Posts Tagged ‘International Monetary Fund’

Rural migration (tic-toc… tic-toc)

May 16, 2011

It’s been some time since I wrote one of my “tic-toc” posts and although till then what I was writing about could have been considered speculation, this Guardian article bears out some of the logical outcomes I was pointing out.

There are also other aspects of this article that are interesting from my point of view. I am going to post the entire article and intersperse my comments throughout.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/13/greek-crisis-athens-rural-migration

Debt, unemployment and poverty is causing mass unrest and thousands to seek a cheaper lifestyle outside the capital

High in the hills of Arcadia, in a big stone house on the edge of this village overlooking verdant pastures and a valley beyond, a group of young Athenians are busy rebuilding their lives.

Until recently Andritsaina was not much of a prospect for urban Greeks. “But that,” said Yiannis Dikiakos, “was before Athens turned into the explosive cauldron that it has become. We woke up one day and thought we’ve had enough. We want to live the real Greece and we want to live it somewhere else.”

Piling his possessions into a Land Rover and trailer, the businessman made the 170-mile journey to Andritsaina last month. As he drove past villages full of derelict buildings and empty homes, along roads that wound their way around rivers and ravines, he did not look back.

“Athens has failed its young people. It has nothing to offer them any more. Our politicians are idiots … they have disappointed us greatly,” said Dikiakos, who will soon be joined by 10 friends who have also decided to escape the capital.

They are part of an internal migration, thousands of Greeks seeking solace in rural areas as the debt-stricken country grapples with its gravest economic crisis since the second world war.

“It’s a big decision but people are making it,” said Giorgos Galos, a teacher in Proti Serron on the great plains of Macedonia, in northern Greece. “We’ve had two couples come here and I know lots in Thessaloniki [Greece’s second biggest city] who want to go back to their villages. The crisis is eating away at them and they’re finding it hard to cope. If they had just a little bit of support, a little bit of official encouragement, the stream would turn into a wave because everything is just so much cheaper here.”

GR: Mr. Galos is oblivious to what exactly has caused this crisis which is in fact government intervention. Seeing the devastation wreaked on his nation, Mr. Galos calls for more of what has caused the crisis in the first place in the form of “official encouragement” in order to nudge those that are sitting on the fence to make the move because, as he says, “… everything is just so much cheaper here”.  But that’s exactly the problem and Mr. Galos does not see it. As is always the case, things are “cheap” till government encourages people to make use of something. The moment government encourages some entities to do something, prices will automatically rise not least because when economic actors perceive that there are funds to be had from the government they will feel no compunction at all to take advantage of the perceived free money… because it is government money… and government money is not perceived to be any natural person’s money… but, of course, it is and sooner or later it has to come out of our taxes or increased cost of living somewhere. Similarly, politicians are naturally inclined to give away funds as a way to garner votes from interest groups. Crucially, debt based fiat money allows politicians to be profligate because unlike value based money fiat money is perceived to be cost free. All that is needed, it is thought, is to expand the debt. And, anyway, in an electoral democratic system, a politician is never around to see the extent of the ramifications his/her policies engender.

The trickle into Proti Serron might have gone unnoticed had the village not also been the birthplace of the late Konstantinos Karamanlis who oversaw the nation’s entry into the then European Economic Community in 1981. An alabaster white statue of the statesman in the village square is adorned with the words: “I believe that Greece can change shape and its people their fate.”

Nearly sixty years after they were uttered, a growing number of Greeks, at least, are beginning to wonder whether the old man was right. The drift towards the bright lights of the big cities were by Karamanlis’ own admission one of the great barometers of the country’s transition from a primarily agricultural society into an advanced western economy.This week, as the IMF and EU debated ways of trying to re-rescue Greece and observers openly wondered whether the country would have to leave the euro, Greece appeared more adrift than ever, tossed on a high sea of mounting anger and civil disobedience from people who have lost trust in their politicians, and at the mercy of markets that refuse to believe it can pull itself back from the brink of bankruptcy. “The reality is that these people, they are in deep shit,” the managing director of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn said recently. “If we had not come they would have fallen into the abyss. Two weeks later the government would not have been able to pay civil servants’ wages.”

GR: Mr. Strauss-Kahn is a product of his environment and cannot therefore admit the perversity of his statement. The IMF rides ostensibly to the help of countries distressed by debt by offering… more debt… Of course, if you understand the nature of debt based fiat money, then you also understand that supranational entities such as the IMF exist precisely to prop up the monetary construct. Debt based fiat money can only exist in an environment of expanding credit regardless of the natural characteristic of debt to conform to the law of diminishing marginal utility. Had the IMF not offered assistance, Greece wouldn’t be any worse off. Look to Iceland for a glimpse of what can be achieved if only politicians had the balls to stand up to banking interests. But of course. A politician is by definition someone that lives by expedients so that biting the hand of the entity that finances your politically expedient programs is not done.

Ironically, it is the medicine doled out under last year’s draconian EU-IMF €110bn (£96bn) rescue programme, implemented to modernise a sclerotic economy, that has made their lot worse. Twelve months of sweeping public sector pay and pension cuts, massive job losses, tax increases and galloping inflation have begun to have a brutal effect. GDP is predicted to contract by 3% this year – making Greece’s the deepest recession in Europe.

GR: The author of the article at once identifies the problem and then negates it. GDP is contracting simply because it had been artificially inflated for so many years prior. If anything, GDP is reverting to its true intrinsic value. The public sector in Greece like in the rest of Europe but, particularly in Latin Europe, is bloated because it is politically expedient to just hire people in order to garner votes from unions and interest groups. One of the most glaring examples of political expediency of the past 3o years was the Italian airline Alitalia where over staffing and staggering losses reached biblical proportions over the years.

In Athens, home to almost half of Greece’s 11 million-strong population, the signs of austerity – and poverty – are everywhere: in the homeless and hungry who forage through municipal rubbish bins late at night; in the cash-strapped pensioners who pick up rejects at the street markets that sell fruit and vegetables; in the shops now boarded and closed and in the thousands of ordinary Greeks who can no longer afford to take family outings or regularly eat meat.

“We’ve had to give up tavernas, give up buying new clothes and give up eating meat more than once a week,” said Vasso Vitalis, a mother-of-two who struggles with her civil servant husband to make ends meet on a joint monthly income of €2,000.

GR: Not to detract from the real drama Ms. Vitalis is experiencing but one of the less intuitively related advantages of decreased consumption is a decrease in the rate of depletion of food stocks, a diminished carbon foot print and the concomitant beneficial effects that counter the devastation of the environment that has, in large part, been brought about by aberrant inflationary monetary policies over many decades. Greens the world over should embrace this crisis. Reduced consumption of animal protein could allow the replenishment of fish stocks that have been decimated over the years as well as the re-stocking of staples that no longer need to be used to rear live stock. Prices drop, the environment is saved and food stocks get replenished. Everyone’s a winner.

“With all the cuts we estimate we’ve lost around €450 a month. We’re down to the last cent and, still, we’re lucky. We’ve both got jobs. I know people who are unemployed and are going hungry. They ask family and friends for food,” she sighed. “What makes us mad is that everybody knew the state was a mess but none of our politicians had the guts to mend it. It was like a ship heading for the rocks and now the rocks are very near.”

GR: Bingo! Except that we are already on the rocks. And, yes, it has been clear for many decades that the system is mathematically not viable… but politics being the expedient animal it is… what is happening was a foregone conclusion… and we are no where near the end of it all...

Greeks also know that with their economy needing another financial lifeline, and few willing to lend to a country in such a parlous state, it will also get much worse before it gets better.

GR: Once again. The author of the article fails to recognize the problem of insolvency brought about by too much debt. Particularly when every single country in the world is afflicted by the same problem. You see, in a global economy, for as long as only one or two countries are afflicted by too much debt as, for example, Japan was in 1989, increasing the debt burden appears to help because a country could still sell goods and services to other countries. But, as time goes by and each country feels the necessity to expand their credit market in order to stimulate the national economy, the diminishing marginal utility of debt ensures that at some point all countries will be buried in debt simultaneously. At that point, more debt no longer helps. And this is the point we are at today.

“In the past, the future always implied hope for Greeks but now it implies fear,” said Nikos Filis, editor of the leftwing Avgi newspaper. “Until this week people thought that with all the measures the crisis would be over in a year or two. Now with the prospect of yet more austerity for more aid, they can’t see an end in sight.”

With unemployment officially nudging 790,000 – although believed to be far bigger with the closure of some 150,000 small and medium-sized businesses over the past year – there are fears that Greece, the country at the centre of Europe’s worst financial debacle in decades, is slipping inexorably into political and social crisis, too. Rising racist tensions and lawlessness on the streets this week spurred the softly spoken mayor of Athens, Giorgos Kaminis, to describe the city as “beginning to resemble Beirut”.

GR: Greece is not at the center of Europe’s crisis. Greece was merely the first in Europe to succumb to the debt crisis. Others have followed Greece since and still more will follow in months to come or till politicians will grow a pair and we let global banks fail.

Yannis Caloghirou, an economics professor at the National Technical University of Athens, said: “Greece has become a battleground, at the EU level where policymakers have made the crisis worse with their lack of strategy and piecemeal approach, and among its own people who no longer have trust in institutions and the ability of the political system to solve the situation. My concern is that the country is slipping into ungovernability, that ultra-right groups and others will grab the moment.”

GR: As a person Mr. Caloghirou is entitled to his opinion. As an economics professor Mr. Caloghirou fails to grasp the dynamic that is afflicting Greece. A debt crisis is not due to lack of strategy and piecemeal approach. It is due to too much debt that has been piled on by deliberate political decree. So, the strategy was not so much lacking as it was aberrant.

Nineteen months into office the ruling socialists, riven by dissent and increasingly disgust over policies that ideologically many oppose, are likewise beginning to show the strain of containing the crisis, with the prime minister, George Papandreou, being forced publicly to whip truculent ministers into line.

A mass exodus of the nation’s brightest and best has added to fears that in addition to failing one or perhaps two generations, near-bankrupt Greece stands as never before to lose its intellectual class. “Nobody is speaking openly about this but the prospects for the Greek economy are going to get much worse as the brain drain accelerates and the country loses its best minds,” said Professor Lois Lambrianidis, who teaches regional economics at the University of Macedonia.

“Around 135,000, or 9% of tertiary educated Greeks, were living abroad and that was before the crisis began. They simply cannot find jobs in a service-oriented economy that depends on low-paid cheap labour.”

GR: Other than to say that exodus of  people whether bright or not is not a big deal, Mr. Lambrianidis hits the nail on the head although I suspect he does so unwittingly. Namely, Mr. Lambrianides identifies the problems of a service based economy but, from what we are given to understand from this limited quote, fails to realize that a service based economy is the inevitable consequence of debt based fiat money.

Just as in Arcadia where the young are choosing to start anew, Greece, he says, needs to rebuild itself if it is to survive its worst crisis in modern times.

Advertisements

Ireland; a post modernist hero…

February 27, 2011

Not quite yet but Ireland most certainly could turn out to be so.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/ireland/8349497/Irelands-new-government-on-a-collision-course-with-EU.html

So many significant excerpts I’ll post the entire article and intersperse my comments throughout – emphasis added:

“Ireland’s new government is headed for confrontation with Brussels after the country’s ruling party was wiped out on Saturday by voters in a huge popular backlash against a European-IMF austerity programme.

Exit polls and early tallies from Ireland’s general election heralded political annihilation for Fianna Fail (FF), the party which has ruled Ireland for more than 60 years of the Irish Republic’s eight decades of independence.

The unprecedented and historic defeat, Fianna Fail’s worst result in 85 years, makes the Irish government the first eurozone administration to be punished by voters in the aftermath of the EU’s debt crisis. Voter turn-out was exceptionally high at more than 70 per cent, indicating public anger at the government and the EU.

Late last year, Ireland was forced to accept a £72 billion EU-IMF bailout to cover huge public debts that were ran up to save failed Irish banks.

The bail-out was designed to prevent financial contagion that threatened the existence of the euro, but according to economic forecasts, the cost of servicing Irish bank debt and the EU-IMF bank loans will consume 85 per cent of Ireland’s income tax revenue by 2012, a burden that a majority of voters find intolerable.

GUIDO COMMENT: The bailout was most certainly not designed to “prevent” contagion. If the banks in question did not enjoy preferential accounting and legal treatment they would have failed long ago thus never achieving the position that allows them to threaten the system. Also, the author of the article should be careful how he constructs his sentences. “Voters find intolerable” to pay 85% of fiscal revenue to service a debt that rightly does not belong to them? Really? Is it only the voters find it intolerable?

Brian Cowen, the Irish Prime Minister and Fianna Fail leader, who stood down last month rather than face furious voters, was also pressured into implementing a savage £13billion austerity programme of tax rises and spending cuts drawn up by the EU.

The cost of the EU-IMF bailout in extra taxes for an average Irish family has been estimated at over £3,900 a year. Other deeply unpopular measures include controversial reductions to the minimum wage, unprecedented cuts to public services and 90,000 jobs losses in a country where unemployment is already running at almost 14 per cent.

GUIDO COMMENT: The IMF and the World Bank are finally doing to the EU what they to date were only able to do to dinky fringe countries around the world. Namely, ride in under the guise of lending assistance and saddling society with un-payable debt thus finally and effectively achieving the ultimate transfer of wealth from society to a restricted band of bankers and politicians.

