“When I compare the time when I was here for the first time, in the early 1990s, when Yugoslavia still existed, and now, I can see that inequality and poverty are greater today”, said French economist Thomas Piketty today, who is a guest at the International Book Fair.
“There is inequality between income and wealth. The poor quality of life has greatly increased since the 1990s, especially when I compare Serbia with Europe and even with neighbouring countries, the former Yugoslav republics. The quality of life has declined everywhere, but in Serbia, it has declined the most,” Piketty noted.
“What is the explanation for that? I am not sure, but I think that something should be done, first of all, in the field of education, public services and more progressive taxation. There are many policies and principles implemented here that should be reviewed. Privatization happened, but it is obvious that it should have been better organized,” stated Piketty.
He also said he was in favour of federalism, of the European Union community, “of any kind of regional union.”
“I think we should rise above national principles. I hate nationalism, be it French, Serbian, whichever. We should be able to live together,” he said and added: “Nationalism will not solve any problem. That’s why we have to confront it head-on and think about the next step. We must also be optimistic. The European Union has the capacity to change. I think that democratic regulation of large capital can be implemented. We are not yet in socialism, but we are moving towards living in a kind of social democracy. I think we are in the middle of a transformation from the pure capitalism of 100 years ago to some kind of participatory democracy of socialism. We are depressed about the present moment, but we don’t see the bigger picture. We should be optimistic.”
Speaking about the war in Ukraine, Piketty said that it was complicated to create a border between two countries and the people of the former Yugoslavia know all about that.
“It is the political regime in Russia that is waging war in Ukraine and that regime is one of the worst that we could not even dream of. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, all the wealth was privatized by a small group of people and it was transferred out of the country to London or Paris. For me, the war in Ukraine is a matter of territory. A solution will be found only when Putin and the oligarchs disappear. The war goes on to justify that accumulation of money. Only after the fall of the Putin regime, the war will be over,” concluded Piketty.
Photo credits: Emmanuelle Marchadour
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