Sunday, July 05, 2015

Ramadan 2015, Day 17 – Greece

No, I’m not going on vacation there. With nothing much happening this weekend Ramadan-wise, except for going to the office to do some work, I spent time monitoring the craziness that is happening in Greece. It’s difficult not to follow it as it’s been dominating the papers the last few weeks.

Five years of loans later and Greece is no better off than it was before. The loans are of such size that it does not appear realistic for the country to be able to manage the interest payments while keeping the economy growing. 330 billion Euro is a lot of money for a country of 11 million people given the state of their economy. 25% unemployment? Yikes!

I feel sorry for the Greek people. In the past they voted in Governments who heavily overspent and then covered up the true state of their finances from the EU and the people. When you elect a Government a person trusts that they will at least show some level of fiscal responsibility. How was your average Greek to know and understand what those Governments were doing? Even the EU didn’t know.

The new Government, Syriza, was not responsible for the economic mess Greece developed over the last 20 years, but were elected on a platform that they would deal with the problem in a new way – rejecting further austerity and renegotiating the loans. The lenders want more austerity, which would save the Government money to use to repay the loans. Syriza’s counterargument is that further austerity would weaken the economy even more, cause more job losses, and thus the Government will receive less revenue over time so will be right back to where we are now – only with more problems.

To be fair Greece has not entirely done what it should have over the last five years. It did not crack down on all the tax-dodging, did not do major cuts in areas like military spending, and the planned privatization of major industries didn’t happen (which could have raised 40-50b). This is not Syriza’s fault, they’ve only been in power for 5-6 months, but I could see why the lenders are weary of more promises by Greek Government(s).

Ultimately it’s the people who are suffering. Things weren’t great before but now? 60 euro a day withdrawal limits (if the ATM has a money, as many quickly run out), crowds of elderly crushing against banks in order to get their pension money, which is likely their only income so they need it to survive, factories and businesses shutting down, it’s a disaster. They don’t deserve this. The Government(s) who got them into this mess deserve some sort of punishment (What happened to them anyway? Was anyone ever arrested for this? For all the misery they’ve caused someone should be in jail.)

The EU and the other lenders really need to look past the sins of the Governments and focus on helping the people. That means taking the high-road, swallowing pride, forgiving Syriza for its Drama-Queen excesses (Syriza really doesn’t do itself any favours calling its lenders “terrorists” and doing other petulant antics as it does not endear them to the rest of the EU and encourages people to take a “punish” stance), and work out ways to get Greece out of this mess so as to help the people. Less talk of how Greece is going to pay you back and more trying to figure out a way to solve the issues. Greece is not going to find a way out of this on their own, and they shouldn’t have to, as they are part of a Union, the EU, so everyone should be trying to help instead of punish (well, except for those previous Governments, feel free to arrest them).

Taking the high-road could be done regardless of how the vote goes today and I hope the powers-that-be consider it.

No comments: