NEWS ARCHIVE - JANUARY 2013
Greece and the economic crisis
January 31, 2013
"Protesters forced their way into a government building in Greece's latest anti-austerity protests Wednesday, reaching just outside a minister's office before being expelled and clashing with riot police outside.
Police detained more than 30 protesters, most union heads, sparking clashes with about 200 demonstrators gathered outside the Labor Ministry in central Athens. Police used pepper spray, batons and tear gas to repel them.
The government said the demonstrators caused damage inside the building and threatened the minister- an accusation the protesters adamantly denied. "
January 29, 2013
"Greece's Finance Minister has told the BBC that this will be the last year of recession in his country.
Yannis Stournaras said the worst was now behind Greece and that there was no more austerity to come as long as the government implemented the reforms already passed."
January 28, 2013
"Greek Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras, who said he wants mandatory jail terms for tax cheats who now face only fines and suspended sentences, is reportedly considering a plan to house them in new special jails for those convicted of serious financial crimes.
The Ministries of Finance and Justice proposals would include pre-trial detainment for those who are charged with trying to evade taxes detected by audits. "
January 25, 2013
January 24, 2013
January 23, 2013
“My best guess is, the euro stays but not everyone currently in it ends up in the first orbit,” Rogoff said in an interview with Tom Keene on Bloomberg Television today at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. “They’re going to need a closer union and put some of the countries like Greece into an outer orbit for a long time.”
...“I think Europe’s reached a point of greater resilience, but where’s the growth?” Rogoff said. “If you don’t have the growth, how can you say the debt problem is over, not to mention the governance problem? So they’ve stretched things out, but we’re a long way from the end-game here.”
January 22, 2013
"Andreas Georgiou, head of the independent statistical agency Elstat, and two senior officials are accused of undermining the country’s “national interests” by inflating the 2009 budget deficit figure used as the benchmark for successive austerity packages.
...The three statistical experts face criminal charges of making false statements and corrupt practices, a judicial official said, adding that if found guilty they could serve prison terms of five to 10 years. They have denied any wrongdoing.
...The move by Greece’s top financial prosecutors follows a 15-month investigation of allegations by Zoe Georganta, a Greek statistics professor, that Mr Georgiou’s team used inaccurate methods to increase the size of the 2009 deficit from 12 per cent to 15.8 per cent of national output, a record for a eurozone member state. Prof Georganta made the allegations against Mr Georgiou after she was sacked from the board of Elstat by Evangelos Venizelos, then finance minister. "
January 20, 2013
"No additional measures would be necessary for Greece if it carries out the reforms under its bailout program, IMF chief Christine Lagarde says.
"But if the structural reforms are not carried out ... then more cuts would be necessary," the head of the International Monetary Fund has told the Greek newspaper Kathimerini in an interview.
Entering a sixth year straight of recession, the heavily indebted country is relying on EU-IMF bailout packages.
...Since 2010, the EU and IMF have committed 240 billion euros ($A307 billion) in rescue loans to Greece, while last week the IMF unblocked a frozen tranche of 3.2 billion euros from its pending aid package.
"Greece holds its future in its own hands ... It is up to the country itself to succeed in its program," Lagarde said. "
January 19, 2013
"The new bank that emerged from the breakup of Greece's troubled Hellenic Postbank will initially hire all of the old lender's staff but offer voluntary redundancies as it tries to cut payroll costs by 30 percent, its management said on Saturday.
Greece said on Friday it would split Hellenic Postbank into "good" and "bad" parts and continue to run the healthy business as a stand-alone entity until a buyer was found. "
"Among them, Greece’s agreement with the so-called troika of creditors — the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the IMF — commits the government to raise $67 billion through privatizations by 2022.
“The state loses money every day because it keeps ownership, and more significantly control, of these enterprises,” said Nicholas Economides of New York University’s Stern School of Business.
Besides the beaches, some of the items on sale include: 35 government buildings; the government’s stake in South Eastern Europe’s biggest oil company, Hellenic Petroleum (HELPE); shares in Athens airport and the Hellenic Horse Racing company; the Athens Water Supply and Sewerage Company (EYDAP); rights to 39 regional airports and 12 ports; the state lottery; and the Hellenic Post, the Greek post office. "
"The aim of the troika is to give the Greek government a chance to implement a raft of measures and structural reforms committed to in exchange for continued rescue funding, while also attempting to ensure that Greece and its debt problems do not become a pre-election issue in Germany, which is gearing up for polls in September, sources have indicated. "
January 17, 2013
January 16, 2013
"On Dec. 28, Papaconstantinou was accused of removing names from a list of Greeks with Swiss bank accounts -- the so-called Lagarde list -- and he was expelled from the socialist Pasok party. This week, Greek legislators will debate whether to start a parliamentary investigation against him.
