Tag Archives: Euro

How well is the Tspiras-Syriza “austerity is over” plan working out for Greece?

Greece debt repayment schedule
Greece debt repayment schedule

First, let’s recall what the socialist leader Tsipras said after he was elected to save nearly bankrupt Greece.

Look how the radically leftist UK Guardian gushed when Tsipras took office:

In a dramatic start to his tenure in office, Greece’s new prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, has begun unpicking the deeply unpopular austerity policies underpinning the debt-stricken country’s bailout programme.

[…]“We won’t get into a mutually destructive clash, but we will not continue a policy of subjection,” said Tsipras, who at 40 is Greece’s youngest postwar leader.

[…]Earlier, the energy minister, Panagiotis Lafazanis, called a halt to the privatisation programme that the EU and IMF have demanded in exchange for the €240bn in aid keeping Greece afloat. Plans to sell off the country’s dominant power corporation, PPC, were to be frozen with immediate effect. “We will immediately stop any privatisation of PPC,” said the politician, who heads Syriza’s militant Left Platform. A proposed scheme to privatise the port of Pireaus, the country’s largest docks, were also put on hold.

Yes, only nasty conservatives like me think that private industry is cheaper, more efficient and less corrupt than big government for handling big projects.

More:

After that, ministers announced more measures: the scrapping of fees for prescriptions and hospital visits, the restoration of collective work agreements, the rehiring of workers laid off in the public sector, the granting of citizenship to migrant children born and raised in Greece. On his first day in office – barely 48 hours after storming to power – Tsipras got to work. The biting austerity his Syriza party had fought so long to annul now belonged to the past, and this was the beginning not of a new chapter but a book for the country long on the frontline of the euro crisis.

“A new era has begun, a government of national salvation has arrived,” he declared as cameras rolled and the cabinet session began. “We will continue with our plan. We don’t have the right to disappoint our voters.”

If Athens’s troika of creditors at the EU, ECB and IMF were in any doubt that Syriza meant business it was crushingly dispelled on Wednesday . With lightning speed, Europe’s first hard-left government moved to dismantle the punishing policies Athens has been forced to enact in return for emergency aid.

Measures that had pushed Greeks on to the streets – and pushed the country into its worst slump on record – were consigned to the dustbin of history, just as the leftists had promised.

Yes, everything is going to be sunshine and roses, because a 40-year-old know-nothing with no experience says it will be. Economics? That dismal science belongs in the dustbin of history. We can unilaterally reverse the policies our creditors demanded, and then they will of course keep lending us money anyway.

Another leftist UK Guardian article has more happy rhetoric and socialist policies:

Dismantling the EU-IMF mandated measures that had plunged Greece into poverty and despair would, declared Panos Skourletis, the labour minister, be his single greatest priority.

“The reinstatement of the minimum wage to €751 (£560) [a month] will be among the government’s first bills,” Skourletis announced on Antenna TV.

Under international stewardship, Athens had been forced to pare back the minimum wage to under €500, ostensibly to increase competitiveness and make the labour market more attractive. Skourletis, formerly Syriza’s hard-nosed spokesman, said plans were similarly under way to bring back collective work agreements – a major demand of unions – and to annul the enforced mobilisation of workers protesting against cuts.

Everything is awesome! Well, those two articles were from January 2015. Let’s see what’s happening now.

Everything is awesome! Lets have fun!
Everything is awesome! Lets have fun!

This is from UK Telegraph:

Greece’s “war cabinet” has resolved to defy the European creditor powers after a nine-hour meeting on Sunday, ensuring a crescendo of brinkmanship as the increasingly bitter fight comes to a head this month.

Premier Alexis Tsipras and the leading figures of his Syriza movement agreed to defend their “red lines” on pensions and collective bargaining and prepare for battle whatever the consequences, deeming the olive-branch policy of recent weeks to have reached a dead end.

“We have agreed on a tougher strategy to stop making compromises. We were unified and we have a spring our step once again,” said one participant.

The Syriza government knows that this an extremely high-risk strategy. The Greek treasury is already empty and emergency funds seized from local authorities and state entities will soon run out.