“When people are angry, when you’ve just cut their pay packets, you are not going to be top of the pops,” admitted Tony Killeen, Fianna Fail’s campaign director yesterday.

GUIDO COMMENT: Wrong mate!!! The people are not angry because you cut their pay packets you idiot. The people are angry because you sold them down the river you blathering nitwit. You and your acolytes have betrayed not only the trust of the people but you have betrayed a swathe of ideals that range from democracy to plain vanilla decency without even mentioning fiduciary duty. You, sir, along with your accomplices are the archetype of the worse possible kind of politician in an interpretation of politicians that cannot inherently ever be positive because your only sorry excuse to do what you do is that the political process needs politicians.

In Dublin, Fianna Fail won just eight per cent of the vote in an electoral decimation that called into question the future of previously unassailable politicians such Brian Lenihan, the Irish finance minister.

“However bad people thought it would get for Fianna Fail, nobody thought it would get this bad,” said Michael Marsh, professor of political politics at Trinity College Dublin. “That is highly significant.”

According to exit polling carried out by the Irish RTE broadcaster, Fine Gael (FG), Ireland’s main centre-right opposition, had won 36.1 per cent of the vote. Labour, traditional FG’s traditional coalition partner, took 20.5 per cent, its best result ever. Fianna Fail took just 15.1 per cent share of the vote, representing a loss of 58 seats.

Sinn Fein, usually outsiders in southern Irish politics, recorded its own best result with 10.1 per cent, up almost five per cent on the last 2007 election. The vote share for Greens, FF’s junior coalition partner, plummeted to 2.7 per cent, possibly robbing the party of MPs.

“The political landscape of Ireland is completely and utterly redrawn,” said Roger Jupp, the chairman of the Millward Brown Lansdowne pollsters which conducted the exit polls for RTE.

Enda Kenny, Fine Gael’s leader, will later on Sunday, start to form a new government, almost certainly with Labour, after full election results under Ireland’s complicated PR system come through.

Both Mr Kenny and Eamonn Gilmore, Labour’s leader, have promised Irish voters that they will renegotiate the EU-IMF austerity programme to reduce the burden for taxpayers and to force financial investors to shoulder some of the bank debts currently paid out of the public purse.

GUIDO COMMENT: Investors should not shoulder “some of the bank debts”. Investors should shoulder 100% of the bank debts. That’s what investors do in all other industries. Indeed, that is the very definition of investor. So far, all I can say is that End Kenny is the best of the worst of political choices. He may yet turn out to be the William Wallace of the situation but, so far, the indications are that he’s going to be a politician with a different slant… but only a slant… Enda Kenny would do well to have a chat with Iceland President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson to get lessons in the use of moral compasses.

At a summit of centre-right EU leaders in Helsinki next Friday, Mr Kenny will use his position as Ireland’s new Prime Minister to beg the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, for concessions ahead of an emergency March 11 Brussels summit to restructure the euro zone.

GUIDO COMMENT: The author of this article is out of his mind. “Beg”!!!??? Mr. Kenny is holding all the fucking cards. He needn’t beg anything. The only thing Mr. Kenny must do is decide whether he’s going to be a politician or whether he is going to grow a pair of balls and be a servant of the people thus acting in the best interest of the people that put him in power. Mr. B. Obama was in a similar position and he chose to be a politician. Mr. Kenny now has the opportunity to join other democratic luminaries like Vaclav Klaus, Ron Paul and Olafur Ragnar Grimsson to show what fiduciary duty means.

But neither the two European leaders nor the European Central Bank or EU will permit any substantial changes, despite the huge popular Irish revolt against the bailout.

Chancellor Merkel will tell Mr Kenny that if he wants to reduce the high, punitive 5.8 per cent interest rate charged on EU loans then Ireland will have to give up its low corporate tax rates – a measure regarded as vital to Ireland’s recovery and one of the few economic policies it has not yet handed over to Brussels or Frankfurt.

The new Irish premier will also be warned that there is no question of forcing privately-owned financial institutions to assume Ireland’s £85 billion bank debts because the resulting market panic would spread to Germany and France, tearing the euro single currency apart.

GUIDO COMMENT: The only appropriate response to the “two European leaders” whom the author evidently feels is a foregone conclusion as to whom they are, as well as to Merkel, the ECB, the EU or the IMF is a plain “no!’. Personally a more appropriate response would be to tell them to fudge cake but, though devoid of emotional charge, a simple “no” will do. The EU has no power to allow or forbid anything. Once again. Ireland holds all the cards. More prosaically, Ireland has the EU and the Euro by the balls. Moreover, Merkel has no business dictating what economic model anyone should follow. Indeed, this is the essence of economic freedom. It is true that just like Vaclav Klaus has warned long ago the EU is hard at work to destroy the last vestiges of personal and economic freedoms but for the time being, people and nations still have a degree of freedom in choosing what to run and how to run it. Enda Kenny has the power to re-assert those freedoms and he needs not beg anyone. Enda Kenny now has the mandate of his people to tell these idiots “how it is and how it’s going to be”!

