The Gross margin

Philippe Riboton

THE START OF A NEW YEAR is always a good opportunity for looking back at what happened in the previous year and for imagining what promises to happen in the new one. 2004 saw a new government come on board, with baby-face Stanislav Gross quickly blanketing the billboard circuit to showcase his program for the people: “I mean it honestly,“ Little Big Man said. But what he actually meant by that still remains a mystery to most of us. What is certain, to put it honestly, is that his first election test sent him and his party on the edge of statistical error of public support. So here comes the pain: this year the taxpayers will have to take their wallets out to finance all Gross’s generous promises – from subsidizing wage increases to government agents (that didn’t stir up the electoral support he expected) to dumping more money than ever into the last state companies whose privatization doesn’t seem to be on schedule. Most of those firms can actually expect to face quite a difficult year, as their costs are rising dramatically and their revenues are decreasing under the pressure of rising competition and European liberalization. But this doesn’t seem to affect Little Big Man’s confidence too much – there are still 18 months to go to the next elections, which should leave plenty of time for his protégés to split between themselves the Gross margin; in other words, to grab their bone from the last pieces of the skeleton. Quite interestingly, the Prime Minister’s clownish partners in the governing coalition carefully avoided the trap of taking over, and obviously chose the more pragmatic approach instead: let’s let him hit rock bottom, get a share of the left-overs, and only then administer the necessary and painful cure. So all signs indicate that we should be in for another year of ordinary tunneling and routine political burlesque. Happy New Year!






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