EUROBLOWN. Greece: how we all paid €220bn to get deeper in debt

How to spend €220bn and wind up €20bn worse off

Another little dose of Greek reality. In Crete as of yesterday afternoon, prescriptions have been refused at all pharmacies unless customers pay the full price. It’s obvious really: if you raid the hospital bank accounts to pay off the bondholders, the hospitals don’t pay the pharmacies, and so the chemist charges full wack. I think under Friedmanite economics that would be called the market deciding.

We can be fairly certain that this development will spread across the rest of Greece; and that the only ones unaffected by it will be senior bureaucrats and politicians. But before this starts to sound like me going all Left and fluffy, perhaps now that the Greeks are having their faces ground into the mire, it’s time to return to the recurrent Slog theme, viz debt forgiveness.

All this month we have heard over and over again the sterile debate between stimulation and austerity. The simple truth is that, without debt forgiveness now, it’s too late to do either of those things. Frufru Lagarde insists that George Osborne is running out of time to start Plan B, but it was too late from Plan A let alone B:in November 2011 the Draper was forecasting 2.75% average growth from 2011-14. To say that looks sick is a bit like saying Stalin looks dead. Osborne sold us silly growth rates as the only answer to what the Slog and thousands of other sites were saying: your predecessors missed the boat, chum.

Trust me, there ain’t no Plan C. Only debt forgiveness will stop the insanity.

I’m talking financial, mathematical insanity by the way, not bleeding heart Miliband bollocks. Merkel suffers from the same problem as Lagarde: she can’t add up. Join me now on a brief trip back through time.

When Greece first announced it was in trouble, in May 2010 the other Eurozone countries, and the IMF, agreed to a rescue package which involved giving Greece an immediate €45 billion in bail-out loans, with more funds to follow, totaling €110 billion. This was to help it with a total debt of €270 billion. Had the EU negotiated then with the IIF and others – and used the bailout to forgive the debt still left after negotiation – Greece would’ve been solvent immediately.

But bankers don’t like that kind of solution. Bankers don’t accept any responsibility for their actions. Much more to the point, they don’t like the sort of fairness that might create a precedent.

Instead, there was much moralising from Berlin, and the Greek debt shot up to €350bn by the end of 2011. It did this for two reasons: first, bond markets had no faith in the Berlin-am-Brussels solution, so the cost of Athenian borrowing sky-rocketed; and second, Berlin and the IMF insisted on a f*ckwitted austerity programme that dramatically reduced Greece’s ability to repay.

The bailout in March this year reduced the debt to €240bn, mightily pissed off the bond markets, and thereby laid the groundwork for bond spikes to rise in Italy, Spain and France. With debt forgiveness, Greece’s debt would’ve been zero ten months before that. The net cost to the EU taxpayer is (just on Greece alone) in the region of €220bn.

Think about this: EU taxpayers have shelled out 89% of the remaining debt, and the sum total result is that they have, um, a 100% debt unpaid. For the Greeks themselves (see below) the cost has been even worse.

Under the terms of the 2012 Brussels Accord, Greece is doomed to sink deeper into debt even if the economy picks up….which it isn’t doing: every month, it contracts further.
Such is the cost of Brussels inaction and Teutonic Holier than Thou neurosis. Greek estimates – and Stephanie Flanders of all people – seem able to roughly agree on one point: this entire exercise has cost Athens 6-7 times the original value of the bonds issued.

Merkel and Schäuble continue to insist that it had to be done that way pour encourager les autres like Ireland, Spain, Portugal and Italy. Bollocks. The same austerity + bond spiking is now ensuring that these lemmings too are throwing themselves off a cliff. Synchronised suicide, EU style.
Geithner, of course, is an idiot of roughly similar size to all the European players. He insists that borrowing yet more from the same folks who lent us the stuff in the first place produces leveraging, the financial equivalent of cold fusion meets Italian particles travelling faster than light. And this has allowed the Fuhrerin in Berlin to seize on the idiocy and say “Borrowing more never solved anything”. Correct: but trying to repay a loan that’s mathematically impossible to repay simply makes things worse.
Austerity, borrowing still more, and central-planning stimulus are and always will be a waste of time is situations like this, where things have already gone too far. The only solution is debt forgiveness, followed by much stricter rules on (a) EU sovereign borrowing and (b) multinational bank lending.
“AAAaaarg!” yell the neo-liberal economists, wielding their crucifixes, “Regulation! Unclean! Out foul spot! Quick, find me an exorcist!”
When the whole world loses its marbles, this is what we get. But the thing about rules is really akin to the old joke about anarchist communes: if nobody obeys the rules, then the answer is rules, rules, and still more rules. Doh.
In the meantime, I’ve no idea why I’m proffering this advice to those who have mislaid their marbles, because my first, second and third preference would be for all of them to suffocate beneath a dung mountain of their own making.
So I’ll end with this piece of advice: Vote Merkel, and kill the EU.

105 thoughts on “EUROBLOWN. Greece: how we all paid €220bn to get deeper in debt

  1. Why on earth should the EU die because of a Goldman-Sachs poison pill
    crooked up a decade ago? – what about GS dying off, then?
    And your City-of-London much the same then “Sir”?
    There’s also nothing wrong in using the Greek public yoke right now in order to warn the larger GIPSI beast off the apocalypse impending their innate uselessness.

    • GS is leveraged at the rate of 400:1. The market may take care of them soon enough. Besides, there are plenty of other reasons why the EU should die. GS andyhe Euro could both go down for all they deserve.

  2. Afternoon John
    There were 8 people crammed around my desk reading you latest update. Everyone asked the same thing… why aren’t we reading this in the mainstream media. Even the economist isn’t up to speed these days.

  3. The problem with forgiveness is the perception that its for losers. You’re trying to fight with a couple thousand years of history depicting crucifix where the person nailed to it forgave those clutching the hammers.

    The road they’ve taken makes twisted sense regardless of its outcome.

    In hindsight it’s clear the Greek people should have chosen default, earlier pain but their pain and pain with an ending.

    Plus default is a much more acceptable word, more in keeping with the likes of Thor or his old man Odin.

    Money and Religeon, twin pillers of evil so they say, I can’t disagree with them.

