Yesterday, I went to Ierapetra to do a few small things and was struck by the sight of queues at every ATM in town. They were however, short (perhaps half a dozen folk), very orderly and literally policed by a member of the local constabulary. Whilst in town, I met one of our neighbours who later told Sheila that she had been there to draw out the 60 euros which is the maximum daily amount Greeks are allowed. This brought home to me that even here in Kavousi, ordinary people are not immune from the events which have dominated the headlines for weeks.
The Referendum tomorrow is likely to be tight so it is doubtful if it will solve anything one way or the other but at least it gives Greeks ownership of the process. Tony Benn once said: “Fear is the prison in which you put yourself” and it is clear that many people are frightened and the right-wing media here is having a field day fuelling these anxieties. Despite this, the ‘No’ vote seems to be holding up well and this in part seems to be because the average Greek is proud, fed up with being pushed around and resent what they see as a less than thinly-veiled attempt at regime change. Remember this country is the cradle of democracy.
Nonetheless, there is an air of weariness about the people which is almost tangible. After years of austerity, it seems to us that they have had enough. In January they elected a new Government for which here in Crete particularly, there were high hopes but despite not asking for the debt to be wiped out (or even for a ‘hair-cut’ at that time), there has been no movement at all on the part of the ‘Troika’ on this central issue. They just seem to want more of the same failed policies.
Only last week, Christine Lagarde was arguing for more austerity and that debt relief could only be addressed at a later date. Now we find out, that the IMF officials in fact agree with the SYRIZA line and are recommending that any future bailout must include significant debt relief.
As usual, Yanis Varoufakis, academic turned Finance Minister, succinctly sums up the issues raised by all this and explains it better than I could ever hope to do! Follow this link if you want to know more:
Perhaps the most dispiriting aspect of the whole miserable affair is the ‘attitude’ of the Northern European right-of-centre politicians. I don’t want to dwell on this, except to say that most respected economists disagree with their view that Greece must be taught a lesson. In this respect, the following is worth a read if you want to see some of the more common myths exploded:
(Thanks to Mary for sending this through)
I find the approach followed by the majority of German politicians, particularly unfortunate. They appear to have learned nothing from their own history. In this context, many observers would argue that the rise of National Socialism was directly related to the harsh economic terms imposed on Germany by the peace treaty which ended the First World War. There are of course no direct parallels here with Greece but, the ultra-right in Greece in the form of Golden Dawn is waiting in the wings, should the opportunity present itself.
Secondly, the London Debt Agreement of 1953 cancelled 50% of German debt, which was a key element leading to recovery from the devastation of the second world war and paving the way for the so-called German economic miracle. Perhaps the most innovative feature of the London agreement, however, was a clause that said West Germany should only pay for its remaining debts out of its trade surplus and any repayments were limited to 3% of exports earnings every year. This meant those countries that were owed debt had to buy West German exports in order to be paid. It meant West Germany would only pay from genuine earnings, without recourse to new loans. And it meant Germany’s creditors had an interest in the country growing and its economy thriving. (Guardian article – 27 Feb 1953)
And it is worth mentioning, one of the signatories was – Greece! Would that we have some leaders today with this view of the World, clear purpose and a dash of common humanity!
Despite all this gloom and doom, I would like to end with the other part of Tony Benn’s call to arms; “Hope is the fuel of progress”. We can’t vote but if we could, we would vote ‘ΟΧΙ’ (no) because you have to hope.
Full marks to Thom Feeney for starting the Greek bailout fund (see link below) which at the time of writing has raised over £1.6m. OK he is a long way from the £1.6bn needed but it demonstrates that people do care. Dig deep!
Further, the sun is still shining, the sea is warm and blue, the fruit and veg are abundant in the gardens and the vines are ripening nicely. No one is starving and the hospitals are still operating. Our neighbours are not rich by any standards but they are keeping us provided with excess vegetables from their gardens so we are not going hungry either. Their generosity is astounding. In other words, paradise is still in business!
Oh and the cover photograph? It’s a picture of an inspiring 85 yr old γιαγιά (grandmother) who will vote ‘ΟΧΙ’ tomorrow and whose story you can read by following this link: