I mentioned some of this yesterday, some people are just too unwilling to learn and they are very willing to sell you a too pretty a picture. This is what is now starting to become clear and in a dangerous way. Again, not unlike previous events, this blog was inspired by the Dutch NOS (www.nos.nl).
Political parties are now starting to ‘panic’ and are quickly grabbing to solution wherever they can. The issue is that the Dutch economy is apparently even worse then was initially predicted by the Central Bureau of Statistics (www.CBS.nl). Their initial prediction of -0.1% is now -0.4%. Interesting fact is that I predicted something like this in my blog ‘A noun of non-profit‘ on May 15th, just over a month ago. So is this bad news management? To me it seems to be more and more the case.
Diederik Samson of the PVDA (Dutch labour party) is now trying to kick-start the economy by offering alternative sources to spend from. Well, Mr Samson, there are two issues with that idea. The first one, most people do not trust bankers and politicians, now they are seemingly joining hands many have reason to trust both of them even less. The second reason is that the unreliability of the current economy is stopping people to spend anything as long as they are in debt.
The basic issue is that there is too much uncertainty for the next two years. As such people pay their mortgage and essential bills as much as possible. The people are paying off their debts as banks cannot be trusted to play nice. This is the consequence of not containing the massive wave of simply put insane investment sprees. Perhaps some will remember how SNS Reaal needed to be nationalised?
So as the Dutch need to cut 6 billion in expenses, they now seek other way to find spending options to raise the economy and next on their list is the attempt to use pension funds to do this.
Basically, quoting Arjan Noorlander from yesterday’s NOS newscast “The people managing these funds are often investing abroad to get their dividends. This does not help the Dutch economy” He then further states “These funds should invest tens of billions by taking over mortgages from banks, so that they can offer new mortgage investments“.
How is this anywhere near a good idea? Banks, remember them? They are not to be trusted at present, or anywhere in the near future for that matter!
As we have all these bad bank mortgages out and floating, relieving banks from these burdens by losing upcoming retirement funds is more than just a bad idea. Arjan Noorlander did continue and did end with the fact that this is dangerous and retirement funds might get lost in this way, and that it might be an option if the government underwrites these loans so that they will pay the losses if those occur. To me it reads that in the end that another bill will be given to the taxpayers one way or another.
The issues of keeping the retirement funds safe was also mentioned by Alexander Pechtold (D66 = Democrats 1966), he continues by saying that first and foremost there should be clarity on how and if this should proceed.
You see, there are two sides to that part. In the first part the Dutch officials shot themselves in the foot for a long time by keeping housing too expensive for way too long a time. It was left to certain groups to keep the prices artificially too high. I myself viewed it as an artificial push to keep housing prices beyond acceptable as it increases the capital position of banks. Then there was the issue of preferential treatment for some places, as there were ways that the ‘right’ people got into those places. I myself experienced these events first-hand. Too many issues played and in a time when incomes were good, people got what they could and as such they are now stuck in a solid position, where moving away will cost any person a fortune. To illustrate this, my former, small, 2-bedroom apartment in Rotterdam would buy me an apartment almost twice that size in Stockholm, Sweden. So considering these facts, moving is not an option for many, which means that people are paying of their mortgage as much as possible.
The second part is that up to 2005, it was way too easy to get all kinds of credits and payment deferrals. These options all come at some percentage expense and as incomes were good, no one really cared too much. Now, to not end up in a situation where these people will have to eat their mortgage, or sell their house (making them destitute), they are now all paying off their debts as much and as fast as they can.
These two factors add to the fact that people will not spend money. Not unlike the government, too much money was taken in advance, and unlike the government, they are not getting to push it forward, so there is no spending. These factors had been known for a long time (at least 3-5 years), so when politicians are all so amazed that economic infusion plans are not working, then that amazement seems somewhat disingenuous to me. The fact that the Dutch are so about housing corporations, to be given the funds to grow is tying the cat to the bacon in more than one way.
This is not allowed to become an ‘opportunity knocks’ situation, especially when they are playing with retirement funds. If they really want to do something that adds up, then give people the option to use their retirement plan to pay of a mortgage of a new house. Those young enough will then have a building future. And it should be managed by a banking branch of those who keep those funds at present. Yet, I reckon that it will raise voices that this is not opening the economy enough. So is this about the banks, the people or the economy? I wonder how quick objections will loudly rise when banks are kept out of the equation. It would give rise to my suspicions that the banks are in more control then people realise.
Again, that risk is very real in the UK as well. Instead of keeping a decent flow of affordable housing, we see an economy in neutral whilst the hill it is up against seems to be rising more and more.
This was discussed in the Guardian, April 27th (http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/blog/2013/apr/27/pensions-system-failed-what-answer) When we look at this in regards to a failing amount of retirement savings as the predicted cost of living has been incorrect for at least a decade, likely closer to 2 decades, we now see a dangerous development. This is a market where over 40% of those approaching their elderly need will have to sell their residence to afford future care.
Suddenly ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel‘ doesn’t sound like the worst idea for people to consider.
This again brings me to the idea of solutions. It is always nice to kick a parliamentarian (a therapeutic form of soul food), but we should consider options and opportunities for solutions.
There was an idea in South Australia several years ago that was quite remarkable. To solve housing, the government gave away land on loan. So basically, you got to buy a plot for $1. The conditions were that you had to place a house on it, and the value of the land was payable when you sold the house. So basically you had a house on free land as long as you lived on it. This solved two parts. One, the housing issues fell away for some, second a house needed to be build, so that was good for jobs and economy. I always thought that was a good idea to get people into their first house. The second part is the retirement issue. Now many prefer to remain where they are. This is fair enough. Yet, consider that instead of eating your house, you are leasing it away or renting it out. Consider that live in places like Greece, Spain and even India could be more rewarding (and warmer) as you live in a place where the cost of living is a lot lower. Lower cost means a better quality of life. I am not stating that this is an option for all, but perhaps it could be an option for a decent amount, giving breathing space to create new ideas and options. Whatever people choose, I hope it is one people will be able to live with in a comfortable way.