Greece’s mayors warned over the weekend that they would not release any more funds to the central government. The Greek finance ministry must pay the International Monetary Fund €750m (£544m) on Tuesday, the first of an escalating set of deadlines running into August.

“We have enough money to pay the IMF this week but not enough to get through to the end of the month. We all know that,” said one minister, speaking to The Telegraph immediately after the emotional conclave.

If there’s one thing that makes me feel better about all the crap that is happening in this world, it’s the wonderful truth that eventually, bad economics meets with reality. You can imagine anything you want today that makes you feel good, and imagine that it will all be paid for somehow in the future. I really like it when people who don’t have any money make these elaborate future plans and then bet their futures on it. Because when reality comes, we all find out that there is justice in the world after all. There is no path to prosperity that involves doing whatever you want and being happy all the time – that is a myth that children have about life. Anyway, pass me the popcorn and let’s see how the Peter Pan plans of these inexperienced children work out. We won’t have to wait long. Mmm, this popcorn tastes schadenfreudelicious.

Greeks withdraw $894 million from Greek banks in one day

I found this article from MSNBC on The Other McCain.

Excerpt:

Political leaders in Athens were due to discuss an emergency government Wednesday to deal with a possible run on banks as it emerged Greeks withdrew almost $900 million in a single day, fearing their country could crash out of the euro currency by the end of the week.

An interim government would take the country through to new elections on June 17, triggered by the collapse on Tuesday of talks to form a coalition between winners of the inconclusive May 6 election.

Greeks are withdrawing euros from banks, apparently afraid of the prospect of rapid devaluation if the country leaves the European single currency and returns to the drachma.

President Karolos Papoulias warned of “great fear that could develop into a panic,” the minutes of Papoulias’ negotiations with political leaders showed, according to Reuters.

[…]Several banking sources told Reuters similar amounts had also been withdrawn on Tuesday. Nevertheless, there was no sign of panic or queues at bank branches in Athens on Wednesday. Bankers dismissed suggestions that a bank run was looming. A senior executive at a large Greek bank told Reuters: “There is no bank run, no queues or panic. The situation is better than I expected. The amount of deposit withdrawals the president mentioned referred to three days, not one.”

[…]Greeks have already been withdrawing their savings from banks at a sharp clip – nearly a third of bank deposits were withdrawn between January 2010 and March 2012, reducing total Greek household and business deposits to 165 billion euros.

What I find really striking about stories like this is that Greece just had an election. 75% of them want to stay in the European Union and keep the Euro as a currency. But that can only happen if they accept that they are spending too much and they are not producing anything. They have to cut spending, lower taxes and deregulate so that there is economic growth. So what did they do? They voted against austerity. They think that by refusing to meet the conditions of the people who can bail them out, that they will get a bailout. It’s just insane. Like whipping a thirsty camel with the expectation that whipping can somehow satiate its thirst and cause it to get up and keep moving.

Fitch cuts credit ratings on 6 more European nations

From Zero Hedge.

Excerpt:

Fitch Ratings-London-27 January 2012: Fitch Ratings has today concluded its review of the six eurozone sovereigns it placed on Rating Watch Negative (RWN) on 16 December 2011.

The rating actions on the long-term (LT) and short-term (ST) Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) are as follows:

-Belgium LT IDR downgraded to ‘AA’ from ‘AA+’; Negative Outlook; ST IDR affirmed at ‘F1+’
-Cyprus LT IDR downgraded to ‘BBB-‘ from ‘BBB’; Negative Outlook; ST IDR affirmed at ‘F3’
-Ireland LT IDR affirmed at ‘BBB+’; Negative Outlook; ST IDR affirmed at ‘F2’
-Italy LT IDR downgraded to ‘A-‘ from ‘A+’; Negative Outlook; ST IDR downgraded to ‘F2’ from ‘F1’
-Slovenia LT IDR downgraded to ‘A’ from ‘AA-‘; Negative Outlook; ST IDR downgraded to ‘F1’ from ‘F1+’
– Spain LT IDR downgraded ‘A’ from ‘AA-‘; Negative Outlook; ST IDR downgraded to ‘F1’ from ‘F1+’

All the ratings have been removed from RWN, with the Negative Outlook on all six countries indicating a slightly greater than 50% chance of a downgrade over a two-year time horizon.

