Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Bedlam in Belgium
Years ago my home town friend, Daron, introduced me to the easy listening band :) AC/DC and was always singing the song -- "Bedlam in Belgium" -- which I was reminded of this week after arriving in Brussels on my regular monthly visit to promote economic freedom in the European Union.
So was AC/DC in concert in Parc du Cinquantenaire in Brussels? Well, that would have been ideal but instead the only "bedlam" was the broken country that is the Kingdom of Belgium in terms of customer service and economic vitality (see my earlier post titled "Customer Service" for the standard Belgians should strive for).
The first challenge with the Belgian bureaucracy this week began just after I had purchased a supply of groceries for the week (great timing!!) when upon my return to the flat I discovered we did not have electricity. The short version of this story is that the former owner did not transfer the electricity bill account to the new owner in 2004 and had apparently not paid the bill for one year. My flat mate and I were under the impression that all utilities were covered via the fee paid to the building management company (especially since we still have gas and water service this week!) but that is not the case. The most troubling news beyond the obvious paperwork/database mess is the response from the local electricity utility - SIBELGA - which informed my flat mate that a re-connection/account transfer usually takes three (3) weeks but they will make a special effort for us due to the circumstances (such as our rotting food) to have the account transferred and power restored in one (1) week!!
The second challenge this week is the new office space where I am to work while in Brussels. The lease to this office started on November 1st but the Internet service won't be operational until perhaps the end of November/early December. The one bright spot here is that I do not have to personally deal with the Internet provider/telephone company but I did have to make alternative plans especially since I don't have any lights at home!! I am posting from my temporary office in an undisclosed Brussels hotel lobby since they sell wireless Internet access cards which I purchased in about 2 minutes this afternoon!!! If those of you who hate a dynamic, competitive, "destructive capitalism" economy can not see the consumer benefits which come from competitive choice and technological advance I have to encourage you to continue living in your Malthusian cave dwelling.
Clearly, the Lisbon Agenda (the European Union/EU plan to "overtake the USA" in terms of economic competitiveness) should be declared dead and given a proper Christian burial assuming the EU remains a "Christian Club" by denying Turkey full membership. Lord knows we wouldn't want another wave of upstart entrepreneurs spilling into Europe to drive new and improved customer service offerings.
Would the last person in Brussels please turn out the lights,