“Greece has done a lot more austerity than those countries cited as supposed success stories (which is another issue—success being defined as ‘not total collapse, and slight recovery after years of horror’—but that’s a different story).”
Der Autor Paul Blustein recherchiert seit Jahren im Inneren des Internationalen Währungsfonds.
“Bluestein: Problematisch war vor allem, dass es nicht früh genug einen Schuldenschnitt gegeben hat. Das wäre sicherlich nicht ausreichend gewesen – in Griechenland waren viele Reformen notwendig. Die ökonomischen Annahmen im Jahr 2010 aber waren geradezu irrwitzig optimistisch. Griechenland hätte unglaubliche Sparmaßnahmen durchsetzen müssen, um die Ziele des Programms zu erreichen. Am Anfang sollte ein Haushaltsüberschuss von sechs Prozent der Wirtschaftsleistung erzielt werden. Das ist viel mehr, als selbst eine gesunde Volkswirtschaft schaffen kann, dabei steckte Griechenland schon damals in der Rezession.
ZEIT ONLINE: Hat denn keiner im IWF gemerkt, dass dieses Szenario unrealistisch ist?
Bluestein: Klar, aber die Alternative lautete Schuldenschnitt, und das war für die mächtigsten Politiker in der EU inakzeptabel. Zu diesem Zeitpunkt gab es auch gute Argumente gegen einen teilweisen Schuldenerlass, nämlich die Ansteckungsgefahr, wenn auch andere Länder dies gefordert hätten. Trotzdem wurde die größte Bürde für die Rettung Europas bei Griechenland abgelegt. Das war unfair, und es rächt sich bis heute: Die Krise hält immer noch an.”
“For the last 50 years, every austerity program that the IMF has made has shrunk the victim economy. No austerity program has ever helped an economy grow. No budget surplus has ever helped an economy grow, because a budget surplus sucks money out of the economy. As for the conditionalities, the so-called reforms, they are an Orwellian term for anti-reform, for cutting back pensions and rolling back the progress that the labor movement has made in the last half century. So, the lenders knew very well that Greece would not grow, and that it would shrink.
So, the question is, why does this junk economics continue, decade after decade? The reason is that the loans are made to Greece precisely because Greece couldn’t pay. When a country can’t pay, the rules at the IMF and EU and the German bankers behind it say, don’t worry, we will simply insist that you sell off your public domain. Sell off your land, your transportation, your ports, your electric utilities. This is by now a program that has gone on and on, decade after decade.
Now, surprisingly enough, America’s ambassador to the EU, Ted Malloch, has gone on Bloomberg and also on Greek TV telling the Greeks to leave the euro and go it alone. You have Trump’s nominee for the ambassador to the EU saying that the EU zone is dead zone. It’s going to shrink. If Greece continues to repay the loan, if it does not withdraw from the euro, then it is going to be in a permanent depression, as far as the eye can see.”
“The breakdown of how the programme funding was allocated clearly illustrates the crisis management strategy Greece’s lenders opted for. Eurozone leaders, with the reluctant agreement of the IMF, made a conscious decision to use almost two thirds of their ‘taxpayers’ money’ (as they like to refer to it) to service the debt which they refused even to reprofile at the beginning of the crisis, when it was essential and could have given Greece a chance of recovery.
To protect the integrity of the eurozone, the strategy has left Greece with a massive pile of debt and a quarter of the economy gone, still unable to stand on its own feet. It is this very debt and the pretence of key decision makers to present it as sustainable that keeps the country in a vortex of ongoing political instability, fiscal crises, troika fall outs and economic uncertainty. It is the magnitude of the surpluses required to maintain this sustainability pretence that in spite of the most phenomenal fiscal consolidation in ferocity and speed, Greece is still required to find savings in the volume of billions.
If the intention of eurozone leaders and institutions was indeed to keep their ‘boots on Greece’s neck’ due to the failings of its political class, as the ex-US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner claimed in his book, they have achieved their goal. Now they need to be open about their own crisis management decisions and answer the uncomfortable question: Where did all the money go?”
