Tag Archives: Greece

Why Greece took the fall for a European banking crisis, by Claire Connelly

The Greece bailouts have actually bailed out French and German banks. From Claire Connelly at renegadeinc.com:

The Greek bailouts were a banking crisis in disguise. In an excerpt of her upcoming book, editor-in-chief, Claire Connelly, explores how Greece took the fall for decades of irresponsible lending by French and German banks. If Greece continues to participate in the European Union, democracy is doomed.

It is somewhat fitting that the birthplace of democracy is now the battle ground for its continued existence.

The cliche of opulence and laziness disguises real Greek misfortune at the hands of the European community – and America – resulting in one of the most offensive punchlines of all time: Somehow Greece deserves the economic disaster wrought upon it, a severity not seen since The Great Depression.

In reality, the country’s long financial crisis is one big deliberate illusion created by some of the world’s largest banks and multinational conglomerates that have sidelined governments and made the rule of law and the will of the people all but irrelevant.

It has prioritised multinational profits over the economic needs of Eurozone countries, and even those outside of the union. With no sovereign currency with which to balance the score, Greece has become utterly subject to France, Germany, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank, (ECB).

The money from the three bailouts did not go to Greece at all and did not restore prosperity – it was never designed to in the first place – but flowed straight back into the coffers of French and German banks whose bad decisions over the last half century became the burden of the Greek people.

Banks never pay for their own mistakes. The European Union was formed – at least in part – to avoid the wars, destruction and barbarism of the 1920s, ‘30s, and ‘40s – but a monetary union with no federal mechanisms and no recourse for exploitation has led to war by other means. (It is no coincidence that fascism has reared its ugly head in Europe’s economically weaker nations while Germany continues to dominate the Eurozone).

If Greece continues to participate in the European Union, democracy is doomed.

The EU was created as an industrial cartel with the sole purpose of diminishing democracy and made the rule of Parliaments all but irrelevant. These technocrats and finance moguls will not simply hand back back their power to Europe.

Greece and its participating Eurozone partners should take the bold decision to leave the EU to save Europe from itself.

To continue reading: Why Greece took the fall for a European banking crisis

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Varoufakis: The Book, by Raúl Ilargi Meijer

A birdseye, and not at all flattering look, at Europe’s financial and political elite, particularly the Germans who run the show. From Raúl Ilargi Meijer at theautomaticearth.com:

About a month ago, I finished reading former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis’ book “Adults in the Room”, subtitled “My Battle With Europe’s Deep Establishment”, and published by The Bodley Head. I started writing about it right away, but noticed I was writing more about my personal ideas and experiences related to Greece than about the book. So I let it rest a bit.

I read the book in, of all places, Athens, sitting outside various old-style cafés. That got me a lot of reactions from Greeks seeing the cover of the book, most of them negative, somewhat to my surprise. Many Greeks apparently do not like Varoufakis. Of course I asked all the time why that is. “He’s arrogant” was/is a frequent one.

That’s not very helpful, I find, since first of all, it’s a purely subjective judgment, and second, I’m convinced their views come to a large extent from Greek media coverage, not only during Yanis’ term as finance minister from January to July 2015, but also in the years leading up to it. And Greek media are all controlled by ‘oligarchs’ et al, who certainly do not like either Yanis or the Syriza party he represented as minister.

The irony is that Varoufakis received more -individual- votes in the January 2015 election that brought Syriza to power than any other party member. And in the July 5 referendum 61.3% of Greeks voted against -yet- another bailout, very much in line with what Varoufakis had proposed. So there was a time when he was popular.

One guy said: ”he should be in jail”. When I asked why, the response was something like “they should all be in jail”, meaning politicians. Which is a bit curious, because whatever Varoufakis may be, a politician he is not. And the Greeks know that. They are very disappointed, and often depressed, by what has happened to them, of course they are. But why they would think Yanis is responsible for that is much less clear. Other then: “they’re all responsible”.

To continue reading: Varoufakis: The Book

Nine years later, Greece is still in a debt crisis… by Simon Black

The debt noose is starting to cinch. From Simon Black at internationalman.com:

Sometimes you have to marvel at the absurdity of the financial universe in which we live.

On one side of the Atlantic, we have the United States of America, which triggered yet another debt ceiling disaster last Thursday when the US government’s maximum allowable debt reset to just over $20 trillion.

Of course, the US national debt is pretty much already at $20 trillion.

(That’s roughly $166,000 per taxpayer in the Land of the Free.)

This means that Uncle Sam is legally prohibited from ‘officially’ borrowing any more money.

