The small white-blue chopper was moving violently in the air as we flew southeast along the shore of the island.
“The wind from the ocean is bouncing off the mountains on the shore,” said the pilot through the headset, “…is why.”
“I know, I’ve been here before.”
He looked at me from behind the sunglasses. “Bienvenido de vuelta”, welcome back.
The mountains to the right of us were covered with lush tropical forest and the waves on the ocean on the left were high, breaking into white boiling foam approaching the rocks by the shore. Out on the ocean a single cargo ship was battling the long Atlantic wave as she was making her way to the harbor behind us.
The pilot found the helipad before I even saw it, and we touched down in the narrow area between the palm trees.
The resort, with about sixty custom villas and a number of restaurants, represents an interesting financing scheme with private funds coming from the upper class in the North. Someone with money prowess put this all together with mortgage bonds and a clearinghouse to handle the payments.
All this remains me of a similar set up, just on a much bigger scale, organized by possibly the best financial mind of the 20thcentury. His name was Hjalmar Schacht and he was a German economist, banker who served as the Currency Commissioner and President of the Reichsbank under the Weimar Republic, then president of the National Bank and eventually became Minister of Economics. Schacht was for a time feted for his role in Nazi Germany economic miracle, which was a fascinating event on its own. The question is – how did Germany, after losing the World War One, burdened with repatriation payments and coming out of devastating hyperinflation episode finance its ultra modern military and programs like the Autobahn project (highways)?
In essence, the Autobahn was financed with a sort of a bond. Financing of the re-armament was way less publicized, but the elaborate scheme really amounted to a giant credit card. When the cost of servicing it became unbearable, the war started.
Also, in the years leading to the war there was capital flowing to Germany from Wall Street. Prescott Bush, for example, father of the recently deceased president George H.W. Bush, was a founding member and one of the directors of the Union Banking Corporation, an investment bank that operated as a clearinghouse for many assets and enterprises held by German steel magnate Fritz Thyssen.
Towards the end of the war Hjalmar Schacht had a fall-out with the Nazis – he was even put briefly in a concentration camp. After the war he was tried at Nurnberg, but acquitted.
Bankers are usually untouchable and this tradition continues to this day.
In 1953, Schacht started a bank, Deutche Aussenhandelsbank Schacht & Co. which he led until 1963. He was organising financing for enterprises like the Onassis shipping business pulling together funds from wealthy Germans.
Getting out of the helicopter in the resort it came to my mind that there is a Hjalmar Schacht out there somewhere who made it all possible.
Got to give it to the money guys – they think big.
Tom Kubiak is the author of The Traveler