Κυριακή, 9 Μαΐου 2010

Europe, whom are you lending to?

(Ελληνικά)


Damn you, Europe! I thought you were better than us, I thought that your civil society was more developed and people knew how to defend their interests better. And I thought that your people identified less with your countries' corporate interests than Americans do.


Instead, what am I seeing? You are lending us a huge amount of money, to save ... whom? Certainly not Greece. Not this way. If Greece doesn't go bankrupt now, it will do so in a couple of years: loans are loans, and the 5% interest rate is too high. Meanwhile, the austerity measures will do very little to make our country more competitive, and their effect on our state budget will be counterbalanced by the economic downturn that they will cause. Almost all economists agree that Greece will go bankrupt ("restructure its debt" is the polite term) in a couple of years. So, whom are you buying time for?


Notice the wording: "buying" time. Which means that you are paying for it. What for?


As rumours have it, you are buying time for the European financial system, which would likely collapse were Greece going to go bankrupt today. French and German banks alone own about half of Greek external debt. A fool's question: How much of it will expire in the next three years? and will be substituted by European taxpayers' money?


Don't get me wrong, I'm the last one who would suggest that there's something beneficial for the people in the case of a partial or full collapse of the financial system. Only some extreme neoliberal fundamentalists were arguing that when Bush and Obama stepped in to save the banks. At the same time, though, there were some economists (Stiglitz etc.) who were arguing that the bail-out should happen in the most beneficial way for taxpayers: buy the banks, not just their toxic assets, and resell them when their value surges after the crisis ends. Obama didn't do that, and he also missed the opportunity to regulate the system at the time when banks were weak, and is having a hard time pushing reform through now that they are strong again.


Still, the Bush/Obama policies look primitive compared to the current plans of Frau Merkel to save the banks using taxpayers' money. When, in a couple of years, Greece goes bankrupt, everybody will be blaming Greece. That includes the banks, who won't even have any formal obligation towards European taxpayers for the indirect bailout. Ingenious!


What you should be doing.


Help us get out of the crisis, and pay you the money back this way. Stop pouring money through the corrupt Greek state to special interests and big corporations, such as the arms lobby, Siemens and Daimler (who famously were bribing Greek politicians), as well as their numerous Greek counterparts. Don't strangle the Greek worker and public servant, don't make Greek economy freeze.


Give us cheap, very cheap loans that won't increase our debt. Do that by imposing very strict conditions on how they are spent, and create the mechanism to monitor the implementation. Not the proposed austerity conditions that will make people suffer without affecting the special interests that govern Greece, and without correcting the structural deficiencies. But measurable criteria on the level of corruption, the expenses of our hospitals (famously many times higher than what you spend for exactly the same pharmaceutical drugs!), the conditions for enterpreneurship, the quality and accountability of our universities. I know, this is "loss of sovereignty", as they say; but way more desirable than the one imposed through the IMF/EU support plan.


Raise your salaries (that goes to the best-off countries) and hence your demand, and let the euro fall. When a German state has structural disadvantages, does the rest of Germany take advantage of the situation in order to crush it through competition? Or does it help the state improve? Shouldn't the same take place with Greece in the European Union? Of course, you've been pouring money all these years; but it went to inappropriate agricultural subsidies (such as cotton, a water-draining crop, while we are shipping our signature products such as olive oil to be marketed as Italian), big construction where European companies were almost always involved (airports, streets), the Olympic games with all their scandals, and last but not least: military expenses. (Greece is the world's 5th largest arms importer; above Israel!). Do you think that your governments didn't know all that, or were unaware that our deficit was much larger than reported? Why do you think they didn't day a word until it became publicly known?


Help us rid ourselves from the military burden. You have the political power to press Turkey for a just solution to the Cyprus issue, and it would cost you virtually nothing. Even more easily, you can guarantee our external borders as common borders of the European Union. Stop your military companies profiteering from the lack of progress in this issue, and stop your governments from acting as agents for the arms lobby.


Any possible route for Greece now will involve painful measures for a large part of society. It could be painful for the under-paid and over-worked salaried workers, including: a big number of overqualified youth who may be the only hope for a qualitative jump of the Greek economy (were the country to take advantage of their skills through deep, but meaningful, structural reforms); and large numbers of people close or under the poverty line who have never profited from the profligate management of our public budget anyway. Or it could be painful for the parasitic parts of Greek upper and middle class, whose subsistence is conditioned on the under-development of the country, which current IMF/EU measures can only make worse.


It seems that we have little choice, and need to take whatever is offered to us (or default and let all of Europe go down the drain). The choice is (mostly) yours.



(English)


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