As Irish voters headed for the polling booths on Friday, the European Commission bluntly declared that the terms of the EU-IMF bailout “must be applied” whatever the will of Ireland’s people or regardless of any change of government.

GUIDO COMMENT: And there you have it. In an unwitting moment of candor, the EU admits to being nothing but a bunch of fascist statists hell bent on subjugating the people: “whatever the will of Ireland’s people”. Notice here the similarities with the prevarication of the US Government upon the constitutional rights of the people as reported here for example and in many other posts on this blog.

“It’s an agreement between the EU and the Republic of Ireland, it’s not an agreement between an institution and a particular government,” said a Brussels spokesman.

GUIDO COMMENT: Yeah and???!!

A European diplomat, from a large eurozone country, told The Sunday Telegraph that “the more the Irish make a big deal about renegotiation in public, the more attitudes will harden”.

GUIDO COMMENT: Good!

“It is not even take it or leave it. It’s done. Ireland’s only role in this now is to implement the programme agreed with the EU, IMF and European Central Bank. Irish voters are not a party in this process, whatever they have been told,” said the diplomat.

GUIDO COMMENT: This idiot is reiterating that the political will of the people is of no consequence. How much more evidence do you need to realize that the Berlin wall may have come down but these traitors are hard at work to build a much more imposing wall this time encompassing the entire West?

In the face of the EU’s refusal to substantially renegotiate the austerity programme, Mr Kenny’s new government will face a grassroots campaign for a referendum.

Dessie Shiels, an independent candidate in Donegal, said: “People have not been given the basic right of deciding whether or not they should have their taxes increased in order to repay bondholders who have lent to the banks.

David McWilliams, an economist and former official at the Ireland’s Central Bank, has led calls for a popular vote under Article 27 of the Irish constitution, which requires on a matter of “such national importance that the will of the people ought to be ascertained”.

“We have to re-negotiate everything,” he said. “Obviously, the first way to do this is to make them aware that if they force us to pay everything, we will default and they will get nothing. So they had better get a little bit of something, than all of nothing. To make this financial pill easier to swallow, we must take the initiative politically. We can do this via a referendum.

“If the Irish people hold a referendum on the bank debts now, we can go to the EU with a mandate from the people which says No. This will allow our politicians to play hard-ball, because to do otherwise would be an anti-democratic endgame.”

Declan Ganley, the Irish businessman who led the 2008 No vote to the Lisbon Treaty, said Ireland must “have the balls” to threaten debt default and withdrawal from the single currency.

“We have a hostage, it is called the euro,” he said. “The euro is insolvent. The only question is whether Ireland should be sacrificed to keep the Ponzi scheme going. We have to have a Plan B to the misnamed bailout, which is to go back to the Irish Punt.””

GUIDO COMMENT: There evidently are some clear thinking people still around. Let’s all help the Irish do the right thing, the moral thing and the only thing that can ensure that a modicum of democracy is preserved.

Good tidings folks!

February 21, 2011

After having celebrated Iceland’s courageous stand against the IMF, the World Bank, the UK and Holland last year, a few days ago I feared the people of Iceland might yet again get screwed by the politicians. A piece of news I read reported that Iceland had agreed to a new repayment schedule that stretched out to 2046 and that “the people” supported the new plan.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8435662.stm

Despondent as I was feeling after reading that piece of news, for days I wallowed in despair at the enormity of the task the people face at fighting this political/financial Leviathan that now dominates society having penetrated the fabric and individual strands of people’s lives.

But today hope once again peeks through the dark clouds and, once again, it is Iceland’s President to come to the rescue of the Icelanders:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703498804576156493724283596.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

For the second time, Iceland’s president vetoed a bid by the island nation’s Parliament to repay the U.K. and the Netherlands more than $5 billion lost by depositors in Iceland’s epic 2008 banking collapse—sending the matter to a referendum by a deeply skeptical public and complicating the country’s application to join the European Union.

Ireland should heed the goings on in Iceland. It is not too late for the Irish people to re-gain their sovereignty and their dignity and, if Irish did so, they might well spark a popular movement throughout the West encouraging people to force banks to eat the losses brought about by their own deliberately reckless and politically sanctioned behavior.

Let the banks fail.