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De Volkskrant - Netherlands | 19/09/2014

Dutch need sensible tax reform

The Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Thursday rejected the opposition's call for a sweeping fiscal reform within one year, saying he prefers to wait until he has sufficient support for the move. That's doing things the wrong way round, the left-liberal daily De Volkskrant complains: "Harmonising the extremely complex tax system calls for vision and understanding, not just balling different desires and interests together. The current system with its confusion of premiums, exemptions and deductions has become so complex precisely because every interest group with its own wish list had to be satisfied. ... The main focus of the reform is to make the taxation system more dependent on consumption and income. And in principle both measures meet with little resistance. ... Now, however, the reform threatens to fail as a result of ideological differences even though a new taxation system should be free of such ideological considerations." (19/09/2014)

Világgazdaság - Hungary | 18/09/2014

Hungary puts energy companies in a tight spot

Hungary's right-wing conservative government will once again reduce utility costs in October, this time those for long-distance heating. The government has repeatedly cut ancillary living costs since January 2013. It's above all the public utility companies that foot the bill, the liberal business paper Világgazdaság writes: "We have every reason to be happy: after the 20 percent reduction in ancillary costs last year, energy costs were lowered by 5.7 percent on September 1. Now in October long-distance heating costs will be reduced by 3.3 percent. ... According to the government, Hungarian households may save on average 150,000 to 200,000 forint [around 480 to 640 euros] per year. ... However as a result of the state price controls, the gap between the official price and the market price is continually growing, and someone has to pick up the tab. And that someone is the public utility companies." (18/09/2014)

La Stampa - Italy | 18/09/2014

Debate on job protection paralyses Italy

Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi presented part of his labour market reform to the Senate on Wednesday. The unions have already announced they will fight the plans to relax job protection. But the row over employment protection is ridiculous since there aren't enough jobs in the first place, the liberal daily La Stampa criticises: "This conflict is flaring up at a time when jobs should have the priority. ... Such ardent complacency will only leave ashes in its wake and won't create a single job. We would do better to put our energy and passion into constructive debates about the future. About how we want to create full employment and growth in the next five years. We should think about what we can do for the 3.2 million officially unemployed, the 3.3 million who've been off the job market for a long period (and who've given up even looking for jobs), innumerable youths, women, over-50s and recipients of unemployment benefits, to give them access to the world of employment." (18/09/2014)

Jornal de Negócios - Portugal | 17/09/2014

Novo Banco shouldn't be sold in a hurry

Just six weeks after its founding, Portugal's Novo Banco is to get a new management. There has been talk in the media of disagreements between the trio that ran the "good bank" resulting from the collapse of the bankrupt Banco Espírito Santo and the central bank, which wants to sell the bank immediately. A little more caution would be appropriate in this situation, the liberal business daily Jornal de Negócios concurs: "It's understandable that the bank should be sold as quickly as possible. With each day that passes its value decreases and the danger that the taxpayers will be left with at least part of the bill grows. However the urgency of this undertaking doesn't justify the implementation of a model that would entail an even higher loss in value. ... To sell off the bank's assets bit by bit not only reduces the potential proceeds but would have further negative repercussions. ... Employees, customers and perhaps even taxpayers would lose out while the bank's shareholders benefit." (17/09/2014)

The Irish Times - Ireland | 16/09/2014

Booming Ireland must stick to austerity

Ireland has significantly raised its economic growth forecasts for the current year. According to Finance Minister Michael Noonan a three percent plus is expected. A growing number of politicians and commentators are calling on the government to ease its rigid austerity policy in the coming year. But that would mean making the same old mistake, economist John O'Hagan writes in the left-liberal daily The Irish Times: "How easily people forget the past, even the immediate past, however. That is the real danger that confronts Ireland in the years ahead. We still have a huge accumulated debt and continued large borrowing needs to fund day-to-day expenditures. Yet already there is an air of irrational exuberance evident in some commentaries leading up to the budget. Surely one might think we cannot repeat the mistakes of the 1980s and the much more recent past so soon again." (16/09/2014)

