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Greece and the German elections II: Creating a desert and calling it "reform"

by talos Tue Sep 10th, 2013 at 03:06:31 PM EST

Obviously resistant to reform

"We base our actions on the principle of quid pro quo," said Ms. Merkel. "No cent for the Greek people as long as the Greek weren't willing to deliver and implement reforms. Otherwise it makes no sense because solidarity would come to nothing."

Ah reforms! I can assure Angela Merkel that these "reforms" she's actively seeking have been implemented for 3 and a half years now. The result?
After six consecutive years of brutal recession, with homeless and unemployment rates skyrocketing, Greek society is experiencing an "unheard-of fragmentation", made worse by fierce austerity measures, experts say...
...this economic crisis has now transformed into a social emergency, according to UN expert on debt and human rights, Cephas Lumina.During a recent visit to the country, Lumina said there had been "an estimated 25 percent increase in the country's homeless population since 2009" and the poverty rate for under-17s was close to 44 percent.
"Adjusted for inflation and using 2009 as the fixed poverty threshold, more than one out of three Greeks (38 percent) had already fallen below the poverty line in 2012," he estimated.
Drastic spending cuts imposed by the country's international creditors in exchange for multi-billion-euro bailouts has made a difficult situation even worse, many believe.

And how about the quid pro quo? Well it turns out that:

...the truth remains that German taxpayers, as well as those in Finland, the Netherlands and elsewhere, are no worse off at all, and their finance ministries have racked up savings.
"As an unintentional consequence of the crisis, Finland has benefited enormously," said Martti Salmi, the head of international and EU affairs at Finland's ministry of finance.
"We have not lost a cent so far," he told Reuters. "The same as for Germany very much holds for Finland."
In fact, German officials are well aware of their stronger financing position, the result of a more than two percentage point fall in borrowing costs, even as politicians continue to lament the risks being piled on German taxpayers.
When giving presentations in Germany, Klaus Regling, the German who heads the euro zone's permanent bailout fund, often cites two studies that show that Berlin has reaped substantial savings as an unintended consequence of the crisis...

It is even worse: we all know at this point that the whole First Memorandum with the troika had as its single goal to give time to EU (mainly) banks exposed to Greek debt to cover their backsides and get rid of Greek government bonds and generally to save the Eurozone... Had Greece defaulted on its debt the whole european banking system would totter at the even greater expense of the European and particularly German taxpayer. What we had was basically a German bank bailout disguised as a Greek state bailout:

...It's hard to quantify exactly how much Germany has benefited from its European bailout. One indicator would be the amount German banks pulled out of other euro-area countries since the crisis began. According to the BIS, they yanked $353 billion from December 2009 to the end of 2011 (the latest data available). Another would be the increase in the Bundesbank's claims on other euro-area central banks. That amounts to 466 billion euros ($590 billion) from December 2009 through April 2012, though it would also reflect non-German depositors moving their money into German banks.
By comparison, Greece has received a total of about 340 billion euros [this was written in May 2012 and it seems too large, it was 240 billion Euros at the time] in official loans to recapitalize its banks, replace fleeing capital, restructure its debts and help its government make ends meet. Only about 15 billion euros of that has come directly from Germany. The rest is all from the ECB, the EU and the International Monetary Fund.

But even this is misleading since "the Greek" aren't getting much of that 240 billion Euros directly:

The Greek government needed €247 billion in the period from 2010--2012. Of that, a mere 7.7% went to finance the government's deficit--the rest went for other purposes. Around 15.4% went to pay interest on debt--this money went to both domestic and foreign investors. Another 12.3% went to repay Greek investors who held government bonds that were expiring in that period. A full 24.3%, the largest item, went to repay foreign holders of Greek government bonds--in sum, almost €60 billion. Around 18% went to recapitalize banks, 14% went to support the PSI (such as buying back debt) and 8.6% went for other operations. 

 So: No "cents" for the Greek people. Plenty of cents for the local banksters and oligarchs who are doing quite well.


Reform Olympics

This whole absurdist narrative about "unreformed Greeks" is political scapegoating in a most obscene form. I have lamented in diary after diary here over the past few years of austerian shock and awe, about the ensuing Greek drama, the societal dissolution and destruction, the creation of a country with even more feudal income divides and the annihilation of democracy. I do understand that this inane bs brings in the vote, but it is shocking that petty electoral posturing, can be so unprincipled as to perpetuate a policy that can only be described as a fiscal crime against humanity, not only in Greece but across the EU South.

Merkel and the CDU policies have created through this "reform" a country in which an increasing minority lives in squalor, where suicides have reached historical records, an already meager number of births have declined precipitously, AIDS infections have soared and infant mortality has increased - at the same time that the  Health Minister (an ex-trash TV nationalist "telebookseller" and far-right nutcase)introduces mandatory HIV testing to the world's astonishment.

