Tag Archives: Troika

Is the Troika About to Lose Control of South-Western Europe? by Don Quijones

From Don Quijones at wolfstreet.com:

The Price of  “Austerity”

Passos Coelho, who was until Tuesday Prime Minister of Portugal, knew “what to do.” After signing along the dotted line for a €78 billion bailout he embraced the Troika’s austerity agenda with abandon. Public spending was slashed, taxes were hiked, wages were cut, and a whole gamut of public assets and services were privatized.

As they say in Brussels these days, no pain, no gain. After four years of excruciating belt-tightening, Portugal was apparently back on the mend, despite its public debt almost doubling since 2008. Its economy had been through the grinder but it had come out the other end in much leaner shape. The public deficit had shrunk from 11% in 2011 to 3% today.

Unemployment had also fallen, and kept falling month after month, to the point where it was getting monotonous. Until two months ago, that is, when it shot back up over 14%. Then came the bomb shell: the country’s Ministry of Statistics announced in a rare moment of candor that unemployment, in an “extended sense,” was actually around 22%. As Deutsche Welle reports, the Portuguese government had been doctoring the figures to keep the European institutions (i.e. the Troika) happy:

European politicians prefer lower unemployment figures rather than higher ones, and as a consequence, there are now unemployment figures in “narrower” and “extended” senses. Mostly, the headline figures reported are the lower, “narrower” ones.

Flimsy Façade

In other words, in the real world Portugal has almost identical depression-era levels of unemployment as Spain. Its government is just more skilled at masking the grimness of its economic reality.

However, hiding a decidedly grim reality with a flimsy façade of doctored numbers may work on international investors and rating agencies – at least for a while – but it doesn’t work on those who have to live in that grim reality. And at election time that can be a serious setback.

When Coelho’s governing coalition received only 38% of the vote in last month’s elections, the game was as good as up, especially when it became clear that three parties on the left — the so-called “triple left” — had won an absolute majority and seemed willing to form a coalition.

Even when the Portuguese President Cavaco Silva, a former member of Coehlo’s pro-Euro party, reappointed Coehlo as prime-minister in a desperate bid to prevent “anti-European,” “anti-Nato” forces from winning the keys to government, he merely forestalled the inevitable. Today the inevitable happened: the “triple left” roundly rejected Coelho’s policy proposals, forcing Portugal’s Troika-friendly government to resign.

To continue reading: Is the Troika About to Lose Control of South-Western Europe?

Black Swan Lands In Portugal As Socialists Move To Overthrow Government, by Tyler Durden

Here we go again? First it was Greece; is it Portugal’s turn now? Stay tuned for more thrills and spills in Europe. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

Late last month we highlighted to reappointment of Portuguese PM Pedro Passos Coelho, noting that, in the words of Communist leader Jerónimo de Sousa, the President’s move to ignore the left’s attempt to form a government in the wake of largely inconclusive elections may be a “manifest waste of time.”

As FT put it a few weeks back, “no government on the left or right [can] hope to survive without support from the PS, which won 32.3 per cent [in October]” which means President Anibal Cavaco Silva might have made a mistake in propping up Coelho as the PM’s restoration will only serve to embolden an already angry left coalition.

Well sure enough, socialist leader Antonio Costa has now “formalized” plans to unite with the Left Bloc and Communists in order to reject the Coelho government. Here’s Bloomberg:

Portugal’s Socialists approved a plan to join forces with three other parties and oust Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho’s administration, raising the prospect of a new government committed to speeding the reversal of spending cuts tied to the country’s international bailout.

The Socialist-led program “is clearly less market-friendly than the one of the incumbent government,” analysts at the Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc in London, including Clement Mary-Dauphin, said.

The Coelho government will fall if the Socialists and their allies close ranks and guarantee a majority in parliament to reject the program in a vote scheduled for Tuesday. President Anibal Cavaco Silva, who has the power to name prime ministers, would then decide if he’ll ask Costa to form a coalition. Parliament can’t be dissolved less than six months after it’s elected, meaning Cavaco Silva doesn’t have the option of calling fresh elections.

“The conditions are in place to form a Socialist Party government supported by a majority in parliament,” the party said in a statement e-mailed early on Monday. The Socialist government can be “stable” and last for a full term, it said.