“The European Union is not a bastion of liberal values. Nor is it a safe harbor in the geopolitical storm. The economic agenda promoted by the European Commission and the European Central Bank since the Great Recession began — and now formally locked into European treaties — has done as much as anything to promote far-right advance in recent years.
If Greece now has an openly neo-Nazi party that can poll circa 10 percent of the vote, we can thank the troika for that; if Golden Dawn has thus far been unable to push beyond that level, we can thank the Greek left-wing and antifascist movements. In France and the Netherlands, Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders are soaring in the polls (and would still be soaring whether or not Brexit had happened).”
Hello. It’s been some time.
“According to [IMF’s then head of research Olivier] Blanchard, not only was the task unprecedented, but Greece was being asked to achieve the impossible in unfavourable external circumstances, when everyone was barely recovering from the 2008 global financial crisis and without any other policy levers (low interest rates or exchange rate adjustment). […]
Athens is currently under pressure to adopt another 2 percent of GDP in new fiscal measures, which relate to the tax-free threshold and pension spending. Since 2010, Greece has adopted revenue-raising measures and spending cuts that are equivalent to more than a third of its economy and more than double what Blanchard had described as unprecedented almost seven years ago.”
“Indeed, in its unwavering support for neoliberalism the EU represents nothing less than an attempt to perpetuate an economic model which advantages European businesses, whilst eroding the living standards of most Europeans. Particularly in the countries of the eurozone, democracy has been eviscerated by the adamant insistence of the EU on more cuts to government spending. […]
The EU is not internationalist in any sense that a genuine member of the left would support. It exists to advance the interests of the business class as against workers, and in its zeal to enrich corporations at the expense of ordinary people it has succeeded in creating such disaffection with the political establishment that fascism, the very phenomenon the EU was in theory designed to prevent, has once more become a formidable force in countries languishing in the grip of high unemployment and low wages. […]
There is a moral case for leaving, based on the fact that Brexit would probably result in the dissolution of the EU and ease the suffering of nations currently held captive by neoliberal economics. […]
A myth has gained ground amongst large sections of the left that the rights which British workers have come to take for granted, such as maternity leave and paid holidays, were gifted to Britain by the EU, and that Brexit would free the Conservatives to intensify their assault on the working class, uninhibited by a social Europe which at present exercises a restraining influence over neoliberal governments. Even supposing that the remain camp is right in assuming that the Conservatives will hold onto power until the next general election in four years time, a questionable assumption in light of the fact the Conservatives are deeply split over the referendum, it is simply false to claim that we owe whatever rights we enjoy to the EU, As others have documented, most of the rights that are invoked by the mainstream left as a reason to vote remain were already in place when we joined the EEC in 1973, and they owe not to a beneficient bureaucracy of Eurocrats but to Britain’s working classes, who won these rights over the course of many years and after a series of hard-fought struggles with the capitalist class. Likewise, the retention of these rights will depend not on the good-will of a remote bureaucracy, which is actively undermining those same rights elsewhere, but on the determination of workers to band together in defence of their standard of living.”
From the start, this blog was about making a case for Grexit. Widening the scope though, and taking into account recent developments in Europe, from this moment onward it is also about a left-wing exit (“Lexit”) of as many Eurozone member states as possible—consigning this ill-conceived monetary union to the dustbin of history, as UKIP leader Nigel Farage has put it so eloquently.
As strange a bedfellow libertarian/right-populist single-issue party UKIP may be for progressive forces in Europe, they at least have achieved a remarkable victory last Thursday. The outcome of the EU referendum is a shot across the bows of this clunky old tanker—aka “neoliberal superstructure”—called the European Union. (Or maybe it was a torpedo to its side—only time will tell.)
In the days and weeks to come, we will post a lot more about the current state of affairs regarding Lexits. Until then, a walk down memory lane with Nigel Farage lends this endeavour a light-hearted bipartisan tinge: this particular Member of the European Parliament is so right on so many issues that we simply refuse to fall for the platitudes—bordering on character assassination attempts—put forth by mainstream media. We’d rather listen to the man instead: