quinta-feira, 15 de outubro de 2015

Thomas Piketty: worldwide recognition of the European left

The words "rebel" and "Superstar" don't usually associate with an economist. Unless we speak of Thomas Piketty, who achieved a resounding global recognition with the book "the Capital in the 21 Century", considered a reference about the phenomenon of inequality. The reporter Isabelle Kumar interviewed the charismatic French author.

Thomas Piketty: I tried to write a book that was accessible to a wider audience. But of course I didn't expect to have so much success. Have been sold over two million copies worldwide, which shows that there is a huge interest in the question of inequality. There is a great deal of concern about the effects of globalization: is it beneficial for everyone or was kidnapped by a small part of the population? What's new in my book is that, along with researchers from more than thirty countries, agregámos the largest historical database ever about the distribution of income and wealth. That's the new: study the inequality from the historical point of view.

Euronews: recently, the Pope Francisco declared on Twitter that "inequities are the root of evil in the society". Consider the same or do you think that the Pope is even more radical in these matters?

TP: normally, I don't feel very close to the Pope's statements. But if he cares about inequality, so much the better. I'm not sure how the Catholic Church contributed to reduce inequalities throughout its history. But I believe that is a question that worries the people of left, right, of different religious confessions â€" is a universal concern. We can't just think about GDP growth, we need to know how it is distributed, who are the beneficiaries, which produces impact on natural resources.

Euronews: This is an interesting point â€" I would like to know your opinion on an important issue today: Air France. We saw executives with the shirts torn, attacked by some angry protesters against the cuts in the group.

TP: I'm not here to rate positively or negatively the action of different groups of social actors. I can only say that the conflicts over the distribution of wealth are often violent. In some countries, especially the poorest, those conflicts may take a really violent dimension, more than in rich countries such as France. When there is a lack of transparency in relation to wages, to income, property â€" who owns what and who gets how much, conflicts tend to worsen. Generally speaking, it is very important to the democratic debate the existence of more information on the distribution of income and wealth. One of the great obstacles, nowadays, is that financial opacity on the property seems to be a common pattern that crosses borders. Often do not know who owns what, making it difficult to speak about inequality and taxation.

Euronews: Taking on the issue of taxation: defends the progressive implementation of taxes and, for those who earn more than a million euros per year, a rate of 80% of the income. We ask our viewers to send us questions via social networks. Thomas Jones asked: "why do you want to punish with more taxes people who ran risks to generate jobs and wealth."

TP: it's very hard to play on the issue of inequality and taxation, because people react so exalted. In a country like the United States, in the period between 1930 and 1980 â€" half a century, the roof of the marginal rate on income above $ 1 million was 82% on average. There were times when I climbed up to 91%, others who came down to the 70%. But, if we take all this period, the average rate was 82%. This destroyed the American capitalism? Apparently not. In fact, the growth of productivity and GDP was higher during the years 50, 60, 70, during the Reagan era. Since that time, there was a large decrease in the marginal rate and a big increase in inequality. The inequalities are everywhere, except in the productivity statistics. There are many people who are not yet ready to have this debate. In part, because there seems to be a historical amnesia. Sometimes people don't know that this has already been applied in the past and that, if we look at the period during which it was applied, the results in terms of productivity were not so awful.

Euronews: was disappointed when the French President, François Hollande, revoked the 75% tax that was in force on the incomes of the richest?

TP: I wasn't too according to the application of this tax in France. First, because there are so many people in France to win more than a million euros a year. If I were in the United States, Hollande would have been a great President. This is precisely the type of policy to apply there. In France, this question does not. This measure was more a pretext not to implement ambitious tax reforms than anything else. There are many other reforms in France that still have no answer.

Euronews: since we're talking about Europe, let's look at the austerity. The Lord is aligned with anti-austeridade parties. For you, the containment policies were truly a failure?

