Entry for April 28, 2009

NEITHER A BORROWER NOR A LENDER BE

Many businesses in Ukraine are going bankrupt and the debt-collection market is burgeoning. Announcements about collection services may be seen everywhere – from the metro to lamp-posts in the streets. Since Ukraine has no special law that regulates the activities of collection agencies, the collectors are often hefty guys who chase debtors day and night – wherever the debtors may be. If you have an unpaid credit with a bank and receive a call at midnight and nobody at the other end of the phone answers your repeated “hello” but only breathes into the phone, you may be sure it is a collector.

When our kids were small, my wife decided to get them insured. I don’t remember how big were the monthly payments she had to make, but it was a comparatively sizable amount. I was against the undertaking – telling my wife that though the insurance company promised to return the whole amount by the time the children came of age, the amount to be returned would definitely be dwindled by inflation, and the money that was being paid at that moment was more valuable than it probably would be some fifteen years later. Things turned the way I predicted. The USSR collapsed and the money my wife had been investing in our kids’ future had been lost on that rollercoaster of history.

Where had my wisdom come from? I guess at the time when right after the war our parents were forced to buy government bonds at their places of work (such deals were effected almost at gun-point). After a few years the government started raffling off small sums of the whole amount it had “borrowed”, and the “happy” numbers were published in newspapers. My father used to buy the newspapers and peruse the numbers fearing lest he might miss “his” number (in case it was published). I don’t remember him ever winning the bonds lottery. When eventually he lost all hope of winning, the children started using the bond certificates while playing at shopping, and I remember the bond papers lying scattered all over the home.

Maybe due to that input I received as a child I have never played any financial games with the government. The only case was my opening an account with a bank last year. The bank went bust two months ago. I was lucky to have lost the equivalent of only 25 dollars (some people lost thousands).

The phrase from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”, which is the title of this blog entry, is poor consolation to those who hear the collectors breathing into the receiver. The consolation may be an announcement offering “anti-collection services” which I saw the other day. The ability of the Ukrainians to find unimaginable niches in business has always kept me amazed.

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