Monday, November 16, 2015

Hard times in Montenegro

Things haven't been going all that great in the tiny statelet of Montenegro. Seems the locals have been camped out in the capital Podgorica for weeks, demanding the resignation of Dictator for Life Milo Djukanovic. They're demanding an end to "corruption and nepotism." Apparently Milo is famous for it.

Yup, things have gone mostly downhill since the triumph of capitalism and democracy in the former province of Yugoslavia. In fact, things are so bad that a lot of folks are joining the great trek to Europe that has been passing through Montenegro on its way to Germany. That would be the great migration from Syria and Iraq and Pakistan and Afghanistan you've been reading so much about.

But thankfully, it's not all bad news out of Montenegro. The website recently reported that the latest phase of Peter Munk's ultra-posh Porto Montenegro development has sold out! That's the little real estate development Barrick Gold founder Peter Munk took on as a legacy project a few years ago.

Munk has taken on a few partners since I first wrote about this venture, and according to the Wikipedia page for Porto Montenegro, they're quite the crew of heavy hitters: Bernie Arnault, a couple of Rothschilds, and Russian super-mogul Oleg Deripaska.

Now, here's what's puzzling me. On the one side, you've got a country wherein the locals are rioting in the streets in a desperate attempt to drive out a corrupt government. Their assessment of the level of corruption could have some merit; Transparency International ranks Montenegro right behind Romania, Senegal, and Swaziland on their corruption index. On the other side, you've got operators long accustomed to doing business in some of the most corrupt environments in the world.

That makes me wonder about a quote that originated in the Globe and Mail and was included in one of my previous missives about Porto Montenegro;

Thanks to Mr. Munk’s adept political skills, fill-ups at Porto Montenegro are about half the price it would be elsewhere in the European Mediterranean. That’s because Mr. Munk negotiated a sweet deal with the Montenegrin government that allows yachties to avoid fuel taxes and excise charges. As a result, big yachts from all over the Med find that it pays to tie up at Porto Montenegro. 

My question is this; a "sweet deal" on yacht fuel has cost the Montenegro treasury millions every year. Was this sweet deal the result of Mr. Munk's "adept political skills?"

Or was it the result of something else?

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