But far be it from the US government to start living within its means. Sacrilege!

These guys have zero chance of making ends meet without going into debt.

Just last year, according to the government’s own financial report, their annual net loss totaled $1 TRILLION, and the national debt increased by $1.4 trillion.

And that was in a relatively stable year. There was no major war or financial crisis to fight. It was just business as usual.

This year isn’t going to be any different.

So, cut off from their normal debt supply (the bond market), the Treasury Department is resorting to what they call “extraordinary measures.”

They’re basically pillaging government employee retirement funds, and will continue to do so until Congress raises the debt ceiling.

It’s a repeat of what happened in 2015. And 2013. And 2011.

Pretty amazing to consider that the “richest” country in the world has to plunder retirement funds in order to keep the lights on.

Former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers said it perfectly when he quipped “How long can the world’s biggest borrower remain the world’s biggest power?”

Then, of course, on the other side of the Atlantic, we have Greece, which is now in its NINTH YEAR of a major debt crisis.

Incredible.

Greece has had nine different governments since 2009. At least thirteen austerity measures. Multiple bailouts. Severe capital controls. And a full-out debt restructuring in which creditors accepted a 50% loss.

Yet despite all these measures GREECE IS STILL IN A DEBT CRISIS.

To continue reading: Nine years later, Greece is still in a debt crisis…

How Many Euro Crises Will This Make? It’s Getting Hard To Keep Track, by John Rubino

Sooner or later, Europe and its euro will collapse under its debt load. From John Rubino at dollarcollapse.com:

Every few years, it seems, one or another mismanaged eurozone country falls into one or another kind of crisis. This leads to speculation about the end of the common currency, which in turn spooks the global financial markets. Then the ECB conjures another trillion euros out of thin air, buys up and/or guarantees all the offending country’s bonds, and calm returns for a while.

At least, that’s how it’s gone in the past.

The latest crisis has more than the usual number of flash-points and could, therefore, be something new and different. Currently:

Greece. This charming but apparently ungovernable country only got into the eurozone in the first place because its corrupt leaders conspired with Goldman Sachs to hide the true condition of the government’s finances. It quickly blew up and has been on intensive care ever since. Now the latest bailout has become deal-breakingly messy:

‘From bad to worse’: Greece hurtles towards a final reckoning

(Guardian) – With another bailout set to bring more cuts, quitting the euro is back on the agenda.

The country’s epic struggle to avert bankruptcy should have been settled when Athens received €110bn in aid – the biggest financial rescue programme in global history – from the EU and International Monetary Fund in May 2010. Instead, three bailouts later, it is still wrangling over the terms of the latest €86bn emergency loan package, with lenders also at loggerheads and diplomats no longer talking of a can, but rather a bomb, being kicked down the road. Default looms if a €7.4bn debt repayment – money owed mostly to the European Central Bank – is not honoured in July.

Amid the uncertainty, volatility has returned to the markets. So, too, has fear, with an estimated €2.2bn being withdrawn from banks by panic-stricken depositors since the beginning of the year. With talk of Greece’s exit from the euro being heard again, farmers, trade unions and other sectors enraged by the eviscerating effects of austerity have once more come out in protest.

To continue reading: How Many Euro Crises Will This Make? It’s Getting Hard To Keep Track

A World of Problems, by The ZMan

Europe is facing a banking crisis, a reappearance of Greece’s financial crisis, and a crisis in Syria. Hold on to your hats. From The Zman at theburningplatform.com:

Back when the Germans were threatening to shut down Greece and sell it off for parts, it was fairly obvious that there was no way to “fix” the Greek problem. Even it were possible to radically overhaul their public sector, the debt payments are too high to maintain the level of social services expected from a modern social democracy. Default was unthinkable because close to 80 percent of Greece’s public debt is owned by public institutions, primarily the EU governments and the ECB.

The “solution” was to kick the can down the road until a miracle happened, but now the problem is back.

ATHENS—Greece’s economic recovery is proving elusive, challenging the forecasts of the country’s government and foreign creditors still counting on growth reviving this year.

The International Monetary Fund said last week that the economy is stagnating, in the first admission from creditors that Greece’s recovery is off track again. Growth will only restart next year, the head of the IMF’s team in Greece said on a conference call with reporters, without offering details.

Of particular concern is that exports, which are supposed to lead Greece out of trouble, are on a slow downward trajectory, hampered by capital controls, taxes and a lack of credit.

“There is no chance we will see a rebound unless we see some bold political decisions that would introduce a more stable business environment,” said Dimitris Tsakonitis, general manager at mining company Grecian Magnesite.

The bailout agreement between Greece and its German-led creditors assumes rapid growth from late 2016 onward, including an official forecast of 2.7% growth in 2017. Private-sector economists believe next year’s growth could be closer to 0.6%.

Weaker growth would undermine the budget, likely leading to fresh arguments with lenders about extra austerity measures.

Greece is still grappling with the measures it has already agreed to. Late on Tuesday the country’s parliament approved pension overhauls and other policy changes that have been delayed for months, holding up bailout funding.

Greek government officials are sticking to their view that the economy is on the cusp of growth. “We are at the turning point at which we can we say with certainty that we are leaving the recession behind us,” Economy Minister George Stathakis told supporters of the ruling left-wing Syriza party Sunday.

The economy will get a push from investors as of the end of the year, when lenders are expected to provide some debt relief and the country qualifies for a European Central Bank bond buyback program, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal last week.

In other words, the miracle did not happen and the problem is now worse. This comes at a time when Europe’s biggest bank is in very serious trouble.

To continue reading: A World of Problems

Greece Is A Nation Under Occupation, by Raúl Ilargi Meijer

From Raúl Ilargi Meijer at automaticearth.com:

Perhaps the best way to show what a mess Europe is in is the €3 billion deal they made with Turkey head Erdogan, only to see him being unmasked by EU archenemy Vlad Putin as a major supporter, financial and who knows how else, of the very group everyone’s so eager to bomb the heebees out after Paris. It could hardly have been more fitting. That’s not egg on your face, that’s face on your egg.

But Brussels thinks it’s found a whipping boy for all its failures. Greece. It’s fast increasing its accusations against Athens’ handling of the 100s of 1000s of refugees flooding the country. Everything that goes wrong is the fault of Greece, not Brussels. The EU has so far given Greece €30 million in ‘assistance’ for the refugee crisis, while the country has spent over €1.5 billion in money it desperately needs for its own people. But somehow it’s still not done enough.

The justification given for this insane shortfall is that Greece doesn’t blindly follow all orders emanating from Europe’s ‘leaders’. Orders such as setting up a joint patrol of the Aegean seas with … yes, Erdogan’s Turkey. Where Greece gets next to nothing as the children keep drowning, Turkey gets €3 billion and a half-baked promise to join the Union sometime in the future.

Which was never going to happen, the EU would blow up before Turkey joins and certainly if it does, and most certainly now that Russia’s busy detailing the link between the Erdogan cabal and Europe’s supposed new archenemies -move over Putin?!, which, incidentally, are reason for France to ponder a kind of permanent state of emergency; ostensibly, this is Hollande’s way of exuding confidence. ‘We must protect our way of life’.

Given Schengen -while it lasts-, which effectively erases all frontiers, this de facto means permanent emergency across the entire EU. And that, to a degree, though the two may seem unrelated, plays into the EU’s insistence to station foreign border guards (military police) at Greek borders. A, we can’t put it in different words, completely insane demand to which Alexis Tsipras’ government has apparently even acceded.

Insane because once you have foreigners deciding who can enter or leave your country, you’re effectively a country under occupation. It really is that simple. This latest attempt at power grabbing on the part of Brussels could have some ‘unexpected side effects’, though. And that may be a good thing.

To continue reading: Greece Is A Nation Under Occupation

Jim Chanos on What Lies Ahead for Greece, by Lynn Parramore

Jim Chanos, a hedge fund manager, made a fortune shorting Enron. He’s been a leading China skeptic, which is looking more and more like another good call. His heritage is Greek and he has made many visits to Greece. Remember Greece? It’s for the most part dropped out of the headlines. This interview of Chanos with Lynn Parramore at inteteconomics.org offers an opportunity to circle back.

Jim Chanos, the well-known hedge fund manager and president and founder of Kynikos Associates, is half Greek on his father’s side. He has been traveling to the country since 1970 and has also been active in the Greek community in the United States. A long-time observer of Greece, he became more involved in 2010 when he was part of a group that met with then-prime minister Papandreou to offer some pro bono advice. Since then, he has been watching closely from the sidelines with increasing levels of concern. In the following interview, he discusses how Greece reached this point of crisis, the upcoming elections, and what lies ahead.

LP: You’ve recently returned from a trip to Greece to visit family and friends. How did you find the mood in the country?