TP: it's always possible to do even worse. But just compare the situation on both sides of the Atlantic. The truth is that Europe has turned a crisis unleashed in the United States â€" from the private financial sector â€" in a public debt crisis. All because of a series of bad policies and excessive austerity. If you go back to 2008, the European government debt was higher than the American, or what the Japanese. If you look at the context in 2015 â€" almost ten years later, we see the American GDP returned to retrieve, is 10-15% higher than in 2007. In Europe, especially in the euro zone, there was no recovery yet, we still have the same level of GDP than we had 10 years ago.

Euronews: there are new European parties proposing policy alternatives. Is considered to be around some of them. I am thinking, for example, in the Can, led by Pablo Iglesias, or in the new Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. For themselves, they constitute the best chance that Europe has a future more fair? The economic policies that they argue are viable?

TP: elections in Spain, in December, will be very important for the future of Europe. And why? Because they can change the political majority in the euro zone. If the Spain turn left, or center-left, this will represent a change in majority and could lead to the adoption of more reasonable budgetary policies. In the background, this goes far beyond the division between left and right. The whole world is looking at the euro zone. Everyone can see, regardless of the policy area budget decisions dictated by Germany and France â€" because it's easy to complain about France, but the decisions were not successful joint â€" were.

Euronews: it is important to stress that we are talking about radical left parties. I don't know if you agree with this terminology. But it would seem that the leaders of these parties are causing more fears among the European institutions and the European leaders of the extreme right.

TP: that would be a big mistake. In the end, it's much better to have in power parties that are to the left of the left than those to the right of the right. In France there will be regional elections in December. It is possible that the extreme right gain two or three regions. Then people are going to realize how dangerous it is, comparing with the Syriza or Can, that have at least one international vision. I'm not saying that the proposals of these parties are always satisfactory. But I believe that it is possible, at least, make them move in the right direction.

Euronews: gave the example of Greece, the Syriza. The Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, was re-elected. Do you think he has to renegotiate the austerity measures? Varoufakis argues that there is a logic of "pretend" that the country will pay the debts.

TP: Europe will have to outline a new plan for Greece. Decisions taken during the summer were just a way to gain time. The end result will be a reduction of Greek debt. The good news is that there have been several debt restructurings in the past. The Germany had a gigantic public debt after World War II. The entire European project built in the years 50 became the forgiveness of debt.

Euronews: But the context is very different.

TP: there are points of comparison. There have been many Governments before the years 50, we made mistakes and created a huge public debt, mainly to Germany. But, at the time, the policy choice was to look to the future. Look at the new generations in France and in Germany at the time and now the new generations in Greece. How can we say: ' your parents made mistakes, but it is you who will pay for them over the next 40 years. There will come a time when we have to look to the future and invest in growth, in higher education, in public infrastructure.

Euronews: we have to move on to the questions on social networks. Mischael Chandra marcelamattsson wants to know: "what is the key to a sustainable economy."

TP: what's most important for the future is to invest in knowledge and in higher education. Advance with numbers that illustrate what should be done: everyone in Europe like the Erasmus programme, which enables the mobility of students. At this point, the Erasmus budget is 4 billion per year. But if we compare with the interest payments in the euro area, this amounts to 400 billion annually. I don't think we have to reverse the numbers, but this is the direction we should go. That's why we have to rethink the payment of debts, so that we can invest more in the future.

Euronews: we're talking about Greece, but also we have the example of the United Kingdom. Are two countries that can leave the European Union and Greece, the eurozone too. There is also the possibility of Catalonia to secede from Spain. What impact would these scenarios in the European economy?

TP: the crisis in the eurozone has profound consequences. People in Spain are very unhappy, especially in Catalonia.

Euronews: the economic crisis is responsible for the possible outputs?

TP: Yes, in the United Kingdom people don't want to join the eurozone, or deepen European integration, because things are not working. If we really want that one day the United Kingdom, Sweden or Poland in the euro zone, we have to make things work.

Euronews: Europe is more divided than ever. If there is a change of trajectory, how do you see the future of Europe? Within 15 years, for example.

