Alexandrian economy lurches left

A distinct socialist hue has blanketed Alexandria’s economy as government legislation controlling rents received Royal Assent this week. The legislation imposes maximum rental rates on landlords until the end of 2020, in an attempt to reduce the cost of living for average Alexandrians.

The Rent Control Law of 2017 represents the most significant encroachment into the free market by the Alliance Liberal government of Primo de Aguilar. With the legislation having received Royal Assent on March 28, landlords in Alexandria are no longer permitted to increase rents until 2018, when a maximum increase of 5 pc of 2016 market prices will be allowed. The allowable increase in 2019, which is required to remain in-force until the end of 2020, will be 10 pc of the 2016 price.

Controlling rents is a policy largely predicated on a belief that Alexandrians are downtrodden and unable to afford home ownership. “It secures [the average Alexandrian] a decent home at an affordable rate,” said Mr Aguilar in tabling the bill.

It is however unclear whether a decent home will result from the measures. With annual inflation in Alexandria trending at 2.3% last year, any freeze requires landlords to cover the associated higher maintenance costs from their own pocket in 2017. While generally equalized with inflation in 2018 and 2019, landlords again must cover such a loss in 2020. Any unforeseen major capital or maintenance costs, or inflation above 2.5%, would place landlords at a clear net financial loss throughout the period.

This financial burden imposed by the government is likely to be offset with less investment and maintenance in existing properties and a lack of new construction. According to an Alexandrian Broadcasting Corporation report, the shuttering of rental properties is also being considered, if the tenants are unable to buy the units out. Such a reaction may trigger a housing crisis in the near term; in the long term, the need for landlords to spike rents in 2021 to recover losses and fund deferred maintenance may trigger a similar crisis.

Landlords who are tempted to violate the controls to offset any financial burden the government has imposed will face fines ranging from 200 pc to 500 pc of any charge in excess of the maximum, as well as business licence revocation and hard labour. Such punishments are, in the government’s view, required to correct an economy in which the average Alexandrian spends 35% of income on housing.

For his part, Mr Aguilar, in celebrating the law’s passage, suggested that Alexandrians use their personal savings from the controls to “earn a decent return and safeguard capital that may lead to owning [a] home.”

It is unclear whether that goal will be achieved. With extra cash in their pockets, Alexandrians may instead buy household wares, food or luxuries as opposed to investing in a downpayment for a home. If that is the case, Mr Aguilar’s celebration may be premature.

Labour Code proposed for Alexandria

GENEVA – Alexandria’s Liberal Alliance government has unveiled new Labour Code legislation that aims to enshrine statutory leave requirements, a generous workers savings bond programme, and a minimum wage for the micronation.

The Alexandrian Labour Code of 2015 will standardize worker rights across the micronation, including providing workers with the option of demanding a written contract prior to employment. The Code would formalize a standard eight-hour work day, while ensuring that workers enjoy a two-day rest period each week. Also provided are generous leave entitlements, including fourteen days of paid vacation leave and seven days of paid sick leave each year, in addition to seven weeks of paid maternity/paternity leave.

“We know how hard you work,” First Consul Primo de Aguilar said during his press conference announcing the measures. “Thank you for contributing to the growth of the Alexandrian economy!”

As a further reward to workers for their contributions, the Code will allow participation in a generous savings bond programme with a guaranteed 5% return on investment, with the proceeds from the interest being tax-exempt.

The Code may prove popular with most workers and businesses within Alexandria; however, it’s arguably protectionist provision that requires the new worker benefits to be funded through a 5% tariff on all imports may prove unpopular with the micronation’s trade partners and with businesses who depend on foreign sales.

Mr. Aguilar did not respond to a request for comment on the tariff by the Coprieta Standard prior to this article going to press.

Alexandria embargos Ergonia as spat widens

GENEVA — As the historical spat between Alexandria and Giles Melang reignites in a Shirithian courthouse, Alexandria’s government has also moved to embargo Melang’s micronation of Ergonia.

In what may be described as a role reversal of Melang’s October attempt to punitively tariff Alexandrian trade with the Brettish Isles, Alexandrian Second Consul Primo de Aguilar has ordered his micronation’s borders closed to all citizens and merchants of Ergonia, a micronation founded by Melang last year.

“[The Imperial Government] finds reasonable cause to believe that all citizens and nationals of [Ergonia] are threats to the peace, stability and dignity of [Alexandria],” said de Aguilar in his Consular Order imposing the embargo.

The order came the same day as de Aguilar filed a claim against Melang in Shireroth’s Imperial Judex for a purported fraud in 2013.

Alexandrian legislature concludes summer sitting

GENEVA (CS) | With the latest sitting of the Imperial Assembly set to dissolve today, the Aguilar government is closing the books on a busy summer legislative session.

The current sitting marked the second since the last activity and constitutional crisis struck Alexandria earlier this year, as well as the second under First Consul Primo de Aguilar, who has played a guiding role in the micronation’s recovery. In this session, Aguilar’s government was successful in passing ten new bills into law, including his most significant measure, an updated Criminal Code.

Only one measure will die on the order table when the sitting concludes, that being a bill to regulate the use of multiple simulated characters by a single individual to develop the broader “in-sim” identity of Alexandria.

Yet the apparent success may arguably be considered as superficial, glossing over a continuing challenge for Alexandria in getting individuals engaged in the legislative process. Of the ten bills passed into law this sitting, eight were passed by unanimous consent with little or no debate, though some of this lack of involvement may be credited to the summer season.

The next sitting of the Imperial Assembly will convene on Monday, October 6. While he has not made known his intentions as of press time, Aguilar is believed to be interested in seeking a third term as First Consul.

Speech from the Throne commences new sitting

GENEVA (CS) | During a ceremony full of traditional Alexandrian pomp today, Emperor Edgard Carrillo proclaimed a new constitution and laid out the government’s upcoming legislative agenda.

The 2nd Imperial Assembly since the constitutional crisis of earlier this year commenced with a prayer from the Archbishop of Geneva, Louis Lafayette. The Emperor then gave Royal Assent to the newly amended Constitution which was hurriedly passed by unanimous consent in the dying hours of the previous sitting on May 30, before he made his Speech from the Throne.

The Speech from the Throne laid out the legislative agenda for the next three months and touched on several areas of concern for Alexandrians, whose micronation continues to recover from a prolonged on-and-off activity crisis in its government.

The Emperor renewed the government’s commitment to improving the economic stability of the micronation, which had been a significant focus of Second Consul Primo de Aguilar in the last sitting. Further regulatory measures are anticipated with respect to the economy, to “ensure a level economic playing field,” said the Emperor.

A push to empower local governments will also be made, this as a result of a successful amendment to the constitution by Paco Baez that limits the jurisdiction of the national government. The “immediate” rescinding of the seemingly-unending state of emergency in the province of Luthoria, which predates recent memory for many Alexandrians, was committed to by the Emperor.

The government will also turn its focus to the reinvigoration of the Imperial University of Alexandria, with a Board of Regents being convened and a President to be chosen during this sitting of the Imperial Assembly. The University was recently the subject of legislative reform, the first since 2011, and the Board, once assembled, will be responsible for determining its structure.

Other areas mentioned in the agenda include improving infrastructure, appointing a Board of Trustees for the Alexandrian Broadcasting Corporation, and reviving the Imperial Cultural Institute.

One-on-One: Jaime Primo de Aguilar

GENEVA (CS) | The spring sun was still rising as I boarded an Alexandrian Imperial Air Force C-5 Galaxy at the Francis Joseph III International Airport in Geneva.

A monstrosity of an aircraft, painted in bland military gray, and one certainly not meant for comfort, but for the next two days as we travelled to Gotzborg, it would be home for me and seventy-two others, representing the Alexandrian government and its fledging corporate community.

As I ventured to my seat on the upper deck, I could hear all sorts of businesspeople murmuring with excitement about this official visit to Gotzborg and the potential business opportunities that lay ahead. Yet that excitement did not compare to that shown amongst these corporate gurus about the recent revival of the Alexandrian economy and the Imperial Government’s renewed focus on it.

That revival was masterminded by our host and Alexandria’ Second Consul, Jaime Primo de Aguilar. Hailing from the city of Santiago in Alexandria’s Santander territory, Aguilar learned his flair for economics from his late father, Don Felipe, who was a wealthy landowner in the territory before the communist revolution forced the family to flee.

The loadmaster, in a commanding voice that seemed to pierce through the whine of the starting engines, directed us to sit down, buckle up and prepare for takeoff. The veteran soldier was barely able to hold back his grin as he reminded the “privileged” – us civilians – that the no-frills experience of flying with the Imperial Air Force airlift wing would be nothing like the spoiled comfort of a commercial airliner.

After a short taxiing from the gate, we were racing down the runway and lifting off on a journey that would take us more than 18,000 kilometres and nearly halfway across Micras.

I began to settle in for the 4,000 kilometre leg of the flight to Port Chloe in Stormark, when a man, so neatly put together that he must have been a bureaucrat, approached my seat and identified him as Aguilar’s attaché. I was motioned to follow him to the front of the cabin where Aguilar wished to speak to me.

As I sat down with Aguilar, I could see the excitement in his eyes to be flying on this military aircraft. Where many of us civilians saw a utilitarian aircraft full of uncomfortable noise and shaking, Aguilar saw a piece of his youth, bringing him back to his years spent serving in a foreign military. Those were years long past for this fifty-five year old statesman, but his eyes gleamed as though it was only yesterday.

That excitement of past years dissolved away as Aguilar focused on me, his eyes turning to the piercing seriousness of a statesman of his importance. The ailing Alexandrian economy was, after all, his primary concern, and he was not going to waste any time getting his message out while a journalist like me was flying in the same tin-can as he was at 30,000 feet.

I was his captive audience and he wanted to get down to business. It was time for the promised interview that had gotten me embedded on this journey.