Graeme Hart’s $3.4b gain proves need for taxing wealth – Oxfam

New Zealand’s richest man, Graeme Hart, made $3.4 billion during the Covid-19 pandemic, reinforcing the urgent need for a wealth tax to help fix inequality, an Oxfam manager says.

Hart’s added wealth is revealed in a new Oxfam report which is part of wider research tracking global wealth.

The report concludes that a rigged economic system is enabling the super rich to grow their fortunes amidst the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Oxfam New Zealand communications and advocacy director Joanna Spratt told Morning Report such wealth accumulation highlighted the urgent need for a focus on wealth tax in New Zealand.

There needed to be a living wage for everyone, more funding for healthcare and education and crucially, proper taxation of wealth, she said.

“It’s a way for government to get more revenue to make sure it invests in all people.”

While Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has taken a capital gains tax off the table under her leadership, there still needed to be engagement on the wider issue, Spratt said.

“I have noticed that people are starting to raise the issue of capital gains tax but also wealth taxes and the Green Party policy was a really good conversation starter.

“I don’t think just because one individual [the prime minister], albeit how powerful she is, has said it’s not going to happen on my watch that the rest of the population in New Zealand shouldn’t be talking about this.

“We can raise the issue and keep highlighting what a powerful lever our tax system is to help get the country we all want to see which is one where everybody lives in dignity, has a basic level of wellbeing and we have a healthy planet.”

Hart’s wealth gain would pay the entire grocery bill for more than 200,000 households for a year, Spratt said.

“So they’re big numbers and it is surprising. But at the same this is a problem that Oxfam has been talking about for many years… Economic inequality within countries and across the world has been an issue for a very long time.”

Spratt said Hart had made “strategic business decisions” during the pandemic but he was typical of a small handful of business entrepreneurs amassing vast fortunes that they did not need.

“Meanwhile, we have people across the world, the vast majority of the world’s population who struggle to get by. They’re losing their jobs, they live on poverty wages and they don’t get decent healthcare and education so this tells us that there is something really wrong here with our economy.”

The economic system is rigged, she said, because governments are not operating economies that work for everyone – they just aid “the fortunate few”.

Many people could not get a living wage, they didn’t enjoy labour rights and three-quarters of the world’s workers could not access sick pay or unemployment benefits so had nothing to fall back on.

“The vast majority of the world’s population actually don’t have an economy that works for them while there’s a small number of people who just keep concentrating wealth.”

Billionaires thriving as poor suffer in widening Covid-19 divide – Oxfam

Billionaires including Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Tesla founder Elon Musk have seen their wealth soar during the pandemic while the world’s poor face years of hardship, Oxfam says.

Nations have a “shrinking window of opportunity” to build a fair, green recovery, according to “The Inequality Virus” report, published as global leaders tune in for the World Economic Forum’s virtual “Davos Dialogue” meeting.

“We stand to witness the greatest rise in inequality since records began,” Gabriela Bucher, executive director of Oxfam International, said in a statement as the charity called for higher wealth taxes and stronger protections for workers.

“Rigged economies are funnelling wealth to a rich elite who are riding out the pandemic in luxury, while those on the frontline of the pandemic – shop assistants, healthcare workers, and market vendors – are struggling to pay the bills.”

Covid-19 has unleashed an economic storm that hit the poor and vulnerable hardest, with women and marginalised workers facing the worst of job losses and the World Bank warning more than 100 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty.

It could take more than a decade to reduce the number of people living in poverty back to pre-crisis levels, Oxfam said.

Meanwhile, the collective wealth of the world’s billionaires rose $US3.9 trillion between March and December 2020 to reach $US11.95tn, the report calculated.

The 10 richest men – a list led by Bezos and Musk which also includes LVMH luxury group’s chief executive Bernard Arnault, Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg – saw their net worth increase by $US540 billion in the same period, Oxfam said.

That sum would be enough to prevent anyone from falling into poverty as a result of the pandemic and pay for a vaccine for everyone on earth, researchers calculated.

The pandemic marks a “pivotal” point which has exposed economic disparities and built support for “transformative” policies, Oxfam said, calling for higher taxes on wealth and corporations alongside stronger protections for workers.

A temporary tax on excess profits made by the 32 global corporations that have profited the most during the pandemic could have raised $104bn in 2020, Oxfam said.

International cooperation would be key to implementing many changes, said Jayati Ghosh, an economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who was among the economists polled by Oxfam for the report.

The administration of new US President Joe Biden will spur “more willingness” for joint action on issues including a crackdown on tax havens and a bailout for developing nations, she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

“There are some very, very big hurdles, but there are many things that can be done very quickly,” she said.

‘Judge me on my actions’: can Andrew Forrest become Australia’s clean, green hero?

The billionaire mining magnate known as Twiggy may be emulating Bill Gates with the scale of his philanthropy, but not everyone is convinced

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Andrew Forrest says he isn’t after power. He didn’t aim to become wealthy. The 27.2 billion dollar man just “wants to leave the world a better place”.

The American novelist John Barth wrote that “everyone is necessarily the hero of his own life story”. Forrest is certainly that. But his story – including, but not limited to, the staggering success of his iron ore business and the even more staggering ambition of his clean energy plans – is writ large enough for others to read. And they don’t all see him as a white knight.

Forrest is a very busy and very complicated man. People describe him as paradoxical but passionate, driven and difficult, ambitious and controlling.

Those who have met him talk about his unswerving confidence, his charm. Some mention his generosity, such as the Giving Pledge he signed with his wife, Nicola. One person close to him says he’s emulating the founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, with the scale of his philanthropy.

The most critical decline to speak publicly.

Forrest is the founder and now non-executive chair of Fortescue Metals Group, the WA mining ore business that made a profit of almost $14bn last financial year; the founder and chair of its subsidiary Fortescue Future Industries, which plans to deliver 15m tonnes of green hydrogen to the world by 2030; and chair of the Minderoo Foundation, his charitable arm. The fourth pillar of his business world is the family holding company, Tattarang, a private investment group with a multibillion-dollar portfolio of assets earning money for Minderoo.

He’s one of Australia’s richest men and, especially during the pandemic, one of the busiest people on the planet.

He was buying Covid tests and PPE, dodging deadly terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, making deals in PNG. His presence loomed large at Cop26. He scooted around in his private plane, invested in medicinal cannabis and snapped up Lizard Island for $42m.

He’s developing electric trains and green ammonia-powered ships (it’s impossible to keep up with all the environmental projects he’s involved in). He has invested in aquaculture and cheese. And he has continued to tackle Facebook for for its alleged failure to stop cryptocurrency-related scam ads featuring his image.

Asked if he has ever felt that he has bitten off more than he can chew, he tells Guardian Australia what he used to tell his staff at Anaconda Nickel, his first big venture: “You bite off more than you can chew, then you chew like buggery.”

Morning stretches with Scott Morrison on a visit to the FMG Christmas Creek mining operation in Karratha in April 2021. Photograph: Getty Images

Farewell to fossil fuels – sort of

While Australia faced rolling Covid lockdowns and border closures, Forrest and his team took a private jet to visit more than 40 countries on a mission to convince the world of the need for green hydrogen.

His plan so far has elicited both hope and scepticism.

It may seem “ironic”, he says, that he’s on this clean, green mission, when FMG is “a huge player in carbon pollution”. In an ad for FFI, Forrest thanks the fossil fuel industry for its “great service”.

Flanked by a vaguely Downton Abbey-style breakfast spread that features a toast rack, a teapot and bowls of berries, he holds a fake newspaper with the headline: “Fossil fuel industry in terminal decline”.

“Climate chaos” will render humanity extinct if the use of fossil fuels continues unchecked, he warns.

“[The] party’s over,” he says, as ominous music plays. “I know it, you know it.”

Forrest has pushed the federal government to adopt a net zero emissions target by 2050, even as he continues to mine iron ore, which he said recently had “a fabulous future”.

In a more nuanced take at his National Press Club speech last year, he said: “So, let’s keep fossil fuel going but only as long as we need to, and let’s do everything we need to switch to a green future.”

The party may be over, it seems, but Forrest has not yet grabbed his coat.

Asked if FFI will morally offset what FMG has done, he says the question is “moronic”.

“If you take a second in time only,” he says, “then nothing excuses anyone for doing anything wrong.

Andrew Forrest talks to researchers at the Minderoo Centre, attached to the University of Queensland, which studies the interaction between plastics and human health. Photograph: David Kelly/Photograph David Kelly

“The world is never going to turn its back on steel … so the only solution is to turn the making of steel green,” Forrest says. “[Polluting businesses] must go green. If they don’t go green … you and I cook the world. Either directly or indirectly because we’re consumers.”

It’s a hugely ambitious plan, but Forrest points to FMG’s success saying people doubted it would ever mine 40m tonnes of iron ore. “We’re clicking a little under 200m tonnes,” he says, “and the iron ore price is strong.

“If I said something which I’m going to put my heart and soul to – judge me on my actions, judge me on whether I die trying, but don’t say ‘he makes grandiose statements’ because you’ve got to judge people on what they do, not on what other people say or what they say.”

Considering his enormous power, influence, wealth and promises, it’s worth taking a look at what he has done, and said.

‘Time cures everything’

Forrest grew up at Minderoo station running cattle in the Pilbara, out in Western Australia. His great-grandfather David Forrest founded the station with his brothers, including John, who would go on to become WA’s first premier. His father was forced to sell the property, but he bought it back for a reported $12m in 2009.

Forrest went to high school and then university in Perth, before beginning Anaconda Nickel in the early 1990s.

In 2001 investors tried to oust him as chief executive after the share price dipped. Forrest agreed to step down, calling it “a nasty precedent in Australia’s corporate history”.

In 2002 the ABC’s Four Corners detailed the messy break-up, saying Forrest “mixed business with philanthropy”, donating shares from Anaconda to one of his charities, Leaping Joey. That led to accusations he was minimising his income tax – an accusation he described as “really, really hurtful”.

Forrest’s former partner, mining analyst Warwick Grigor, said the donation was “how he’d like to be seen as a philanthropist doing good for kids … but the fact that it bought shares off him is just more evidence that Andrew’s always got a hidden agenda and he doesn’t do anything totally for – out of the goodness of his heart,” he told the ABC.

Forrest says those comments were “a long time ago”.

“I’m doing everything in my power to leave this world a better place if I possibly can,” he says. “Yet the Guardian does tend to draw out every possible negative story they can find, even going back to my old friend Warwick.

“Sometimes people are really pissed off with you,” he says, although the pair have now reconciled.

Grigor agrees. “Time cures everything,” he says.

“We had our disagreements. He’s gone on and done wonderful things, and things that I don’t know any other Australian is capable of doing. His life is very different to mine and I’m grateful for that. I don’t bear him any animosity.”

Forrest’s next major move was establishing FMG, now one of the world’s largest iron ore companies – he stepped down as chief operating officer and became its chair in 2011. It has been lauded for awarding more than $3bn in contracts to Aboriginal companies, but also condemned for allegedly breaching heritage protection laws at a sacred site in the Pilbara in February 2021. In that case FMG’s chief executive, Elizabeth Gaines, expressed regret and issued “a sincere apology on behalf of Fortescue” for what it called an administrative error.

In 2020, the high court dismissed an appeal by FMG against a decision to give the Yindjibarndi people native title over land in the Pilbara after a long battle over access and royalties.

Forrest poses for a publicity shot to mark the start of construction of Fortescue Future Industries’ green energy manufacturing plant in Gladstone, Queensland, in February.

Then came the battle against the mining tax, which Forrest and FMG took all the way to the high court. The court ultimately rejected the move to overturn the Minerals Resource Rent Tax, which forced coal and iron ore companies to pay 22.5% on profits above $75m.

It wasn’t the last time Forrest would be attacked for trying to influence government policy.

Spending ‘on the right things’

As prime minister, Tony Abbott commissioned Forrest to write a report on employment and training.

The report Forrest produced in 2014, Creating Parity, ventured much further afield by introducing the idea of a “healthy welfare card” – a precursor to the cashless debit card. This card, Forrest said, would assist people to make “proper decisions” by stopping them using welfare to buy alcohol or cigarettes.

The card has drawn fierce criticism from Indigenous organisations and their supporters.

The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, the peak body, has been a consistent critic. In a submission to a Senate inquiry it said when the card was compulsory it was a “violation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s right to self-determination” and had “adverse effects on the social and emotional wellbeing and general health of participants”.

There had been inadequate consultation, Naccho said, and inadequate evidence that the card worked to prevent gambling and drinking.

