We don’t need to speak Greek -By Owei Lakenfa

Filed under: Global Issues |

dont need to speak greek


In Greek mythology, Sisyphus, founder and first King of Corinth, was accused of betraying the secrets of the gods, tricking and chaining death. He was sentenced to endlessly rolling a boulder  up a hill and watch it roll down.  Modern Greeks have been sentenced to a similar torture by their fellow Europeans since 2010.

For owing debts which stand today at 242.8B Euros, Greeks in the past five years have been sentenced to endless austerity measures which shrunk their  economy by 25 percent, reduced wages by 21 percent, cut 150,000 public jobs, reduced pension, and seen unemployment rise to 25 percent. Also, family income has fallen by a third, while one third of the population has been force marched into the poverty highway.

Things were so bad, with people committing suicide, that the untested liberal Syriza Party was elected on an anti- austerity programme. Immediately, the Western media and  their megaphones  began assaults; characterising the party and its leader, Alexis Tsipras as starry-eyed left wing extremists out to destroy the world order and economic peace.

The European Union (EU) decided to tighten the noose around Greece making the abandonment of  Syriza’s programme to create jobs and end austerity as a prerequisite for bailout. The then Greek Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis who had taught economics in some of Europe’s best universities,  characterised  the  German-led assault  as “fiscal waterboarding”. He correctly analyzed that if Greece  were to be “choked, strangled and snuffed out…the (European) ground will start to crumble under their own feet”.  Europe knew this was likely; that the exit of Greece from the Eurozone could be grave. Varoufakis had questioned the economic sense in Greece being pressurised to borrow another 7B Euros just to pay the European Central Bank (ECB). The way out, he argued was for Greece to get debt cancellation which the EU can easily afford, or a huge percentage write off.

Greece reached a desperately-needed bailout deal with the eurozone after marathon overnight talks, in a historic agreement to prevent the country crashing out of the European single currency.

Two women look at the display window of a shop in Thessaloniki on July 13, 2015. Greece reached a desperately-needed bailout deal with the eurozone after marathon overnight talks, in a historic agreement to prevent the country crashing out of the European single currency.

To the EU, the Greek stance was dangerous; if it were to succeed, some of its members like Spain and Portugal who had dragged their populace through cruel austerity programmes just to feed the insatiable greed of the banks and finance capital, would be in political trouble.

With no logical economic arguments to defeat the Greek submissions, the EU decided to hack down the Greek captain at the negotiations. Once the Greek Government bowed to EU pressures to remove Varoufakis, it signaled its submission to the troika of the EU to whom sixty percent of the loans are owed, the IMF which claims ten percent, and the ECB which holds six percent.

Under the new  86B Euro ‘bailout’ Greece must pay the ECB 7B Euros by August, 2015 and  transfer 50B Euro Greek assets including airports, aircraft and infrastructure to a new fund that will monetise them through privatisation, bank recapitalisation and debt repayment. Greece must not protect local industry like pharmaceuticals, and must introduce more austerity measures by cutting $4B in social spending.

Additionally, it must make it easy for workers to be sacked, cut pension and make people who want to take early retirement, pay a high cost.  Also, the country’s  encouragement of the tourism industry which includes a 30 percent VAT discount, must end while VAT for more consumer items including restaurant bills are to rise to 23 percent. To complete the humiliation, depersonalisation and loss of national autonomy, the EU  will have oversight over Greece.

Today, Greeks are despised by their fellow Europeans, trampled and spat on like a piece of dirt. A country that is the father of Western thought and civilisation, is treated as a thoughtless country with no brains and only fit as a foot-mat.

Skinning the Greeks for dinner and roasting them as barbecue, is a lesson for under  developed countries like Nigeria who think it is fashionable  taking loans for whatever reason from Europe, the IMF or World Bank. The fundamental lesson for the world, especially Africans, Asians and Latin Americans is, if Europe can put the noose round one of its own, then there is no country it cannot strangulate when it comes to debt repayment.

Greeks committed no sin except to be led blindly into the contraption of balance of payment, loans, interest rates and international finance capital. Humanity has been conditioned to believe that economics is a religion; therefore, there is no alternative to the  dog eat dog creed of exploitation of the mass and dehumanisation of the weak.

What would have happened if Greece had walked away from its spiteful  European brothers and sisters and defied the professional creditors? They would have tried to squeeze and deny it financial, economic and political oxygen. On its part, Greece would have had to resurrect the Drachma it had used the Euro to replace since January 1, 2002, witnessed marked devaluation and high inflation. But it would on the long run, have emerged a better country economically, with better values,  self-confidence and national pride.

This is the lesson Zimbabwe taught the rest of the world when the West, America and international institutions like the IMF and World Bank conspired to snuff life out of it. Today, that country whose sin was that it  defied the so called international community by redistributing land to the people, is one of the cheapest places to live in Africa with food costing less than half the price in Nigeria and a third of the cost in Ghana. Cuba is another example, it defied America and the West and has survived an economic blockade and strangulation for fifty four years now. Despite this, it eliminated extreme poverty, has virtually 100 percent literacy, provides the basics like health and education free and has so many doctors that there is virtually no country in Africa it has not sent doctors to.

Conclusively on debts; Latin America owed so much debts in the 1980s that Fidel Castro proclaimed that they were not only un-payable, but also, uncollectable. Latin Americans  stood together and defaulted, and the so called creditors  had no option but to cave in. Part of the Greek tragedy is that it stood alone.