The rest of the world has largely ignored this latest twist of the plot in Greece. Not only does it demonstrate the kind of institutional failure that has landed the country in so much trouble, but it could also mark the beginning of the end for the current coalition government -- and possibly for Greece’s euro- area membership, as well. "
January 15, 2013
"...No project, however, appears to have elicited more of a public outcry than the resumption of mining operations in the mineral-rich hills here, where legend has it that Alexander the Great also mined for gold."
German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble ...urged Greek opposition leader Alexis Tsipras to drop his opposition to bailout-linked austerity measures, saying there is "no alternative" if Greece wants to stay in the eurozone.
It was the first time the veteran minister and ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel received the young leftist leader, who has blamed Germany for the hardships which Greek people are enduring.
January 13, 2013
"Greece has overcome the danger of an ignominious euro exit, but it must stay the course of tough reforms to avoid a "relapse", Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on Sunday.
"I believe the great danger (of a euro exit) has passed," Samaras said in an interview with the To Vima weekly. "Drachmaphobia seems to have receded completely."
"Greece raised electricity prices for households by up to 15 percent this year to help state-controlled power company PPC cover costs for transmission rights, the government said on Sunday.
The debt-laden country increased its regulated power prices last year as well to reflect the true cost of energy generation as required under the terms of an EU/IMF bailout."
"Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s radical leftwing leader, will meet the German finance minister in Berlin on Monday in a move aimed at boosting the Syriza party’s credibility with the EU as it settles into the role of official parliamentary opposition."
January 12, 2013
January 11, 2013
January 10, 2013
"Almost 400,000 people are believed to have dropped below the poverty line within one year during the country’s financial crisis: In 2011, the number of Greeks living in conditions of poverty or social exclusion reached 3.403 million – up from 3.031 million in 2010, according to Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) figures.
....The poverty line for 2011 was set at an annual income of 5,951 euros, while the respective threshold for 2010 was higher, at 7,178 euros. The population living in households with low labor intensity grew from 619,000 in 2010 to 979,000 in 2011."
January 9, 2013
January 8, 2013Unemployment across eurozone hits record high - BBC
11.8% during November 2012.
"The glass is half-full. We are delivering and Europe is helping," he told reporters ahead of talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin where they were also both due to attend an economic conference.
Germany, Europe's paymaster, has praised the efforts of Samaras' government to push through tough austerity measures aimed at cutting Greece's heavy debt load.
January 7, 2013
"After the military junta collapsed in 1974, Greece created only a hybrid, diluted form of democracy. You can vote, belong to a party and protest. In essence, however, a small clique exercises all meaningful political power.
For all that has been said about the Greek crisis, much has been left unsaid. The crisis has become a battleground of interests and ideologies. At stake is the role of the public sector and the welfare state. Yes, in Greece we have a dysfunctional public sector; for the past 40 years the ruling parties handed out government jobs to their supporters, regardless of their qualifications.
...The Lagarde list implicates a corrupt group that answers to the name of democracy even as it casually nullifies it: officials with offshore companies, friends and relatives of government ministers, bankers, publishers and those involved in the black market.
...When Mr. Venizelos left the Finance Ministry last March, he failed to turn the CD with the list over to his successor. He took it with him. Only when his successor, Yannis Stournaras, told The Financial Times in October that he had never received the list did Mr. Venizelos turn it over to the prime minister’s office. He was never asked about the delay, and leaders of the three parties in the coalition government have not referred his conduct to Parliament’s investigatory committee. . "
A sad testament to the state of affairs in Greece - eKathimerini
"The excuses heard in Greece over why the list was not used to this end vary. Some say that they did not trust the Financial Crimes Squad (SDOE) to deal with the issue and believed the list could be ill-used to blackmail the innocent along with the guilty. Others claimed that the list could not be used as evidence in a court of law and was therefore useless.
If the former is true, then one can’t help but wonder why a minister would agree to oversee a service that he viewed as unreliable. If the latter is true, then the serious question arises of which state service gave the impression in the first place that the list could be used."