Phileleftheros - Cyprus | 15/09/2014

Cyprus's politicians just too cowardly

Cyprus will not receive its next bailout installment of 456 million euros for the time being on the grounds that the Cypriots have failed to do enough to tackle the problem of non-performing loans in the real estate sector. This assessment was made last week by troika experts. The liberal daily Phileleftheros voices its disappointment with Cyprus's politicians: "Not a single step forward has been taken. Politicians of all stripes prefer to let the problems grow rather than taking hard and painful decisions. They don't think about the future. Because although these decisions would be painful for some, they would provide a vision of the future that would benefit everyone. The people have the right to make demands, but politicians have no right to mock them. They should show the people the right path, no matter how painful it is. Unfortunately we have no such politicians in Cyprus." (15/09/2014)

Mladá fronta Dnes - Czech Republic | 16/09/2014

Prague's costly minimum wage deal

The Czech government gave the green light for a good eight percent raise in the minimum wage on Monday. Finance Minister Andrej Babiš approved the raise in exchange for the Social Democrats accepting Věra Jourová of his Ano movement as EU commissioner. This political back-scratching may prove costly, the liberal daily Mladá fronta Dnes warns: "Three percent of the working population receive the minimum wage, that's 120,000 people. For all of them businesses will now have to top up their wages. Wage costs make up the bulk of the costs at many firms. Any increase in the minimum wage, and particularly such a hefty one as this, may force companies to dismiss workers. The majority of the low-wage employees are already concentrated in branches with high unemployment rates. And even with the current minimum wage these levels haven't improved despite the gradual recovery. ... When it comes to minimum wages you have to balance things very carefully. If it is increased at all, then it should be very cautiously rather than in leaps." (16/09/2014)

The Daily Telegraph - United Kingdom | 15/09/2014

Renzi can't afford austerity for much longer

According to current OECD forcasts, Italy's economy will shrink by 0.4 percent this year. Bad news for Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, columnist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes in the conservative paper The Daily Telegraph: "Italy's rock star leader Matteo Renzi must by now have realised that his first gamble has failed. He thought he could ride a wave of recovery after snatching power in a remarkably audacious move in February, only to discover that Europe is not in fact recovering, and that his country is trapped, with no way out under the current deflationary/contractionary policies of the EMU regime. … Mr Renzi will soon have to make a second gamble, whether to go along meekly with further austerity and fiscal cuts - chasing his tail in a perpetual vicious circle - and suffer the disastrous fate of French leader François Hollande. Or think of a better idea." (15/09/2014)

Äripäev - Estonia | 15/09/2014

Putin could ease sanctions if he wanted

The EU enforced on Friday the sanctions that it had hitherto put off implementing. The business paper Äripäev hopes it will finally be made clear to Moscow that the punitive measures will be retracted as soon as it withdraws from Ukraine: "It's not easy to get this simple message across: no war, no aggression, no sanctions. But it is essential. Spreading this message would be most helpful if a political solution could be found for the situation in Ukraine, opening up the possibility to weaken the sanctions. And you can be sure the West will do this when the time comes, because the damage from the current impasse is enormous also on this side of the divide. ... And also in Estonia." (15/09/2014)

Duma - Bulgaria | 15/09/2014

EU and Ukraine don't want free trade

As a result of pressure from Russia the planned free trade agreement between the EU and Ukraine won't enter force until 31 December 2015, EU trade commission Karel De Gucht announced on Friday. This shows that neither side has a real interest in closer economic ties, the pro-Russian daily Duma comments: "Poroshenko has done the same as [Ukraine's ex-president] Yanukovych. He signed the political part of the association agreement but he lacked the necessary power for the economic part. Ukraine is simply not yet ready for equal partnership with Europe. The Europeans don't need Ukrainian export goods. They may be cheap but the European market is already flooded with cheap products from China. On the other hand Europeans want to expand on the Ukrainian market and Kiev wants to prevent this - for now at least. Brussels has no doubt realised for its part that acting prematurely is not a good idea." (15/09/2014)

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