Well, it can probably be “stable” domestically, but don’t think for a second that Brussels and Berlin are going to put up with this.

After all, the whole point of putting Alexis Tsipras through round after round of “mental waterboarding” over the summer was to discourage any Syriza sympathizers from attempting to use a euro exit (i.e. proving that the EMU is in fact “dissoluble” despite the protestations of many a eurocrat) as a bargaining chip on the way to negotiating for debt relief. As we put it, “the real question is whether or not the ATM lines, empty shelves, and gas station queues in Greece have had their intended psychological effect on Spanish (and Portuguese) voters. In other words, the question is whether the troika has succeeded in undercutting the democratic process outside of Greece by indirectly strong-arming the electorate.”

To continue reading: Black Swan Lands In Portugal

Alexis Tsipras: The Bell Tolls for Europe, by Raúl Ilargi Meijer

Most of this post is an open letter from Greece’s Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, published in Le Monde and on the Prime Minister’s official website. Some of it is self-serving and disingenuous; Tsipras is, after all, a politician, a socialist to boot. However, he makes one key point: prior austerity programs instituted at the behest of the Troika—the IMF, the ECB, and the European Commission—have been counterproductive, diminishing Greece’s ability to meet its debt obligations. Higher taxes and reduced social safety net spending have contracted the Greek economy, decreased incomes, increased inequality, unemployment (especially among the young), and public debt as a percentage of GDP. No doubt many of Greece’s problems are self-inflicted, but the Troika’s prescriptions have made them worse. The Wall Street Journal used to publish editorials regularly bemoaning misguided IMF witch doctorism, and the Journal’s editors were right. This point has been lost in the great Greek debate: more of the same won’t work. What will work? Some sort of further debt relief (music to Tsipras’s ears) coupled with the gradual introduction of a much more capitalistic economy, with lower taxes, less regulation, smaller government, less social spending, and less debt (not music to Tsipras’s ears, or the Troika’s, for that matter). Tsirpas’s letter, via Raúl Ilargi Meijer  at automaticearth.com:

This is a letter From Greek PM Alexis Tsipras in today’s Le Monde. I have little to add, his eloquence needs few comments at this moment. One thing is certain: the negotiations will never be the same. And neither will Europe.

Straight from the Prime Minister’s offical website: :
Alexis Tsipras: On 25th of last January, the Greek people made a courageous decision. They dared to challenge the one-way street of the Memorandum’s tough austerity, and to seek a new agreement. A new agreement that will keep the country in the Euro, with a viable economic program, without the mistakes of the past. The Greek people paid a high price for these mistakes; over the past five years the unemployment rate climbed to 28% (60% for young people), average income decreased by 40%, while according to Eurostat’s data, Greece became the EU country with the highest index of social inequality.

And the worst result: Despite badly damaging the social fabric, this Program failed to invigorate the competitiveness of the Greek economy. Public debt soared from 124% to 180% of GDP, and despite the heavy sacrifices of the people, the Greek economy remains trapped in continuous uncertainty caused by unattainable fiscal balance targets that further the vicious cycle of austerity and recession. The new Greek government’s main goal during these last four months has been to put an end to this vicious cycle, an end to this uncertainty. Doing so requires a mutually beneficial agreement that will set realistic goals regarding surpluses, while also reinstating an agenda of growth and investment. A final solution to the Greek problem is now more mature and more necessary than ever.

Such an agreement will also spell the end of the European economic crisis that began 7 years ago, by putting an end to the cycle of uncertainty in the Eurozone. Today, Europe has the opportunity to make decisions that will trigger a rapid recovery of the Greek and European economy by ending Grexit scenarios, scenarios that prevent the long-term stabilization of the European economy and may, at any given time, weaken the confidence of both citizens and investors in our common currency. Many, however, claim that the Greek side is not cooperating to reach an agreement because it comes to the negotiations intransigent and without proposals. Is this really the case?

Because these times are critical, perhaps historic–not only for the future of Greece but also for the future of Europe–I would like to take this opportunity to present the truth, and to responsibly inform the world’s public opinion about the real intentions and positions of Greece. The Greek government, on the basis of the Eurogroup’s decision on February 20th, has submitted a broad package of reform proposals, with the intent to reach an agreement that will combine respect for the mandate of the Greek people with respect for the rules and decisions governing the Eurozone.