Did you know that there is a "Minister for Small Business" by the name of John Perry?
Under the heading "Black economy poses threat to 250k retail jobs", the Examiner on Friday April 13 brought this interesting fact to my attention.
The dreaded weed tops the list on the black economy shopping list, but laundered diesel and illegal medicines get an honorable mention also. Now, canny readers might point out to the Minister that pubs are small businesses too, and one a day has been closing since the introduction of the smoking ban, according to the VFI.
But predictably the minister went on to say: "Consumers must be vigilant when purchasing goods and services, and understand the negative effects of purchasing illegal goods. The hidden economy is not a victimless crime: its victims are the local shop around the corner or the local tradesman who pays his taxes every year. Buying illegal goods kills jobs and passes on the benefit to organised gangs and paramilitary groups. In order to protect our friends and families’ jobs, we must say no to illegal goods."
Well, I have news for him. I had occasion to visit Brussels last weekend (for a wedding), and took the opportunity there to buy 1,000 grams of rolled tobacco for €100.00. This was from a tobacconist on the Rue de something-or-other, and included all EU taxes paid in full. If I had not been away and bought instead on the Rue de Patrick here, it would have set me back €400.00 plus. Does John Perry see any connection I wonder?
Every other single thing is more expensive in Belgium (except train fares). Oh, and I have one other useful tip for you. Checking in at the main airport there, I went briefly back outside for the last smoke in the cold. Then we trudged through the indignity of a security check before emerging at our gates. The Cork flight was at gate nine, and there was a nice little pub just down at gate seventeen. Lo-and behold, a door off the bar led into a fully enclosed smoking room, fully ventilated and with windows onto the runways. You could take your pint (Stella at €5.00), sit in this lovely bright room with a smoke, and watch the planes take-off and land. Apart from a day in Bruges, it was the best part of Belgium.