The WA Labor senator Sue Lines called the card “racist” in parliament. “It takes away people’s basic human rights,” she said.

Lines questioned why Forrest was asked to do the work in the first place. “Was it a well-researched idea backed up with academic evidence? No. It came from a billionaire based in WA. It was an idea of Twiggy Forrest’s,” she said.

“Because he has money, power and privilege he was able to just walk in … and put this idea on the table.”

The Ngaat­yan­jarra shire president, Damian McLean, says Forrest is “a guy with prodigious financial interests who should have been excluded from everything to do with Indigenous affairs”.

Forrest calls accusations of racism “bullshit”. He says he was raised by Indigenous people.

“[I was a person] taught corroboree by Indigenous people, taught to hunt and track, to sing and dance by Aboriginal people, who loves Aboriginal people and every day of my life I’ve fought for the interests of Aboriginal people.”

He doesn’t resile at all from the card, and denies it unfairly targeted Indigenous people.

“I didn’t come up with a set of recommendations just for Indigenous people … I said to Tony Abbott at the time, ‘I cannot do that. I [can] come up with a suite of recommendations which you can apply to all vulnerable Australians’,” he says.

But alcohol and drugs are the “root cause” of not being able to get Aboriginal people into work, he says.

“It brings out the very worst in people … it’s obvious.”

But he does say he would have done some things differently.

“I do have a regret,” he says. “I should have recommended that anyone who voluntarily took up the cashless debit … I would have recommended a 10% increase in welfare,” he says.

Giving an overall increase like that would save the government money by stopping violence, keeping people out of jail, and getting people into work, he says. People would be changing their lives for the better, so they’d have more money to spend “on the right things”.

Forrest also points to the other 26 recommendations in the report, which were meant to be implemented as a package.

Big ambitions, contested outcomes

Forrest prides himself on his work with Aboriginal people, and one of his Minderoo Foundation programs – Generation One – aims to create parity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. It’s an “audacious, challenging, and at times overwhelming goal”, according to its website, “but we strive for it because allowing this disparity to continue is not an option”.

At the heart of Generation One is helping Aboriginal people get jobs.

A previous Forrest endeavour, the Australian Employment Covenant, had the same aim. It was an agreement between the former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd and Forrest as part of the Closing the Gap project, and launched in 2008.

The government paid the Covenant $20.9m to achieve the target of creating 50,000 sustainable jobs for Aboriginal people. Forrest says he employed “one and then two and then three, and then hundreds, and over time thousands”.

“I’m pretty sure that’s why I got asked [to write Creating Parity], because I’ve got real skin in the game,” he says.

A government audit report in 2013 found that while the program achieved some of its aims, the government “did not facilitate the expected level of ongoing collaboration”, and that there was not enough information available to properly measure the outcomes.

Last year, a Deloitte report found that in a range of employment partnerships between Fortescue and the government “there is limited evidence of Indigenous perspectives influencing the design of these programs, and no clear nor complete documentation of what success looks like nor how this was to be achieved”.

Part of a shipment of medical supplies procured by the Minderoo Foundation from China during the early weeks of the Covid pandemic in 2020. Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

Fast forward to the Covid pandemic, and there are more ambitious projects that don’t have happy, uncomplicated endings.

In 2020, the federal government turned to Forrest for help in finding testing kits. At a strange press conference with the health minister, Greg Hunt, Forrest announced he had used his Chinese connections to secure 10m Covid tests at a cost of about $189m, at the urging of Hunt. Forrest brought along the Chinese consul Long Zhou, who Hunt initially thought was one of Forrest’s employees, according to media reports.

But the tests were a new kind of technology, and the uptake was patchy. Public health units in most states found no use for them, although some were later deployed by private pathology providers in Victoria.

Mind-boggling scope of philanthropy

The author Nichola Garvey spent 10 years getting to know Forrest, trying to write an authorised biography that ultimately never emerged.

Garvey recently wrote a fascinating essay on the process, and the reasons she believes the book was never published – essentially because Forrest would not relinquish control of the narrative. Garvey gives full credit to Forrest for his many achievements, but says the traits of control and domination that drove his business success, when translated to the social sphere, “risk becoming intensely unappealing, and perhaps help explain Forrest’s contested reputation”.

She paints him as a complicated mix of parsimony and generosity, a huge contributor to charity, but “almost hypervigilant about the most minor donations” and prone to leaving restaurant bills for others to pay.

Forrest says Garvey went through an “angry stage” with him, but that they had since worked out their differences.

The scope of Minderoo Foundation is mindboggling. It includes Walk Free (a human rights group focused on anti-slavery); Thrive by Five (advocating early childhood education for every Australian); and Generation One (First Nation people’s rights and interests).

The No Plastic Waste initiative envisions a world without plastic pollution; Frontier Technology is working “to address the widespread violation of human rights associated with the unfettered use and abuse of personal information in the tech ecosystem”; Flourishing Oceans plans to restore ocean health; Fire & Flood Resilience seeks to be an “enabler”, helping communities bounce back. There are other programs to fight cancer, build communities, boost arts and culture.

Forrest and his wife, Nicola, have given $2bn to these causes.

Some, though, have ethical and philosophical questions about philanthropy – questions that similarly revolve around control.

“You won’t find philanthropists funding projects which don’t have happy endings,” says Ian Macauley of the Centre for Policy Development, who worries that philanthropic spending can displace government funding.

“It can convey the impression that if the philanthropists are doing it, the government doesn’t have to,” he says.

That’s a concern that has also been voiced, quietly, by charities. Carl Rhodes is a professor of organisation studies at the University of Technology Sydney, and the author of Woke Capitalism: How Corporate Morality is Sabotaging Democracy.

“Big corporations are increasingly encroaching on the traditional role of government, through philanthropy or other actions,” he says. “Why should they get to make these decisions, and what happens when they get involved?

“It’s not that they do anything bad,” he says. “It’s just that we have a system where power is shifting from the public sphere and into the private sphere, so power is increasingly in the hands of private interests.

“Who’s deciding what the public good is?”

But Forrest says Walk Free, for example, has forced governments to face the fact that slavery exists and put pressure on them to end it. “It’s saying: ‘Here’s the scale of your problem. Support companies, support non-government organisations that are trying to end it for you’,” he says.

“Frankly, until we came along, governments said: ‘We don’t have any [problems]’.”

Forrest with his wife, Nicola, at a 2017 event in Canberra to announce funding for a variety of social and scientific causes. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

The green hydrogen dream

Now Forrest has embarked on what may be the most ambitious plan of all – converting the world to green hydrogen.

FFI describes itself as “a global green energy and product company committed to producing zero-emission green hydrogen from 100% renewable sources”.

“Our vision is to make renewable green hydrogen the most globally traded seaborne energy commodity in the world.”

The Australian has reported FFI deals struck in Croatia, the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and elsewhere in Africa.

Richie Merzian, the Australia Institute’s climate and energy program director, says there is a lot of hype when it comes to hydrogen’s possibilities. But there’s hope too.

He says the fossil fuel industry is using hydrogen as a “facelift”, which gives it a social licence to keep producing fossil fuels.

And he’s sceptical about what sort of hydrogen will end up dominating – there’s a “rainbow”, he says.

“Green hydrogen has zero emissions, so you use renewables to power an electrolyser to turn water into hydrogen. It’s super clean and green,” Merzian says.

Forrest is promising all-green hydrogen, but Merzian says the technological transition will not be easy.

“But what Twiggy has done … is fast-tracked the debate,” he says. “It’s helped. What you have is a massive mining baron who’s benefited from the status quo actually positioning himself and making a clear pivot into an industry that is aligned with a decarbonised future.

“It’s not all good … but the overall objective, the big picture, the commitment is good.”

John Mathews, professor emeritus at Macquarie University’s business school, has said that Australia’s hydrogen industry could be worth $26bn by 2050, and says the revolution is possible if green hydrogen is manufactured at scale.

Forrest’s claims there will be no bigger industry than green hydrogen and ammonia “may sound outlandish”, Mathews has written, but “history suggests they’re possible”.

Forrest’s latest chapter – saving the world from the climate crisis – could truly cast him as a hero. It’s not only an immensely ambitious role, but one with measurable outcomes.

As he insists, history will judge him not by what he says, but by what he does.

Kevin O’Leary on ‘Shark Tank’ pet peeves: A CEO who doesn’t know their numbers deserves ‘to burn in hell’

After 13 years on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” Kevin O’Leary has learned a few things about what makes a great pitch.

The obvious ones, he says, are to speak concisely and explain how your skillset benefits your business. But there’s something more crucial that many CEOs miss, he says: showing an understanding of the business’ finances, and how they relate to the rest of its industry.

“I’ve seen the air sucked out of the room, in the context of ‘Shark Tank,’” O’Leary tells CNBC Make It. “You’re standing on the carpet, all Sharks trying to bid on [your business] and they start asking about numbers. You’ve got to know those answers.”

CEOs who aren’t prepared to discuss their company’s finances, O’Leary says, are wasting their potential investors’ time. “You deserve to burn in hell,” he says, deadpanning. “And I’ll put you there myself.”

Colorful language aside, O’Leary says quality “Shark Tank” pitches include production costs, sales figures and profit information. CEOs who can illustrate how their product or service can “get a piece” of a large, lucrative industry are particularly successful, he says.

“The key is to express how big the market is, how fast it’s growing and why you think you can get a significant share of it,” O’Leary says. “You’ve got to say, ‘Look, this market is $100 billion a year, and here’s why [I] can get a piece of it. Here’s how distribution is going to work.’”

As for the other aspects of a successful pitch, O’Leary notes that the vast majority of “Shark Tank” CEOs who leave the show with deals “articulate the opportunity or the idea for a product or service in 90 seconds or less.”

“Great ideas are easy to explain and immediately present themselves,” O’Leary says.

Most successful pitches also include a personal backstory, which isn’t just for the purposes of compelling television, O’Leary says. Rather, a detailed account of a CEO’s personal experience can assure the Sharks that they’re getting a reliable – and hopefully profitable – business partner.

Specifically, O’Leary says he wants to know: Do you have any industry experience? Have you run a company before? Have you ever failed before, and if so, do you know where you went wrong?

“Great ideas are a dime-a-dozen. It’s executional skills that are rare,” O’Leary says. “If you combine the two, [you’ll] start to see investors get interested.”

Recently, O’Leary says he’s started adding a new element to his internal rubric for grading “Shark Tank” pitches: an understanding of social media, and how it can be used to generate sales.

“That’s become part of what it takes to launch a new product or service,” O’Leary says. “Great taglines, great ideas, great visuals great demonstrations… [on] Instagram and TikTok and LinkedIn. All of that is very much part of what I like to invest in.”

It’s not just for the aesthetic, he notes: Being “hip to social media” is crucial to understanding a company’s market.

“Trends are recognized very quick now because of social media,” he says. “We to see people tweeting about [a product or a service]… and markets are formed immediately to satiate that demand.”  

Shark Tank’s Mr. Wonderful, Kevin O’Leary, On The DotCom Magazine Interview Series

Shark Tank’s Mr. Wonderful, Kevin O’Leary talks about the Robbie Cabral Interview on DotCom Magazine. Robbie Cabral, the CEO and CEO of BenjiLock, was recently interview as part of The DotCom Magazine Entrepreneur Spotlight Series. Robbie closed one of the most famous deals in Shark Tank history with Mr. Wondaful for his finger print technology padlock, BenjiLock.


Kevin O’Leary was born to a middle class family in 1954. The combination of Kevin’s mother’s family heritage as merchants and his father’s Irish charisma truly meant that O’Leary was born for business. Kevin learned most of his business intuition from his mother. She taught him key business and financial insights from an early age. These became Kevin’s core philosophies, and the pillars upon which he would one day build his empire.

Kevin’s approach to business went through major changes as a teenager. During his second day on the job at a local ice cream shop, his boss came into the front of the store where Kevin was scooping ice cream. She looked at Kevin and asked him to perform a task that he wasn’t expecting. What happened next had a profound effect on Kevin – one that stayed with him for the rest of his life.

As a university student, Kevin’s innate business sense led him along several different paths – including some very unusual, very entrepreneurial ways of making a profit.

Not long after he finished his MBA, Kevin had a meeting that changed his life forever. He met a man who had a strange idea for a software product – an idea with huge, high-profit potential that Kevin immediately recognized.

After years of ups, downs, sacrifices, challenges, and lessons learned — not to mention a critical phone call that nearly cost him everything — the opportunity that Kevin saw eventually turned into a computer software giant that was acquired for more than $4 billion dollars.

After his extraordinary success at the software company he founded – and a difficult period of obstacles and legal disputes – Kevin eventually found himself on television, quickly becoming a sought-after host and personality on a range of shows – including Discovery’s Project Earth, CBC’s Dragons’ Den, and ABC’s Shark Tank.

Kevin has since launched O’Leary Funds, an investment fund company; O’Leary Fine Wines; and a best-selling book series on financial literacy.

In 2014, Kevin founded O’Leary Financial Group – a group of brands and services that share Kevin’s guiding principles of honesty, directness, convenience, and above all, great value.

Graeme Hart to float part of packaging empire in $2b IPO

Kiwi billionaire Graeme Hart is looking to raise up to US$1.37 billion ($2b) selling part of his packaging empire in an initial public offering.

Reynolds Group Holdings last year said its second-largest division – Reynolds Consumer Products – had confidentially submitted a draft IPO registration to the US Securities Exchange Commission. Today it announced an offer of 47.17 million shares at an expected price of between US$25 and US$28 per share.

“We estimate that the net proceeds to us from this offering will be approximately US$1,190 million, or approximately US$1,369m if the underwriters exercise their option to purchase additional shares of common stock in full, assuming an initial public offering price of US$26.50 per share,” it said in the filing.

Hart started building the packaging empire in 2006 in a series of leveraged buy-outs. Group revenue peaked in 2013 at US$13.97b, a year when Reynolds Group’s total borrowings were at US$17.94b.

No specific listing date was given, but Reynolds Consumer said it would be “as soon as practicable after the effective date of this registration statement.” Reynolds Group intends to list the consumer products unit on Nasdaq.

According to the filing, Reynolds Consumer has a presence in 95 per cent of US households and produces and sells products across three broad categories: cooking, waste and storage, and tableware. Brands include Hefty and Reynolds.

For calendar 2019, Reynolds Group said it expected to report revenue of US$3.02b to US$3.04b, down from US$3.14b in 2018. The decline was largely due to unusually high demand in the fourth quarter of 2018 as customers increased inventory levels, it said.

Prior to the closing of the offer, Packaging Finance Ltd, ultimately owned by Hart, will be Reynolds Consumer’s only stockholder.

Once the offer closes, Hart will own and control about 77 per cent of the outstanding shares of common stock, or 73 per cent if underwriters take up an option to buy additional shares in full, Reyolds Group said.

As a result, he will be able to exercise control over all matters requiring approval by stockholders, including the election of directors and approval of significant corporate transactions. That interest may discourage or prevent a change in control of the company that other investors may favour, the filing said.

Reynolds Consumer will take on external debt to settle related-party borrowings, and will use the proceeds to repay debt incurred in a wider reorganisation.

Reynolds Group started selling assets in 2015 when it sold SIG for 3.6 billion euros. In 2017, it sold the Closure Systems International and Graham Packaging businesses in Asia for US$99m. Last year it sold some of its North American, Costa Rican and Japanese units for US$615m.

The asset sales come as Reynolds Group faces a major debt maturity, with US$3.14b due to be repaid in 2020. Analysts questioned management at the June-quarter briefing about whether the company would re-enter the bond market to refinance, to which chief financial officer Allen Hugli said they were still working through their options.

Economy Q&A with Alan Bollard

Each week we ask our business and community leaders how they think the economy is going, and what they think are the biggest challenges.

Former Reserve Bank governor Alan Bollard, chairman of the New Zealand Infrastructure Commission, answers Stuff’s questions on the economy.

Bollard says the Government looks to have made broadly the right decisions about the Covid-19 lockdown last year and speedy job support, but now we have to find ways to open up.

How do you feel the New Zealand economy is tracking currently?

The New Zealand economy is recovering well from Covid, certainly better than I ever expected. There is a similar story underway in many other countries too.

But we need to remember we have had the deepest contraction on record, and it is leaving its scars. We are about to have the strongest recovery on record, but interpreting will be complicated.

Any economics graduate can tell you that what goes down eventually comes up again, but we are likely to get some weird data readings that are difficult to interpret. That means a high degree of uncertainty for some years.

At the moment it looks like we are the lucky country again – we are enjoying very high commodity prices due to the amount of stimulus sloshing around our trading partners.

What are you most concerned about right now?

Covid was a weird event, and there will still be some surprises for us ahead. The Covid variants are highly contagious and there is no guarantee that they will not spoil the recovery. This is acute since you can contract and pay for vaccine supplies, but small countries are last in line.

The recovery is being stimulated by the biggest concerted international stimulus ever. This is leading to asset price inflation, particularly in stock markets, and at some stage this has to rebalance with economic prospects. So far the international markets have been enthusiastic about all of this.

But let’s be clear: the trillions of dollars committed mean a huge build-up of sovereign debt and that will have to be repaid. We might acknowledge this and previous finance ministers and Treasury for their good fiscal management, which has meant that, when we needed to spend more, we had the debt head-space to do this. (I used to head Treasury some years ago, and I know they don’t get much thanks!)

What has the last year taught us about the New Zealand economy?

It now looks like the Government made broadly the right decisions about lockdown last year and about speedy job support. These were tough decisions, the time when we decided to follow the East Asian model of strong central government leadership, rather than the Western model of individual rights. The international Covid data shows this was the more successful policy.

In addition, our essential services – health, transport, freight, warehousing, all worked reasonably well – there was plenty of toilet paper.

But there are more tough decisions ahead – we seem to have taken over from Bhutan as the kindest little hermit kingdom in the world; now we have to find ways to open up.

The international tourist sector is dead, so is the international education market, and there will be more bankruptcies ahead in these sectors. The business sector has been unable to maintain its marketing and other international connections, and this is starting to hurt. Parts of the retail sector are suffering digital by-pass, and we can all see high street closures happening.

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the economy this year? Why?

I hope I am realistic rather than optimistic! The Treasury Budget growth forecasts are around 3 per cent for the next two years, and that seems to me realistic, albeit with very high risks either way. We (and other countries) are riding a wave of fiscal stimulus, high commodity prices and strong asset values, which ultimately will need to correct. It’s going to be hard to restore our unimpressive productivity growth with all these structural disruptions underway.

In the meantime we are all very dependent on the management of fiscal policy, whereas the Reserve Bank has had a more limited role in this downturn.

What is the biggest challenge facing New Zealand?

There are plenty of underlying problems – they might have been obscured by the Covid concerns, but they have not gone away. Here are a few from my list:

  • Continuing failure to extract value from our exports. (For an account of how Singapore makes more money from our dairy powder than we do, see the NZ PECC Dairy Value Chain report!)
  • Cost and time pressures that we have imposed on infrastructure. (E.g. we have more sand, gravel and rock than most countries but red tape makes it almost impossible to establish a new quarry.)
  • An economy that leaks talent, value, private benefit and tax revenue. (Look at our recent returnees – how many have enjoyed New Zealand education, yet pay tax to foreign jurisdictions, take advantage of us as a safe haven, and will leave again as soon as possible?)

– The responses represent Alan Bollard’s personal views.

– The Monitor is Stuff’s unique set of insights to help the business community better understand the economic landscape, and maximize their success. Alongside the quarterly snapshot is an economic index showing the speed of growth across different parts of the economy.

The story behind “high-rise Harry”

Harry Triguboff, known colloquially to the Australian public as “high-rise Harry”, is an Australian real estate developer who has made billions throughout his lifetime. He is the managing director and founder of Meriton, which remains Australia’s largest apartment developer. Here’s everything you need to know about his rise to prominence and ongoing business interests.

Early life

“High-rise Harry” was born in Dalian, China in March 1933. His parents were Russian Jews, who fled Russia after Lenin took control following the revolution. He lived in China with his family until 1947, when they emigrated to Australia. He went to school at the Sydney GPS school, the Scots College, before travelling to England to get a degree from the University of Leeds.

The rise of Meriton

In 1961, Triguboff became an Australian citizen. He briefly sold real estate and even shadowed a university lecturer for a while; however, he wasn’t overly successful in either job. He bought a plot of land in Roseville and hired a labourer to build him a new home. Dissatisfied with the labourer’s work, he sacked him and finished the house by himself.

Using this experience, Triguboff moved into apartment development. He purchased a second plot in 1963 in Tempe and built eight units. The move was profitable, so Triguboff purchased another development in 1968 in Gladesville. The street in Gladesville was called Meriton Street, which is where he got the name for his development business.

Meriton today

Meriton Apartments is Australia’s biggest residential property developer. In 2010, Meriton was building more than 1000 new apartments every year; however, this grew to 3000 by 2015. In 2004, Meriton finished construction of the World Tower, Sydney’s tallest residential block of apartments.

Calls for policy changes

Triguboff has donated to a variety of political causes, specifically relating to housing affordability. He has financially backed the Wests Tigers in the National Rugby League competition since 1998.

Twiggy tucks into a $100m chunk of Bega cheese

Bega Cheese’s stock has jumped 3 per cent on news Andrew Forrest’s private investment fund has shelled out more than $100 million to buy a 6.61 per cent stake.

Tattarang AgriFood Investments is now a substantial shareholder in the dairy company after buying more than 20 million shares for $108 million over six weeks between November 10 and December 29.

Stock in the dairy and food company touched a high of $5.51 in midday trade on Thursday and was up 2 per cent at $5.44 in late afternoon, following the group’s announcement of Mr Forrest’s purchase to the Australian Securities Exchange.

after it posted guidance that disappointed investors despite this financial year’s earnings being as much as 50 per cent ahead of fiscal 2021, sitting between $195 million and $215 million.

The market was hoping for a strong rebound from the company after a tumultuous year marked by lockdowns, the supply chain crunch, and costs related to testing of factory workers.

In its update last week Bega blamed lockdowns for “extensive and significant” market disruption in food service channels.

The pandemic-induced pressures on the company also resulted in “significant operational disruption”, including factory shutdowns, major changes to operations and logistics scheduling, increased safety and testing regimes, major cost increases and shortages across the supply chain.

The $1.65 billion company also blamed the “structural change in the Chinese infant and toddler dairy nutritional market” for the bearish guidance.

Doug Ford promises ‘huge’ investment in Windsor, Ont., auto plant after shift cuts

TECUMSEH, Ont. — Ontario Premier Doug Ford says the province and federal governments will be making a “huge” investment in a Windsor, Ont., auto assembly plant to help ramp up production after the company announced a shift cut.

Stellantis, formerly known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, announced last week that it will cut its Windsor Assembly Plant down to one shift next spring in a move that will mean about 1,800 lost jobs.

The company says the move comes as the automotive industry faces significant headwinds including the semiconductor shortage and the effects of COVID-19.

The cut from two shifts comes after Stellantis cut the third shift at the minivan plant in 2020 at a loss of about 1,500 jobs.

Ford, speaking near Windsor on Monday, says he wants to see three shifts again at the plant, and he will be speaking with Stellantis leadership on Tuesday.

The premier was not able to offer details on the investment, but said between both levels of government it’s “hundreds of millions” of dollars.

Stellantis has reaffirmed its commitment in a 2020 collective agreement with the local Unifor union to spend upwards of $1.5 billion at the plant.

The Windsor plant produces the Chrysler Pacifica, Chrysler Voyager and Chrysler Grand Caravan.

Ford also spoke of his interest in having a battery facility in Windsor.

“We have all the natural resources, we have the lithium, we have the nickel, we have the cobalt, folks, everything is here,” he said.

“We don’t need to bring these batteries in from overseas. We have everything here. On top of that we have the best workforce anywhere in the world … Any people out there that are listening that want to expand in Ontario, especially the battery business, we’ll be at your front doorstep and we’ll be ready to make a deal with you.”

Australian richest billionaires double their wealth during COVID-19 crisis

The global coronavirus pandemic has triggered the greatest public health and economic catastrophe since World War II and is being used in every country, including Australia, as the pretext for far deeper attacks on workers’ jobs, wages and conditions.

Yet the super-rich have prospered like never before. The Australian last month released The List, a glossy magazine insert glorifying the fact that the wealth of Australia’s richest 250 people has soared on the back of the crisis.

The Murdoch publication declared: “[T]he biggest names in Australian business thrived during the pandemic.” Together, the top 250 have a combined wealth of $470 billion, up from $377 billion last year, which was almost double the increase from 2019 to 2020.

The cut-off wealth for The List is $450 million, whereas last year it was $402 million. The number of billionaires grew to 122, with an average worth of $1.88 billion. The expansion of their fortunes far exceeds that during the 2008-09 global financial crisis, after which the number of billionaires increased from 30 to 35.

The greatest increases in wealth were among those in iron ore mining, cardboard box making, food deliveries and tech companies—all of which have profited from COVID-19.

The two richest on the list were iron ore magnates Gina Rinehart and Andrew Forrest, who both more than doubled their wealth in one year, almost totally thanks to soaring prices and exports to China.

Gina Rinehart

Rinehart increased her wealth by $20 billion, bringing her estimated fortune to $36.28 billion, up from $16.25 billion last year. Her company, Hancock Prospecting, recorded one of the biggest profits for a private company in Australian corporate history, with a $4 billion net profit for the 2020 financial year—50 percent more than it made the previous year.

Forrest, chair of Fortescue Metals Group, similarly doubled his wealth from $13.6 billion last year to $29.61 billion.

Andrew Forrest 

There are 28 technology entrepreneurs on the list this year, up from 19 last year, benefitting from soaring share market valuations of the sector as a result of the pandemic.

Mike Cannon-Brookes and Andrew Farquhar of software company Atlassian, made third and fourth on the list, respectively. Speculative investors drove up the price of the US Nasdaq-listed shares of Atlassian by nearly 50 percent in 2020.

The List’s pages show off the opulent lifestyles of the wealthiest individuals.

Multi-billionaire real estate developer Harry Triguboff boasted that he swims 20 laps of breaststroke daily at the age of 88. When the Australian asked to photograph him at his private swimming pool for this year’s edition of The List, he responded: “Which pool? I have three swimming pools at my house.”

The magazine continued: “Despite already having two pools, [Triguboff] built a special indoor pool and a bubbling spa in the next-door neighbour’s house after adding it to his Vaucluse waterfront compound.” There was also a “lush Mediterranean garden, which includes a pond full of 10 sizeable carp as well as a resident water dragon.”

Harry Triguboff

Melbourne property developer Michael Buxton was described as “fresh from two days of playing golf with his brother on King Island in Bass Strait.” He lives in a “Portsea mansion on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula” with “towering palm trees that adorn the spacious front yard, some of which Buxton specially imported from China” and an “expansive backyard, complete with a butler’s kitchen (where he cleans the seafood he regularly catches in the bay), lush buffalo grass, and deck.”

The oldest billionaire on the list is 97-year-old Len Ainsworth, whose poker machine manufacturing company Aristocrat has increased by more than 70 times in its share price, since it was floated on the stock exchange in 1996. He ranked number 17, with a net worth of $4.01 billion.

The List reported that Ainsworth had “even reportedly stitched up a deal for Aristocrat to supply him with a new car every few years. He has variously driven a Rolls-Royce, an Audi, a Lexus or a Bentley ever since, though his most recent vehicle has been a Porsche Cayenne.”

For PR purposes, The List compiled a list of the top 25 philanthropists, entitled “The Givers.” It was an attempt to justify the unprecedented growth in wealth by portraying the billionaires as “generous.” The combined donations amounted to $385.5 million—less than the wealth cut off for The List.

At the top of “The Givers,” was number two on the rich list, Andrew Forrest. His Minderoo Foundation, which has a net worth of around $1.87 billion, said it donated $88 million in the past year. The List claimed that this money went to “helping to end slavery, fight cancer, indigenous programs and cutting plastic in oceans.”

Such charity is an obscenity in itself. It seeks to make a show of ameliorating a fraction of the crimes committed by the capitalist profit system, from which the billionaires all benefit, while putting a false gloss of humanity on their rapacious wealth accumulation.

The List noted that “the Forrests’ foundation spent $200 million on behalf of Australian governments to secure COVID-19 test kits and personal protective equipment at the height of the pandemic.”

This equipment was sold on-cost to the government. Forrest explained that the purchase was an effort to give the government confidence to “lift restrictions to rapidly expedite getting the country back to work.” That is, to help the drive to coerce workers back into unsafe workplaces in the midst of a deadly pandemic, in order to restore corporate profits.

Likewise, billionaire property developer Lang Walker, whose Walker Corporation continued with the “biggest commercial property project in Australia,” during the pandemic, insisted last June that “the country needs to get back to work.”

In his interview for The List, Walker declared that he “can’t handle people using COVID as an excuse.” Instead, “you need to keep a positive attitude and look for opportunities. There are a lot of opportunities around.”

Such is the mentality of the capitalist class. Economic and social crises, no matter how disastrous for millions of people, provide “opportunities” for money-making.

The pandemic has demonstrated that the interests of the ruling corporate and financial elite and the capitalist system as a whole are incompatible with the interests of the working class, the vast majority of the population.

Recent modelling from the Australia Institute estimates that the Liberal-National government’s scrapping of the coronavirus welfare supplement last week will see a further 155,000 people, including 18,000 children, living below the poverty line. The poverty line was defined as $377.69 per week, excluding household costs, for a single person.

Altogether, millions of workers, who have been depending on increased JobSeeker dole payments, or JobKeeper wage subsidies during the pandemic, face losing their jobs and being thrust into poverty.

The wealth of the financial and corporate elite has boomed during the pandemic in no small part due to the massive federal and state government bailout packages, which have amounted to more than $400 billion, including subsidies and cheap loans, over the past year.

The combined wealth of the richest 250 individuals is more than double the federal government’s total health expenditure in 2018-19, which amounted to $195.7 billion. During the pandemic, the Morrison government has allocated just $23 billion to its national COVID-19 Health Response and Suppression strategy, including just $6 billion for its vaccine rollout.

David Cheriton: investing in life

By: Kylie Jue

Aug. 9, 2012, 2:30 a.m.

A musician, windsurfer and Stanford computer science professor, David Cheriton has many interests. However, as the 19th-richest Canadian and a successful investor, he is best known for his interest in startups.

“I get very excited about the notion of doing new and different things,” Cheriton said.

Born in Vancouver, Canada, Cheriton was the third of six children. After moving to Edmonton at the age of five, he developed a passion for music while attending public school. He studied musical theater at the Banff School of Fine Arts for two summers and has performed in multiple opera choruses and musical productions.

“I look back and think that [music] was a good way to keep sane. Otherwise, I was quite involved in more mathematical and technical things,” Cheriton said.

Cheriton remembers his first introduction to computers during the “prehistoric times” of his late high school years.

“I recall my math teacher bringing up the topic of computers… but I’m not sure I had ever seen one before,” Cheriton said. “It was the first time it was really brought to my attention, and it wasn’t until the first year at my university that I actually used a computer.”

He went on to pursue his interest in mathematics and later computer science as an undergraduate at the University of British Columbia. He then received his master’s and doctorate at the University of Waterloo. In 1981, after being hired at Stanford, Cheriton came to the school “to try something different.”

“Stanford had a worldwide reputation in computing, so it felt like an opportunity to ‘run with the big boys,’ so to speak,” Cheriton said. “I thought I’d give it a try and see whether I could measure up.”

But the turning point of Cheriton’s career came in 1995 when he became involved with a startup called Granite Systems. Cisco would later purchase the company for $220 million, only 14 months after Granite had been established. The sale of Granite Systems provided Cheriton with the capital necessary to test his luck with other business ventures.

“For the longest time when I was a professor, I didn’t really have any money to invest,” Cheriton said. “Kind of overnight, more or less, I went from worrying about how to pay the mortgage to posing whether I should just pay off the mortgage and not think about it ever again.”

Since then, Stanford students have come to Cheriton to ask him to invest in their companies or simply give advice. After Granite Systems, he contributed to a wide variety of Silicon Valley startups. His most well-known investment remains the $100,000 check he gave to Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page M.S. ’98 and Sergey Brin ’95 M.S. ’98, the founders of Google.

“I started having people come to me that were interested in starting a company and looking for financial support,” Cheriton said. “I felt compelled to help them because other people had helped me out along the way to get to where I was.”

Besides investing, Cheriton has also served on advisory boards or the boards of directors for the companies he has helped. With his expertise in both computer science and business, he has not only interacted with other investors but has also brought in customers and worked on product ideas.

Sam Liang M.S. ’99 Ph.D. ’03, founder of technology startup Alohar Mobile, really appreciates what Cheriton taught him. Having completed his doctorate in electrical engineering under Cheriton, Liang asked him for advice regarding a technology startup he was considering founding, which would create more advanced mobile location technology. Even 10 years after his graduation, Liang values Cheriton’s high standards and harsh criticism.

“[Cheriton] is the sharpest person I’ve ever met,” Liang said. “He thinks differently, and he taught us to think differently: don’t just follow the herd or the fad. He wants his students to think big and try to figure out a way to change the world.”

When it comes to investing, Cheriton explained that he prefers to contribute to companies that offer products or services that he would personally like to use, such as Google’s high-end search engine. In addition, he certainly never feels pressured to follow the crowd.

“I have always really appreciated his almost complete disregard for what is fashionable or politically correct or conventional wisdom,” said one of Cheriton’s first doctoral students, Willy Zwaenepoel M.S. ’80 Ph.D. ’85. Zwaenepoel now works at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, a Swiss engineering school.

“In the beginning I was completely flabbergasted by his irreverence for what I thought were well-accepted principles,” Zwaenepoel said. “But over time I came to see how it really opens one’s eyes to new ways of addressing problems.”

Yet despite his success in the industry, Cheriton values the changes he has made to the field of computer science over the money he has earned through his investments.

“I don’t really find the money element that interesting,” he said. “It’s sort of a necessary evil to make new things a success.”

Through his research at Stanford, Cheriton has worked toward improving today’s technology. He is known for helping to introduce multicast, which allows a single source to deliver information to multiple places, to the Internet, and he is currently studying snapshot isolation in relation to building distributed applications. The idea involves creating applications that will run across multiple computers based on a consistent “snapshot.” For example, Google runs across a large number of computers at once, and even though some might fail, the software uses snapshot isolation so that those failures are not seen by any of the users.

“I view that I’m just one little piece of all the research going on in computer science,” Cheriton said.

work and harbors no plans for his retirement, despite his 30-plus years on the Farm.

“I really like what I’m doing,” Cheriton said. “I’m working harder than I ever have.”

China Adds To Clive Palmer’s $3.8 Billion Fortune

China made Clive Palmer one of the world’s richest people with a $3.8 billion fortune, and China is about to make the outspoken Australian even richer.

In the latest twist to a complex legal dispute Palmer and the Chinese conglomerate CITIC appear to have cleared the way for CITIC to expand its Australian iron ore mining activities.

A deal, which could signal the end to years of disputes between CITIC and Palmer, was quietly approved by the Supreme Court of Western Australia last week.

Once terms are finalized, and after CITIC has received the approval of the Australian Government’s foreign investment regulator, CITIC should be clear to develop a new mine which will ship magnetite ore though an existing port.

743rd And Rising

Ranked by Forbes as the world’s 743rd richest person Palmer is one of Australia’s most colorful businessmen and politician, serving briefly as a member of the Australian Parliament.

But he is also a regular headline maker with plans for a dinosaur park in his home State of Queensland and an unfulfilled vision to make a replica of the Titanic, arguably the world’s most famous shipwreck.

Those sideline interests are funded by an extremely generous contract Palmer struck with CITIC in 2006 when he sold a series of mining claims for $415 million with ongoing royalties payable on every tonne of ore mined.

The most recent estimate, based on the current high price for iron ore, points to Palmer collecting around $1 million a day in royalties from the original deal.

CITIC’s iron ore mine in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The new agreement, which was reached after years to sometimes acrimonious negotiations, will give CITIC the right to mine an additional one billion tonnes of iron ore from the tenements controlled by Palmer’s principal company, Mineralogy.

According to an Australian Financial Review (AFR) newspaper report of a decision handed down by Justice Ken Martin, Palmer will receive a one-off payment of $142 million and $250 million a year in royalties once mining starts.

The court judgement is said to give both sides 21 days to consider their respective positions before Justice Martin hands down final orders.

Palmer told the AFR that he was largely satisfied with the court decision.

Australia proves resilient against China trade sanctions but loses diplomatic influence in Asia

Despite gains from vaccine diplomacy, border closures ‘weighed heavily on external views of the country’, Lowy Institute thinktank finds

Australia has weathered “sustained trade sanctions” from its top trading partner, China, to become more resilient, but has lost ground when it comes to diplomatic influence in the region, according to the latest rankings of power in Asia.

Australia’s response to trade actions from China helped it to improve its score on its capacity to deter real or potential threats to state stability – one of the factors in the Lowy Institute’s fourth annual Asia Power index launched on Sunday night.

Australia remained ranked sixth in the overall rankings of comprehensive power in the region, after the US, China, Japan, India and Russia, but narrowly ahead of South Korea.

No country was left untouched by the health and economic impacts of Covid-19 in 2021, meaning a majority are not performing as well as they were a year or two ago, the Sydney-based thinktank found.

Japan is an over-performer in wielding influence compared with the resources it has at its disposal, but it has “struggled to sustain its once-formidable regional economic clout” as China makes “foreign investment inroads into countries across the region”, the Lowy Institute found.

At the same time, India’s economic growth has been thrown off course by the pandemic. The Lowy Institute’s analysts said Japan and India’s loss of standing compared with China “has been more pronounced and continuous than is the case for other middle powers such as Australia”.

“By comparison, sixth-ranked Australia has weathered China’s growing power better than most US partners over the course of the last several years,” the analysts, Hervé Lemahieu and Alyssa Leng, said.

“A loss of 1.6 points in its overall score in 2021, after gaining ground last year, means the country’s overall standing is now approximately back to its pre-pandemic level.”

Beijing has rolled out tariffs and other trade actions against Australian export sectors including barley, wine, beef seafood and coal over the past year and a half, adding to existing strains in the relationship.

Chinese officials have argued the Australian government “bears full responsibility” for the souring of the relationship, while the Morrison government vowed not to bow to “economic coercion”.

“Despite coming under sustained trade sanctions by its primary trade partner, Australia has improved its resilience in 2021,” Lemahieu and Leng wrote.

“The damage wrought by Chinese trade restrictions has been largely offset by untouched iron ore exports to China and trade diversion in other sectors.”

The Lowy analysis is in line with comments by the treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, that Australia has suffered a much lower than expected impact from China’s trade actions.

In a recent speech, Frydenberg said of the goods targeted by trade actions, Australia’s total exports to China fell by about $5.4bn over the year to June 2021. But exports of those goods to the rest of the world have increased by $4.4bn.

But Treasury has blocked Guardian Australia’s application for analysis the department provided to Frydenberg about the impact of China’s trade restrictions. The freedom of information decision maker argued releasing the information would harm the relationship with China.

‘More adversarial relationship’

Despite the gain in resilience, Australia trended down in economic relationships, in part as a result of China overtaking it as the primary foreign investor in Papua New Guinea, according to the Lowy report. It also trended down on diplomatic influence.

The Lowy Institute assessed 26 countries or territories against 131 indicators to produce an interactive index of performance across Asia.

The indicators fall within eight main themes: resilience, economic relationships, diplomatic influence, defence networks, military capability, cultural influence, future resources and economic capability.

Despite the formation of the Aukus deal with the UK and the US – which aims to deliver at least eight nuclear-propelled submarines to project power further from Australia’s shores – the country is trending down on military capability and regional defence networks.

“The first development highlights the fact that the nuclear-powered boats will not arrive for perhaps two decades, during which time Australia’s signature military capabilities will remain limited and its navy reliant on an existing fleet of ageing conventional submarines,” Lemahieu and Leng wrote.

“The second is a reminder that the trilateral pact marks a deepening rather than a widening of Australia’s defence partnerships. Though still ranked second for its defence networks behind only the United States, the pace of Australia’s regional defence diplomacy with non-allies was disrupted by the country’s pandemic-related border closures.”

Vaccines ‘the new currency of geopolitics’

The Lowy Institute report described vaccine diplomacy as “the new currency of geopolitics”, as responding to the non-traditional security threat of pandemic disease had become the overriding concern of virtually every government at the current time.

As of October, the US had “donated and delivered more than 90 million vaccine doses to the region – twice as many as China”.

“China, Japan and India have also been active in donating Covid-19 vaccines to Asia, while New Zealand and Australia have been relatively generous after accounting for their population size.”

Despite Australia’s relative generosity in vaccine diplomacy, the country’s prolonged border closures had “weighed heavily on external views of the country”.

The US gained in overall points relative to China in the past year, in part due to Joe Biden’s efforts to strengthen alliances in a break from Donald Trump’s “America First” approach.

But the US is also suffering a loss of economic influence in the region, and over time China is steadily eroding US military advantage.

“The single biggest risk to US power remains the polarisation of US politics and the threat this poses to the stability of its democratic institutions and, ultimately, America’s commitment and reliability as an ally and partner in the Indo-Pacific,” Lemahieu and Leng wrote.

Southeast Asian countries face growing challenges as they seek to navigate tensions between the US and China by not choosing sides, the report said. Aukus “raised further concerns that Southeast Asian powers may become bystanders to geopolitical changes driven largely by more powerful outsiders”.

Indonesia is in the top 10 in the latest power index, but southeast Asian middle powers are “struggling to maintain their collective clout or sustain the diplomatic narrative”.

Hoeveel belasting betalen grote bedrijven? Niemand die het weet

Anno 2020 betalen grote bedrijven nog maar half zoveel belasting als veertig jaar geleden. En zelfs dat is mogelijk nog te rooskleurig: de blinde vlekken rond de winsten en belastingen van het grootbedrijf groeien. Een door de regering ingestelde adviescommissie roept op tot meer transparantie.

Op Prinsjesdag werden dit jaar nog geen harde bezuinigingen aangekondigd, maar vroeg of laat zit het eraan te komen: de rekening van de coronacrisis. Volgens een raming van het Centraal Planbureau zal een tweede golf besmettingen ervoor zorgen dat de Nederlandse staatsschuld in 2021 tot boven de 70 procent uitstijgt — ver boven de Europese norm van 60 procent.

In de discussie over de vraag hoe met deze crisis om te gaan, wordt vanuit diverse hoeken — van de Franse econoom Thomas Piketty tot CDA-Kamerlid Pieter Omtzigt — gewezen naar één bijzondere hoofdrolspeler: het grootbedrijf. Zelfs Yves Gijrath, beter bekend als de bedenker van de luxebeurs Miljonair Fair, betoogt in maart in Het Parool: ‘Het is deze keer aan de multinationals en banken om de rekening te betalen.’

Het sentiment is niet helemaal nieuw. Op 5 juni 2019, ruim een half jaar voor de coronacrisis, dient Omtzigt samen met zijn collega’s Helma Lodders (VVD), Steven van Weyenberg (D66) en Eppo Bruins (ChristenUnie) een motie in. De Kamerleden constateren dat ‘door bedrijven met een Nederlands hoofdkantoor niet in alle gevallen vennootschapsbelasting betaald wordt over de in Nederland behaalde winst’ en verzoeken de regering een commissie van experts te laten onderzoeken hoe ‘de belastingheffing over winsten van multinationals’ eerlijker gemaakt kan worden.

De regering geeft gehoor aan de oproep en stelt een dertienkoppige commissie aan onder leiding van topambtenaar Bernard ter Haar. Op 15 april 2020 publiceert deze commissie haar conclusies. Ze adviseert een ‘basispakket’ van zeven maatregelen, dat de Nederlandse schatkist per jaar zo’n 600 miljoen euro extra belasting van multinationals moet opleveren. Hierbij wordt ‘oog gehouden voor het vestigingsklimaat.’ Tegenover de NOS benadrukt voorzitter Ter Haar dat de analyse van zijn commissie juist in deze ‘economisch zware tijden’ ‘extra relevant’ is.

Het rapport-Ter Haar brengt een bal aan het rollen. Vijf maanden later, op Prinsjesdag, belooft de regering twee van de zeven maatregelen — samen zouden die volgens de commissie-Ter Haar het gros van de 600 miljoen euro belastingwinst opleveren — ‘nog deze kabinetsperiode’ uit te werken.

In haar rapport wijst de commissie-Ter Haar echter ook nog op een ander, ingewikkelder probleem: we hebben op dit moment nog te weinig zicht op hoeveel belasting multinationals überhaupt over hun totale winsten betalen. Dat maakt het, zo stelt de commissie, lastig om te beoordelen ‘of bedrijven ten opzichte van hun wereldwinst “genoeg” belasting betalen’. Het advies van de commissie: ‘structureel meer gegevens verzamelen om het inzicht in de belastingafdracht van multinationals te vergroten.’

Belastingdruk gehalveerd, onzichtbaarheid verdubbeld

Wat weten we wel, wat weten we niet?

Wil je alleen weten hoeveel belasting het Nederlandse grootbedrijf betaalt over zijn (volgens de jaarrekening) in Nederland behaalde en belastbare winst, dan kun je dat op basis van openbare data volledig uitrekenen. Zo maakte de adviescommissie van Ter Haar gebruik van belastingaangiftecijfers van de jaren 2010 tot 2017 van het ministerie van Financiën, die ze vervolgens door het Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (CBS) liet analyseren. Het CBS heeft zelf echter ook nog cijfers, die een stuk verder teruggaan: sinds 1977 houdt het de belastingafdracht van grote bedrijven bij.

In de cijfers is een bekende trend terug te zien. De ‘effectieve vennootschapsbelastingdruk’, dat wil zeggen, het percentage van de totale belastbare winst dat ook daadwerkelijk wordt afgedragen aan de fiscus, is in de afgelopen vier decennia meer dan gehalveerd. Betaalde het grootbedrijf in 1977 nog gemiddeld 51,1 procent vennootschapsbelasting over zijn winsten, anno 2018 is dat zo’n dan 22,3 procent.

De gangbare verklaring hiervoor luidt dat overheden wereldwijd al decennia concurreren om investeringen van grote bedrijven. In deze concurrentie-oorlog proberen landen een zo gunstig mogelijk vestigingsklimaat voor bedrijven te scheppen, onder andere door hun belastingtarieven te verlagen. Het resultaat is een ‘race to the bottom’, waarbij alle overheden uiteindelijk minder belastinginkomsten hebben.

Nederland volgt dus een wereldwijde trend. Volgens de commissie-Ter Haar loopt ons land internationaal dan ook niet uit de pas qua belastingdruk, een bericht dat met blijdschap werd ontvangen door werkgeversorganisaties VNO-NCW en MKB-Nederland.

Volgens meerdere economen is deze cyclus van belastingconcurrentie alleen te stoppen wanneer landen internationaal gaan samenwerken rondom hun belastingbeleid. De commissie van Ter Haar geeft de Nederlandse regering daarom het advies om ‘voorop te lopen in de internationale samenwerking op het gebied van winstbelastingen’, maar merkt op dat Nederland op dit gebied ‘van oudsher terughoudend’ is.

Er is echter nog een andere belangrijke factor. Hoewel de belastingdruk over het directe deel van de winst precies te berekenen is, is een steeds groter deel van de winst van grote bedrijven afkomstig van zogeheten ‘deelnemingen’. Dit zijn winsten die bedrijven niet direct zelf verdienen, maar die voortkomen uit andere ondernemingen waar zij geheel of gedeeltelijk eigenaar van zijn. Tussen 1988 en 2018 was circa 90 procent van dit type winsten afkomstig uit het buitenland.

Zo bestaat een bedrijf als Shell bijvoorbeeld uit allerlei aparte dochterondernemingen, zoals Shell Canada en Shell Nigeria. De winsten van deze dochterondernemingen worden doorgaans al in het buitenland belast. In Nederland zijn ze daarom vrijgesteld van belasting.

Het probleem hierbij, zo merkt de commissie-Ter Haar op: eigenlijk weet niemand precies hoeveel belasting over deze buitenlandse winsten wordt geheven. ‘De Nederlandse aangiftedata [geven] geen inzicht in hoeveel belasting Nederlandse bedrijven wereldwijd betalen’, schrijft de commissie. Ook het CBS zegt desgevraagd dit niet bij te houden.

Deze blinde vlek wordt in rap tempo groter, zo blijkt uit de CBS-cijfers over de financiën van grote ondernemingen. Waren winsten uit deelnemingen in de jaren negentig nog goed voor gemiddeld 29,5 procent van de totale winst van het Nederlandse grootbedrijf, in de periode 2010-2018 lag dit aandeel al op 60,5 procent.

Combineren we de cijfers, dan ontstaat een plaatje waarin de twee trends duidelijk zichtbaar zijn. Aan de ene kant wordt de belastingdruk over de in Nederland belastbare winsten steeds lager; aan de andere kant is er een groeiend aandeel winsten waarvan niemand weet hoeveel belasting er werkelijk over betaald wordt.

Schuiven met winst

Je kunt je afvragen waar de roep om een beter totaalplaatje van wereldwijde winsten en belastingen van multinationals eigenlijk vandaan komt. Soevereine landen mogen toch zelf bepalen hoeveel winstbelasting ze binnen hun grenzen heffen — ook als het om dochterbedrijven gaat die vanuit Amsterdam of Londen worden bestuurd?

Deze ‘soevereine’ landen kampen echter ook met een grensoverschrijdend probleem: belastingontwijking en -ontduiking. Neem winstverschuiving, een van de populairste vormen van belastingontwijking onder multinationals. Dit principe werkt als volgt: stel, een multinational heeft zijn hoofdkantoor in Nederland en maakt in totaal 1 miljard euro winst. In Nederland is het wettelijke tarief voor vennootschapsbelasting 25 procent; de multinational zou in Nederland dus 250 miljoen euro belasting moeten afdragen.

Vóórdat de fiscus langskomt, kan de multinational zijn belastbare winst echter ‘verschuiven’ naar dochterondernemingen in belastingparadijzen. Dit zijn landen met aantrekkelijke belastingtarieven voor bedrijven, zoals Ierland (12,5% winstbelasting), Zwitserland (8,5%) of de Kaaimaneilanden (0%). Voor dit ‘verschuiven’ gebruikt de multinational (legale) boekhoudkundige trucs. Denk bijvoorbeeld aan rentebetalingen over kapitaal dat wordt geleend bij een Iers dochterbedrijf, of royalty’s die worden betaald over patenten die zijn ondergebracht bij een Zwitserse deelneming. Deze ‘betalingen’ worden afgetrokken van de winst in het moederland en opgeteld bij de winst van de dochteronderneming.

Nadat het bedrag in het buitenland is belast, wordt het teruggehaald (‘gerepatrieerd’) naar het Nederlandse moederbedrijf. In Nederland valt de winst vervolgens onder de deelnemingsvrijstelling en mag ze linea recta doorgesluisd worden naar de aandeelhouders, of terug worden geïnvesteerd in het bedrijf.

Hoe meer van dit soort winstverschuiving plaatsvindt, hoe minder de officiële Nederlandse vennootschapsbelastingdruk van 25 procent nog betekent. De multinational uit het voorbeeld kan volgens de officiële belastingaangiftedata netjes 25 procent belasting afdragen over zijn in Nederland belastbare ‘operationele winst’, maar als de helft van de totale winst via slimme boekhoudkundige trucs door de Kaaimaneilanden is gesluisd, betaalt het bedrijf in feite maar 12,5 procent winstbelasting.

Over de mate waarin het Nederlandse bedrijfsleven zich inmiddels in belastingparadijzen gevestigd heeft, geeft het CBS enig inzicht. Volgens cijfers uit 2014 is 13,6 procent van alle buitenlandse deelnemingen van het Nederlandse bedrijfsleven gevestigd in een ‘offshore financial center’ (OFC). Ook ziet het CBS dat een aantal kleine eilanden die op de OFC-lijst staan ‘relatief naar de omvang van de lokale economie’ veel Nederlandse deelnemingen huisvesten: ‘Curaçao en de Britse Maagdeneilanden voorop, maar ook de Kaaimaneilanden, Aruba en Sint Maarten staan hoog op de lijst.’

Red flags

Het is overigens niet zo dat hier niets aan gedaan wordt. Sinds belastingontwijking dankzij journalistieke projecten als de Offshore Leaks (2013) en de Panama Papers (2015) op de politieke agenda is beland, zijn overheden wereldwijd zich steeds meer bezig gaan houden met de financiën van multinationals. Zo heeft Nederland zich aangesloten bij het BEPS-project, een door de OESO georganiseerd internationaal samenwerkingsverband van 135 landen tegen winstverschuiving.

In het kader van dit project voerde de Europese Commissie in 2016 een rapportageplicht in: multinationals worden nu verplicht om aan Country by Country reporting (CbCR) te doen. Dat wil zeggen dat de bedrijfswinsten en -belastingen uit alle landen waar het bedrijf vestigingen heeft, gemeld moeten worden aan het land waar het moederbedrijf gevestigd is.

Volgens de commissie-Ter Haar- zijn de genomen maatregels echter nog verre van waterdicht. De rapportageplicht geldt bijvoorbeeld alleen voor bedrijven met een omzet boven de 750 miljoen euro, en de ‘landenrapporten’ zijn niet openbaar — ze worden ‘geaggregeerd en geanonimiseerd verzameld door de OESO’. Bovendien zijn ze van onvoldoende kwaliteit om gebruikt te worden voor het berekenen van de totale belastingdruk. Dat moet veranderen, aldus de commissie, en niet alleen in het belang van de publieke inkomsten: ‘De eerlijke concurrentie tussen bedrijven wordt verstoord als internationaal actieve bedrijven hun kosten op een oneigenlijke manier kunnen drukken, terwijl het nationale bedrijfsleven die mogelijkheden niet heeft.’ De commissie-Ter Haar stelt daarom dat de kwaliteit van de landenrapporten moet verbeteren, om ‘daarna toe te werken naar publieke CbCR.’ 

De Stichting Onderzoek Multinationale Ondernemingen (SOMO) heeft er ondertussen een sport van gemaakt om signalen van winstverschuiving op te sporen in de financiële verslagen van multinationals. Een van SOMO’s rapporten hierover, uit 2017, geeft diverse voorbeelden: ‘Bij de BCD Groep (reisindustrie) zijn aanwijzingen dat deze door middel van rente betalingen naar Curaçao vennootschapsbelasting in Nederland ontwijkt, en dividendenbelasting omzeilt door het houden van een Curaçaose moedermaatschappij.’

Ook rond supermarktgigant Ahold Delhaize en kledingbedrijf G-Star zijn er ‘aanwijzingen’ van winstverschuiving te vinden, zoals het bestaan van dochterbedrijven in belastingparadijzen. Sluitend bewijs is volgens SOMO echter moeilijk te verkrijgen, wegens een ‘gebrek aan transparantie’ in de jaarverslagen (zie kader).

En daarmee zijn we weer terug bij het grote raadsel: niemand weet welk deel van de buitenlandse winsten van multinationals daadwerkelijk afkomstig is uit het land waar ze volgens de boekhouding verdiend worden, en welk deel het gevolg is van winstverschuiving. Zelfs mét goede, publieke rapportage blijft dat lastig te bepalen, benadrukt de commissie-Ter Haar: ‘Winst heeft namelijk in geografische zin geen “werkelijke” locatie.’ Het valt economisch te onderzoeken, maar het antwoord verschilt ‘afhankelijk van de gekozen uitgangspunten’.

Zogeheten red flags — dat wil zeggen, signalen in de boekhouding die mogelijk duiden op winstverschuiving en belastingontwijking — zijn er wel. SOMO maakt er gebruik van, en ook het rapport-Ter Haar noemt er één: opvallend veel Nederlandse multinationals lijden volgens hun Nederlandse belastingaangifte ‘structureel verlies’. ‘Voor 38% van de bedrijven geldt dat zij over de onderzochte periode [2010-2017, red.] meer verliezen leden dan winsten maakten,’ schrijft de commissie. 17 procent van de Nederlandse multinationals blijkt tussen 2010 en 2017 zelfs ieder jaar verlies te lijden, terwijl dit getal bij Nederlandse grote bedrijven zonder buitenlandse deelnemingen slechts 7 procent is. ‘De vraag rijst hoe het kan dat een grote groep bedrijven kan blijven bestaan terwijl zij verliezen maken,’ vervolgen de auteurs. Het vraagt om ‘nader onderzoek’.

En wat schuilt er achter de enorme toename van de buitenlandse winsten van het Nederlandse grootbedrijf? De reacties verschillen.

Een woordvoerder van De Nederlandsche Bank (DNB) ziet de oorzaak van de groei van de buitenlandse winsten in ‘de buitenlandse expansie van het Nederlandse bedrijfsleven, die door middel van fusies en overnames veel buitenlandse deelnemingen aan hun bedrijf hebben toegevoegd.’ Met andere woorden: die winsten zijn vooral de vruchten van ‘echte’ productie in het buitenland, bijvoorbeeld van bedrijven die door Nederlandse multinationals zijn opgekocht.

Toch kan belastingontwijking ‘een rol spelen’, zegt Arjan Lejour, econoom aan het Centraal Planbureau en als belastingontwijkingexpert lid van de adviescommissie van Ter Haar. Volgens Lejour klopt het dat globalisering, plus een verbetering van de CBS-statistieken, waarschijnlijk de belangrijkste oorzaken zijn van de groei van de buitenlandse winsten van het grootbedrijf. Maar het is ook zo dat er steeds meer mogelijkheden voor belastingontwijking ontstaan ‘naarmate een bedrijf meer buitenlandse dochters heeft in meer verschillenden landen’, en wanneer de winsten daaruit groeien.

Tel daarbij op, zegt Lejour, dat steeds meer kapitaal en productie van multinationals ontastbaar is, dat wil zeggen: bestaat uit immateriële zaken als kennis, innovatie en intellectueel eigendom. De eigendomsrechten voor een merk of patent zijn een stuk makkelijker naar een belastingparadijs te verplaatsen dan, zeg, een fabriek. Alles bij elkaar wordt het verschuiven van winsten en belastingontwijking steeds makkelijker: Lejour schat dat Nederland door belastingontwijking jaarlijks 1 tot 2,5 miljard euro vennootschapsbelasting misloopt.

Zware lobby

Wat moet er nu gebeuren om het tij te keren? Met haar adviezen geeft de commissie-Ter Haar een eerste aanzet: onderzoek de eerder genoemde ‘rode vlaggen’, en dan vooral de structureel verlieslatende multinationals en de internationale stromen van royalty’s. Onderzoek ook hoeveel winsten Nederlandse multinationals nu echt verdienen over hun in Nederland geïnvesteerd kapitaal. En creëer inzicht in de totale, wereldwijde winsten en belastingen van de multinationals, via verbetering van de ‘country by country reporting’ (CbCR) en publicatie van deze rapporten.

Afgelopen Prinsjesdag kwam de reactie van het kabinet op deze adviezen. Het kabinet is ‘voorstander van openbare landenrapporten’ en erkent dat de kwaliteit ervan moet verbeteren, schreef staatssecretaris van Financiën Hans Vijlbrief aan de Tweede Kamer. Vijlblief beloofde dat het kabinet zich zal ‘inzetten om in internationaal verband tot afspraken te komen om dit te bereiken.’

En het bedrijfsleven? Die sector is van oudsher minder enthousiast over maatregelen die belastingontwijking tegen moeten gaan. Zo beschrijft de Brusselse lobbywaakhond Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) dat ‘multinationals en hun belastingadviseurs’ een ‘zware lobby’ voerden tegen de plannen van de Europese Commissie om CbCR verplicht te stellen voor grote multinationals. Zo waarschuwden accountancykantoren EY, KPMG, Deloitte en PwC — samen bekend als de ‘Big Four’ — voor het risico dat door de rapportageplicht ‘bedrijfsgevoelige informatie’ op straat terecht kwam.

Andere nationale en internationale bedrijfslobby’s, van AmCham tot BusinessEurope, verzetten zich eveneens tegen de rapportageplicht. Ook  de Nederlandse werkgeversvereniging VNO-NCW sprak zich in 2012 uit als tegenstander van het plan. De rapportageplicht zou volgens de belangengroep ‘honderden miljoenen aan extra administratieve lasten’ opleveren en geen ‘zoden aan de dijk’ zetten in de aanpak van corruptie.

Het mocht allemaal niet baten, want in 2016 voerde de Europese Commissie de rapportageplicht in. Bij VNO-NCW is het tij inmiddels gekeerd, zo laat de lobbygroep per e-mail weten: ‘Wij verzetten ons niet tegen publieke CbCR, maar denken net als de commissie Ter Haar dat die rapporten wel eerst een kwaliteitsslag moeten ondergaan zodat ze ook leesbaar zijn voor iedereen.’

In haar officiële reactie op het rapport-Ter Haar blijkt wel dat VNO-NCW vooral voorstander is van een andere manier om meerrichting transparantie over belastingafdrachten te krijgen: een tax governance code. Geen ‘harde’ wetgeving dus, maar zelfregulering. VNO-NCW voorziet dat deze gedragscode een ‘gouden standaard’ kan worden, ‘een kans voor Nederland om ook internationaal de toon zetten.’ Het ministerie van Financiën is inmiddels samen met bedrijven en belastingadviseurs bezig om deze gedragscode vorm te geven.

De eerste stappen — een essaybundel en een conferentie — zouden begin 2020 gezet zijn, maar laten negen maanden later nog op zich wachten. Op 23 september laat staatssecretaris Vijlbrief aan de Kamer weten: ‘Het vertrek van mijn ambtsvoorganger [staatssecretaris Menno Snel, red.], gevolgd door de coronacrisis, hebben ertoe geleid dat de op 30 januari 2020 geplande Tax Governance Conference tot nader order [is] uitgesteld.’ 

Ook de essaybundel heeft ‘vertraging opgelopen’, zegt Vijlbrief, maar deze is ‘in de afrondende fase’. Volgens de staatssecretaris moet de bundel eind september gepubliceerd worden, maar op het moment van schrijven — 11 november — lijkt dat nog niet te zijn gebeurd.

SOMO-onderzoeker Vincent Kiezebrink ziet het met lede ogen aan: ‘We leven in een maatschappij met groeiende ongelijkheid, die onder andere gecreëerd wordt door belastingontwijking. Dan is er meer nodig dan goodwill. Je hebt gewoon wet- en regelgeving nodig.’

Dubbele groeicijfers huizenprijzen in 2021 verwacht voor bijna alle Nederlandse regio’s

Kwartaalbericht Woningmarkt

08 juni 2021, door Stefan Groot en Nic Vrieselaar

  • De huizenprijzen stegen in de eerste vier maanden van het jaar zeer hard, en lagen in april 11,5 procent hoger dan een jaar eerder
  • Door gunstigere economische vooruitzichten en prijsopdrijvende prikkels verwachten we dat de prijzen dit jaar gemiddeld 10,9 procent hoger zullen liggen dan in 2020
  • Vooral in de COROP-regio’s Flevoland en Overig Zeeland gaan we uit van fikse prijsgroei
  • Voor 2022 verwachten we dat de prijzen gemiddeld 4,6 procent verder zullen stijgen, waarbij de COROP-regio Groot Amsterdam naar verwachting hekkensluiter is
  • In de eerste vier maanden van dit jaar wisselden bijna 22 procent meer huizen van eigenaar dan in dezelfde periode vorig jaar
  • De aankopen door Nederlanders jonger dan 35 jaar schoten omhoog door (deels tijdelijke) afschaffing van de overdrachtsbelasting, maar in april zakte hun aandeel weer in
  • Voor heel 2021 verwachten we in totaal zo’n 234.000 transacties, een fractie minder dan vorig jaar. Voor 2022 gaan we uit van een daling van de verkopen tot 218.000

Historische prijsstijgingen

De prijsindex bestaande koopwoningen is de afgelopen maanden het hardst gestegen in bijna twintig jaar tijd (zie figuur 1). In april waren huizen in Nederland 11,5 procent duurder dan een jaar eerder. Eind jaren negentig en kort na de eeuwwisseling stegen de huizenprijzen procentueel nóg harder. In euro’s uitgedrukt zijn de prijsstijgingen van de voorbije maanden waarschijnlijk de grootste in de historie van de Nederlandse koopwoningmarkt (zie figuur 2). In een jaar tijd steeg de gemiddelde prijs met zo’n 40.000 euro.

Figuur 1: Sterkste prijsstijging sinds 2001
Figuur 2: Recordstijging huizenprijzen in euro’s

Prijsstijgingen in de regio

In het eerste kwartaal stegen de huizenprijzen vooral in Flevoland en Drenthe hard: de prijsindex lag er respectievelijk 13,8 en 13,3 procent hoger dan een jaar eerder, tegenover 10,3 procent voor Nederland gemiddeld (zie figuur 3). Ook in euro’s uitgedrukt had Flevoland in het eerste kwartaal de dubieuze eer om de prijzen het hardst te zien stijgen van alle provincies (zie figuur 4). In Flevoland – een belangrijke uitwijkregio voor steden als Amsterdam, Utrecht en Amersfoort – stegen de huizenprijzen de afgelopen jaren (veel) harder dan gemiddeld. De vierkwartaalsgemiddelde verkoopprijs ligt daardoor in Flevoland nog maar 10 procent onder de Nederlandse, terwijl dat vijf jaar geleden nog 16 procent was; vergelijkbaar met Drenthe. In Drenthe stijgen huizenprijzen nu hard, maar zijn woningen naar schatting zo’n 20 procent goedkoper dan gemiddeld in Nederland. Dit lage prijsniveau betekent ook dat de huizenprijsstijging in Drenthe in absolute termen minder groot is dan in bijvoorbeeld Noord-Holland, waar de procentuele prijsstijging beneden gemiddeld was maar waar huizen sowieso al zeer duur waren (zie figuur 4).

Figuur 3: In procenten stegen de huizenprijzen in Noord-Holland minder hard dan gemiddeld
Figuur 4: …maar in euro’s stegen ze er aanzienlijk harder dan gemiddeld

Huizenprijzen dit jaar naar verwachting 10,9 procent hoger

We verwachten dat de huizenprijzen dit jaar gemiddeld 10,9 procent hoger zullen liggen dan in 2020. Dat betekent dat een gemiddeld huis zo’n 36.000 euro duurder zal zijn dan vorig jaar. Daarmee stijgen de huizenprijzen in 2021 duidelijk harder dan in 2019 (+6,9 procent) en 2020 (+7,8 procent). Dit jaar wordt naar verwachting ook het eerste jaar sinds 2001 waarin over het hele jaar gemiddeld sprake zal zijn van prijsgroei in dubbele cijfers. Volgend jaar valt de verwachte stijging van huizenprijzen met 4,6 procent bescheidener uit.

Voor beide jaren, maar met name 2021, is dit een opwaartse bijstelling ten opzichte van ons vorige kwartaalbericht. Toen voorspelden we +8,0 procent voor dit jaar en +4,0 procent voor volgend jaar. De woningmarkt heeft de afgelopen kwartalen duidelijk aan momentum gewonnen. Naast prijsopdrijvende prikkels, zoals de veranderingen in overdrachtsbelasting en versoepeling van de leennormen, vormen gunstigere macro-economische vooruitzichten een belangrijke verklaring voor de bijstelling. De Nederlandse economie blijkt robuuster dan verwacht en de werkloosheid is afgelopen maanden verder gedaald, en zal naar verwachting ook minder hard oplopen dan eerder geraamd.

Figuur 5: Prijsgroei neemt naar verwachting af in 2022

Een andere reden waarom we onze prognose opwaarts hebben bijgesteld is dat het zeer lage aantal te koop staande woningen en de korte doorlooptijd naar ons idee sterk het gevoel van FOMO stimuleren, de fear of missing out. Huizenkopers gaan daarbij nóg agressiever bieden uit angst om achter het net te vissen. In een krappe markt worden woningen vaker per opbod verkocht, waarbij het de kunst is om met een concurrerende vraagprijs zoveel mogelijk gegadigden aan te trekken. Een verkrappende woningmarkt gaat hierdoor gepaard met extra stijging van huizenprijzen. Ook maakt een krappe markt het voor doorstromers, die steeds minder keuze hebben, lastiger om een nieuwe woning te vinden. Hierdoor stellen sommige potentiële doorstromers hun verhuizing uit. Dit verergert de krapte op de woningmarkt.

Prijzen in Flevoland naar verwachting 16 procent hoger in 2021

We verwachten dat de huizenprijzen dit jaar in alle regio’s fors stijgen, maar er zijn wel flinke regionale verschillen (figuur 6 en 7). In de COROP-regio’s Het Gooi en Vechtstreek en Groot-Amsterdam verwachten we in 2021 met 9 procent j/j de minste groei van huizenprijzen. De verwachte prijsgroei is het hoogst in Flevoland (+16 procent j/j) en Overig Zeeland (+13 procent j/j). Huizenprijzen groeien al lang niet meer het hardst in de grote steden, en de woningmarkt is ook buiten de Randstad ‘booming’. Die trend houdt nog even aan en heeft alles te maken met de sterk gestegen huizenprijzen. Huishoudens laten regio’s waar de betaalbaarheid onder druk staat vaker links liggen, om hun geluk in meer landelijke regio’s te beproeven. In 2022 blijven de huizenprijzen naar verwachting in alle regio’s nog groeien. De verwachte groei varieert in dat jaar van 3 procent in Groot-Amsterdam tot 8 procent in de Kop van Noord-Holland.

Figuren 6: Prognose stijging huizenprijzen per COROP-regio in 2021

Figuren 7: Prognose stijging huizenprijzen per COROP-regio in 2022

Box 1: Uitgelicht: hoe voorspellen we huizenprijzen?

Om huizenprijzen te voorspellen, hanteren we een nationaal huizenprijsmodel dat onze macro-economische voorspellingen – werkloosheid, rente en conjunctuur – als belangrijkste input gebruikt. Voor de heel korte termijn (één tot drie kwartalen vooruit) houden we rekening met de trend in huizenprijzen in de voorgaande kwartalen. De woningmarkt reageert namelijk vertraagd op veranderende economische omstandigheden. Het model houdt ook rekening met de afwijking van huizenprijzen van een geschat langetermijnevenwicht. Als de huizenprijsgroei uit de pas loopt met de ontwikkeling van factoren zoals de rente en de werkloosheid, dan neemt de kans op een omslag in de huizenmarkt toe. Dit is een van de redenen dat we, na de hoge prijsgroei van 2020 en 2021, voor 2022 een meer bescheiden prijsgroei voorspellen.

Van het model is ook een versie beschikbaar die huizenprijzen voorspelt voor de veertig Nederlandse COROP-regio’s. Omdat de prijsindex bestaande koopwoningen van het CBS en het Kadaster alleen beschikbaar is voor provincies en de vier grote steden, hebben we op basis van dezelfde transactiedata van het Kadaster een prijsindex voor COROP-regio’s geschat.[1] Hierbij is de SPAR-methode gebruikt, die ook aan de basis ligt van de prijsindex bestaande koopwoningen van het CBS en het Kadaster. Wij kunnen de prijsindex niet precies op dezelfde manier als het CBS schatten, maar de resulterende prijsreeks is sterk vergelijkbaar.[2]

Het regionale prijsmodel kent een aantal verschillen ten opzichte van het nationale model. Zo maakt het regionale model ook gebruik van de interactie tussen woningmarktregio’s. We schatten voor elke regio wat de invloed is van de prijsontwikkeling in omliggende regio’s binnen een straal van 60 km. Doordat de prijsontwikkeling in sommige regio’s vooruitloopt op die in andere regio’s, vergroot dit de voorspelkracht van het model. De voorspelde prijsgroei schalen we zodanig, dat deze correspondeert met onze nationale voorspellingen.

Verkoophausse door veranderingen overdrachtsbelasting

In het eerste kwartaal van 2021 wisselde een recordaantal van 66.627 koopwoningen van eigenaar, een stijging van liefst 29 procent ten opzichte van hetzelfde kwartaal vorig jaar. In april zakte het aantal transacties weer terug naar ongeveer het niveau van 2020, maar bij elkaar ligt het aantal woningverkopen in de eerste vier maanden van dit jaar historisch hoog. Vooral in de provincies Utrecht en Noord-Holland zijn tussen januari en april veel meer huizen verkocht dan een jaar eerder (zie figuur 8).

Figuur 8: 22 procent meer verkocht in eerste vier maanden

Het afschaffen van de overdrachtsbelasting voor huizenkopers tot 35 jaar en het vanaf april weer invoeren van deze belasting bij huizen duurder dan 400.000 euro, lijkt een grote rol te hebben gehad in de verkoophausse. Het nadeel van zo’n drempelvrijstelling, waarbij de gehele vrijstelling vervalt bij het bereiken van de drempel, is namelijk dat hierdoor grote gedragseffecten ontstaan[3]. Als een woning één euro duurder is dan de maximale aankoopwaarde waarbij de startersvrijstelling nog geldt, wordt een huis effectief plotsklaps 2 procent duurder.

Figuur 9: Grote pieken en dalen in aandeel jonge huizenkopers

En inderdaad: jonge huizenkopers hebben de overdracht van aangekochte woningen massaal over de jaarwisseling getild. In de prijsklasse tot en met 400.000 euro werd in januari bijna 75 procent van de woningen gekocht door huishoudens jonger dan 35 (zie figuur 9). Inmiddels is het aandeel van deze groep in het lagere segment weer gezakt, maar het ligt nog steeds iets hoger dan medio 2020. In de prijsklasse boven 400.000 euro hebben jonge huizenkopers niet alleen veel transacties over 1 januari heen getild maar ook naar voren gehaald om de deadline van 1 april te halen. Hun aandeel in dit segment daalde van 63 procent in maart naar slechts 16 procent in april, en ligt daarmee aanzienlijk lager dan medio 2020.

Ook in de gemiddelde prijs die huizenkopers tot 35 jaar betaalden, is het effect van de veranderingen in de overdrachtsbelasting terug te zien. De gemiddelde verkoopprijs onder 35-minners schommelde in 2020 rond de 300.000 euro, blijkt uit een analyse gedaan met microdata van het Kadaster, en piekte na een kleinere stijging in januari en februari op 404.000 euro in maart. Vervolgens daalde de gemiddelde prijs die jongvolwassenen betaalden in april weer tot 304.000 euro.

Hoog aantal verkopen verwacht voor 2021, afzwakking in 2022

Door het hoge aantal transacties in de eerste maanden van het jaar stellen we onze verkoopverwachting voor dit jaar naar boven bij. We gaan ervan uit dat in 2021 in totaal 234.000 bestaande koophuizen van eigenaar wisselen (zie figuur 10). Dat is een fractie minder (-0,6 procent j/j) dan vorig jaar, toen er 236.000 huizen zijn verkocht. Voor 2022 gaan we uit van 218.000 verkopen (-7,1 procent j/j).

De vraag naar koopwoningen blijft weliswaar hoog, maar het geringe aanbod van zowel bestaande als nieuwe huizen zal zich in de tweede helft van dit jaar en volgend jaar naar verwachting gaan wreken. Volgens makelaarsvereniging NVM stonden halverwege het eerste kwartaal namelijk 24.500 huizen te koop, 42 procent minder woningen dan een jaar eerder. Het naar voren halen van transacties in het hogere segment vanwege de veranderingen in de overdrachtsbelasting heeft daar waarschijnlijk aan bijgedragen. Bij twee-onder-éénkapwoningen en vrijstaande huizen daalde het aantal te koop staande woningen immers het hardst. De daling van het aanbod was dus het grootst in de hogere segmenten, en daarmee waarschijnlijk deels tijdelijk.

Figuur 10: Verkopen bereiken naar verwachting plafond

Maar er bestaat een risico dat de daling in het aanbod potentiële doorstromers ervan weerhoudt om hun woning te koop te zetten, waardoor het aanbod de komende tijd niet meer sterk zal opveren. In de huidige markt is het kopen van de nieuwe woning namelijk de grootste uitdaging, ook voor doorstromers, en dat wordt bemoeilijkt doordat veel huizen in het hogere segment zijn opgekocht om van de tijdelijke afschaffing van de overdrachtsbelasting te profiteren. Dit kan leiden tot minder woningverkopen.

Wel verwachten we dat het einde van de dalende trend van het woningaanbod in zicht komt, vooral doordat de absolute bodem langzaam bereikt lijkt. De gemiddelde verkooptijd van courante woningen zoals appartementen en tussenwoningen is nog maar iets meer dan drie weken, en is het afgelopen jaar nauwelijks nog verder gedaald. Zelfs als alle woningtypen zo snel worden verkocht, staan er (aangezien er zo’n 20.000 transacties per maand zijn) op elk willekeurig moment 15.000 tot 20.000 woningen te koop. Dit punt is halverwege het eerste kwartaal al bijna bereikt, toen er naar schatting van NVM 24.5000 huizen in Nederland te koop stonden. Nog een jaar met een grote daling van het aantal te koop staande woningen is dan ook niet aannemelijk.


[1] In 2021 is de prijsindex bestaande koopwoningen incidenteel gepubliceerd op COROP-niveau, in de vorm van een maatwerktabel die door het CBS is geconstrueerd in opdracht van het ministerie van BZK.

[2] De correlatiecoëfficiënt van beide prijsreeksen is op nationaal niveau 0,996.

[3] De jaarlijkse indexatie van de vrijstelling van de overdrachtsbelasting – op basis van de gemiddelde stijging van de WOZ-waarde – gaat naar verwachting opnieuw voor flinke pieken en dalen zorgen in het aantal transacties in het laatste kwartaal van dit jaar en het eerste kwartaal van volgend jaar. Een minder verstorende vormgeving van de startersvrijstelling zou zijn om over het gedeelte van de koopsom tot 400.000 euro geen overdrachtsbelasting te heffen, en over het gedeelte daarboven wel (een voetvrijstelling). Dit is ook eerlijker ten opzichte van jonge huizenkopers die net boven de drempel uitkomen.

“Mindus-effekten svårförklarligt extrem”

Så värderas Nordens fastighetsbolag arton månader in i covid-19-krisen.

Annelie Östlund

Uppdaterad 2021-09-23

Publicerad 2021-09-23

Ganska exakt 1,5 år in i covid-19-pandemin handlas en lång rad fastighetsaktier på rekordnivåer. 

Fastighetsbolag med inriktning mot logistik, bostäder och samhällsfastigheter har inte bara klarat krisen – de har gynnats av den. Medan hotell, handel- och köpcentrum tillhör förlorar-segmenten. 

Kurserna för bolag inom bostadssegmentet och bolag som Pangea Property Partners klassificerar som ”blandat” har i snitt stigit 30 procent sedan årsskiftet 2019/2020 och aktierna handlas till en substanspremie om 54 respektive 23 procent. 


– Det är alltså billigare att köpa fastigheterna i bolaget än själva bolaget, vilket kan vara intressant information för stora investerare som inte uteslutande är hänvisade till fastighetsbolag på börsen, säger Mikael Söderlundh, analyschef på Pangea Property Partners.

Den största substanspremien hittar vi samtidigt i logistiksegmentet som i snitt stigit hela 78 procent på börsen sedan årsskiftet 2019/2020. Nyckeltalet börskurs i relation till substansvärdet landar i snitt på hela 3,36. Samtidigt finns det ett bolag med fokus på logistik som är extremt hög värderat och som drar upp nivån för segmentet – Sagax med vd och storägare David Mindus i spetsen. 

– Sagax är det näst största fastighetsbolaget i börsvärde efter Balder och väger alltså tungt i våra index samtidigt som aktien har en rekordstor premie. Det kan tolkas som att marknaden förväntar sig att ledningen fortsätter skapa betydande värden framöver, säger Mikael Söderlundh. 

Samtidigt är värderingen av Sagax så hög att aktien kan klassas som en ”outlier” som det finns anledning att korrigera för. 

Snittpremien för nordiska börsnoterade fastighetsbolag ligger på 52 procent. Korrigerar man för Sagax så halveras nästan snittpremien och landar på mer beskedliga 23 procent, säger han och fortsätter:

– Vissa talar om en ”David Mindus-effekt” och många investerare tycker nog att bolaget står inför en spännande expansion ute i Europa. 

Sagax har de senaste åren sökt sig ifrån den allt dyrare svenska fastighetsmarknaden där många investerare slåss om samma tillgångar. Tittar man på bolagets fastighetsportfölj väger Sverige och Finland jämnt och utgör tillsammans 67 procent av portföljen. Men Sagax har också större bestånd i Paris, Madrid, Barcelona och Nederländerna. 

David Mindus har också via Sagax tagit relativt stora positioner i fastighetsbolagen NP3 och Nyfosa. Båda bolagen – men särskilt NP3 – har högre värdering än snittet i ”blandat-segmentet”. 


En annan fastighetsmagnat som marknaden har en tendens att belöna med en premie är Erik Selin. Balder är något högre värderat än snittet i segmentet. Bostadsbolaget K-Fastigheter – som Selin kontrollerar till drygt 39 procent – är samtidigt högst värderat av samtliga fastighetsbolag i Norden med en substanspremie på skyhöga 285 procent. 

– När det gäller K-Fastigheter och K2A måste man komma ihåg att de också håller på med bostadsutveckling, vilket inte fångas upp i substansvärderingen. Det är också små bolag som precis har kommit igång och som sannolikt har en intressant tillväxtresa framför sig, säger Söderlundh och fortsätter: 

– Tidigare var det ganska ovanligt att bostadsbolag sysslade med utveckling, men nu gör nästan alla det i någon omfattning. Även bolag som Wallenstam och Heba bygger för egen förvaltning vilket kan motivera den generellt höga premien på bostadsbolagen. 

Fastighetskungen Rutger Arnhult dras till skillnad från kollegorna David Mindus och Erik Selin med en envis rabatt. Exempelvis Castellum, där han är storägare och styrelseordförande, värderas till en liten substansrabatt och betydligt lägre än snittet i blandat-segmentet.

– Arnhults bolag har över tid haft en svagare värdering vilket kan tyckas orättvist eftersom han gjort en liknande resa som de andra och bevisligen varit duktig på att skapa aktieägarvärde historiskt, säger Mikael Söderlundh. 

Varken vinnare eller förlorare

Samtidigt som det utkristalliserats tydliga vinnare och förlorare under covid-19-krisen finns det ett segment som hänger någonstans däremellan – kontorssegmentet. 

– Tittar man på sifforna har det inte hänt så mycket vad gäller kontorsbolagens intäkter. Det är lite högre vakanser, men hyrorna är stabila och uthyrningsaktiviteten ökar igen. Det har funnits en osäkerhet vad gäller utvecklingen efter pandemin – kommer människor återvända till kontoren eller fortsätter hemarbetet i stor skala. Men i takt med att den osäkerheten minskar känns det naturligt att substansrabatterna försvinner.

Klarna-miljardären om barnens arv: “De får ingenting”

En av kvällens gäster i talkshowen Carina Bergfeldt är Sebastian Siemiatkowski. Som vd och medgrundare på betaltjänsten Klarna är han god för flera miljarder – men de pengarna kommer inte hans barn få ta del av.

Betaltjänsten Klarna grundades 2005 av Sebastian Siemiatkowski, 39, och klasskamraterna Niklas Adalberth och Victor Jacobsson.

Företaget beräknas idag vara värt närmare 42 miljarder kronor, och på vd-posten sitter Siemiatkowskisedan 2010.

“De måste hitta sin egen framgång”

Pengar är ingen bristvara för familjen Siemiatkowski, med andra ord. 

Men hur de ska fördelas i framtiden verkar däremot ha blivit en diskussion i mellan Sebastian och hustrun Nina. 

Siemiatkowski anser nämligen inte att hans två barn borde få ta del av miljarderna. På frågan hur han tänker kring deras framtida arv svarar han följande:

– Om du skulle fråga mig just nu så skulle jag säga att de får ingenting. Det är för att jag vill att de ska ha det där drivet. De måste hitta sitt eget sätt att hitta sin framgång i livet. 

Foto: SVT/Pernilla Thelaus

Vill inte att allt ska serveras

Siemiatkowski förstår att det här kan låta konstigt för de som inte har samma ekonomiska förutsättningar som honom själv.

– Jag vill vara försiktig med att säga det samtidigt, för det finns många människor som har det tufft, och inte har ekonomin, förklarar han i programmet.

Men Sebastian vill att hans barn ska få jobba i sina liv, och att inte bli tilldelad några pengar kan därför vara nyttigt.

– Nu pratar jag för mina egna barn, att det är bra för dem. För mina barn skulle jag inte vilja att allt bara serverades, säger han i programmet.

Carina Bergfeldt sänds på fredagar klockan 21.00 på SVT1 och SVT Play.

Sverige har inte längre högst skatt i ligan

Länge hade Sverige världens högsta skatt i förhållande till BNP. Nu har så väl Danmark som Frankrike passerat. Sverige tar en tredjeplats.

Äntligen har Sverige tagit sig bort från den försmädliga förstaplatsen i skatteligan, inte längre högst skatt.

Under flera decennier hade Sverige världens högsta skatt i förhållande till bruttonationalprodukten (BNP). Nu har så väl Danmark som Frankrike passerat.

Sverige delar numera tredjeplatsen med Belgien. Allt enligt en färsk rapport från samarbetsorganisationerna OECD och IMF som har återgivits av konsultfirman Visioncapitalist.

Sverige i nivå med övriga Norden

Sveriges skatt motsvarar nu 42,6 procent av BNP och reduceras skatterna lite till är det flera länder som kan passeras. Merparten av västvärldens länder ligger nämligen i spannet 35–40 procent. Det gäller även för de övriga tre nordiska länderna (se diagram nedan).

Sveriges välfärd dubbelt så bra?

I botten ligger några sydamerikanska länder (Mexico, Chile och Columbia) och man kan väl misstänka att skatteuppbörden där inte är vad den borde vara. Flera så kallade välfärdsländer befinner sig dock nära 30 procentsstrecket.

Irlands skattekvot på 22,7 procent skatt förvånar. Israel på 30,5 procent liksom Schweiz på 28,5 skatt. Det vore intressant att få se en analys om servicen och välfärden i Sverige är dubbelt så bra eller om skillnaden ligger någon annan stans.