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By Nitya Chakraborty
Who is responsible for the soaring debts of Greece and the accentuating economic crisis the burden of which has been passed on to the underprivileged by the successive ruling coalitions in Athens? The myths about Greece debts in particular and the European debts in general, have prevailed so long due to the propaganda of the big media and the elites of the Euro-zone that the general opinion was that the Greece’s common masses are trying to destroy the stability of Eurozone by refusing to abide by the austerity programme worked by the troika of International Monetary Fund, World Bank and the European Central Bank.
Now with Syriza taking over power in Greece and the Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his erudite Finance Minister exposing the roots of the Greece crisis, the other Euro zone finance ministers of the richer countries , have got panicky and there are efforts on the Troika’s part to do some window dressing of the austerity package to impart the impression that the capitalist west is doing more than what can be done to save Greece’s economy and help the common masses. Greece PM has however called this bluff and the Greece PM and his finance minister are carrying on negotiations with the Euro leaders including the German chancellor Angela Merkel with such dexterity that the Eurozone leaders are looking for new ways to market the austerity package with some dilutions. The myth has been busted but they are not prepared to admit that.
At the root of the present debt crisis in Greece is rampant corruption by the successive pro-rich governments. A study made by a well known economist Mark Blyth shows that Greek public spending through the 2000s was quite on track as compared to other Euro zone countries and the so called proliferation of public sector jobs consisted of only 14,000 for two years. The corrupt elite of Greece took away the bulk of the government funding and the Greece banks swindled the funds. Virtually, all of the bailout package to Greece went to the banks that gambled in the 1999 to 2007 real estate market and became bankrupt in 2008.
Greece’s application for EU membership in 1999 was rejected because its budget deficit in relation to its GDP was over 3 per cent, the cut off line for joining. That is when the US major Goldman Sachs came in and for a fee rumoured to be US$ 200 million, the multinational giant essentially cooked the books to make Greece look like it cleared the bar. This scheme which was worked out in collaboration with the then corrupt ruling politicians of Greece along with bankers, was kept confidential until the entire fraud came out after the great crash of 2008.
The western banks including those of US and Europe helped in creating an artificial boom in real estate market to make quick killing. They sacrificed the Greek economy at the altar of their high greed and forced the Greece Government to opt for an austerity programme in the name of saving the economy when Europe went into recession in 2008.Greece was forced to apply for a bailout from the troika. In exchange for 172 billion, euros, the Greek government instituted an austerity programme that saw economic activity decline by 25 per cent and unemployment going up to 27 per cent. The cutbacks slashed pensions, wages and social services and drove 44 per cent of the population into poverty.
As the leading Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz has explained that Europe and the US have moved the private sector debts to the public sector and manipulated the respective governments to bear the burden created by the greed and crony capitalism of the private sector, especially the bankers.
Same thing happened in Ireland and Portugal. In Ireland, the European Central Bank forced Ireland into adopting austerity measures after the crisis that doubled the unemployment rate and forced the country’s younger population to emigrate. Almost half of Ireland’s income tax just goes to service the interest on debts, it is learnt.
As regards Portugal, it had a solid economy and a low debt ratio but the currency speculators drove up interest rates on borrowing beyond what the Government could afford. The European Central Bank saw all the misdeeds of the speculators but kept silent. The net result was that Portugal was forced to swallow a bailout package that wrecked its economy and made the common people poorer.
Greek Prime Minister has expressed his readiness for taking some measures for reviving the country’s economy but that will not be at the cost of his anti=poverty programme. He has a clear vision and road map for the rejuvenation of the ailing Greek economy by taking care of the well being of the common masses. He is seeking some more time from the troika so that he is able to spend funds for the rejuvenation of the real economy of Greece. On the other hand, Germany and the troika are trying to force the leftist government of Greece into accepting conditions that will undermine its support base in Greece and weaken the anti-austerity movements in different poorer countries of Eurozone.
That is why, the present fight of the Syriza Government against the Euro leaders and the troika is not limited to Greece, Prime Minister Tsipras is waging the battle of the other poorer countries of Europe. Over the past few weeks, demonstrations have been held in Spain, Italy, Belgium, Austria and even in Germany and Great Britain. Tsipras’s call for a drastic change in the austerity programme, is receiving massive support from the common people in Euro zone countries who are also the victims of the greed and lust of the private banks and the elite. It is high time that the anti-austerity movements of the other countries in Europe make a common cause and join forces with Syriza in fighting the disastrous policies of troika. That is the way towards building a more humane Europe. (IPA Service)