A lesson in economics, courtesy of diamond thieves

Brian Jones
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Sometimes, it’s the minor tidbits of information in a story that are most striking.

Consider, for instance, the dramatic headlines made this week by a gang of diamond thieves in Brussels, Belgium.

On Monday, they cut a hole in an airport security fence and drove two vehicles, with flashing blue lights as per police, onto a tarmac just as a Brink’s truck from Antwerp finished loading a delivery of diamonds onto a passenger plane bound for Zurich, Switzerland.

Eight men dressed as police officers and brandishing machine guns jumped out, broke into the plane’s cargo hold and sped off with US$50-million worth of diamonds. The whole episode took mere minutes, Belgian prosecutors later told the media.

The perpetrators were described as “professionals.” This, of course, leaves millions of readers around the world to ask, where do you go to be trained as a professional diamond thief? Are there college courses somewhere?

As of Thursday, the only evidence police had come up with was one burned-out vehicle. The diamonds and thieves have vanished, but will probably return soon to a movie screen near you. (CNN’s website used the headline, “Diamond heists are forever.”)

Copious carbon

Regarding the tidbit of information referred to earlier: some news reports, but not all, contained the fact that about US$200-million worth of rough and polished diamonds move through Antwerp’s diamond district every day, for distribution around the world.

Part of my job description — in addition to spewing criticism, skepticism, negativity and vitriol — is to be vigilant against typos, so I immediately wondered whether this “fact” was in error. Perhaps they meant $200 million per year. Or per month, even.

But no. Several reputable sources — The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, the BBC — reported that, indeed, Antwerp sends out $200-million worth of diamonds every day.

Occasionally, a simple fact like this will come along and tell you more about economics than a Brink’s truckload of statistics supplied by governments, corporations, think tanks, academics, et al.

What this fact tells us is that, in the midst of the world’s worst

economic depression since the 1930s, there are still enough wealthy people around to purchase $200-million worth of diamonds every day.

Meanwhile, this being tax season, some people who are not in the market for diamonds are likely figuring out how much they can afford, if at all, to contribute this year to an RRSP.

Retirement isn’t forever

The Brussels diamond thieves, if they avoid capture, won’t have to worry about retirement. Their biggest problem will be deciding which beach to recline on.

No such luck for most law-abiding, non-diamond-stealing citizens.

As occurs on nearly a weekly basis, there was another report about income and retirement Wednesday, this time from Sun Life.

Only 25 per cent of Canadians say they will be able to retire at age 65, according to the Sun Life report.

Put another way, 75 per cent of Canadians plan to work past the age of 65, and the majority of these — 63 per cent — will do so out of necessity rather than choice.

Of course — and here’s skepticism kicking in — we should bear in mind that banks and financial

companies such as Sun Life habitually release information meant

to scare and unsettle working stiffs, and entice them to dash out

and put more money into mutual funds, RRSPs, RESPs, TFSAs, etc., so in their elder years they won’t have to snack on stale bread and cat food.

The destruction of the middle class and the widening “wealth gap” doesn’t bother many politicians and CEOs. Most even deny it is happening.

And yet, some people will keep working into their 70s, while others go shopping for diamonds.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at bjones@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Sun Life, Daily Telegraph, BBC The Telegram

Geographic location: Antwerp, Brussels, US Zurich

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Recent comments

  • david
    February 22, 2013 - 09:09

    How about this article: "A lesson in economics, courtesy of Mr. Shoebyi and the Orlova." It's just waiting to get written.......!?!

  • Mr.U
    February 22, 2013 - 08:59

    Everyone on this planet in someway or another lie,cheat or steel.The only ppl who complain about those that do...are ticked off they themselves are not that good @ it!