    • Regarding the biblical concept of a Jubilee every seven years where all debts are forgiven, isn’t a good deal of the responsibility for the creation of the debt in the first place put upon the creditor whose responsibility would have been to determine the ability to repay the debt of the debtor and the likelihood that the debt would/could be repaid?

      These creditors who are trying everything to get their money back are failing to take any responsibility for there initial failure to do their due diligence during the original making of the debt agreement.

      Jesus at least had the good/common sense to realize that you can’t get blood out of a stone. Maybe some wine from water, but not money from someone who doesn’t have it and will probably never have it.

      Just take your losses and move on.

      • Another thought…

        The use of the political and legal systems to attempt to force payment of these debts by extorting the money from all taxpayers is nothing more than CRIMINAL THEFT by using their influence due to the amount of money these banksters and bondholders already have relative to others in society.

        Additionally, it is a reflection of their LACK of any SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY for society as a whole if they are more inclined to damage the society with their greed and inability to admit their own lack of initial financial judgment/acumen rather than accept their losses and move on.

      • I think that you will find that the year of Jubilee is 7 times 7 years i.e. every 49 years. Now 2012 – 49 = 1963. on the 29th Jan 1963 de Gaulle vetoed the UK entry into the EEC.

        Perhaps for this Jubilee M. Hollande will expell the UK from the EU (If only!…..)

  4. Synchronised suicide, EU style.

    Wasn’t that Mme Lagarde’s Olympic sport, in the swimming pool?

    So she has form.

  5. It’s as I said a fair while ago now and is true in respect of many instances of paying for things
    The current method is to keep paying out small (but ever growing) amounts every year (or other appropriate period) almost at infinitum rather than take a big hit on the cost JUST ONCE

    • All the banks owe a sh*tload of money. To other banks, primarily. If ALL of that were written off, then banks with actual assets (by which I mean cash reserves, gold, ownership of actual real estate, that kinda stuff that you can actually see and touch – not ‘marked to myth’ phantom bullsh*t!) will be just fine. I suppose bonuses will have to fall, but hey…

      Sure, a lot of pretty wealthy people will lose their shirts. But again, hey… I don’t remember seeing anything in the rules about the requirement that rich people should never allowed to become poor. They weren’t given a written guarantee at birth promising them wealth, power and privilege; the corollary to that is that there’s no guarantee that, having become rich, they are entitled to stay that way in perpetuity.

      Banking’s utility is as a service industry, nothing more. They keep deposits safe and occasionally lend money to someone for the purposes of creating greater wealth, ideally backed by collateral assets that they can then seize and sell if the deadbeat lender turns out to be a bit of a Jeremy (you think that bit of rhyming slang is going to stick? lol). For that, they’re allowed to turn a bit of a profit – bankers have to eat, too. They do NOT have to have super-yachts!

      Wealth is created by hard work. There is no other way to make it. You dig something useful out of the ground, or think of a way to make a scarce resource go further, or invent a better widget, or grow something you can eat… that kinda sh*t! Shuffling phantom fiat currency around, and skimming off a fat profit in the process, does not create wealth. It merely reallocates it to whichever asshole is greedy enough and smart enough to work the system best.

      They’re easy to spot, in most cases their families have been involved in the same long-con for generations. They call themselves the ‘elite’. A different term is used in none super-yacht owning circles.

      • @woodgnome. You’ve hit the nail on the head there. The banks create “virtual money” out of thin air to make us all think we’re rich (and by the way amass wealth for themselves from commissions, speculation and fat fees).
        It is convenient to forget that even though the money created is “virtual money” it has to be paid for someday with REAL money; money earned by honest endeavour.
        It isn’t easy to apportion blame; bankers, speculators, governments, debtors. Maybe all of these.
        It’s even harder for those with hands on the levers of power to admit that there are no solutions except debt forgiveness. From our perspective as householders, it’s just a question of resetting the dials to zero as it was always Mickey Mouse money all along. Trouble is getting TPTB to be man enough to do it.

      • Pretty much agree with most of what you say WG except about wealth being created by hard work. This was true until the industrial age in which we/they discovered fuels to do most of the heavy lifting. Yeah, I know it was people who put that in motion but the difference pre and post industrialization is/was prodigious. The catch was/is that the fuels are non-renewable–did someone say oops?!

      • The banks cannot balance the books between each other by cancelling loans against debts. They all fractionally-reserved whatever they were given by 10-fold (or 50-fold). So they still have to find the difference— from the companies they lent the magicked-up money to (ie the bad debts they’ll never recover). The only way they can keep the smoke and mirrors going, is by continuing to cook the books. Mervyn King knows this, all his statements to the media are just for show.
        The only way we’ll get out of this is to tear the house down, the top have to pay it all back, they stole it. And the bottom have to honour their loans. They borrowed it.

  6. Pingback: John Ward – Euroblown : Greece : How We All Paid €220bn To Get Deeper In Debt – How To Spend €220bn And Wind Up €20bn Worse Off – 24 May 2012 | Lucas 2012 Infos

    • John…….. We Americans plead guilty. Our banksters are world class and they do not like to bested by your London Whale’s greed.

      • I am Greek American, born in England so I am guilty on every count… this all started with Goldman and the Bush presidency.

  7. You already know this John: there is no such thing as debt forgiveness; it’s yet another nice-sounding PC term to placate people.

    If Greece and others have accrued debts that are so huge they cannot possibly pay them off even with austerity, they should default and be done with it. Let’s call a default for what it is and not get sidetracked by using fluffy socialist labels.

    Along similar lines, I’ve just sent this e-mail to Sky News after watching the New Labour supporter Adam Boulton interviewing Labour’s Balls:

    “I’m sorry, but I am sick and tired of Sky News giving airtime to
    Ed Balls to pontificate about the economy. Has Sky forgotten that
    HE with his boss Mr Gordon Brown were personally responsible for
    the catastrophic state of the British economy more than any other
    people on Earth? His credit-bubble policy got us into this mess.

    When Sky give airtime to people who actually know something about
    economics, I’ll try again. Meanwhile, Good Day to you.”

    • There’s a big psychological difference, though, BT.

      If you call it default; turn a blind eye when everyone stops paying, you’re setting a precedent. ‘Forgiveness’ is much easier to sell as a one-off occurrence – “Yeah, we screwed up, we admit it! You guys can write off your debts, this once, and we’ll get back to business as usual on Monday”.

