The opaque finances of the vatican

The Vatican is not just the smallest state in the world. It is also characterized by one of the most opaque financial systems. Gold reserves, real estate, treasury notes and stocks are among his assets. How high it is, however, nobody outside the Vatican walls knows.

"You cannot serve God and Mammon", Jesus Christ once said to his disciples according to the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 16, Verse 13. But times have changed, also for the Vatican. Because he has been mixing since 1942, when Pope Pius XII. founded the bank "Istituto per le Opere di Religione" (IOR) in the international money business. The "Institute for Religious Works", whose owner the respective pontiff has been since then, operates money and investment transactions of all kinds in addition to the granting of loans. How high the respective returns are and how much the Holy See has in assets, however, knows outside the Vatican walls nobody so exactly.

Vatican Financial System: Closed Society

But one thing is certain: the Vatican has considerable wealth. The estimated value is a minimum of 1.2 billion and a maximum of twelve billion euros. These include gold reserves in Switzerland and the US, real estate, treasury bonds, stocks and fixed income securities. The assets are now managed by the Curia’s Asset Administration (APSA) after the IOR financial institution was reformed in 1990 due to repeated financial scandals. However, the new administration hardly provides any insight into the financial situation either.

In january latvia became the 18th country to adopt the euro

On January 1st, Latvia becomes the 18th member of the Eurozone to introduce the European single currency. Most of the country’s politicians and entrepreneurs are convinced of the benefits. However, like the population, a minority fears the risks.

There are quite a few things that speak against the euro. The monetary union has just proven to be rather shaky and the people in Latvia don’t want it at all – at least that’s what a clear majority in opinion polls says. None of this confuses the country’s finance minister, Andris Vilks. And if you ask him about the reasons, the first thing that comes up is a more political argument: "We are completing our dream of being part of all three crucial pillars of the western world: the EU, NATO and the euro zone," replies Vilks.

This enthusiasm for integration with the West has, of course, a lot to do with the fear of the overpowering eastern neighbor and former occupier Russia. But economically, too, the finance minister sees the euro primarily as a safe haven: Then there would be no more speculation with the currency, no constant rumors of devaluation, said Vilks. "Fending that off has always cost us so much strength. The euro is a powerful anchor of stability for us."

Latvia – a role model for the euro crisis states?

Latvia has had the euro since the turn of the year. In 2009 the country was still in a deep crisis. Thanks to a rigid austerity course, it now has the highest growth rate in the EU. As a role model for Greece and Co. it is still rather unsuitable.

Latvia is a case for the Guinness Book of Records – when it comes to economic roller coaster rides: "For five years we were the fastest growing European economy," said the chief economist of the Riga DNB Bank, Peteris Strautins. "Then the one that plunged the deepest, and now the fastest growing again."

"We were in a deep mess"

In the crisis years of 20, the economy shrank by more than a fifth, wages fell by a third, and unemployment tripled. "The situation was worse than it is today in Greece, Portugal or Cyprus," says Latvian Finance Minister Andris Vilks. "We were really deep in the mess."

The piracy business

When Somali pirates have hijacked merchant ships, they gamble for ransom in the millions. But not only they hope for big money. Middlemen from different countries earn a lot from piracy.

If you want to make money in Somalia these days, there is really only one career path for you: that of the pirate. In pirate nests such as Eyl in Puntland in northern Somalia – which has been a hideout for pirates for years – villas are being built, and in front of them are expensive off-road vehicles. A lively service industry has developed around the core business. As soon as the actual pirates have captured a new ship, a well-oiled machinery starts up. Self-appointed intermediaries are just as much a part of the pirate economy as cooks, messengers and guards. The helpers are rewarded as soon as the ransom is paid. And that has always been the case so far.

"The backers live outside Somalia"

Andrew Mwangura from the Seafarers Aid Program in Kenya’s largest port city, Mombasa, has been watching the goings-on of the pirates, armed with heavy machine guns and bazookas, for a long time. For him, one thing is certain: only the little lights live in villages like Eyl. The real pirates didn’t live in Somalia, but in Kenya, London, Dubai or Canada. It is you who plan and finance the operations. "No young man in Somalia can afford a satellite phone, a speedboat, or even a Kalashnikov. The people behind the big business all live outside Somalia."

Laschet and the heinsberg protocols

There are more and more questions about the already controversial Heinsberg study. Did the state government let them push through the media? In any case, it complies with the Prime Minister’s political goals.

