Greek economy doomed by debt

When representatives of the Troika arrived in Athens last week they were greeted like visiting heads of state or royalty.

They were escorted from the airport to the city in a VIP cavalcade which included bomb and bullet-proof limousines, an armed security detail and an motorcycle squad in black leather and anti-riot gear. An anti-terrorist squad was on alert with telescopic automatic weapons and a police helicopter shadowed the motorcade into the city.

The visitors from the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission are here to stiff-arm the Greek government into adopting a programme of spending cuts worth a staggering 11.5 billion euros.

According to media leaks, the cuts will include 4.5 billion euros from pensions, 1.3 billion euros from health care and 940 million euros from welfare benefits.

Public service jobs will be slashed as well: 20,000 next year and 15,000 in 2014.

The so-called “austerity” will plunge the economy into deeper recession and drive up unemployment to around 28 per cent.

If the fractious Greek Parliament approves the draconian package, what will the Greek people get in return? The euro banks will release the next instalment of a loan agreement worth 31 billion.

But here’s what happens to the loan: 25 billion euros are earmarked for the recapitalisation of Greece’s private banks and the remaining 6 billion euros will be used to pay state debts to the private sector.

In other words, none of the loan money will be used to alleviate the plunging poverty of the Greek people. All of it will be consumed by banks and the private clients of banks.

The Greek people are seething with anger. Pensioners and health workers occupied the ministry last week and striking police held a protest rally outside parliament in Syntagma Square last Thursday night.

Debt-laden Greece is sinking into recession and more austerity cuts will only deepen the economy’s agony and rule out any suggestion of a “recovery”. The “medicine” is going to kill the “patient”. Such is the madness of today’s free market economics.

 TROIKA = JUNTA

The term “troika” is wrong-headed and totally inappropriate. It doesn’t fit the description of its brutal assault on the lives of millions of citizens of the Euro zone.

The nameless and faceless representatives of three unelected organisations, the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF, are shuttling around the capitals of Europe laying waste to millions of jobs, wages, pensions and social security programmes.

The troika team, all male (apparently), trained in banks in Germany, France, Belgium and Britain, is also wrecking social infrastructure by demanding the wholesale privatisation of public assets and utilities. The troika makes headlines in newspapers wherever it goes. It receives top billing on English language TV networks across the world, the BBC, CBS and NBC as well as the national networks of Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Greece.

Becoming a household name has made “troika” an acceptable term. The very word sounds non-threatening, almost benign, and it has slid into daily usage. Who could resent a “troika”?

What Europe needs is a new term to describe the terminators representing the banks. Instead of the troika we should be referring to the junta for that is surely what it is: a group of unelected enforcers appointed by the banks to make the people of the EU pay for the crimes of the banks.

Greece, population 13 million, is saddled with an eye-watering 300 billion euro debt. Who lent it? Banks. Were the Greek people informed about the extent of the loans? No. Did they approve them? No.

It is “odious debt” – negotiated secretly between shyster bankers and corrupt politicians – and the Greek people have the right to demand it be repudiated.

FAIRFAX BLUES

The loss of highly talented editorial staff from Fairfax Media is sad and beyond belief. It’s painful to learn of the names of former colleagues who have decided to leave the organisation which has been their professional home for most of their careers. In that time, many of them have become household names and widely commended practitioners of intelligent and informed journalism.

Among those who are departing Fairfax are David Marr, Ian Verrender, Matthew Moore, David Humphries, Bruce Elder, Malcolm Brown, Joel Gibson, Scott Rochfort, John Huxley, Elisabeth Sexton, Debra Jobson, Leonie Lamont, Geesche Jacobson, Annette Sampson, Deborah Smith, Adele Horin, Clare Morgan, Julie Robotham (SMH); Nadia Jamal and David Knox (Sun-Herald); and Roger Johnstone, Derry Hogue, Marguerite Winter and Deirdre Macken (AFR).

I should explain that these journalists haven’t been forced out of work – they have accepted voluntary redundancy. In short, they’ve ended their Fairfax careers because they have lost all confidence in the hopeless management and the incompetent board of directors (not to mention, unimaginative and docile editors).

While the company is prepared to shovel these outstanding quality journalists out the door, it is keeping on the payroll Paul Sheehan and Gerard Henderson, odious reactionaries whose columns recycle pedestrian prejudices. How does that work?

One comment

  1. Hi All,

    While visiting Greece in the middle of a taxi strike just over a year ago, friendly tour guide staff often gave me lifts back to my hotel kilometres away from central Athens. These lifts in private cars were very generous given the increasing pressures on the economies of Greek households. Greeks love to talk politics, as do I, so some very interesting stories were told. Most memorable were those related about how Greece got into internal financial trouble and how the country might save itself. I learnt a lot on a trip to the city from the airport (I did pay for this journey) with a private driver of a black BMW who risked unknown retribution from striking taxi drivers. We sped along into Athens up to 120 kms per hour while the driver drew a diagram on a piece of paper he held against the steering wheel. The internal Greek financial problem, according to this maestro of the road, was that very few businesses paid "insurance" and that they owed the government more than 40 million Euros that would never be paid.

    The gentleman from the tour company was only too happy to drive me to my hotel (at his boss's suggestion) in his tiny Peugeot. We raced along chatting for the whole trip past a cemetery where many of our fallen WWII countrymen are interred. Along the way, (I was used to he racing driver approach to Athens traffic by then), my companion pointed to the many solar hot water systems bedecking Athenian roofs. "There's part of the answer," he said. "Mrs Hillary, she wants our petrol, but we've got so much sun in Greece we could sell solar power to Europe". Later I saw a number of solar farms outside of Athens. He's probably on the money but is are any politicians with clout listening?

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