Monday, April 18, 2011

Greeks are Angry

Greeks are angry over the costs of reform. See this article in the Guardian.

A growing chorus of voices is urging the Greek government to restructure its debt as fears grow that a €110bn bailout has failed to rescue the country from the financial abyss and is forcing ordinary people into an era of futile austerity.

"It's better to have a restructuring now … since the situation is going nowhere," said Vasso Papandreou, whose views might be easier to discount were she not head of the Greek parliament's economic affairs committee.

Given the scale of protests to minor adjustments it is hard to see how Greece can make the big adjustments necessary to adjust their fiscal situation:

Tomorrow, in a clear sop to the thousands who have signed up to the "can't pay, won't pay" movement, the ruling socialists will announce reductions of up to 50% in road toll fees. As the nation struggles to rein in a debt of €340bn, the logic of appeasing protesters – an estimated 8,000 Greeks a day were refusing to pay tolls – has outweighed antagonising them further. "Our hope is that this will calm things down," the deputy transport minister Spyros Vougias said.

Last week, a man shot a bus inspector hired to crack down on fare dodgers after protesters stormed a police station, snatched hundreds of confiscated number plates and set light to thousands of fines. Days later thugs attacked Antonis Loverdos, the health minister, as he visited a hospital in Athens. In Patras, James Watson, the 83-year-old Nobel Prize-winning geneticist was also attacked as he prepared to give a speech at the city's university.

It is hard to see how Greece can adjust without haircuts from bondholders. Some trade between haircuts and real reforms might make it palatable. But that opens up a complex political economy problem for Europe, since there are other economies, notably Portugal and Ireland with similar, though right now more manageable, problems.

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