Tag Archive: Euro

Apr 15 2013

Austerity and Growth Don’t Mix

Former Greek Prime Minister of Greece George Papandreou inherited a failing economy when he was sworn in on October 9, 2009. He resigned two years later during failed talks of a bailout with the “troika” of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Central Bank and the European Union. Mr. Papamdreou discussed the cost of austerity with Chris Hayes, the host of “All In,” economics journalist Chrystia Freeland, managing director and editor of Consumer News at Thomson Reuters, and  economics professor Radhika Balakrishnan,  executive director of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University.

In the news today, Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournara announced that Greece had reached an agreement on economic measures for the release of €2.8bn in the coming weeks, followed by a further €6bn in May. The cost to bail out the banks: some 15,000 employees would be fired by 2015 with 4,000 redundancies by the end of the year.

Meanwhile Greek unemployment has reached a record high:

Greece’s unemployment rate reached a new record of 27.2 percent in January, new data has showed, reflecting the depth of the country’s recession after years of austerity imposed under its international bailout. [..]

The jobless rate has almost tripled since the country’s debt crisis emerged in 2009, and was more than twice the eurozone’s average unemployment reading of 12 percent. [..]

Unemployment among youth aged between 15 and 24 stood at 59.3 percent in January, up from 51 percent in the same month in 2012.

Despite the “happy talk” from Prime Minister Antonis Samaras about this deal showing that the six years of austerity was paying off, the people of Greece are not very optimistic and are still suffering under the weight of EU demands for more austerity.

May 21 2012

The Mouse that Roared! Greece’s Struggle Against Austerity by New York Brit Expat

We live in interesting times … Those on the left following the  situation in Greece were treated to an interesting spectacle in the last election in Greece on May 6th 2012. As expected, those mainstream parties that supported the EU/IMF/ECB memorandum (http://www.reuters.com/…) imposing even more harsh austerity on the country were punished: New  Democracy’s (the conservatives, centre-right) votes from 33%-19%, PASOK’s (the Greek socialist party) share fell from 43%-13%, LAOS fell below the 3% needed for securing seats (right-wing nationalist party) all lost seats in the election (greek election results).  This represents in many senses a significant rejection of the mainstream political forces that have been ruling Greece since the end  of the rule of the colonels (1967-74, for a history of modern Greece  see, History of modern Greece) and particularly of the austerity that they have been imposing on the people of Greece over recent months.

Cheat Sheet (to keep track of the players):

SYRIZA: coalition of the radical left, led by Alexis Tsipras

New Democracy: Conservative, centre right neoliberals, led by Samaras

PASOK: Panhellenic Socialist Movement, Socialist party led by Venizelos

KKE: Communist Party of Greece

ANTARSYA: Coalition of Greek Anticapitalist Left, hard left

Golden Dawn: Chrysi Avgi, Greek Fascist Party, neonazis

DIMAR: Democratic Left, centre left to left wing, led by Fotis Kouvelis

LAOS: right wing nationalists

Independent Greeks: Right-wing split off of New Democracy, anti-austerity

Jan 11 2012

Some EU Countries Agree To Tax Financial Transactions

French President Nicholas Sarkozy took the initiative to address France’s rising deficit proposing a small tax on financial trans actions that was proposed by the European Commission last September and he has won the backing or German Chancellor Andrea Merkel:

The French government, long a proponent of the tax, stepped up its campaign last week, going so far as to suggest that France would impose the levy even if others didn’t. At a joint press conference in Berlin with Sarkozy today, Merkel threw her weight behind the tax.

“Personally, I’m in favor of thinking about such a tax in the euro zone,” Merkel said. “Germany and France both equally view the financial transaction tax as a correct response.”

The European Commission in September suggested a tax of 0.1 percent on equity and bond transactions, and 0.01 percent on derivatives, which it said could raise 55 billion euros ($71 billion) a year. European Union finance ministers are due to discuss the levy in March.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said today in Paris that France may present a bill on such a tax in February, hoping that other countries follow.

“Someone has to be the first to jump in the water,” he said.

The new Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti has also signed on to the proposal which had been opposed by his predecessor, Silvio Berlusconi, but did so with a slight reservation:

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti on Wednesday threw his support behind a new tax on financial transactions, backing a push by Germany and France, but said he would prefer to have it apply across the whole European Union. [..]

“We are open to supporting this initiative at the EU level,” Mr. Monti said at a news conference with Mrs. Merkel during his first visit to Berlin since taking over from Silvio Berlusconi in November.

While the Berlusconi government had rejected a new financial levy outright, Mr. Monti has said he thought it was a good idea, particularly as a means of reducing the tax burden on families.

Opposition to the tax is coming from British Prime Minister David Cameron:

(S)uch measures can scare away big-scale investment companies headquartered in the City of London.

In an interview to the BBC Mr. Cameron said that “the idea of a new European tax when you’re not going to have that tax put in place in other places, I don’t think is sensible and so I will block it unless the rest of the world all agreed at the same time that we were all going to have some sort of tax.”

To put it bluntly, getting “the rest of the world all agreed at the same time” is not bloody likely.

And of course the French banking community is dead set against it claiming that it will “would weigh on growth, lead to a loss of competitiveness, and create a heavy handicap for the financing of the French economy.”

Mr. Sarkozy has political motivations for his backing of this tax since he is facing a particularly tough reelection this Spring. However Ms. Merkel’s may be moving to stave off a slow down in Germany’s economic growth

Germany expanded by 3 percent last year from 2010, the Federal Statistical Office said in Wiesbaden. It noted, however, that the growth came mostly in the first half of 2011, and estimated that the economy actually contracted by about 0.25 percent in the fourth quarter from the prior three months.

Some economists now predict another contraction for Germany in the first three months of 2012, which would meet the usual definition of a recession as two consecutive quarterly declines in output.

Whether this small tax on has any affect on either the French election or the German economy remains to be seen but it is encouraging that some leaders who were opposed to sensible taxation of the 1% are coming around. Now if we could just get them off the austerity boat.