[…]The Negative Outlooks on eight eurozone countries (the six sovereigns in this review along with ‘AAA’-rated France and ‘BB+’-rated Portugal) primarily reflect the risk that the crisis could intensify further.

Now consider that Barack Obama is taking us down the same road as these European welfare states. The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money. That’s what is happening in Europe, and it’s going to happen here, unless we get serious about who we elect as President.

My previous post on S&P downgrades of the credit ratings of various European countries.

Is the Euro aggravating the European debt crisis?

ECM sent me this story from the liberal German newspaper “Der Spiegel”.

Here’s the thesis of the article:

In the past 14 months, politicians in the euro-zone nations have adopted one bailout package after the next, convening for hectic summit meetings, wrangling over lazy compromises and building up risks of gigantic dimensions.

For just as long, they have been avoiding an important conclusion, namely that things cannot continue this way. The old euro no longer exists in its intended form, and the European Monetary Union isn’t working. We need a Plan B.

Instead, those in responsible positions are getting bogged down in crisis management, as they seek to placate the public and sugarcoat the problems. They say that there is only a government debt crisis in a few euro countries but no euro crisis, citing as evidence the fact that the value of the European common currency has remained relatively stable against other currencies like the dollar.

But if it wasn’t for the euro, Greece’s debt crisis would be an isolated problem — one that was tough for the country, but easy for Europe to bear. It is only because Greece is part of the euro zone that Athens’ debts are a problem for all of its partners — and pose a threat to the common currency.

If the rest of Europe abandons Greece, the crisis could spin out of control, spreading from one weak euro-zone country to the next. Investors would have no guarantees that Europe would not withdraw its support from Portugal or Ireland, if push came to shove, and they would sell their government bonds. The prices of these bonds would fall and risk premiums would go up. Then these countries would only be able to drum up fresh capital by paying high interest rates, which would only augment their existing budget problems. It’s possible that they would no longer be able to raise any money at all, in which case they would become insolvent.

Well, the article talks about how economically productive counties like Germany are on the hook for the bailouts to underperforming countries like Greece and Portugal. That will happen unless Greece reverts to the drachma and stops dragging down the Euro. But the strong European countries are not the only source of bailout funds – there’s also the International Monetary Fund. And guess who funds them?

Consider this article by John Bolton in the New York Post.

Excerpt:

Most Americans had barely heard of the International Monetary Fund before the arrest of its managing director, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, for sexually assaulting a hotel housekeeper. Yet the race to replace him offers a chance to rethink everything about what the real American interest is in the IMF — including whether its continued existence is beneficial.

The top contenders for Strauss-Kahn’s job are French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde and Bank of Mexico Governor Agustin Carstens. Europeans have headed the IMF since its founding, as Americans have led the World Bank — prerogatives that Third World countries increasingly resent as vestiges of colonialism. Carstens’ candidacy is the most visible manifestation of this rising discontent.

[…]Europe is eager to keep the top IMF job not simply because of geographical chauvinism but because continued IMF assistance is critical to European Union efforts to bail out the fractured economic and fiscal system in Greece and several other EU countries. Lurking behind the bailout crisis is the EU’s growing panic over the viability of its currency, the euro. Having a sympathetic ear at the IMF’s pinnacle seems absolutely critical to protect Europe’s parochial interests.

What of America’s interests? We should have long ago resisted throwing our scarce resources, through the IMF or otherwise, into the sinkhole of defending the euro. The currency was always conceived to be as much a political statement as an economic policy: Its European proponents believed the euro would enhance Europe’s strength as an alternative and perhaps rival to America.

If the United States and a few other developed countries like Japan decide to break with Europe over this vote, the IMF’s voting system, based on world-wide economic strength, makes defeating Lagarde a real possibility.

Today’s IMF does little or nothing for US national interests, especially when we face enormous domestic economic challenges. Why should Washington not support Carstens, break the EU hold on the IMF and stop IMF support for the euro?

We can barely afford us, and yet we have to bailout these profligate European nations? Give me a break.