; we are not part of the euro; we are able to set our own interest rates; the Bank of England can pump more money into the economy through Quantitative Easing; and in a final act of salvation we can always devalue our currency.

How happy are we that we didn’t fully sign up for Europe, and who we have to thank for that all those years ago! The interesting thing to see now, is how the local council elections will go on Thursday. The Coalition parties will find it hard (Tories lose c325 seats), but will Labour or UKIP benefit? Guess that all depends on whether people vote on local or national issues.

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Eligo in Summum Pontificem …

EuropePosted by Christian Mark Taylor Tue, March 12, 2013 21:12:31

Apparently the election of a Pontiff doesn’t come around that often, however this will be the third Pope that I have seen, but it actually be the fifth in my lifetime.

Paul VI

John Paul I

John Paul II

Benedict XVI

Now that the position is vacant the College of 115 Cardinals will now have to get together in the Sistine Chapel and vote for the next Pope. From what I hear the lobbying that goes on is more akin to the promises and negotiations prior to a House of Commons vote in Westminster!

On the first day there will only be one vote and it is highly unlikely that a two thirds majority will be achieved first time round. There will then be 4 votes a day from then on, two in the morning and two in the afternoon. This goes on until there is a two thirds majority.

The quickest this has happened was in less than a day, but this seems to be routine before 1274, which is why the rules changed so that 10 days must elapse before the start of the first vote. This is now 15 days to allow the Cardinals time to travel to Rome. Interestingly the longest voting period was in 1268 when after nearly three years Pope Gregory X was finally elected. It was this case that forced the Cardinals to be locked in and gradually have reduced to food, to force them to come to a consensus.

In an era of rapid change the new Pontiff will have to be an extremely strong and modern thinking individual. They will have to get to grips with the constant scandals that seem to plague the church. How can the church inspire and lead its 1.2 billion Catholics if the church always seems to be trying to cover up numerous scandals. The people need to not only have faith but also have trust in their church. Ultimately you can have faith without the need of a church, whereas a church will always need its followers if it is to exist.

What is noticeable from the statistics is that of the world Catholics, Europe has declined by nearly 15% to 23.7% in the last 40 years. However Africa has seen the largest increase of 8.4% to 15.2% in the same period. These are dwarfed by Latin America which sees 41.3 % or 483 million followers. Is there a paradigm shift? Is this changing trend a reflection of the increasing or decreasing socio-economic status of individuals? I am not sure about this, but it is certainly food for thought.

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