Some of the Reasons Greece Got Into Its Economic Crisis -

Some of the Reasons Greece Got Into Its Economic Crisis  If the news about Greece’s debt crisis has left you wondering about how the country could have gotten itself into such an economic pickle, one thing is clear — it didn’t happen overnight, and there no single cause. The roots of the crisis run deep with with many contributing factors, including the highest pension spending in the European Union. But there are also political and cultural factors. “The moment of truth for Greece and for the euro zone approaches,” said Hari Tsoukas, who was born in Karpenissi, Greece, and is a professor of organization studies at Warwick Business School in the U.K. Hours before a midnight deadline tonight when Greece will default on a $1.7 billion payment to the International Monetary Fund, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said there will be no new negotiations about Greece’s bailout. Here are some of the changes Greek workers have experienced and will face head-on with austerity measures imposed by creditors from the last five years: Greece spent 17.5 percent of its economic output on pension payments, the most in the E.U., according to the most recent Eurostat data from 2012. But with existing cuts, that figure has fallen to 16 percent, Reuters reported. Italy, France and Austria each spent about 15 percent of their GDP on pensions in 2012, according to Eurostat. Greece’s struggle to pay pensioners is even more evident this week with banks closed and Greeks unable to withdraw more than 60 euros from ATMs. Not only is the pension system pricey, but it is highly fragmented and political, Tsoukas told ABC News from Athens. Trade unions, such as those that may represent the police or military, can exert political power and reap better pension benefits. “Not all Greek pensions are generous,” Tsoukas said. “This is one of the things I find bizarre.” His elderly mother receives a farmer’s pension of 600 euros a month while his father, who ran a shop, receives a small business pension of 700 euros, cut 40 percent compared to what they received five years ago. “It’s impossible to further reduce that small pension,” Tsoukas said. Government employees have had some of the best worker benefits in Greece. For example, an unmarried daughter used to receive her dead father’s pension, Tsoukas said, though that specific practice stopped after the bailout agreement was made in 2010. Some workers received atypical bonuses for showing up to work on time, but these bonuses were paid so workers were not paid higher pensionable salary. Either way, it’s a practice that austerity measures eliminated. “These were bizarre bonuses with bizarre names and misnomers, not because people regularly attended work,” Tsoukas said. “It was a cheap way to give people more money without necessarily encumbering itself with paying higher pensions.” In 2013, Greece’s retirement age was raised by two years to 67. According to government data, however, the average Greek man retires at 63 and the average woman at 59. And some police and military workers have retired as early as age 40 or 45, Tsoukas said. There are also unique benefits for some workers. Female employees of state-owned banks with children under 18 could retire as early 43, he said. “These kinds of exemptions were made — particularly young mothers with young children who were able to take advantage of this and work 15 or 20 years for a reduced pension,” he said. A man who gave his first name as Apostolis, 39, who works in a store in Athens selling organic products, told ABC News he’s concerned that his boss does not have the money to pay him tomorrow. Still, he said, “It’s not too serious. First of all I could go a bit earlier in the evening and go to the beach to surf. Secondly, I will have a ready excuse not to pay electricity and water bills that have just arrived home.” The unemployment rate is 25.6 percent in Greece. John Challenger, CEO of global outplacement and executive coaching consultancy Challenger, Gray and Christmas, told ABC News that entrepreneurism is in dire straits in Greece. He said he’s not surprised by the shop worker’s response. “It’s kind of endemic and built into that culture that if I don’t get paid, I can’t pay you. It’s not the right foundation culturally for the economy to come out of this tailspin,” Challenger said. The country has struggled to collect taxes from citizens, especially the wealthy, which is a problem when Greece’s national debt is 177 percent of its GDP. Italy’s debt is about 133 percent of its GDP as of 2014, according to Eurostat. Greece’s far-left government has said it wants to target wealthy tax evaders, but creating a more equitable tax system has been challenging.

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Willis agrees to buy Towers Watson for $8.7B

Willis agrees to buy Towers Watson for $8.7BInsurance company Willis Group Holdings agreed to buy Towers Watson for $18 billion. The Willis Tower in Chicago was formerly known as the Sears Tower. (AP Photo/Robert Ray, File) ORG XMIT: NYSB202M(Photo: Robert Ray, AP)Insurance broker Willis Group Holdings (WSH) said Tuesday it has agreed to buy human resources consulting firm Towers Watson (TW) for about $8.7 billion, a move aimed at growing its advisory business.In the all-stock deal, Willis will pay 2.65 Willis shares and a one-time dividend of $4.87 for each Towers Watson share — for a total of about $125 a share.Shares of Towers Watson, based in Arlington, Va., fell 4.4% Tuesday to $131.88.Willis, based in London, rose 4.3% to $47.33.The deal, approved by the companies’ boards of directors, is expected to close by the end of the year. The combined company’s equity value will be about $18 billion, the companies said.Willis and Towers Watson have complementary products, helping corporate clients deal with benefits and other human resources issues. Towers Watson offers services and consulting in health insurance, retirement packages and executive compensation. Willis mostly sells insurance products, including accident insurance, weather, property and product recalls.In the deal Willis, which specializes in midsize companies, is eyeing Towers Watson’s vast network of Fortune 500 corporate clients.Towers Watson’s consulting services can be marketed to Willis’ roster of midsize corporate clients. The combined company also wants to find more customers for Towers Watson’s “Exchange Solutions” services – a tool that allows employers to move employees or retirees to individual health plans available in health insurance marketplaces – by pitching it to Willis’ “significant middle-market relationships,” they said.”This is a tremendous combination of two highly compatible companies with complementary strategic priorities, product and service offerings,” said Towers Watson CEO John Haley, who will become the CEO of the post-merger company.Based on the companies’ 2014 financial performance, the post-merger company, to be called Willis Towers Watson would have about $8.2 billion in revenue. They employ about 39,000 in over 120 countries, the companies said.”The opportunity to deliver significant savings to our growing middle market client base with Towers Watson’s market-leading private exchange platform is particularly attractive,” said Willis CEO Dominic Casserley, who will remain as the post-merger company’s president.In integrating in the overlapped areas, the companies anticipate saving $100 million to $125 million, the companies said.The merged company will also reap tax benefits from the deal. Towers Watson now pays more than 30%, but the new rate after the merger will be in the “mid-20% range” within two years, Casserley said during a conference call with analysts Tuesday.”The tax benefits that are derived just happen to be a nice consequence of the transaction,” Haley said.

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No Fixed Abode: Walljobbed.

No Fixed Abode: Walljobbed.

I grew up in the back of two-door family cars ranging from a ’67 Camaro to an ’83 Civic 1500 “S”. It never seemed like a hardship to me. Nor does it seem like a hardship to have my six-year-old son in the back of my Accord Coupe. He knows how to let himself in and out of the back seat. It’s no different from having a four-door sedan and letting him out of the back door. Ninety-nine percent of the time I don’t even think about it.

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Consumer Reports: Nearly 1.5M Vehicles Have Higher-Than-Average Oil Consumption

Consumer Reports: Nearly 1.5M Vehicles Have Higher Than Average Oil Consumption

(The Joy Of The Mundane)

When I first started driving, I remember being told to change my car’s oil every 3,000 miles. More than a dozen years later – and after several advancements in vehicle production – most cars can go 5,000 miles to 10,000 miles before they need a fresh dose of oil. But according to a new analysis from Consumer Reports, those mileage markers may be a bit too optimistic, as many new cars actually require additional oil between changes – and that’s not really acceptable.

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