Saturday, December 11, 2010

The crisis in Ireland and Greece. What is really going on?

Being a Greek living in Ireland, I am only able to feel double disappointment and anger lately. Last year I had to watch the country I originally come from being humiliated with the IMF loan, this year is the turn of the country I chose to live in.

In both cases the citizens were the ones who had to pay for the mistakes and mismanagement of their politicians. If we study what happened in Greece and how things have evolved there, can we expect similar events in Ireland?

In Greece from a “sluggish” economy and with a public that favored its socialist structures, things have transformed in a way which can only be compared to what happened in Britain during the Thatcher government in the ‘80s. Mass privatizations, high unemployment and social unrest.

 For the first time we have things that existed in Britain decades ago, like private parking companies, the destruction of the public sector, the sell off of all national resources and companies and the dissolution of the local governments.

Speaking with family and friends from Greece, I am sad that I have to keep listening to frightening news. The public sector employees are particularly hard hit. The sector is quite large in Greece, but that does not justify pay cuts that in some cases are reaching amounts up to 40% of the original salaries, while the VAT on basic supplies like food is up to 23%.

 Pensions and social welfare benefits are also cut and the general climate and feeling among the public is fear, uncertainty and anger. Households do not know how to make ends meet, and they are bracing themselves for 2011 and the new cuts and measures announced by the Government.

In Ireland the Government only announced its new budget this week, and even though the new measures are not as drastic as in Greece, the feelings among the general public are the same. Will more cuts follow a year later like in Greece? And why none of the bankers or politicians that are responsible for the current situation is being brought to justice?

In Iceland they are taking their former Prime Minister Mr. Geir Haarde to court over negligence that led to the country’s financial collapse. Can we see anything like that in Greece or Ireland? While the European Parliament warned that austerity might harm growth, such measures are still being forced upon us.

Many say those measures are necessary to save the economy of those countries, the euro and Europe's economy. But the ordinary citizens will carry the weight of all these reforms and not those responsible. Will Greece become like Britain after the Thatcherite years and has Athens the potential in becoming the London of the Balkans in the future?

This new reality is just a transformation period, to change dramatically the economies of countries that for so many years had outdated or dysfunctional financial policies, hindering their growth. Are they a part of the plan to promote new social policies in Greece, Ireland and in Europe in general?

There are rumors in Greece that big multinational companies are behind all this that are after the oil and natural gas of the Aegean, and the uranium and gold of the Greek region of Macedonia. They want to bring the country to its knees, make it bankrupt so Greece will be forced to sell off all its natural resources for nothing to those companies, exactly as they did to many African countries before. And the same rumors exist here in Ireland about the natural gas reserves.A populist myth, or is there some truth behind it?

Other folk in Greece talk about financial slavery. Both countries have lost their sovereignty to the global marketeers, who can now control their policies and tell them what to do. They force cutting of the salaries, but then we must raise the taxes. How will people spend their money if they have none, and how can this help the economy recover?

So what is the plan? Perhaps change the attitude and the habits of the Greeks, to make them become other European nations. The affair of the Greek public with its public sector will end abruptly since the salaries will not be as attractive anymore. The sector will shrink dramatically and we do not even know if there is going to be permanency in the future.

Having one work is not enough to make ends meet in Greece anymore. Studying does not guarantee you a secure career since there are no jobs. You have no free social security and you will have to pay for every visit to a doctor, even for the simplest health issue.

 The situation indeed in Greece sounds like a genocide. Young couples can not start a family when they can not even sustain themselves. No children means no future workers, to pay taxes and sustain the economy. The reforms expect them to work until late in their 60s, while it is not even guaranteed that they are gong to get a pension.

If those new measures are necessary, then the Greek politicians should take cuts like their counterparts in Ireland did, even if the amount of their salaries they agreed to be axed is purely symbolic. If the country is really sinking, how come it is the people on lower income that must pull the country out of the difficult situation?Who is benefiting from all this mess and will we see other countries suffer the fate of Greece and Ireland?

In Greece we had very successful retail companies and light industries and also a huge retail market dominated still by small businesses. All that has been destroyed, small companies are being closed down by the financial turmoil, so large multinationals can eventually penetrate and take over.

In Ireland on the other hand, the bail out is not to save the allegedly bankrupt Irish state, but its banks and the foreign investors shares in them. So in a way, the Irish public will have to pay to save the shares of American, British, French and German investors in their banking system.

Why Ireland did not invest in a real economy and utilize its natural resources, rather it created a bubble economy, with no real substance and future? So now the Irish must suffer constant changes from boom to bust and vice versa, while they could have a stable economy and avoid emigration, recession and inequality.

Some people profit from this financial circle that countries like Greece and Ireland must go through, roughly every one or two decades. Who are these people at last, who control the financial fortunes of some countries and the world and how can we protect ourselves from them?

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