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Banking

Belgium's diplomatic bag

France may fudge its pensions, Germany may quibble over the value of its gold, but Belgium has come up with a unique solution to meeting the Maastricht criteria: selling its embassy in Tokyo. One Tokyo property agent thinks the embassy, or more particularly the site, could net the Belgians $200 million, knocking anything between 1.6% and 2.8% from the budget deficit. This could knock 0.1% off the Maastricht deficit to GDP ratio at a single stroke.

The land, given to the late King Bouwdewign by Emperor Hirohito, nestles at the heart of Niban Cho, an expensive residential and business district. Although the building itself is considered unexceptional, it has a fine traditional Japanese garden. "The garden is very popular with our guests," says one embassy employee. "It would be a great shame if we were thrown out. Besides, reception rooms in city hotels are expensive to hire and its nicer to hold functions at home."

But the garden is of no importance to one developer, who says he would spend a further $200 million converting the property into prime residential apartments. "The garden would have to go. It's a large plot, perhaps 8,000 square metres and it is hard to get land in this area.

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