JC: It was grim — away from the vacation spots, of course, which are more international than domestic locations. I’d gotten there just after they’d finally agreed to sign the third memorandum. There was a general sense of resignation and not knowing what else they can do. The feeling of the people I spoke to — whether high level or people in restaurants and tavernas — was that they [the Troika] have them by the short hairs because of the banking system. And I think that was pretty clear. Really, there was no sense of any chance of this working out with an alternative currency. To this day we’re really not quite sure whether they had that planned — various reports differed as to whether they could have even done it — but I think that there’s just this general level of resignation coupled with despair amongst people worried about the long-term growth of the country and its well-being. People are worried about their kids, as they should be.

LP: I think pretty much everybody agrees that the negotiations with the Troika have been a fiasco. How do you assess what’s happened? Who is to blame?

JC: It’s important to understand that while Syriza may have botched the negotiations —and I do I think there’s a general consensus that they did or at least didn’t play it as well for their country as they could have — they didn’t cause this mess.

When the first memorandum was signed and then agreed to by PASOK and Papandreou, and then the follow-on was agreed to by Samaras and New Democracy to the right, in effect they were the same types of understandings. But they couldn’t work from the get-go because, as we now know, there was no net new money in any meaningful way coming into Greece. Whatever new capital was coming in was just a way to keep the banks current. It was going in the front door and out the back door.

Greece really did a decent job from an austerity point of view. They brought down spending, they raised taxes. I know there’s this belief that the Greeks are just world-class tax evaders, but in fact, in terms of taxes collected as a percentage of GDP, they’re now quite a bit higher than a number of European countries because a lot of the taxes are indirect: the Greeks couldn’t evade them if they wanted to. They also cut spending dramatically. Can you imagine what would happen in the U.S. if you cut spending by 20 or 30 percent and cut Social Security? You’d have riots in the streets, more so than we ever saw in Greece.

So this country has gone through a lot of pain. The beginning of the endgame was actually a year ago, in August and September under Mr. Samaras. At the time, even he realized that under the second agreement he needed more breathing room. Greece’s economy did actually begin to show some improvement in 2013, but by 2014, it was hitting stall speed again. What all sides agree — center-left, center-right, and far-left — is that there were lots of investment projects that actually could have paid off really big time in terms of immediate returns to the economy and investors. They just couldn’t get capital. No private investors wanted to come forward in light of everything that was going on with negotiations and uncertainty about the currency. In addition to trying to get some relaxation under the original agreements to get some breathing room, the Greeks were also trying to get a separate track for investment and venture capital. The response was immediate and brutal.

Schäuble and Merkel immediately threw Samaras under the bus in September of ‘14. It was like they were saying, you’re backtracking now: we thought you were one of the good guys and we thought you were going to toe the line but you’re just like everybody else. That began the whole unraveling, from my perspective, of the New Democracy coalition government (the right-center government) and basically led to Syriza’s election in January. Now Syriza comes in and feels it has a mandate. People want change. Varoufakis, under Tsipras’s guidance, approaches the Troika in February and said look, we need breathing room. The previous government said that and we say that. We see the numbers. We want to work within the spirit of the agreement, but you have to give us some concessions because this is just not working.

As it was relayed recently to a group of us (Greek Americans) in Washington, the Troika was initially receptive to Varoufakis. They said, all right, we’ll think about it. But as soon as it sort of got public — the date that comes to mind is February 20 th of this year — it got immediately batted down from that initial private reception to a public rejection. You will toe the line, you will agree to the previous agreement. There’s no wiggle room. The Tsipras government, Syriza, put out a set of counterproposals in March that, while there were a couple of items that were “out there” and were not going to fly from the beginning like a thirteenth month of pension payments, there was a lot of reasonable stuff, and stuff that people on the right thought was actually reasonable in terms of collections and whatever. The counterproposals were rejected outright. At that point it became apparent to me and others that this wasn’t about economics or finance anymore,

This was political. Greece was going to be made an example so that Italy, Spain, Portugal, and France — who, let’s be clear, are one bad recession away from where Greece is today — better toe the line, or else. No wiggle room. No let up. The beatings will continue. All that was very clear from the negotiations from March on. Any time there was any sort of proposal, well, it was said to be about personalities. It was this or it was that. Greece never stood a chance, because, of course, their banking system was being kept alive by the ELA, the emergency liquidity assistance that the European Central Bank provides. In effect, a huge amount of deposits in Greek banks were from the ECB. They could close the banking system in a minute, which they basically did in July. So this really was sort of preordained, I think, come February of 2015. The invitation to negotiate and then the abrupt about-face at the end of February told me, anyway, that this was a political decision.

Germany had decided to cut Greece loose in terms of negotiating in good faith; this is our offer, take it or leave it. If you want to stay in the euro, you’ve got to continue the austerity.

To continue reading: Jim Chanos on What Lies Ahead for Greece