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DEC 12, 2009

Papandreou "Greek bureaucracy riddled with corruption"

The negative fall out from the downgrade on Greek national credit continues to domino. The Financial Times online carries a report on the Papandreou speech to the EU in which he acknowledges some of the criticism that has long been leveled at the financial handling skills of the Greek government:

"George Papandreou, Greece’s prime minister, acknowledge to his fellow European Union leaders that the Greek public sector was riddled with corruption. At an EU summit on Thursday night, The bloc’s 26 other national leaders sat in silence as Mr Papandreou delivered a short, blunt speech on Thursday night that said everything the rest of Europe had long known, or suspected, about Greek bureaucracy.

Greece is in the throes of the most serious fiscal emergency to strike the eurozone since the single currency’s launch in 1999.

[Papandreou said] “If we were at the edge of the abyss, we would cut wages in half. But we are not and we are fighting hard not to get there. We will protect wage-earners and pensioners.” His unwillingness to specify cost-cutting measures disappointed market-watchers, aware that Greece is expected to record a budget deficit of more than 12 per cent of gross domestic product this year. Its public debt is projected at 113 per cent of GDP.nt.

Papandreou is pledging to make up significant amounts of the shortfall by combing through the bureaucracy and cutting out graft, waste, etc.

DEC 11, 2009

Greece Fiscal Woes

Bloomberg has this report by Svenja O’Donnell and Elliott Gotkine about the possible default of the Greek government over present escalations in financial problems;

Former Bank of England policy maker Willem Buiter said Greece may be the first major country in the European Union to default on its debts since the aftermath of World War II.

“It’s five minutes to midnight for Greece,” Buiter, who will join Citigroup Inc. as its chief economist next month, said in a Bloomberg Television interview today. “We could see our first EU 15 sovereign default since Germany had it in 1948.”

The EU’s economic affairs commissioner said late yesterday that officials are ready to help Greece with its budget deficit after concerns about its public finances sparked a rout in Greek government bonds. Fitch Ratings cut its rating on the nation’s debt yesterday to BBB+ and two other major ratings companies are threatening to follow.

“Default is not unavoidable,” Buiter said. “But unless there are radical fiscal actions, lasting cuts in spending and tax increases of at least 7 percent of GDP, the writing is on the wall” for Greece.

There’s “absolutely” no risk Greece will default, Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou said in an interview today with Bloomberg Television. Greek banks are “fundamentally sound” and Greece will not seek an EU aid package, he said.

Greece, the lowest-rated country in the euro region, is struggling to cut a budget deficit of 12.7 percent of gross domestic product.

These troubles for Greece are not unique; there are other countries lined up for possible default if the world economy fails to respond to the various revival efforts currently taking place. On that list close behind Greece are Japan and even the Untied States and the United Kingdom. Large debt loads have produced a possible domino effect across many countries.

DEC 11, 2009

Athens Christmas tree under protective guard

Kathirmereni has a small aricle on the guarding of the Athens Christmas Tree at Syntagma Square. Leary of it getting torched (like last year) by people protesting the shooting of Alexis Grigoropoulos in 2008, a permanent bodyguard may be on hand throughout the Greek holidays.

DEC 8, 2009

Greece Fiscal Woes

Financial Times has this brief analysis by David Oakley in London and Kerin Hope in Athens about credit problems multiplying in the Greek financial sphere:

Greece saw its credit ratings downgraded to the lowest level in the eurozone on Tuesday as fears mounted over its deteriorating public finances.

Heavy selling of Greek stocks and bonds came amid fears that the country was heading for financial disaster unless politicians tackled dangerously high debt levels. Shares on the Athens stock exchange fell more than 6 per cent.

...George Papaconstantinou, Greek finance minister, said the country would do “whatever is required” to reduce a record budget deficit and achieve its medium-term fiscal targets.

...Mr Papaconstantinou said both Fitch and Standard & Poor’s had failed to take into account recent government initiatives described as positive by the European Commission. “Many analysts express mistrust ... which has to do with the gap between words and actions in recent years.”

Mr Papaconstantinou was referring to Greece’s repeated failure since joining the euro in 2001 to carry out structural reforms and keep the deficit within the eurozone limit of 3 per cent of gross domestic product

DEC 7, 2009

The Tour Package as a Lament for Greece

Kathimerini has this bitter commentary by Nikos Konstandaras about the problems facing Greece from the inside:

Whoever wants to replicate the adventures of Odysseus can buy a package in which he or she will be crammed with countless others onto a makeshift dinghy and try to sneak into Greece from Asia Minor. Those who are caught will spend an indeterminate amount of time in an overcrowded hellhole of a “reception center” before being disgorged suddenly in the center of Athens, without papers and without any form of assistance. This journey may last as long as Odysseus’, with countless adventures and an unpredictable end. It should be worth every cent of the 5,000 or so euros that smugglers get for each soul.

Other visitors – mainly angry youths – will be fitted out with hoods, stones and Molotov cocktails before joining the ranks of local anti-establishment groups. This package is expected to be very successful, as this is one of the few areas where Greeks enjoy international respect for their experience and know-how. “Graduates” will be awarded special degrees in the shape of looted police shields. Sadomasochists will be recruited by our riot police squads, where they will beat citizens and be beaten in turn.

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