Monday, 5 March 2012

"How can one speak of default in future tense when we’re already bankrupt?"

Greece saved for an uncertain fate!

How can one speak of default in the future tense when we’re already bankrupt? . . . Don’t you see the people scouring through refuse and sleeping on pavements? Those who led us to bankruptcy—the troika and the government—now claim they want to save us from bankruptcy. It’s incredible!”
—Míkis Theodorákis, Greek composer and songwriter.

If Greece’s latest €130 billion loan was to be used for fiscal stimulus, it might be worth the commitment. Because that kind of money could put a lot of people back to work and kick-start the economy fast.

But the loan isn’t going to be used for stimulus. It’s going to be used to recapitalise the banks and pay off creditors, neither of which will do anything to boost activity or create jobs.

So, why bother? Why dig an even deeper hole if it achieves nothing?

If that’s the case, Greece should just default now and begin rebuilding the economy ASAP. There’s no point in putting it off any longer.

The “troika” (European Central Bank, European Union, and International Monetary Fund) demanded another €3 billion in spending cuts, even though unemployment is tipping 20 per cent and the economy shrank by 7 per cent in the last quarter.

What sense does that make? You don’t have to be a genius to see that Greece won’t reach its budget targets if tax revenue continues to fall, because everyone’s either been sacked or taking a pay cut.

It will just make a bad situation even worse. But the troika doesn’t worry about these types of things.

They don’t care that their economic theories have failed miserably so far, or that their “austerity” measures have been a complete flop.

They just keep plugging along, making the same mistakes over and over again, impervious to the criticism of reputable economists, oblivious to the abysmal results.

They remain steadfast in their commitment to belt-tightening, convinced that a strict diet of breadcrumbs and water is the best way to nurse an ailing economy back to health. It doesn’t bother them that the facts prove otherwise.

The Fitch ratings agency isn’t convinced that austerity will work; in fact it lowered Greece’s rating, saying that they now think a default is “highly likely.”

Similarly, a “confidential report” that was given to euro-zone finance ministers suggests that there’s a high probability that the slump in Greece will get worse and that the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio will still be 160 per cent by 2020, a full decade after the implementation of austerity measures.

So even if Greece sticks with the hairshirts and follows the troika’s diktats to the letter, its debt could still be at “unsustainable” levels eight years from today.

Why? An article in the high-circulation German weekly Der Spiegel puts it clearly:

Of course, the €130 billion would not solve the problem. It is only intended to buy time. Time until the financial markets have stabilised to the extent that they can handle the actual bankruptcy of Greece without a chain reaction. Without bank failures, no knock-on effects through the loss of credit insurance and no interest for the remaining problem of explosion of the Euro-zone countries.

They’re all heart!

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