Athenapallas's Blog

May 10, 2010

The Angry Ghosts of Athens or Why My City Burns

Filed under: Athena's musings,Athena's ragings — athenapallas @ 12:48 pm
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My city is burning and angry ghosts from its turbulent past are appearing. Its citizens’ rage is being fuelled by the perfidy of the government but most of all because the wily citizens of Athens know the extent of European hypocrisy. It will take the labours of Heracles to get out of this mess and the wisdom of Zeus, embodied in his favourite daughter, Athena, to understand what has happened.

In 1999 the revolutionary Eurozone was established as a unified monetary bloc across Europe with an optimism that ignored the lessons of both ancient and modern history. . ..the same continent that was the burial ground for millions of fallen warriors from every nation state now thought these states could unite their economic interests for the good of all.

Eurozone has the same currency and interest rates across its members set by the European Central Bank with strict rules to stop large deficits emerging. Member states agreed to observe the so-called euro-convergence criteria which included limiting fiscal deficit to 3% of GDP and government debt to 60% of GDP.

The average debt across the zone is 6.9% while average government debt is 78.6%.

The worst offenders are Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain, with Greece having the second highest debt behind Ireland. However Britain which is not part of the eurozone has a fiscal debt of 11.2% – nearly as much as Greece whom they are all too eager to pillory along with the other so called ‘PIGS’.

Even though each country would like to think that their circumstances are unique, the truth is member states have cheated ignoring the basic rules they agreed to uphold.

And in their guilt they have played the blame game as only nations of this once mighty continent know how. Greedy speculators, the markets, financial institutions, credit rating agencies, and finally other members of the zone especially Germany with its ‘cradle-to–grave welfare state’ came under attack.

An Aussie Greek newspaper editor quipped on local TV, if Greece goes down the gurler we all do.

For this is not just a European problem it is a global one.

During the 2008 global financial crises government bailouts around the world

stabilised the system but did nothing to address its underlying weaknesses.

Worldwide debt was transferred from banks to governments who tried to solve the problem

 by inciting their citizens to a kind of monetary bacchanalia

even in this sparsely populated  southern continent where I, Athena, now reside.

The ‘developed’ economies have been slow to invest in infrastructure for the future

 and to come to grips with the failure of their own institutions and dreams.

The new economies of China and India await the outcome, as the old ones

 drift across the seas like Odysseus plagued by monsters and waylaid by goddesses…..

Heracles, during his tenth labour, brought back an immense herd of cattle from Geryon,

passing through most of the countries of the eurozone.

He even had time to stop and build two enormous pillars..

the Rock of Gibraltar. How’s that for infrastucture development?

He implored my father Zeus to rain down stones from heaven

to discourage  marauding brigands along the way.

Over 2500 years later maybe that’s what is needed.

Not money from heaven,

but the determination to stop monetary brigands,

and to re-build what has been lost.

Then we can start to dream again.

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