Monday, May 28, 2012

Pundits Slam Greece as Euro Exit Looms


Considering some of the Greek-bashing going on in Europe, you wouldn't know that other countries such as France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Ireland might have lots of trouble if Greece makes a disorderly exit from the Euro. Who will the pundits blame when Greece is no longer the scapegoat?

Last week Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund chief, insulted the Greeks by implying they were all tax dodgers. She told Guardian UK:
"Do you know what? As far as Athens is concerned, I also think about all those people who are trying to escape tax all the time. All these people in Greece who are trying to escape tax."
Even more than she thinks about all those now struggling to survive without jobs or public services?
"I think of them equally. And I think they should also help themselves collectively."
"By all paying their tax. Yeah."
It sounds as if she's essentially saying to the Greeks and others in Europe, you've had a nice time and now it's payback time.
"That's right." She nods calmly. "Yeah."

That statement brought an onslaught of criticism to Lagarde's Facebook Page where she later posted an apology:

As I have said many times before, I am very sympathetic to the Greek people and the challenges they are facing. . . . An important part of this effort is that everyone should carry their fair share of the burden, especially the most privileged and especially in terms of paying their taxes. . . .

Bill Mitchell, an Australian economist saw Lagarde's statement as more European bullying towards the Greek people, especially from the IMF. He wrote in his blog:
. . . the European banking system interacted with the bailout funds to benefit the German banks. The benefits dwarf the amount of funds Greece has received.
So when Lagarde talks about payback time it is clear that she is continuing the IMF tradition of bullying the weak and vulnerable to benefit the rich and strong.
. . . Remember, that Greece was not in crisis before the Euro was imposed. Its crisis is the result of lax regulation by EU officials interacting with a flawed monetary system design.

Unfortunately, other Europeans continue to enjoy some Greek bashing, like this so-called "Wealth Manager" Nick Dewhirst from Integral Asset Management who echoed Lagarde's condescending judgment when interviewed by CNBC today (my transcript):
Dewhirst: I think the easiest way to understand it is at the ordinary human level. Nations are just very large numbers of human beings. And it's like a club, so I was down at my Sailing Club . . . talking to a few friendly Greeks among others and the attitude is very simple. As a club member you have to obey by certain rules. Lots of people cheat a little bit. They get away with it. Some people cheat a helluva lot. They get away with it until everybody notices. And that's the key difference between now and a couple of years ago.
Every German voter, every Slovak, Finn, and every other savings nation voter now knows that cheating is not just the occasional email joke he's got about Greece, but a way of life.

Question: What's the real impact of Greece leaving the eurozone as you say on June 18th?

Dewhirst: Probably like Y2K. A lot less than everybody thinks.

Question: But there are so many unknown unknown-unknowns...

Dewhirst: Um, I don't think so. I wrote a piece in December 2010 predicting this would happen and predicting how it would happen. We would have a bank holiday . . . and during that period they would have to pass a simple law amending one clause of the European treaties they signed. And then your accounts would be frozen. And everyone would come in on Monday and say 'they've stolen my money - they can't do that!' But they can! They've just done it and it's been done before. It was done in Argentina in 2001.

Question: But isn't the concern here the knock on impact through the banking system, because there would be quite significant implications for the Greek banks? The European financial system is very interconnected . . . Banks are holding some debt as well....
Question: Because if the new currency in Greece devalues 50-70% and they've lost that amoung of their wealth, why wouldn't every person in Spain, in Italy, or anywhere else that this could potentially happen and put it into a safer currency, thus perpetuating the bank runs?

Dewhirst: Um, that's very sensible, and indeed, I think about 30% of the Greek bank deposits have all ready disappeared that way. And 8% of those in other countries have done the same sort of thing. That's true.

Dewhirst was also quoted by CNBC as saying:

“The euro zone is a club but you get cheaters who get away with it until everyone finds out and at that point you need to remove them otherwise everyone will cheat. It’s better for Greece to leave," . . .
“The basic question is that a German has to increase working from 65 to 67 and that is to pay for Greeks retiring at 50. The 17th of June is the perfect opportunity to say either 'we’ll behave' or 'we’ll carry on cheating.

And Dewhirst continues his undiplomatic rant with a flippant joke:
“Greeks would no longer be able to afford German cars and Germans would be able to buy Greek villas and the young unemployed in Greece would have jobs as tourism booms. The best thing would be that they [Greeks] could blame the foreigners."

Unbelievable, and it's no wonder they left that last bit out of the video below. Let's hope Mr. Dewhirst never makes a bad investment or loses his wealth (*cough* JP Morgan *cough*). Woe betide him if he's ever part of the 99% in any country. He might be hungry enough to eat his words.

1 comment:

  1. Greece should prepare for this one. Greece will encounter many economic problems, if they will separate from Euro Zone.

    By: exchange rates