Have you ever seen those people who get on TV and wave hi to their mother “who is probably watching”? Well today is one of those days for me.  Except that it’s not my mother but my mother-in-law, my father-in-law and my brother-in-law. And they are not exactly watching TV, but connecting to WiFi.  In Germany I mean.  Because yes, we finally made a phenomenal alliance in Germany, similar to the ones we made in the UK with BT, or in Belgium with Belgacom, or in France with SFR, or the Netherlands with KPN. Yes, we are launching Telekom Fon! So soon my German family, and everyone in Germany for that matter, will be able to connect to Telekom Fon, just as people in the UK, for example, can connect to BT WiFi with Fon. And today I’m thrilled to announce this exceptional relationship with Telekom to the world.

Fon has partnered with the incredible Deutsche Telekom to blanket Germany with WiFi. Telekom has 12 million broadband subscribers in Germany alone that will join Fon’s WiFi network, already the largest in the world– it’s the perfect ally to bring Fon into a country I care deeply about and have much respect for. The Telekom Fon alliance will build on the 12,000 Telekom hotspots already in place and allow Telekom Fon subscribers, and everyone in the Fon network, to connect to these and more than 7.8 million hotspots around the world for free. This is a huge achievement for us at Fon and I couldn’t be happier to make the good news official.

To my German friends and family: get ready to roam…

I wonder what many wonder, and that is whether Angela Merkel’s insistence with austerity is wise. I think that what Southern Europe needs is not to reduce the overall level of spending. Doing so it risks to make the economy shrink and budget deficits expand without end in sight. What we need to do instead is to keep the level of spending and investment but change its nature. We have to tweak with the economy, not kill the economy. Focus on what works, kill what slows us down.

I agree that in the South of Europe there was a lack of reform and a great deal of waste. In Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal a lot of privileges were given to people who did not deserve them, growth was built on credit, and the economies collapsed as a result. There was and there is corruption in most of Southern Europe, more than in the North, and many white elephants were built, airports that are not used, high speed train lines that are not needed.

But a drastic stop to a lot of economic activity without reasonable alternatives to generate growth will only exacerbate the problem. This is happening in Spain right now. We are cutting spending, we are not focusing on intelligent credit creation and we are making many viable businesses suffer or die of credit starvation. We need to create emergency credit lines for all businesses who are hiring. We have to find the pockets of growth and support them. We can’t indiscriminately cut spending.We have to move workers from dying industries to growing industries, we have to reeducate the population for the globalized economy of this century.  The challenges of evolving from an industrialized economy to a service economy are not new, but now we have to deal with the challenges of evolving from the service economy to the digital economy.  None of these problems are financial or monetary, they are real and require real intervention.  Fiscal tightening is akin to chemotherapy, we can’t kill all cells because some are bad. We have to have a smart bullet approach to economic intervention.  Which if you think about it this is what Germany did to itself.  Because Germany is making the same mistake as the large shareholders of the IMF did.  They applied for themselves much more elaborate and detailed growth policies that worked and ask Latin America to implement simplistic, “chemo” type policies.  The results were disastrous.

Germany is doing to Southern Europe what the IMF did to Latin America for decades and this is dangerous for Germany and Southern Europe. In Latin America by preaching austerity at all cost the IMF created failed policies and a decade of stagnation. Moreover as its failure became apparent the IMF ended up being mostly hated by Latin Americans and around the world. Germany could end up in the same spot. This would be sad because in the end we all know that Germany means well, it is just applying the wrong economic model as the IMF did.  The USA, closely associated with the IMF lost most of Latin America sympathy in the last 15 years. It is sad to see how many Latin Americans now think that China is a better country and economic model than USA and have emulated China with regimes such as that of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador and Bolivia. Same could happen to Germany and the German model if it insists in implementing wrong policies. The European Union could fall apart and Southern Europe could end up experimenting with populist political regimes that only make the whole situation for Europe much worse.

There’s an active debate on this post in Google+ you may want to comment here.

This is the year in which Europe will either fall apart or emerged stronger. I give it 75% that it emerges as a stronger union but the risk of collapse is still there. Germany has the key to solve the problem because of the size of its economy, its saving rate and its export volume. Germany has to decide on whether it continues to transfer some of its wealth in order to create markets for its exports or it let’s Europe fall apart and ends up with an overvalued currency and deteriorated markets. Already today it started paying negative interest rates which is a prelude in my view to a huge rise in the DM should it be born again. Tough choice. I think Germany can actually both save Europe and make money by buying underpriced Italian and Spanish bonds and selling them after stabilization. It can do what the FED did with many financial institutions, make a profit by providing much needed liquidity at a critical time.

Shit shit shit if you are German, fuck fuck fuck if you are American, vagina vagina vagina if you are Spanish (coño).

It is interesting how many cultures curse and obsess with different part of the body or bodily functions/actions.

This article in Vanity Fair tries to explain how German banks squandered a significant amount of the savings of the German people lending it to crooks in a Freudian way without ever citing Freud. It’s all about shit it argues.

I found the article bad but still worth sharing. If anything it says more about the American writer.

Yes, it is true that the German language is full of expressions related to shit and they give examples. And it is also true that Germans love cleanliness and are very organized. But this does not explain why they work so much better than most other Europeans and waste their savings lending to all sorts of weird schemes. Why they believe the Greeks when they tell them they will balance the budget or why they lent to so many subprime schemes in USA. Maybe a lot of that has to do with the fact that the people who run their banks are incompetent and not so much with shit shit.

To me US bankers are insanely greedy and German bankers are just incompetent at assessing foreign risk and they should just stay mostly at home. But Germany, as well as Japan historically and now China, has the problem of nations who work hard, save a lot and then can’t find uses for these savings locally and tend to end up either making bad investments abroad or lending to debt-addicted cultures until they go bust.

How can a country obsessed with privacy as Germany come up with a national identity card system with RFIDs? One of the only ways to preserve privacy is anonymity but with a requirement to go anywhere with these new IDs it is very difficult to be anonymous. This is not just a German problem by the way. Same is the case in other European countries including Spain. An employee of mine spent 3 days in jail for not having her ID in Madrid. I interview her in this video. In any case, the same country that comes up with that national ID also has leading magazine, Stern, writing extremely negative articles about how Google invades privacy. I chose Stern as an example but when I ran companies in Germany for example we could not outsource our customer care because we were not allowed to pass customer information to the customer care centers if we did not own them. This added a lot of costs to our operations all for the sake of privacy. And this was not telemarketing, this was technical support. Privacy concerns in Europe many times clash with the normal functioning of the Internet and technology business. I guess the main difference between Continental Europe and USA in this matter is that Europeans have tremendous faith in government and do not consider their actions as invasive of privacy. For Americans government is one more potential invader privacy. Personally I think that there are more people now who prefer to share than to be private but if you do want privacy it is better not to be online and to be out and about in places where people do not know who you are. In my case I am just the opposite. From this blog on I sign everything I do online and in real life.

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