Sometimes, the Orwellian nature of ‘news’ these days can convince even canny old hounds like me that I’ve got it wrong. And at other times (like today, Friday 26th October 2012) nothing can do so. The trick is to hold onto one’s sanity – and ignore the bollocks strewn hither and thither in one’s careering path.
Let us review empirically what happened today, and ignore the false reality of those who choose to ignore reality on the Editor’s orders.
This from Ekathimerini Friday morning:
‘Greek debt will be above the target of 120% of GDP in 2020, a preliminary report by the IMF shows, and Athens will need more reforms before emergency credit from international lenders can start flowing again.
Excerpts from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) report were presented to the Eurogroup Working Group (EWG) – junior finance ministers and treasury officials who prepare meetings of eurozone finance ministers.’
As a result of this leak, the EWG session was hastily abandoned and then ‘unhappened’. The Greek and EU press then went “lalalalalalalaaaah” a lot during the afternoon.
But the dear old Daily Telegraph Crisis column remained a beacon of reality once more. Late Friday morning, it ran this telling piece:
‘Europe must stop its “salami style” approach to the Greek crisis and completely write-off the country’s debt so that it can focus on reviving economic growth, according to Citigroup’s chief economist Willem Buiter. He told Bloomberg:
“I would like to see an effective write-off of most of the Greek remaining sovereign debt. That’s where Greece is going to end up in any case. You might as well bring the moment of full deleveraging forward – get on with the job of stimulating demand rather than have this done salami style over three or four years.”
Mr Buiter remained sceptical that Greece could remain in the euro without some official sector involvement. He said:
“I myself continue to be unconvinced that the funding, the non-market funding, necessary to keep Greece on board will be available. It can only come from the official creditors or from the ECB….and neither of them seem to be willing to play.”‘
At 11.05 pm BST this Friday night, these are the facts:
1. This leak from the Troika document presented to the EWG is genuine and accepted by all sane parties: ‘New prior actions will be needed, on top of the existing [ones] before any new tranches of eurozone and IMF emergency loans to Greece can be paid.‘
2. That means either something drastic must change between now and November 16th to give Greece that funding, or the country will default.
3. The EWG will meet again on Monday. As nothing will have changed by then, the eurozone FinMin must either consign Greece to the euro-dustbin, or grant it funds from the EFSF/ESM.
4. At some point between last Sunday – when all parties to the Athens talks seemed happy that a deal had been done – and the following Wednesday, a combo of the Berlin government and the ECB in Frankfurt began denying that any deal had been done. Thursday night, Antonis Samaras still felt he had a deal. But at some time just before or after that, the Troika presented its negative view to the EWG.
For most of Friday, all the mainstream press everywhere ignored the blindingly obvious mismatch between Greek expectations and Troika report. This process continues as I write. And that followed a deeply suspicious denial last weekend by Berlin (recorded at the time by The Slog) that there would be an EWG meeting about Greek progress at all this week.
To read the Greek press tonight, you’d think there was nothing to be concerned about at all. As one of my most trusted and admired correspondents emailed me this evening:
‘Bravo for your breaking news, a scoop - in comparison the Greek news 6 hrs later was surreal – boiled eyed, upbeat, throwaway. Everything fine! Labour issue to Monday! EWG – yawn – Wednesday! Schäuble, yawn! Reuters, yawn! Greece is stressed to death, beyond exhaustion, non-responsive to threat, adrenals don’t function and who bloody cares anymore. Greece can rebuild itself from top to bottom, stand on its head, breed singing hippopotamuses, become Switzerland – but whatever we do is not going to make one blind bit of difference to the real Eurozone problems and the huge Euro catastrophe heading straight towards all of us.’
This is as square a hammer-bang on the nail as I’ve read in weeks.
I too am knackered. I’ve been up since 3 am this morning, and like most Greeks and Brits of all classes, I’m sick to death of the eurozone and its Franco-German-Goldman Sachs tri-schizoid denialism of the inevitable. I just wish my own – and the Athens – government had the balls to tell the truth and diverge from the Stepford-Wife madness of this never-ending Dance of Death.