They have also created an economy  practically without any labor protections,where obscene levels of unemployment and employee fear and desperation, mix with the rise of temp agency workers with no rights and protections at all, uncertain pay-days and a vast number of undeclared / uninsured jobs, to create a labor market truly of the Third World. The ILO is calling on the Greek government and the troika that manages it to restore universally accepted labor rights, at the same time that child-labor is on the rise. Strikers get conscripted by the government... Privatisations are overseen by idiots, handing over profitable state companies to gangsters amid an orgy of corruption and public goods are on a fire-sale. The remaining industrial capacity in the country is being destroyed. Tax evaders are being protected by prosecuting whistleblowers,

At the same time this social massacre and redistribution is being overseen by the most right-wing- not to mention the most corrupt - government since the junta. A government that peddles to the already rampant xenophobia, sets up concentration camps for immigrants and refugees, uses police to crack down on any kind of protests and terrorize immigrants or youth on a regular basis and then awards them impunity. The governing conservative party is also in cahoots with the Nazi gangs that are now in parliament, increasing in strength. Decisions in government are being made by the PM alone, bills pass either without meaningful debate in parliament, or by decree, and private TV channels are all supporting the government and fighting the Left opposition tooth and claw in a media landscape that feels like a privatized North Korea, since all of them are owned by oligarchs with ties to the ruling parties. Meanwhile, ERT, the public broadcaster was illegally shut down to be replaced by a farcical "Public TV" that is so pro-government that it has absolutely no credibility (and viewers) and opposition parties refuse to participate in discussions it holds...

That is the "reform" Ms. Merkel is pushing for in Greece. If one thinks that this is desirable, or that somehow this has nothing to do with general plans for the post-European-Social-Contract EU, well I can add nothing more. The CDU government is tearing Europe apart, creating across the EU South and the Periphery in general such resentment for Germany and the core countries and such social disruption that it is destroying not only the lives of those swarthy southerners but the European project as a communal goal, not to mention (and this is certainly intentional) what was left of the European Social Model. It seems probable that the CDU-FDP coalition will prevail in this month's German elections. This will signal the end of the EU as we know it. And Ms Merkel's "solidarity" will be remembered as a bad, German joke.

Reform therapy

[A first draft of this post was published at Histologion]

Just today: When structural reforms backfire (Eurointelligence, 10 September 2013)
Gauti Eggertsson, Andrea Ferrero, Andrea Raffo [PDF] have come up with a result many people would find a counter-intuitive. They show that when monetary policy hits the lower bound, structural reforms in labour and product markets to boost competitiveness, do not help, and even be counter-productive. The reason is that in the absence of an offsetting monetary stimulus, reforms fuel expectations of prolonged deflation, increase the real interest rate, and depress aggregate demand.

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Sep 10th, 2013 at 04:59:24 PM EST
Wrong even in theory. Again.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Sep 10th, 2013 at 05:12:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...a result many people would find a counter-intuitive...

A large portion of those who find this counter-intuitive must be part of the ECB, the EC or northern european political class.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Tue Sep 10th, 2013 at 07:14:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Therefore, if you find it intuitive you must be an unperson.

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Sep 13th, 2013 at 06:21:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
At least an un-serious-person

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Sep 13th, 2013 at 08:14:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I really feel for Greece...
Well my heart is broken for Serbia too because Serbia is and was even in worse state and for a long long time...actually never managed to even experience better times after those wars.
Unfortunately I may be witness in years in front of us here in Australia too of so called social "fabric" being destroyed with conservatives in power and promising "reforms"...and huh everyone in the world envy Australia for it's economy...
One way or another for these or those reasons world is rapidly changing and not for the better.
I have heard that apparently people in Norway elected conservative government , actually very far right from the centre. And this after what happened in Norway ...all those killings by right wing lunatic...And one can't say that Norway is in much of economic trouble...
What's going on? Are they laying to us and cheating somehow stilling people's votes or...are they feeding us some strange mushrooms?  

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Wed Sep 11th, 2013 at 06:34:51 AM EST
Actually, the far right lost seats, though they are expected to become part of the government as the conservatives and the liberals gained enough to tip the balance to the right. If anything Breivik broke a long upwards trend for the far right, benefitting the right.

Stoltenberg had been PM since 2005 and my general impression is that this election had less to do with what the opposition offered and more with a general wish for change. But I am no expert on Norwegian politics.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Sep 11th, 2013 at 02:15:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah "wish for change" that's what is driving people's votes.They made the whole system beautifully so that same people will every now and then come to power no matter of policies (and they are so close now) It also became more like personality contest then policies ( as one young man rightly said on TV here) so young people ( not liking any of the personalities) are not willing to vote at all.Even her where voting is compulsory young people do not vote in numbers.I am with them...  

Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind...Albert Einstein
by vbo on Thu Sep 12th, 2013 at 04:51:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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