“You have to explain to them that part of the road I drive in the morning to take my child to school is made with money from the gambling industry.”
“An educated people would not have accepted everything that has happened in this country in the last 30 years
Stelian Muscalu, is one of the most respected and esteemed economic journalists in Romania and one of the most important personalities in the media with a very active and appreciated presence in the online environment. We talked about economics, education, politics and gambling. Probably one of the most important interviews conducted by our magazine in recent years.
You are one of the most watched TV personalities with an economic profile in the online and social media environment in Romania, which is gratifying for all those who prefer to read and document themselves from a quality source. How do you explain this success? Are people starting to get information from professional sources, in which news and analysis are presented with arguments and well documented?
I have over 20 years experience in press during which I have not deviated a second from everything I thought was right. We did not compromise. I have 20 years experience in TV, during which I transmitted verified, correct and coherent information from all over the world. I think that’s why I have a select, but not very large, group of followers. Unfortunately, I do not believe that people take advantage of secure sources of information that are made available to them free of charge. And the example I can give is simple – look at the reactions to an article aimed at a conspiracy theory and look at a perfectly reasoned economic analysis, you will see a huge gap. We have a problem educating this people. The explanation is simple, politicians wanted to maintain a low level of knowledge, so that its manipulation, once every four years, is just a formality. An educated people would not have accepted everything that has happened in this country in the last 30 years.
Business Club is one of the most watched economic shows in Romania. Faced with the avalanche of poor quality information we receive daily, do you feel that you have a responsibility to the audience that is following you?
The responsibility is huge. Fortunately for me, it is shared with the whole team without which this show would not have existed. Its producer, the man in the shadows, is a pillar of justice. But, unfortunately, in the media landscape, the more correct and implicitly the less sensational, the more you have a smaller pool of the audience you are addressing. We have assumed this.
How important do you think economic education is in a person’s life? In schools we have religious education and sex education, but we do not have classes dedicated to economic education, although in economics we live most of life, we depend on economic information and we should have a minimum baggage of economic culture before starting life.
It is crucial. If we had an economic education, the standard of living in this country would have been different. If we had an economic education, we would have saved our budgets, we would have saved time and money. Extremely important resources for a correct view of life. Time that would have helped us to obtain new information, to take new courses that would open our minds, to broaden our horizons. But consumer society has won. The money went on expensive cars, even though many of the drivers had no more fuel money, and on phones where most fell into the trap of conspiracy groups.
We need financial education like air. I have seen many people giving their opinion on when it should be introduced into a child’s life. In the 5th, 8th grade, in high school? I say that the first notions of financial education should be delivered from the last class of the kindergarten. The problem is, we’ve already lost 30 years. If the decision were made today to introduce a subject of financial education in schools, although this is not the case, the results will be seen in 20 years. Therefore, we are talking about generations lost due to an irresponsible political class, which pursued only the interest of the group, not the one of the voter.
Most of the major economic crises that humanity has suffered in recent decades are based on an insufficient knowledge of economic mechanisms by ordinary people. We are mature. We don’t have much knowledge about economics. It didn’t seem important to us until now. How can we protect ourselves from these crises? Who should we listen to?
We cannot avoid crises. Here is a huge discussion about their appearance. But with a minimum of financial prudence we can mitigate the collapses when such crises arise. I said it and I repeat it. We always need to have at least 3 salaries in our accounts, ideally 6. We need to prioritize things when it comes to spending. Let’s try to invest the money and not spend it. Except for the area of utility bills, food, all other expenses must be analyzed very carefully. This is the only way we can put money aside and mitigate the shocks of crises that occur periodically.
Do we have a solution to be able to easily disconnect the suckers of the wasteful State from the money we pay through taxes and duties, or are we hopeless?
I am very pessimistic about this chapter. I try to be moderate in expressing ideas, although reality shows us that things are extremely serious. I have noticed over time that regardless of the ruling party or parties, whether they are left or right, they all want their right. And when I say that, I am thinking of all the sinecures that have been set up in these 30 years, warm places for the people loyal to the party. People paid with money for highways, hospitals, kindergartens. Unimaginable sums of national wealth are leaked through these ticks appointed employees of the Romanian state. There are also well-prepared budgeters (fewer and fewer) who have to hang everyone else who has no idea what world they live in. Who walks the papers and receives special bonuses and pensions. We can’t get rid of them, because it has already become a custom, when you come to power you put your people in key positions, and not only.
The gambling industry has become a ping-pong ball in the hands of politicians, you remember last year’s speeches like “for slot machines – yes, for the church – no”. What do we need to do as an industry to get out of this “limitation”?
The answer is similar to what I have said so far. Romanian politicians are extremely hypocritical, insincere, fake. I come out with statements that I know bring votes. In reality, they are not interested in the economy, in the smooth running of things. They don’t look at the numbers to see how much the gambling industry spills on the state budget because they can’t understand the numbers. Maybe if they looked at Las Vegas they would understand the financial potential of this industry, how a city can grow and why not a nation. On the other hand, the addiction that these games can create must also be taken into account. But it should be emphasized that most companies that have such a field of activity offer advice, from their own budgets, for those who fall into the trap of addiction.
Here a balance must be maintained, which any responsible politician could maintain between the health of the nation and the use of money in this industry to add value to the nation he represents. I have not analyzed the phenomenon very deeply, but I stick to the idea that good communication can change the perception of what this area of gambling means.
The gambling industry in Romania is an important field for the economy with over 45,000 employees, 99% tax collection rate, 894 million euros taxes and fees paid in 2020, 7 types of taxes paid, 257 million euros salaries paid annually, a legislation that regulates the field very well articulated, but nevertheless we have a negative image in the perception of people and politicians. Where are we wrong? What do we not do well? Why are we blamed all the time?
Probably a lack of communication from the industry. I know everything about this situation is created by the TV commercials or appearing on various sites. In addition, I admit that I have a very good friend in this area, from whom I learned about counseling people who become addicted but also about the many taxes that the industry pays to the state. But if it weren’t for him, we would be left with only the image of commercials and casinos with opaque windows. Communication is the key. You have to show people who you are, you have to explain to them that part of the road I drive in the morning to take my child to school is made with money from the gambling industry. Communication is the key.
The gambling industry has suffered enormously during this covid pandemic. It was always closed first and the last opened, although the National Institute of Public Health categorized our field as low epidemiological risk, although all gambling operators made every possible and impossible effort to offer employees and customers their the best conditions for carrying out the activity, respectively the safest framework for carrying out an entertainment activity. Employees have reached the end of their powers and can no longer live on the famous technical unemployment, companies have reached the end of their powers, not being helped at all, forced to pay taxes when in fact they had the lock on the door and, in addition, we are the industry vaccinated against covid in a proportion of over 65% having an own pro-vaccination campaign financed from own funds, #NoiNeVaccinăm. You have a more neutral perspective, outside the field, please tell us what we can do to stop being the victims of the pandemic, punished by the authorities just to do good to the people, to show people that they did something like to stop the health disaster I can’t handle at all?
Unfortunately, such problems cannot be solved overnight. Everything I’ve said so far about communication involves a strategy that spans years. So far, you haven’t had to show who you are, what you do, how much you contribute, no pandemic pushed you to do that. And now you pay for what some people think you are. It is important to look ahead, learning from the mistakes of the past. The communication strategy must start today and last until the industry is no longer closed first and opened last. Then you will be able to say that you have had a successful communication strategy.
On September 30 The National Committee for Emergency Situations issued Decision no. 76 by which (among others) it was decided that the operation of gambling halls and casinos in Romania should be allowed to operators who can receive in the spaces intended for gambling only persons vaccinated with a complete scheme or who have gone through the disease. Obviously, this decision restricts the access to the respective locations of unvaccinated persons but who could have presented a negative antigen/PCR test and could have benefited from the entertainment services of the gambling industry. Does this health segregation seem like a normal decision to you? How much will this decision affect the economy as a whole? Because apart from gambling there are other areas affected by the same decision. Does it look like a mandatory pandemic vaccination, a kind of cram up?
I am not in a position to comment on CNSU’s decisions. I’m a guy who supports vaccination. And I think that’s the key. Restrictions are killing the economy slowly but surely. The problem is not today’s restrictions, but the inability of the government and state authorities in general to build a vaccination strategy to follow the European trend. If this had happened today, we would not be talking about restrictions. Unfortunately, the government is weak, as much as it is, politicians are running after the votes, being afraid to put their foot in the door. As long as we have this political class, we will always have to find (they will have) someone to blame … and all of those who will not know how to communicate their innocence will be used this way.