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..There's a little Samuel Pepys in all of us..

Thursday, September 15, 2011

We've all been concerned.. preoccupied.. with international economic events.. Numbers the likes of 'trillions' have been tossed about with gay abandon, none of which is, in real terms, intelligible to the average man on the street..
But.. this is how it's affecting those on fixed incomes.. state pensions, be they reflective of lifetime earnings, or disability contributions.. The average basic state pension amounts to some £400/month.. those collecting disability can add another £500/month.. giving a basic gross monthly income of £900.. for those collecting both benefits that is..
Now those in Canada or the US immediately jump for their conversion tables, and say 'that works out to some $1350/month, give or take.. But it must be stressed, that what costs a dollar in North America, costs a Pound here..
Electricity will cost a pensioner a minimum of £40/week.. or £120/month..
Gas will run about the same, on a yearly average.. that's for heating.. we're now at £240/month for basics.. Council tax and Water and Sewerage will cost another £80/month.. Petrol, for those who can still afford to keep a car on the road, is at £1.50/l.. £30 minimum for a weeks driving around town.. when a loaf of bread weighs is at £1.50.loaf.. an average weeks shop will come to £70.. another £280 per month..
Then, back to the car, insurance will run you £340/annum.. or say £28/month.. Road tax is at £150/annum.. £14/month.. Telly License another £25/month..
Now all this adds up to £787..roughly speaking.. and leaves the pensioner with £113/month disposable income.. just over £25/week.. And if you're among the generation that smokes and always has.. a pack of 20 will cost you £7.35.. and there goes your excess..
Not to mention any payments an individual might be making on catalogue purchases or credit cards..
This will be an exceedingly rough time for all in this country.. in fact, for all, everywhere..
But this is the reality, today, for those who's incomes will not increase after strike action.. for those who have worked all their lives for a State Pension, only today to find themselves in a position of virtual poverty..
And, as inflation creeps up, this situation will only get worse. It stands at 4.5% this month.. and expect it to rise despite the efforts of the Bank of England to keep interest rates down..
Now this is just a keyhole look into someone on State Benefits.. which in most cases includes Housing Benefits.. Those on a private pension may make more through a Public Sector or Private Sector pension, but they're looking at rent, and on the average, a 2 bedroom flat will run you £850/month..
Take that off their total..

It makes one wonder..
To look around the elegant city of Antwerp, you wouldn’t know that Belgium has now gone longer without a government than any country in modern history..
The trains still run on time, the teachers show up in their classrooms, museums are packed, taxes are collected, welfare is paid, and the country’s F-16 fighter jets are dropping bombs in Libya.. even though Belgium has now gone a year and a quarter without a federal government, after the 2010 elections produced no majority and the feuding parties became locked in perpetual disagreement over coalition plans..
For some, this might sound like a libertarian’s idea of Utopia.. A country with nobody to raise taxes.. to slash spending.. to introduce major new government programs..
And indeed, Belgium has just managed, despite having only a largely powerless caretaker government, to post a second-quarter economic growth rate.. 0.7%.. that exceeded those of neighbouring Germany, France and Britain.. The assessment of analysts is the country’s world-leading beer industry has remained aloft as the world drinks away its financial sorrows.. And the government deficit has even been cut somewhat..
But beneath the surface, the cracks are beginning to show..
Without anyone at the rudder, tiny Belgium is in danger of colliding with some of the world’s more dangerous currents, and the next few weeks could be decisive..
The problem is drugs, and those who traffic heroin.. When Dutch authorities moved to clean up Rotterdam, which was rife with heroin trafficking.. those dealing death simply moved their operations a couple of hours south, to Antwerp..
A police official with the Antwerp force said.. “Our crime problem now requires the kind of major solution that can only come from the federal government – but it looks like we can’t do anything until we get one..”
“We have a pension crisis that is threatening to overwhelm us, for which we don’t have the means, we haven’t put aside any money, and nobody has decided how to pay all those pensions,” said Yves Desmet, Political Editor of the Flemish newspaper 'De Morgen'.. “And you have a gigantic public debt of almost 100 per cent of GDP and growing..”
Yet it is not at all clear that these problems can be solved, even with a government.. The Flemish parties would like to seize their province’s share of the tax revenue and use it to fund their own, separate programs.. Most of the French speakers would prefer it stay national.. And as the country has gone through 10 attempts to form a government without success, the parties have become even more entrenched in their positions and less compromise-oriented..
As a final insult, it seems that the fiscal problems will strike Belgium at precisely the moment when it forms a government.. assuming it is able to do so by 2012, which is not at all certain.. In that case, the awkward years without a government may be remembered as an economic and political Golden Age..
“It’s not for nothing,” Desmet said, “that Belgium is the birthplace of surrealism.”
How true..

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