It’s all Greek to me!
WHAT’S wrong with the Greeks? Why don’t they just take the advice offered by European bankers, politicians and rich people and simply pay up? After all, these same bankers and politicians (and the rich people who equate money with wisdom) know everything. These are the men and women who created the financial mess so must be best placed to get us out of it.
Last Thursday, EU finance ministers were called to a meeting on the latest Greek debt proposals. Irish finance minister, Michael Noonan, protested that ministers had not been made privy to the institutions’ proposal on Greece before being asked to participate in the discussion.
What planet is he on? Surely he knows that Greece and the EU institutions are forbidden to distribute such information beforehand, because the law in Europe is simple – any proposal for discussion has to be fed through the Bundestag (German parliament) first. How silly of any of these senior Europhiles to even ponder anything other than this.
Sure we know that finance ministers are not up to the task. The decision-making and horse-trading is done with unelected EU and ECB officials. They know which side their bread is buttered. Democracy is an issue for politicians, to the extent that those who run European institutions allow.
Speaking to the German magazine Der Spiegel, EU Commission chief Jean Claude Juncker loaded his verbal scud, a favourite Europhile weapon: “I don’t believe the Greek government’s response has been sufficient… I don’t understand Tsipras.” Good manners, common sense and fair play are not Europhile requirements.
Writing in the Irish Times last week the Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, outlined their proposal: “During last Thursday’s eurogroup meeting I presented our government’s comprehensive reform agenda to achieve these goals and announced our formal collaboration with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to implement it. I also tabled a radical proposal for a legislated debt brake mechanism that, triggered by an independent fiscal council, would automatically reduce all state outlays by the degree necessary to set the state back on course toward some pre-agreed primary target.
“In addition to these reforms and our efforts to engage with the European Investment Bank in order to channel much needed investments into the Greek economy, I presented to the eurogroup well thought-out proposals for debt swaps that would allow Greece to re-enter the capital markets and to partake of the European Central Bank’s asset-purchasing programme (commonly know as quantitative easing).
Regrettably, my presentation was met with deafening silence. Excepting Michael Noonan’s apt remark, all other interventions ignored our proposals and reiterated the frustration of ministers that Greece had . . . no proposals.”
The Greeks have made serious adjustments over the past five years: the state deficit has been reduced by 20 percent, making it into a “large structural primary surplus”; wages reduced by 37 percent; pensions cut by 48 percent; state employment down 30 percent; consumer spending down 33 percent.
Also, unemployment reached 27 percent; undeclared labour scaled 34 percent; public debt rose to 180 percent of the nation’s rapidly dwindling GDP, investment and credit evaporated and young Greeks, (like young Irish), emigrated, taking with them huge quantities of human capital that the Greek state had invested in them.
Mr Varoufakis added: “What Greece needs now is not more cutbacks that push an impoverished populace into greater indignity, or higher tax rates and charges that crush what is left of economic activity. These ‘parametric’ measures, as the institutions call them, have been excessive, the result now being a nation on its knees. No, what Greece now needs desperately is serious, proper reforms.
We need a new tax system that helps defeat evasion and curtail political or corporate interference, a corruption-free procurement system, business-friendly licensing procedures, judicial reforms, elimination of scandalous early retirement practices, proper regulation of the media and of political party finances, etc.”
Some people claim that the elephant is still in the room – problem creators are still in power, alongside one salient fact – Germany controls the show, with EU Treaties as weapons of mass destruction. Perhaps Europe is too two-faced, irresponsible and immoral. If democracy mattered Gerexit rather than Grexit would be the issue. Sounds Greek, double Dutch or too Irish?