Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Greece: Tragedy or Farce?

The public sector unions are striking today in Greece. They are opposed to the new round of austerity measures being put to Parliament - so opposed that they are trying to stop MPs getting in to debate them.

Opinion polls show the ruling Socialist party, bearer of austerity, with less support than the opposition conservatives. Does this mean that Greek conservatives are in favour of deficits and street violence? I doubt it. It just means Greek voters don't want to face up to the reality of their predicament.

And does anyone outside Greece feel sympathy for that predicament?

Outside Greece, there is unaminity: you spent more than you could afford, to no good purpose - bribing voters with benefits you could not fund and public sector workers with perks ditto - and now you want other people to foot the bill. Who do you take us for? It's not as if you spent the money trying to strengthen your economy and it didn't work.

I have read the arguments that the €uro is to blame because it prevents a Greek devaluation. But what would Greece export more of if it had a currency it could devalue? I hear only the word "Tourism".

I wish there was another story.* There don't seem to be any local Bankers to blame. You can blame Standard & Poor or Moody - but all they are doing is warn Greek government bond holders that they may not get back the money they lent. And today's strikes simply make that possibility more of a probability.

Sometimes you do wonder. Public education, a free press and media, democracy - yes, but also corrupt political parties and citizens who think that they can have something for nothing, forever. A bit like Northern Ireland?

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* Today's Guardian gives a column to one Costas Douzinas, "In Greece, we see democracy in action", which is worth a read for its starry-eyed avoidance of reality. Maybe it's a hoax.

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