      Whereas allowing mass defaults sets the tone that it’s perfectly fine to screw your creditors whenever you decide you’d rather use the money for something else (like food, for example!)

      IF some kind of default / forgiveness event is going to happen, then TPTB are sure to want a ‘reset’ banking system that will function much like the current one. Maybe a bit more lip-service to regulation (they’ll want to keep their heads down for a while until memories fade) and tighter controls on exactly who is lent what.

      Again, IF they’re going for a reset (and personally I think they’d sooner let the motherf*cker burn), then you can count on the next system ending up exactly the same as this one. It might not start that way, on paper. Might be backed by something other than bovine excrement, maybe. For a while. But accepting responsibility, letting a few heads roll (no-one important, of course) and couching it as ‘we’re doing you one hell of a favour here, dudes!’ will serve their purposes of returning to raping and pillaging a few years down the line much better.

      • I’d have to agree with almost everything you wrote there Woodgnome, maybe not the interpretation of forgiveness being an easier sell than default, or that they’d normally get to allow a default rather than it being thrust on them, but agree nonetheless. Of course that would be me thinking in terms of normalacy and that’s one thing these ain’t.

        Time will tell the route the cheating motherf*ckers go down and given that they use time as their friend they may well have engineered it that they do now facilitate a default.

        The mob only has the briefest of moments to push their point of view through and I think that time has gone.

      • @Woodgnome: It’s not clear to me what you are saying, so I’ll elaborate on my own pov.

        It is default that carries a process of punishment on the debtor. Why? Because they get frozen out of capital markets for some time, until they demonstrate they can borrow responsibly within their means. That is what happened to Argentina and others. It is a punishment on the political elites of the country because of the stigma and because it means they are unable to offer ever more largesse from the treasury to buy votes. Meaning they would actually have to begin doing something useful, if that’s possible.
        By contrast, debt forgiveness is a fluffy nonsense that I usually expect from socialists. Why? Because every $1 billion of forgiveness is a $1 billion loss to somebody else. It’s tantamount to saying “you can have a free lunch and when the money runs out, you poor things, we’ll write off your debts. then you start again with a clean sheet. there there”.

        If Greece defaulted, sure they would be frozen out of capital markets for some while. But hey …the whole idea of this process is for the Greek elites to begin living within the nation’s means, not by borrowing. That would mean austerity as they brought the economy into balance. We all have to live within our means. There is no free lunch.

        For their part, the Greek people need to demand a criminal law which prohibits their govt from borrowing more than trivial sums. Violation would mean automatic arrest, prosecution and prison.
        There’s a lot moe they need to do … the alternative is to become debt slaves due to a bunch of corrupt socialist political elites.

    • I love your logic BT Over on this side of the pond we had amnesty for illegal immigrants during the Reagan years. We now have more illegal residents than we did before. If you forgive debts without a change of habits by the debtor you will just get more debts. I agree default and move on.

    • Balls has no solutions except fleecing the middle class even more. THe whole Brown/Balls thing was a cynical wealth-shifting exercise in a zero net growth economy. In the end, people will see through him, but the UK population is exceptionally dense (to the point of deliberate neglect) on finance in general and state finance in particular. They simply don’t understand that spending requires financing at some point, as opposed to dropping from the heavens at the behest of politicians, and look only at the massive and still increasing disbursements of the UK state. Balls knows this full well, and when he gets back into power he will face reality. Probably… though there is always the hyperinflation route, yet to be seriously experienced in the UK.

      • If I had to make a guess, when Milipede & Balls gets back into power they’ll go down the inflation route along with a lot of controls to distort anything that moves: wage controls, price controls and all the rest of it. Unions will have a new platform. They won’t understand that inflation soon gets a mind of its own and they’ll end up calling in the IMF. By that time, they’ll have destroyed the middle classes, pensions and what’s left of productive industry. Welcome to 1970s Britain, again.

  8. Mother and son jump to their deaths
    24 May 2012

    A mother and son have jumped to their death from the roof of a five-floor building in an apparent suicide.

    Witnesses say the two leapt while holding hands, a little after 8am in the small neighbourhood of Vathi square in Metaxourgeio, in central Athens. The mother was 90 years old and her son, musician Antonis Perris, was 60 years old. They lived on the first floor of the building.

    The police and ambulance arrived at the scene shortly afterwards.

    According to reports, neighbours say the pair had economic difficulties.

    The son recently wrote a blog post describing his current situation:

    “I have been taking care of my 90 year old mother for 20 years now … Three or four years ago she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and recently she has been subject to schizophrenic fits and other health problems. Nursing homes don’t accept patients who are such a burden. The problem is that I was not prepared … when the economic crisis hit.”

    The blog message also contained some verses he had written regarding the economic and social crisis.
    Last month, 77-year old-man Dimitris Christoulas took his life in Syntagma Square in a incident that captured international attention.

    Studies have shown a marked increase sharp increase in the suicide rate in Greece recent years.

    http://www.athensnews.gr/portal/1/55771

    • I suppose caring for these people is an example of the ‘fluffy socialism’ people here talk about…Perhaps they should have been more *entrepreneurial*?

      • Sorry, wrong, but nice try. Actually, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, the inventor of such perks as the first workers pension fund and basic healthcare, was known to eat socialists for breakfast and introduced these very measures to keep the lefties at bay.
        If you still think socialist policies are beneficial to the common man or society as a whole you haven´t paid attention in the last 50 years (at least).

      • I agree with Terp. The only people that really benefit from Socialism (at least any way it’s actually been tried, so far) are the people at the top. creation of a dependent class is barely a step above debt slavery. And there are always going to be lazy-arsed ‘the world owes me a living’ people who will seize the opportunity not to work, the second that option becomes available to them.

    • The Eurocrats should be made to visit Athens on foot – without, of course, their armoured cars and bodyguards. Then perhaps they might realise the pain they are causing.
      My respects to the people of Greece.

      • When they get to Athens, Barreloso should be made to run up and down the Acropolis 10 times with the Garden Gnome on his back :-) That ought to shut him up.

      • No, no, you’re completely right- we should reintroduce child-labour, abolish all employees rights at work, human or otherwise, ban trade unions, increase the de-regulation of the stockmarket, make every road a toll-road, have paramedics carry chip and pin handsets, privatise the police, fire brigades, prisons and the military (all those inefficiencies swept away), put the disabled to work in sweatshops, make prisoners work for their keep in corporate chain-gangs, ensure that only those above a certain high income can vote, introduce euthanasia for the economically unproductive (the elderly, the terminally ill, long-term disabled), legalise fly-tipping and the dumping of toxic waste (red tape or what!?) and abolish income tax for the rich…Only then will we achieve a perfect, free market, utopia…

      • @INCUBUS: You forgot to mention creating ‘Happy Camps’ where the ‘unwilling’ members of society would be housed in reasonable comfort.

      • These stories from Greece make me so angry. The E.U. politicians and various leeches responsible should be shown no forgiveness and I hope one day, someone makes an example of them.

        Oh and incubus it’s very telling that rather than answer the very valid and well put points from terp, woodgnome and others you just write out a list of fiction, the mark of a socialist. You have not got a leg to stand on so just make up a load of bollocks. I hope the socialists in this country get what’s coming to them as well.

  9. Little Greece,big UK.Both have the same problem.Debt financed welfare states.The UK last had a balanced budget in c. 2001(cf.France 1974).Greek debt trading at 14 percent of par is going to have to be written down to zero by its holders on Grexit,now admitted as the likely outcome by even the BBC.Note £/$ cannot even hold $1.60,against $1.95 before Garry went truly mad.Greek ‘government’,Coalition government here are mirror images of each other.For further good news,try ‘Bond exodus is at least as scary for Europe as a bank run’,FT p34.No, I am not going to get into the fictitious cuts …

  10. Will the same debt forgiveness apply to RoI, Spain, Portugal, Italy ?
    If so, you have done the EU’s job of wealth distribution from N Europe to Club-Med and now we are all in it together, a lifeboat with a big hole in it – glug-glug

  11. The EU have basically called in “Ocean finance”.
    Debt forgiveness is the only way true it also would bring down all the major financial “facades” with it .
    Crony Capitalism and even worse crony capitalisms political stooges will not see that happen.
    It would be the end of them and they know it.

  12. Deutsche Mittelstandsnachrichten just posted an article saying : Preparations for Greek exit, EU writes Greece off.

  13. Amen to that John, unfortunately we won’t get to your solution (which must be planet-wide IMO) until we get the armed conflict bit out of the way.

    Think of the EU imploding as being like the starting pistol for that bit.

    I wonder will Van Rompuy salute the EU flag before he gets hung by his citizens?!

  14. You STILL haven’t got it! It really is quite extraordinary!

    Debt forgiveness is nethier here nor there right now. Nobody has actually got around to really considering the debt forgiveness idea. Nobody has tried – they have just swapped Greek debt for ECB debt with big strings attached that make it more difficult for the Greeks to weedle out of it by (for instance) re-introducing the Drachma.

    The real problem right now isn’t the CAPITAL of the debt. The real problem is the BUDGET DEFICIT.

    Let me put it into terms that might help you understand. Greece (and the UK for that matter) has a big fat mortgage it can’t afford – but the ECB have effectively told Greece not to worry too much about paying off the mortgage right now. What the ECB has told Greece to do is to make sure it has enough income to pay for its daily food. This is what Greece is more-or-less struggling to be able to achieve. It doesn’t even have enough income to pay for its ongoing necessities. The ECB is telling Greece it can have some cash every month to pay for its daily food ration but only if it tries to reduce the gap between income and expenditure. So far Greece is not doing that – its giving away all the food and not b othering to get anything back in return. The big debt mountain is another issue entirely.

    The UK has the same issue – currently its income STILL doesn’t cover its commitments to welfare and the army and what-not. The debt mountain is no biggie – we can “forgive” ourselves our debt mountain by simply printint money. We’d hardly notice the difference.

    • It’s not a mortgage, a mortgage is a loan to purchase a real property, it’s an overdraft, something you use to fund a lifestyle above a level that your income allows.

      It really is quite extraordinary that you don’t get that.

      If Greece defaults as it must, the big strings attached to the ECB loan doesn’t include a declaration of war which would be necessary if they were to attempt to seize the immovable asset that is Greece for non payment.

  15. Oh, and one more thing. Be as lefti as you like. What is happening in Greece is the reality of the complete failure of socialism in Greece as the taxpayers have gone on strike and refused to pay for it all. What they are left with is “show us the money” red-in-tooth-and-clam law-of-the-jungle free-market capitalism. Let’s see how they get on with that. It’s coming to a country near you soon.

    • @js ” What is happening in Greece is the reality of the complete failure of socialism in Greece as the taxpayers have gone on strike and refused to pay for it all.”
      It’s coming to Spain sometime soon as well – and then Greece will be all but forgotten.

    • @Just sayin: “What is happening in Greece is the reality of the complete failure of socialism in Greece as the taxpayers have gone on strike and refused to pay for it all…”

      For sure, socialism is at the root of this economic catastrophe because most socialists are innumerate and Europe is stuffed to overflowing with them (witness Hollande yesterday demanding “growth and jobs” but at the same time demanding a Finc Trans Tax which will cost jobs. Duh!).
      But it’s also a failure of the system of democratic government which applies to most other Western nations. Our political elites have spent the past generation or two – not really strengthening our societies and economies because they don’t know how – but buying our votes with largesse using borrowed money. We have allowed them to do it. They’ve now run up huge unrepayable debts and time has been called.

      This ought to be the beginning of a political reformation where voters everywhere impose a lot more scrutiny on the political elites who put themselves up for election and get into government.

      • Correct BT. Greece has been destroyed by corrupt and vile politicians who have looted the State. I know Greece well, and have lived there a little, and I do not think there is enough understanding of what you actually have in Greece.

        You are absolutely right to say that ‘we’ have been bought and it was done with borrowed money. We are now in a situation where it is impossible to tinker with any of this largesse. And so much of this largesse is simply absurd. Quite how you unravel this mess I wouldn’t like to say.

      • Absolutely true:
        This ought to be the beginning of a political reformation where voters everywhere impose a lot more scrutiny on the political elites who put themselves up for election and get into government.

      • We never had socialism in Hellas , we had capitalists pretending that they are socialists.

        If you believe that A. Papandreou the founder of PASOK was a socialist then you believe anything. It is well known that he was on a “mission”

        Talking about “ free economy “ , “capitalism” , “socialism” ….. you name it , you all keep forgetting the basic parameter of the “system” the insatiable entity called “ homo sapiens”.

        This “thing” is never happy and it will never be.

      • @Γιώργος: “We never had socialism in Hellas , we had capitalists pretending that they are socialists.”

        lol. I believe you have the opposite: innumerate socialists playing at being capitalists and making a huge mess of it. Meaning that your political elites do not understand how to run a free market economy and are corrupt, so they run the economy in their own interests and strive for ever bigger government. I include ND in this, who are almost as corrupt as PASOK and just as committed to selling out your democracy to the socialist EU/EZ. But you’re not alone: in Britain we have Red Labour (Labour Party) and Blue Labour (Tory Party)…little difference between them nowadays.

    • Dear just saying , I am afraid that the problem in Greece is worse than failing corrupt socialism . Greece is not a functioning country at any level , after too many years of corrupt and incompetent governments greeks live in a world on their own , if you live in greece and try to work and set up any business , deal with any public service or try to employ people you will be shocked .Even with debt forgiveness tomorrow , 1-2 years down the road we will be here again .Greece needs a cultural change and change in mentality that i can not see happening very fast . Greeks themselves can not see it as almost everybody operates the same way .When this starts changing then hope will apear , otherwise PSIs or forgiveness or left or right governments are irrelevant .Not paying taxes is only one symptom of this culture and not the worst .Breaking into this mentality and changing it will be as long and hard as changing dark , condemned religious laws and as a greek i am honestly more than sorry to say this.

      • Dear yana

        I quite agree with you , I do leave in Hellas.

        We currently have officially 1,200,000 unemployed people increasing by hundreds per day and about 700,000 working ones but not paid for over 4 months.

        Thanks to EU and Troika, never mind Mrs. IMF Laggard asked recently in an interview with the BBC that more taxes must be collected.

        Mercy the average Hellenes they simply do not have the money to pay all these new taxes they have invented the last two austerity year. ‘

        What do they think ? That every Hellene is printing its own Euro in house !!

        Even Mrs. Merkel admitted last week some Hellenes do have to pay for their food and public services bills, they should be proud ALL of them for their successful bailout and austerity program.

        First we have to delete the current “Political Elite Gang” and then with “Healthy Politicians” I believe that it will take at least a generation’s time for the “Hellenic Culture” to change and not in 3 years as Troika expects.

        Lets wait and see all together what it will be the end of this “scenario” and what it will be the “Escape Valve”.

      • @Γιώργος: “First we have to delete the current “Political Elite Gang” ”

        Exactly so. This will take sustained effort by the Greek people. The elites need to understand that “Enough is Enough”. And when you have a proper government, Greek people themselves need to understand that there is no free lunch. The glorious days of pensions at age 55 and wages for doing nothing have to go. The State apparatus needs to be overhauled and brought into the 21st century. Corruption eliminated. The principles of free market capitalism and sound money have to be implanted into the political system.
        You have a long road ahead of you. But you’re not alone, many other countries are in the same mess.

      • I don’t think many people really believe the mass of the Greek people have brought this on themselves.
        A lot of other European citizens-
        when they find that everything is going to be taxed,
        when fees and charges are going to be levied on everything,
        when their bank tells them it will charge them just to hold their savings,
        when inflation wipes out their wages,
        when they are told cash is no longer legal tender and everything has to be paid by a plastic card,
        when road toll charges are introduced everywhere,
        when VAT goes up to 35%,
        when the pensions are gutted,
        when NIC, Income Tax jump 10%,
        and when they realise only two sectors of the community intend to be protected from any loss-
        will realise that what the Greek people have been doing for most of the past decade (by avoiding taxes and retiring young), was just playing the asymmetric game against the system. Someone somewhere will be able to prove that what was withheld in taxes, was balanced by what was paid in bribes.
        What else are you supposed to do?

      • To even think about correcting the Corrupt state of Greece, there two things where you must clean up first ;
        Dispose of all the corrupt politicians in a manner that you think is suitable (hang them, shoot them, jail them – whatever)
        Next problem is dealing with the public who know nothing else but corruptness – a long educational program but time is not on your side .
        Maybe hire some foreigners that Greece could respect on yearly contracts (nobody from Brussels, Berlin, Frankfurt) and get the country up and running and who knows, maybe after 5 years hand control back to the people of Greece – if you carry on the way you are ALL going, you will mirror Afghanistan within 2-3 years

  16. Private bondholders have already been compelled to forgive the Greek government most of its debts to them, with millions of people being forced to take losses, direct or indirect, small or large, on their various investments.

    On the other hand what is now being called “the official sector” insists that the original Greek bonds they hold must be paid in full, or they will have their pound of flesh cut nearest a Greek heart.

    I can’t see the ECB relenting and agreeing to send the bonds back to Athens with a covering note saying “You can tear these up, because we forgive you”.

    Then there are all the private companies owed money by Greek public bodies, which not being charities are unlikely to forgive those debts and will only forget about them under duress.

  17. Debt forgiveness is SO full of moral hazard that debt after debt will go on and on re-occurring in the future because of it.

    Why would people lend to others in that post-debt-forgiveness society if they know that, the bigger the debt, the more likely it will be forgiven in the some future generation?

    Furthermore, to compound the moral hazard, the debt is so enormous that the amoral basis of a future human existence on planet earth would be so wicked that, I suggest, the post-debt-forgiveness society will tear itself to bits – whatever that means in detail.

    It sounds very right wing, I know, but I think that debt requires punishment because unpayoffable debt is, arguable, a crime of greed. Since the debt is really the responsibility of the whole populace from presidents all the way down, then it is the population which, sadly, has to experience debt punishment.

    As in 1347, for example, the debt was punished by the Black Death, so the debt punishment has to be of a depopulating nature.

    • I’m confused John Mark how does the Black Death of 1347 differ from the Black death of 1603 and how does this relate to debt forgiveness?

      • Bill Casso, I’m confused too! Are you asking me how does the difference between 1603 and 1347 relate to debt forgiveness? Please elucidate.

      • Bill, I’ve done a little reading since your post, and I will try to defend my original comment. Historians have estimated that about 20-40% of the European population died from bubonic plague, which reached its maximum in 1347-8. In addition, the 100 years war was under way from about 1337.

        From the early 1300s, there was starvation, plague and war all combining to reduce the European population. Prior to the onset of the Black Plague or Death in 1347, price inflation had been rising. This collapsed from the mid1300s and was followed by price deflation until the beginning of the 1400s. From then on, a period of price stability took over.

        I suspect that the depopulation of the 1347 plague was greater in percentage terms than in 1603. However, the European population declined again because of the 30 years war of 1618-1648.

        In both 1648 and 1347, price inflation collapsed so that agricultural goods were cheaper from then on, because there were so many fewer mouths to feed. The demand for food had fallen dramatically and so had prices. Since the people spent most of their income on food and fuel, and since the supply of these exceeded population needs, prices fell. They fell too far into depression on account of the European population falling by about one-third in the 1300s.

        My reference to the Black Death of 1347 was an illustration of how prices fall and inflation can be stopped so as to continue on a price stable course for a good period of time.

        It was also an attempt to explain an alternative solution to debt-forgiveness, which I had argued was self-defeating and destructive of the morality and, therefore, the functioning of a post-debt-forgiveness society.

        Since debt-forgiveness, in my opinion, was unlikely to succeed, I was suggesting an alternative, namely, debt-punishment, which took the form of gross European depopulation in the 1300s.

        I’ve gone on far too long so I’ll conclude by saying that I see a big link between price inflation and debt in our modern world. Hence my historical example!

  18. Perhaps Merkel should remember that the reparations (=debt) demanded from Germany after the First World War were tough but not as tough as what the Greeks are facing. And of course the Germans walked away from those debts after a few years. They helped themselves to debt forgiveness. Some say that the money saved allowed them to finance World War 2. Whatever, Germany; a country that has done exceedingly well out of the euro should learn from history

    • My understanding of the German war reparations is that they did, indeed, contribute to Germany’s hyperinflation, so that, with this, the Kaiser’s money printing to finance the Great War and the global economic downturn, the Depression in Germany was worse than anywhere else in the world.

      The German middle class was broke, having lost all their savings. They were going around in a daze. They did not know what to do to get out of the Depression they were in – until Hitler came along. He offered them a great future within a united race – without telling them exactly how to get out – and they loved him and followed him towards Hitler’s future for the country.

      Delusions are great when you’re in a hole and can’t get out by your own bootstraps.

      The victorious allies realised that they must do the opposite of the post-Great War reparations and pump currency and goods into Germany. Before long, Germany became a solid democracy.

    • Not saying that most liabilities levered on Greece are bogus, just like the WWI reparations, but we nevertheless paid up.
      The german government paid the last tranche just a few years ago…

  19. One of my friends in Athens just let me know that some of the Pharmacies in her area in the North East of the City were closed yesterday evening unexpectedly….so the perscription issue might be spreading from Crete.

    I still remain very suspicious of the first weekend in June for some nasty skullduggery from some quarter of the EU or another…..It may not matter that the City of London is open on Monday 28th May and many Eurozone markets are closed……. BUT because our UK Whitsun Bank Holiday was pushed back a week, we now have Greek banks closed from the afternoon of Friday 1st for a long Orthodox Whitsun weekend……and London Markets closed from the Friday right through until Wednesday 6th while the EU/EZ is happily trading away and the Sprouts can announce anything they like…..That famous phrase “A very good time to bury bad news” comes to mind !!….No predictions from me, since no doubt “the Universe will unfold”.

  20. I’ve been trying to come up with a solution to our woes that doesn’t involve more debt and this is what I’ve come up with (it might work for the UK with its own currency, the Eurozone might be harder): QE for mortgages

    This is how it would work. Bank A owns the mortgage on 26 Acacia Avenue. It sells that mortgage to the BoE. The money received (or credited to Bank A’s BoE account) cannot be drawn upon other than to finance withdrawals in cash by Bank A’s depositors. Thus the depositors of Bank A are secure, but the bank cannot lend that money out and the inflationary effect of the money printing (which is what it is) is reduced, as Bank A cannot create more debt with it. It just sits there, balancing the liabilities to depositors.

    At the other end of the deal the BoE now goes to the owner of 26 Acacia Avenue and offers him a deal. If he signs a document legally agreeing to never MEW his house, and to never reduce the equity in any other house he ever owns below the current value of the mortgage he owes now, and to return to the BoE any profit on a sale if he downsizes, the BoE will tear up the mortgage. Thus you can’t get given the deeds to a London town house, sell up and buy a nice house in Yorkshire for half the price and pocket the difference. The profit would end up back at the BoE. So all anyone gets out of it is a house, never cash. If house prices rise, you can MEW down to the original mortgage value but no lower.

    At the same time, strict controls on the amount of deposits and income multiples for house purchases are introduced, to prevent a property boom with the extra income floating around the economy, and equally strict controls on the amount of unsecured debt any one person can take on.

    Ok, so there is considerable moral hazard, and its unfair on those who aren’t on the property ladder at the moment. But the system needs a reset. As long as one can offset the worst inflationary effects of such a program, I could be prepared to accept the moral issues. As long as it creates no concrete economic problems and just a vague feeling of ‘thats not right’ I could swallow it. Indeed it needn’t be 100% repayment – you could set the amount removed from mortgages at whatever % one thought fit. It could be entirely voluntary – some people who are able to pay their mortgages easily might prefer to pay them and keep a fully saleable asset. Others who are up their necks in it would obviously prefer the deal on offer. The surplus income now available to people to spend would provide a huge fiscal boost to the economy, a boost that would continue year after year, as it comes from income and is therefore ongoing.

    The main losers are a) people who don’t have mortgages, although they don’t lose in cash terms, rather relative ones, which is probably easier to sell. Kids could see the family home being paid off which would come their way one day, so would have an incentive to agree with it. b) the banks, as they lose their profitable lending arms and become holding bodies for large amounts of deposits and c) savers because there would be no mortgage payments coming it to finance interest. But as interest rates are virtually zero now anyway, thats not making a huge difference. And I would make it that National Savings was the primary way of financing the State budget deficit – offer good rates on NS products and get the money required in that way. Plus over time the banks could lend against their existing deposits to new house buyers (at the strict limits of course) and eventually they would have a loan book enough to pay more interest and rates would rise. As the banks lent against their original deposits their balances at the BoE would be reduced. Eventually a decade or more down the line a lot of people would have mortgages again, but ones they could afford, and interest rates could be normalised at higher levels.

    Where’s the flaw in my master plan then? Is there something I have missed?

  21. ‘But as interest rates are virtually zero now anyway’,now how could that be?Well,from 2003 an artificial debt led consumer boom was combined with reckless government borrowing ,ending in the collapse of Northern Rock,HBOS and RBS,to name a few.So, to save the entire banking system the money supply was tripled and base set at 5 points below current inflation.Jim,this is Alice in Wonderland.Base will be 3-4 percent within 2 years,or sterling will go through the floor.The mortgage on 26AA will cost 7 percent,and UK house prices will,outside central London,be 20 percent lower,and there will be a healthy level of repossessions and bankrupt commercial property schemes.After Crash 2,the economy will revive,IMHO.

  22. John,
    I wonder if you have read A E-P’s piece in the DT today.

    Below is the meat of it:-
    Fitch boss David Riley told a banking form in the City that the Greek saga is “knocking down the central pillars underpinning monetary union”.

    EU leaders said successively:

    1) There would be no bail-outs.
    2) Sovereign defaults inside EMU were inconceivable.
    3) EMU exit was out of the question, lunatic, and so forth.

    Every one of these claims has been shown to be untrue.

    “The question of whether EMU becomes a fixed exchange rate regime rather than a monetary union matters a lot,” he said.

    Indeed it does. Charisma would drain away. How fast it drained would depend on the body language of EU leaders in subsequent months. But who really believes Wolfgang Schauble’s assertions that Europe will pull out the stops to uphold Portugal?

    Fitch said it would downgrade every EMU sovereign the moment Greece leaves on the grounds that nothing is clear any more, and contingent liabilities might become real.

    Mr Riley said EU policy-makers couldn’t “simply shrug” and move on with the status quo ante, minus Greece.

    There would have to be an entirely new regime for Euroland, and a quantum leap to fiscal union to restore credibility. It is far from clear whether this would materialise.

    Be that as it may, Mr Papademos said withdrawal from the euro would be “catastrophic” for Greece. This is a religious incantation, or possibly just a threat. It would be catastrophic if EU leaders and the IMF chose to make it catastrophic. That is a political decision. Such shroud-waving borders on political blackmail.

    We hear this sort of language before every devaluation crisis. Argentina in 2001-2002, Mexico’s Tequila crisis in 1994-1995, the East Asian crisis in 1997-1998, not to mention countless others through history, including the UK’s two liberations from dysfunctional fixed-exchange systems in 1931 and 1992.

    “No one ever told us we could do that,” said Labour’s Fabian luminary Sidney Webb, after the Tories took Britain off Gold in 1931. Indeed, not. The mantra had been that exit would be, yes, “catastrophic”.

    The catastrophe – quite literally for Weimar Democracy, and the French 3rd Republic – was for those who clung ideologically, blindly, with no political imagination, to the destructive machinery of interwar Gold.

    Mr Papademos was governor of the Greek central bank when the fateful decisions were first made, and then vice-president of the ECB as Frankfurt presided over the unfolding disaster.

    He was at or near the helm when the ECB’s uber-loose monetary policy pushed the Greek economy into its disastrous bubble. He was ECB vice-president when Greece’s current account deficit reached 16pc of GDP.

    As a top-notch MIT man he must have known what going to happen. What did he do about it, may we ask? Did he meekly toe the Bundesbank line when this disaster was incubated, and then when the ECB raised rates twice at key moments of the crisis, and when it withdrew banking support from Greece in early 2010?

    He is a fine and honourable man. He is also a Project man, totally compromised by his own leading role in the debacle. Of course he wishes to vindicate his legacy. That is human nature.

    But the awful truth is that Mr Papademos is more responsible for the desperate crisis facing the Greek nation than any other Greek public figure, and certainly more responsible than the hapless George Papandreou who merely inherited the consequences of a massive monetary and strategic blunder.

    Papandreou was clueless. Papademos was complicit. Where does blame really lie?

    Greek exit may perhaps be catastrophic. Remaining in the euro is demonstrably catastrophic already.

    There is poison, and poison.

    Tags: eurozone crisis, greece, lucas papademos

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    • Wow, how did you get Gold in there in negative terms? When Weimar inflation was progressing to hyperinflation, those without gold lost their savings and those with gold didn’t.

      In 1900, a barrel of oil cost a unit of gold, say, 1 ounce. Today, a barrel of oil cost a unit of gold, say, 1 ounce.

      On average, gold keeps pace with depreciation in currency especially the dollar. It weaves up and down, above and below this average. It is certainly below the average at the moment because banks are selling gold in order to maintain their Basle Tier 1 assets as they lose currency on the falling bond and share markets.

      If Basle allows gold to become a Tier 1 asset, then banks will keep it and buy it but not sell it. Then the price will rise dramatically. Basle are pondering whether to do this or not. Hope they do!

      I may have misunderstood your strongly negative comments about gold.

      • The utility of a barrel of oil in1900 was pretty marginal-an industrial curiosity with great potential.

  23. We all need to stop panicking about the euro crisis. The leaders have issued a statement saying they believe in austerity AND growth, and we all know that when the leaders come up with a solution and issue a statement
    the problem magically disappears,so stop smirking in the back row please!

  24. Austerity has been part of IMF program since the 1970s. Many economists have pointed out the counter-productive aspects of the policy — Joseph Stiglitz most eloquently — to the degree that the IMF was almost on the trash-heap of history pre-2008. The finance crisis bailed it out, giving it and its baleful policies new life.

    Of course, the IMF policies allow a country to devalue their currency, something EU membership cannot allow as it is a fairly shallow currency peg confederacy. Membership is self-selecting so Greece sees no end to the deflationary pain. According to Fisher, the outcome is national government insolvency and total collapse, this is what is in store for Greece as well as the other euro-using countries.

    Of course, this is an energy crisis in credit drag: default/repudiation does not solve anything as countries have already ‘spent’ what they might trade for fuel. What they export is their own consumption or claims they might have on resources that have escaped exploitation to date. Once these things are gone, the previously-modern Euro-country is an economic basket case and a social backwater. It might have feta cheese and tabouli to sell … then again, maybe not.

    This is the fate for all the countries: the ‘Big Slide’ is underway at this moment: Thelma and Louise’s death ride off the gasoline cliff (taking all of us with them).

    Enjoy the ride …

  25. The idea of debt forgiveness appears sound as a solution.
    But it will never in my opinion happen. The eventual outcome will be to inflate away the debts……..even taken to hyperinflation. The seeds have been sown already and as the situation worsens the presses will start up………..cannot see any other answer being acceptable to the those at the top…………..only the known destruction of their own wealth will slow them down – until they have protected themselves from the outcome sufficiently.

    As far as the Euro is concerned – it is only Germany which appears to be preventing the presses from running flat out. If Merkel caves in – its game over !

  26. economic indicators in a eurozone basket case. i was in dublin last week, 10 euros for 24 hours parking in centre . 4 euro for a pint in a class hotel, city centre, 35 euro i saw today for b&b in connemara(one of the most beautiful parts of the country) 8 euros for lunch in same. booked a fishing trip for next week for 10 people, the boat owner was very relieved, his diary was empty, its nearly june!! kenny is still a spineless jerk and noonan his pal( finance) last week made a joke about the plight of greece. the unctious little sh..t. times are very changed here in ireland.

    • Well in Athens in February I dined at a well known Athenian Taverna – just one other person in a taverna that is always packed and it was Saturday ! I then had a hot chocolate in a cafe – too late for coffee ! – and that cost me 6.5 Euros !

  27. ” But the thing about rules is really akin to the old joke about anarchist communes: if nobody obeys the rules, then the answer is rules, rules, and still more rules.”

    This is precisely what is happening here in Australia. In response to the problem of underage drinking, wowser groups have proposed, wait for it…..increasing the legal age limit from 18 to 21! Yeah, that’ll solve it!!!

  28. New poll shows SYRIZA and ND fighting it out
    A new opinion poll carried out for Kathimerini and Skai by Public Issue reinforces predictions that repeat elections on June 17 will be a clash between the leftist SYRIZA, which is riding an anti-austerity wave, and conservative New Democracy, which appears to be making a comeback after joining forces with the liberal Democratic Alliance and drawing several former deputies from right-wing LAOS into its ranks.

    The poll shows both parties to have gained support over the past two weeks, with SYRIZA now netting 30 % of the vote while ND garners 26 %, both up four percentage points over the past 10 days.

    Socialist PASOK is in third place with 15.5 %, a slight increase, while most of the smaller parties have slipped. The anti-bailout Independent Greeks is seen as drawing 8 %, Democratic Left is at 6.5 %, the Communist Party at 5 %, the extreme-right Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn) at 4 % while a new alliance between the two liberal groups Dimiourgia Xana (Recreate Greece) and Drasi is seen hitting the 3 % threshold to enter Parliament.

    The poll revealed that 54 % of respondents think the conservatives will place first, with 35 % predicting that SYRIZA will secure the top spot. The leftist party’s leader, Alexis Tsipras, was regarded as the best choice for prime minister by 24 % of respondents, with 19 % opting for Samaras and 17 % for PASOK chief Evangelos Venizelos.
    More than half (54 %) of those polled said they would prefer a coalition government, with 22 % saying they want a leftist administration and only 13 % looking forward to another ND-PASOK coalition.
    An overwhelming 85 % said they wanted Greece to remain in the eurozone while 62 % said they opposed the country’s debt deal with its international creditors.

    ekathimerini.com , Thursday May 24, 2012 (21:02)

    I do not see many chances that SYRIZA will loose this elections as at the same momentum ……Financial crimes squad probes 500 politicians

    Financial crimes squad (SDOE) officers have begun scouring the tax records and bank accounts of 500 acting and former politicians in an effort to clamp down on graft in the higher echelons of the civil service and as part of an ongoing effort to curb widespread tax evasion.
    The probes, which are focusing on the finances of mayors, prefects, parliamentarians and political advisers, were ordered after officials at the Finance Ministry found discrepancies between the income declarations and declarations of real estate assets of the 500 officials, during a cross-check run by the General Secretariat for Information Systems.
    SDOE said on Thursday that the discrepancies may not necessarily arise from false income declarations and the squad will be giving the individuals the opportunity to explain the gap between declared income and assets, after which auditors will also investigate 10 years’ worth of “pothen esches” – (where do you got it from) forms, on which they annually declare the source of all of their assets and any involvement they may have in businesses that are unrelated to their main source of income.
    The Finance Ministry has also requested the assistance of the banks at which the officials under investigation have accounts, asking them to waive privilege and allow SDOE investigators access to the details of cash transactions, mortgages, mutual funds and stock portfolios. SDOE will also be looking into large transactions made by close relatives or business associates.
    Transparency International Greece earlier this month estimated that the volume of under-the-table payments came to more than 500 million euros in 2011.
    In a separate report, the World Bank found that 21.6 % of Greek businesses pay to get procedures expedited, 55.9 % expect to be asked for a ”certain something” from government officials, and 14.5 % see giving a kickback for a state contract as an absolute prerequisite.

    WELL…this exactly is what the GREEK former MID – CLASS want’s to see. WHO and HOW MUCH??? The Greeks are aware of what has happened in the country in the past 30 – 35 years…….so they are giving the bill nowadays!! This Bill does not belong to the ”Greeks”…it belongs to a ”minority” of the Greeks ….and they have to pay, not the whole population!! That’s what it is about…speaking about ANTI – BAILOUT increase opinion and point – of – view in simple Greek.
    AND NEVER FORGET MY FRIENDS…..in any case, speaking about corruption…….there is NEVER only one side involved!!

  29. The building’s on fire and there’s only one exit but with all the smoke and mirrors fewcan see it. Debt forgiveness!

  30. Local town here in Greece has branches of National Bank, Piraeus, B.O. Cyprus, Eurobank, ATEbank and HSBC. I was in town yesterday and saw short queues at most ATMs – which is unusual. The last Friday of every month is normally a busy day for bill paying etc, so will have a look round again today. As Kouros says above, cash payments are the norm as ΦΠΑ (VAT) often gets “forgotten”.

    No sign yet of the problem with pharmacy payments which has hit other parts of Greece.

    I was near the National as they tested their alarm system – so painfully loud it would be classed as H&S hazard in the UK.

  31. I would like to forgive all on this thread who talk bollocks.
    Also like to forgive all those who did not.
    Also like to forgive myself for living so long in Greece….and enjoying every minute.
    I`m a very forgiving person!
    ps. Great blog!

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