TP: I want to be optimistic because I believe there are answers for our problems. But we run the risk of rising nationalism and selfishness. When people see that peaceful policies do not solve social problems, not unemployment, fall in the temptation of blaming others. There are political parties that blame foreigners, foreign workers. Others blame other countries. Can blame Germany, after the Germany blames Greece. It is always possible to blame others. But, at some point, if we look from a broadly to the history of Europe, we understand that we should be investing in growth. The drama of Europe is that lost a decade. We get to 2017 with a GDP to the level that existed in 2007.

Euronews: another question that still has no solutions is migration. The Greece is at the forefront of this issue. It is estimated that, by the end of 2016, arrive to Europe about a million and a half people. Have a question for Kristoffer Nyborg: "Considers that Europe has the economic capacity to manage this volume of refugees and migrants."

TP: Europe has a population of 520 million people. According to UN statistics, between 2000 and 2010, the flow of migrants towards Europe was about $ 1 million a year. Two-thirds of the European population growth during this period came from the migration. So, I think we can manage a much larger migratory flow now. There are different contexts in Europe. There are countries such as France, where there are more children; in others, such as Germany, there are fewer, so there are more recetividade migrants. And then there are other countries that do not even want children, or migrants, as in Eastern Europe, who risks disappearing population, if you continue in the same way. Are options very selfish. We can and should be much more open, if we are to achieve economic growth, and have a European model more prosperous and attractive.

Euronews: would you say that a million migrants and refugees would be an acceptable number in terms of management?

TP: I don't think that a million is a magic number, but those who say that we cannot accept more migrants do not know the story.

Euronews: one that is considered his protégé, Economist Gabriel Zucman, stated that about six billions of dollars that may be hidden in tax havens. Agree with this number?

TP: Yes. This is a very important issue for Europe and the United States, and even more important for Africa and for countries developing and emerging, which are losing more money than we do with this financial opacity. Gabriel estimated Zucman, about 10% of the European wealth in tax havens, which is a lot. But in Africa it is between 30% to 50%. How is that a country can develop, or develop a fair tax system, if much of the wealth goes to other places without paying taxes?

Euronews: the President of the European Commission states that wants to eradicate tax havens. Believes that going to do?

TP: no, I don't think, because there is no concrete measure to date. If we want to change the tax on European companies, we must implement a single tax. Maybe not in all of Europe â€" there may be countries that don't want to do, but at least proceed with this measure in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium or in any member country of the euro zone, or outside, wishing to join. Otherwise, sujeitamo us to see another scandal like the secret tax agreements with Luxembourg last year.

Euronews: do you think Jean-Claude Juncker presented convincing arguments about this controversy?

TP: it's not enough to apologize. It is not enough to say that it won't happen again, because it will never happen again. The problem is not individual, it's not Jean Claude Juncker, but the fact is that it happened when he was Prime Minister of Luxembourg. There were agreements with large multinational groups that paid only 1% or 2%, when in France or in Germany have small and medium-sized enterprises to pay 20% to 30%. How do you want to give lessons to Greece to modernize the tax system, when in your own country have policies like this?

Euronews: Let's go back now to your book, "the Capital in the 21 Century". Went to get numerous literary references to explain things, and this helps to make the work more accessible. A Netizen named Mekkus put this question in our social networks: "what are your three favorite books?"

TP: it's a complicated question. In the book I talk a lot about "the Father Goriot" by Balzac. I think it's a work that illustrates very powerful capitalism in the 19 century. Marx used to say you learned about capitalism to read Balzac. I think, nowadays, is the same thing. But you have to look for other authors. Lately, one of the books that I liked best was the last of Carlos Fuentes, "the will and fortune", an amazing novel about capitalism in Mexico. There is a young French author, Tancrède Voituriez, who wrote about the "invention of poverty", a very funny tale about economists who think they are going to save the world, but then they can't. There are many powerful books that revolve around money and capitalism.

Euronews: is often described as a celebrity. To see if this role?

TP: I have no problem with advertising, as long as it makes more people read my book. The success of the book demonstrates that there are many people, in many countries, tired of saying this are complicated Affairs, economic and financial issues should be left to the responsibility of a small group of experts in economic science, that speak a language that no one else knows. This is a joke. There is no "economic science". There are political, social, cultural issues, literary ... Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

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