Neopian News Network: Altador's Economic Woes
Altador (Neopian News Network)---
In recent weeks, fans have flocked from every corner of Neopia to Altador. They came to cheer on their favorite team and enjoy the all the thrills that the Altador Cup has to offer. Looking at the crowded streets near the Coliseum full of fans, one would never imagine that Altador is teetering on the brink of an economic catastrophe.
Octavius's family has run the Illustrious Armoury for generations. The Illustrious Armoury is Altador's premiere Battledome weapon shop. Octavius is one of Altador's greatest Battledome legends. Over the past few years it has been rare to find the Brown Elephante's forehead untouched by worry lines. Ever since King Altador began handing out daily prizes to the many people who helped save Altador from the Darkest Faerie, Altador's economy has been virtually stagnated by King Altador flooding the market with Altadorian merchandise.
"It's been bad. We haven't turned a profit in close to three years. We usually come close to breaking even from the extra business during the Altador Cup season, but even then we're barely scraping by. I don't know how much longer I'll be able to stay afloat. I know I'm not much better off than a majority of the other Altador shopkeepers" Octavius told me grimly in his shop, where only a small handful of customers were browsing.
In the wake of the curse being lifted, King Altador issued a proclamation declaring Altador in a period of celebration. One of the clauses in the proclamation said that all of those who worked so tirelessly should be rewarded. This gave the Altadorian Government the ability to purchase merchandise from Altadorian shops at vastly reduced prices. This law is still in effect.
"It's killing me. King Altador has literally handed out millions of Initiate Swords and Training Helmets. I used to be able to sell an Altadorian Initiate Sword for thousands, now the market is flooded with them and any yahoo can pick one up through the shop wizard for 20 neopoints. I currently sell them for 354 NP, exactly how much it costs me to make them. If I sell a sword, I make no profit on it. Not that I've sell very many swords recently." Octavius tells me as he sighs and gestures to a rack full of swords covered in dust.
Under the celebration law, the government pays 150 NP per sword.
Curious to see how Altador can afford to shower these heroes with prizes, NNN talked with one of Neopia's financial gurus, Allison. Allison is a financial analyst at the Neopian National Bank. Few people who look at this Pink Kau, decked out in the latest fashions would ever guess that she is one of Neopia's foremost financial experts and holds a doctorate in Neonomics. She has been observing the situation in Altador for some time. We recently met in a Neopia Central Coffee Shop to discuss Altador's problems over steaming cups of Borovan.
"The difficulties facing the Altadorian shops are only the tip of the iceberg. While the Altadorian Government may be buying these prizes at a discount, they are spending millions of Neopoints a day on them. No one is making money here. It's a serious problem" She tells me.
When asked about where the Altadorian Government is finding the Neopoints to pay for all of these prizes, Allison had this to say:
"Over the past couple of years, Altador has taken out large loans from the Neopian National Bank. The debt incurred by the Altadorian Government is astronomical; well into the high millions. The only reason that Altador can make payments is from the NP they make from the heavy taxation of the Altador Cup. A percentage of ticket sales, merchandise, etc. goes to the Altadorian Treasury. Not to mention what they make in licensing fees. Altador has also created many new taxes to help prop up this system. Without these taxes, there could be no way for them to repay their debt. If Altador can't pay back its debt and declares bankruptcy, it would be unprecedented. In the history of the Neopian National Bank, no one has ever defaulted on a loan anywhere near this large. We don't fully know what the fallout would be from it, but I can tell you that it wouldn't be good."
Many citizens in Altador are struggling with these new taxes. We returned to Altador to try and see how they affected normal Altadorians.
We ran into Achellia who was walking home from the Hall of Heros where she works as a groundskeeper. Achellia is going to be turning 67 next week. She wants more than anything to retire, but her she and her husband simply can't afford to. In addition to the taxes earned from the Altador Cup, Altador has either raised or added taxes on a myriad of other services and products. Taxes, which can take its toll on citizens, like Achellia. "Every time we turn on the faucet it costs about half a neopoint a second to leave the water on. That may not sound like a lot, but if it costs hundreds of neopoints to take a shower or to wash the dishes, those costs can add up fast. We want to retire, but we keep having to dip into our retirement fund to cover our monthly taxes. We just can't escape this cycle."
In recent months, there have been many protests which have been quickly broken up by the city guards. An anonymous source inside the Altador Guard has stated to NNN that in the weeks leading up to the Altador Cup, guards were ordered to break up any and all protests, especially if they take place near or in the Coliseum District. They didn't want the protesters taking advantage of the heightened media presence that the Altador Cup brought to the city.
Situated in a litter-strewn courtyard right up against the city wall, well away from the tourist-filled streets of the Coliseum, Altador has set up a "designated protest area" in the outskirts of the city far away from the thousands of cameras at the Altador Cup. Here the protestors, confined to the small courtyard, chant and hold up home-made signs demanding that King Altador change his policies and lower taxes. A number of uneasy looking guards are dotted around the courtyard. They seem ready to move in should things turn violent.
Just outside of the courtyard, sitting on a bench an elderly Kacheek sits on a bench and feeds a small flock of weewoos at with breadcrumbs that she throws on the sidewalk. Occasionally she will glance up at the protesters through an archway in the courtyard wall. When asked about her thoughts on the situation in Altador she didn't seem very concerned.
"I was born in Altador, I've lived in Altador, and I'm going to die in Altador if I have anything to say about it. We've faced crises before. If we can survive a curse from an evil faerie, I'm sure we can find a way to buy a couple of silly prizes. King Altador hasn't led us wrong before. I know our King won't let anything bad happen to us."
Over the course of writing this article we attempted numerous times to get a statement from either King Altador or some other government official. After fourteen separate requests, a member of King Altador's staff neomailed us this statement shortly before this article was sent to press:
"His Majesty's government has everything perfectly under control. Altador's economy is stronger than it has ever been. Any accusations that suggest otherwise are ludicrous and if you believe them you should really get your head examined. That being said, make sure to stop in some of Altador's many shops and boutiques and pick up some souvenirs before you leave!"
Only time will tell how the situation in Altador will develop. I can assure you that NNN will keep you updated every step of the way.
For the Neopian News Network, this is Aerlam reporting from Altador.