NRW Prime Minister Armin Laschet (CDU) worries about the economy in his country in times of Corona. That is understandable and his job. With the aim of loosening the strict lockdown rules in NRW as soon as possible, the so-called Heinsberg study seemed to provide welcome news. In the study, the virologist Henrik Streeck from the Bonn University Clinic is researching the corona spreading routes in Gangelt in the Heinsberg district.

Relaxation based on the Heinsberg study

Unusually for such complex research projects, Streeck published the first interim results on Maundy Thursday (April 9th, 2020). Streeck emphasized that the collected results already met the requirements of the World Health Organization. It is now possible to enter the “second phase”: the “beginning withdrawal of the quarantine.” In short: The corona measures taken in Heinsberg were effective and Laschet’s cautious demands for an easing of the lockdown are justifiable.

Argentina probably needs a haircut

The IMF no longer believes that Argentina can escape the crisis on its own: Argentina’s debt burden is unsustainable, it is now said. It takes a "significant contribution from the creditors".

Argentina’s debt burden is no longer sustainable, and the creditors will have to forego some of their money. This is no longer just the attitude of the new left government in Buenos Aires, but also the assessment of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Peso has lost 40 percent of its value

A team of experts from the IMF had taken a closer look at Argentina’s situation and confirmed that everything is now boiling down to a haircut. Half a year ago the IMF experts were of a completely different opinion – but in the meantime the peso has lost almost 40 percent of its value against the dollar, the economy has contracted more than expected and the currency reserves have declined by 20 billion dollars.

Debt dispute with greece: don’t save, don’t pay?

Greece has his back to the wall – but Prime Minister Tsipras seems to be opening the gaps between Athens and the lenders even further: according to media reports, he no longer wants to commit to repaying the next repayment installment to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

According to Greek media reports, Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reserves the option not to pay the EUR 1.6 billion installment due to the IMF on June 30 if an agreement with the creditors is not reached by the end of the month. He said that at a meeting to the heads of the two small pro-European opposition parties To Potami and Pasok. At the meeting, both parties assured the government that they would support the negotiations.

The Greek government has not yet commented on the reports. Tsipras, however, spoke in front of members of his party about his approach – and in it he repeated the accusation against the euro partners, the EU Commission and the IMF that they wanted to demonstrate their power in the negotiations and humiliate Greece. However, he does not want to give in, said Tsipras in parliament:

Debt dispute: no new reform list from athens

The back and forth in the Greek debt dispute continues. After Prime Minister Tsipras offered further negotiations yesterday, Finance Minister Varoufakis declared that no new reform list would be presented for the time being.

Greece’s finance minister Yanis Varoufakis does not want to present a new list of reforms at the meeting of euro finance ministers from Thursday. In an interview with the "Bild" newspaper, he said that the Eurogroup was not the forum for proposals that had not previously been discussed at the lower negotiating level.

The Greek negotiating team is "ready at any time to find a comprehensive solution with our partners". The prerequisite is that the representatives of the European Central Bank (ECB), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and EU "come to the negotiating table with a clear, tough mandate".

Armament and mass layoffs

Over 100 kilometers, 200,000 demonstrators in Germany form a human chain to campaign for peace and disarmament. In Moscow, too, people take to the streets against the stationing of new missiles in Europe. Cruise missiles, cruise missiles with atomic bombs, are to be set up in Great Britain. There, too, people protest.

Arms negotiations in Geneva

The agreement between the USA and the Soviet Union on the number of medium-range missiles deployed is a long time coming in Geneva. The Russians leave the negotiating table without naming a new meeting date.

The Russian side justifies its need for security and thus its growing armament with the Second World War, from which it was surprised unprepared. According to its own statements, NATO, under the leadership of the United States, needs its most modern weapons technology to maintain freedom. To save the peace, an arms race is started.

Debt dispute with greece: athens wants to negotiate

One day after the negotiations were broken off, Greece is again making offers to the EU, ECB and IMF: Prime Minister Tsipras announced that it was ready to continue negotiations. He now wants to accept a central demand from the institutions.

Yesterday it looked as if both sides in the Greek debt dispute would remain tough and irreconcilable: EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker – actually the bridge builder to Athens – broke off the negotiations after only 45 minutes, visibly frustrated. A little later, Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras rumbled once more in the direction of Brussels: The negotiating partners had demanded new pension cuts, behind which there was clearly "political opportunism".

The termination of the negotiations had direct consequences on the Athens Stock Exchange, where prices fell by seven percent at times. That may explain why Tsipras already signaled willingness to come to an agreement one day after the scandal: They hope to make contact quickly and expect "an invitation from the institutions," said Athens.