January 6, 2013
"How can citizens believe that what they hear regarding the list will be the truth? First, the list (which was given to Greece by Christine Lagarde when she was France’s finance minister) was lost; then, for two years, it drifted about, aimlessly and perhaps abridged; while Parliament debated noisily, it was published to great fanfare in a magazine, without anyone knowing whether it was the “real” list or not. Later we learned that the French would be sending us another “authentic” copy; a few weeks later, three state officials went to Paris to fetch it and prosecutors set about comparing the new list with the old one’s 2,000-or-so names. Meanwhile, rumors spread about hundreds (or perhaps just a handful) of names having been omitted from the first list; accusations of adulteration followed, as did calls for the political system to be demolished if the claims were true. "
January 5, 2013
"Greece may end 2012 with a better-than-targeted primary budget gap of 1.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) a finance ministry official said on Friday. "
"The Greek prosecution service has questioned two finance ministry officials close to former finance minister George Papaconstantinou, who is caught up in a tax scandal shaking Greek politics, judicial sources said on Jan. 4. "
January 4, 2013
The T-bills will be sold into a rollover. The settlement date will be Jan. 11. Only primary dealers will be allowed to participate and no commission will be paid.
Monthly T-bill sales are Greece's sole remaining source of market funding. Greek banks buy the bulk of the issues and deposit them as collateral to draw liquidity from the central bank.
January 3, 2013Greece's Other Crisis: Refugees - Businessweek
"Because Lesbos, an island of about 630 square miles, lies just six miles off the coast of Turkey, it’s often the first place smugglers dump their human cargo. “Hospitality is a concept Greeks have had since ancient times, but there is a ceiling,” says Athanasios Giakalis, the North Aegean regional governor who oversees Lesbos. Golden Dawn, Greece’s anti-immigrant party, is gaining strength on the island, according to George Diakoronas, the local party chairman. He says he’s concerned that illegal immigrants and war refugees will bring disease and that border guards and other measures are needed to stop the flow. “What I would like is for them to go back to their countries and leave my country to cope with the situation it’s in,” he says.
Although Greece’s economy is in deep depression, it remains the top destination for those seeking to enter the European Union illegally. "
"The Greek culture ministry has designated 2013 as the Year of Constantine Cavafy to mark the 150the anniversary of the world-renowned poet's birth.
Born within the then thriving Greek community in Alexandria of Egypt, Cavafy (April 29, 1863 - April 29, 1933) was one of the most influential literary figures produced by Greece in the early 20th century and instrumental in establishing modern Greek poetry on the international scene, where he is still being studied and translated into many languages well into the 21st century.
Fifty new titles and 21 translations, 10 of them into English, were added to the Cavafy bibliography between 2001-2010, poet Dimitri Daskalopoulos wrote in a special insert on Cavafy in To Vima weekly.
Characterized by strong symbolism, Cavafy's poetry is always current. ''Every time I read about the crisis in Greece and in Europe, about the fragility of European culture, I think of Cavafy. These were the themes that interested him: cultures being born and being lost,'' Bard College Professor Daniel Mendelsohn, who has translated Cavafy's entire oeuvre into English, commented on the pages of the magazine."
January 2, 2013
Greece’s ruling coalition on Monday called for a parliamentary probe into allegations that former Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou altered a list of more than 2,000 wealthy Greeks with Swiss bank accounts, deleting the names of three relatives.
The move, petitioned by 71 lawmakers from the three-party governing alliance, follows a probe by judicial investigators who found evidence that Papaconstantinou acted in breach of faith and duty while handling a list of potential tax dodgers during his nearly two-year term at the helm of the Finance Ministry.
Papaconstantinou, a loyal protege of then-Prime Minister George Papandreou, a socialist, has denied any wrongdoing, saying he received the list from French authorities in 2010 but then lost the computer disk after proffering a copy to Greece’s financial police.
“If there are accounts on the list that relate to people in my wider family environment,” he said in written statement, “this is something that I did not know.
“I will not accept this fabrication of guilt,” he added. “Nor will I become the scapegoat in this case.”
January 1, 2013
"Retail commerce suffered a 17 percent yearly decline in turnover in October, Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) data showed on Monday.
October, a month that was dominated by major uncertainty regarding the course of the Greek economy, saw sales volumes fall 18.1 percent compared to the same month in 2011, while turnover shrank 17.1 percent. "
"The ATHEX composite index of Greek shares chalked up gains of 33%, despite a fifth consecutive year of recession, record unemployment and the high-profile defection of Coca-Cola bottler Hellenic from the Athens market.
But Monday's close at 908 points still leaves it more than a third lower than it was two years ago, having fallen 52% in 2011. "
ORIGINAL PAGE FEB 1, 2013