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The New York Times:”As Goes Greece, So Goes Europe?” by Nikos Konstandaras

5 Jun

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Greece has been at the epicenter of the European debt crisis, and in many ways, the political fallout here reflects the surge of extreme-left and extreme-right forces that the Continent witnessed in the elections for the European Parliament.

As in Greece, the center-left and center-right groups that form the core of national and European Union politics have seen their power eroded by the rise of extremist parties very different from one another, united only by their rejection of the way things are, both at home and in the European Union.

While Europe struggles to cope with the economic crisis, and voters’ focus on domestic issues is seen as a swelling tide of opposition to an “ever closer union,” debate on issues like banking and fiscal union, integration and keeping borders open could stall. If the center wavers, Europe’s great project may fall apart.

The drama playing out in Greece over the past four years may hold useful lessons for Europe. Not every vote lost by the center is a vote against the Union. In Sunday’s election, a coalition of the remnants of the two pro-European Union parties that dominated the Greek political center for decades was hit by a pincer movement from left and right. Syriza, a radical left party, won the most votes (26.6 percent), while the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn finished third, with 9.4 percent. The senior coalition partner, the center-right New Democracy, won 22.7 percent, while its junior partner, the center-left Pasok (running as part of the “Olive Tree” alliance), got 8 percent.

This confirmed opinion polls that Syriza was the party with the strongest support since national elections in June 2012. Syriza is opposed to the austerity program imposed on Greece in 2010 but is not anti-European Union. Golden Dawn is against austerity but also strongly against the European Union. The two parties represent the often bloody historical divide between Greece’s left and right and would never agree on anything besides attacking the government.

Greece is not the first country to witness a protest movement against economic austerity, nor the first where xenophobic extremists have made their presence felt. But nowhere have the two extremes grown so influential so quickly, as formerly fringe groups fed off voters’ anger and insecurity and wore down the credibility of mainstream parties.

In national elections in 2009, before the crisis, Syriza won just 4.6 percent of the vote, while Golden Dawn barely registered, with 0.3 percent (just 19,624 votes). But their recent strong showing, and the coalition government’s weakening, suggests that if these had been national elections the results would have rendered Greece ungovernable, as no party could have formed a viable coalition with any like-minded group. With the economy still on life support, such political instability would be devastating.

The popularity of extremist groups not only undermines the political system’s cohesion but also threatens their own future: Thrilled by the success of their simplistic rejection of the state of things, these parties are unwilling or unable to compromise. They will either remain on the fringe or tear themselves apart. It’s the existence of a government with unpopular policies that in part empowers them. After six years of recession and four years of austerity in Greece, Syriza has been unable to break through the ceiling of 26.9 percent that it won in 2012, while the coalition has not fallen so far as to make governing untenable. The political system limps on.

The aggrievement and disillusionment that fuel such extreme movements can arise from real causes or perceived ones. People may feel fear and deprivation because of the impact of recession, unemployment and higher taxes. They may feel threatened by immigration, or by the idea of immigration. Nationalism can be provoked by outside factors, such as a belligerent neighbor or a sense of national humiliation and loss of control.

All have played a role in Greece, though they are common in many other countries as well. In what turned out to be a triumphant campaign, the U.K. Independence Party urged voters to “Take back control of our country.” In France, the anti-immigration, anti-European Union winner issued a similar call. “The people have spoken loud and clear,” proclaimed the National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, on Sunday. “They no longer want to be led by those outside our borders, by E.U. commissioners and technocrats who are unelected. They want to be protected from globalization and take back the reins of their destiny.” A day later, President François Hollande urged the European Union to change, accusing it of being “remote and incomprehensible, even for governments.”

Societies are united by a common past and common interests, by feelings of familiarity among their members (even when they disagree) and belonging expressed through their leaders. Losing that, or seeing it weakened, makes people angry and insecure. They cast blame and look for a group that comforts them. In Greece, the target is the government, and beyond that the creditors: the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The lesson that this troika should draw from the Greek crisis is that loans in exchange for austerity and reform may look good on paper, but unless the reforms are first carried out, austerity will lead to depression, and the backlash will not only worsen the economic crisis but might also undermine the political legitimacy of the reformers. Reforms will not work unless they offer justice and hope and the possibility of an easier life for citizens.

When policies result only in strengthening extremists’ sense of anger and self-righteousness, no solutions can be found. Domestic problems will become European problems. For now, centrist, pro-European Union parties are still in the majority in Europe and its Parliament. It is up to them to show leadership, remain calm and save the Union.

Η Έλενα Παναρίτη σχολιάζει τα αποτελέσματα των Ευρωεκλογών και την τρέχουσα ελληνική πολιτική κατάσταση

5 Jun

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joOWrX6SKYg&feature=youtu.be

Elena Panaritis : “Bruised and confused: why Greeks voted against the gods of Europe” (The Guardian)

2 Jun

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http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/01/greeks-electorate-voted-against-europe-eu-austerity

Elena Panaritis

Bruised and confused: why Greeks voted against the gods of Europe

Ravaged by austerity measures and caricatured as lousy managers and born tax evaders, the Greek electorate went left and right in their efforts to say no to the EU

In last month’s elections a majority of Greeks – now routinely depicted by the gods of Europe as lousy managers and born tax-evaders – reacted by shunning the pro-EU parties. They made the anti-European and populist left and far-right parties the rising stars at the polls. Even Syriza, the radical (though not so radical any more) leftwing party that secured 26.6% of the votes did not do as well as expected. Once very anti-austerity and ready to go up against Brussels, it has since watered down its tactics.

Analysing the results via ideological labels is perhaps less important than seeing beyond the political shake-up to the bruised reputation of a very proud people. The Greeks now often feel like unwanted guests at the EU table.

Add to this feeling the economic realities: the imposed never-ending austerity, GDP reduced by 30% and nearly wiping out the middle class, and the grim future Greek people face with youth unemployment running at over 60% (28% overall).

From the start of Greece‘s economic crisis, most of the richer EU members were emotional and openly angry, blaming the Greeks for all their woes when in fact it wasn’t a problem of household private deficit and overspending, but of public sector mismanagement and bad governance.

The crisis was the end result of an overly bureaucratic and cumbersome system that became even more bureaucratic because of additional European directives. A lack of transparency facilitated the mishandling of government and public budgeting.

What was so much needed was reform and simplification, allowing for transparency to build trust. This is the missing ingredient with the national government, and now EU governance.

Ironically the Greeks, in contrast with many other Europeans, have long been pro-integration since the Treaty of Rome in the 1960s. They adopted the euro – putting to rest the drachma, the oldest currency in the western world – with optimism. Compare this reaction with, say, France, where prices are still printed in both euros and old French francs. And when the troika of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF arrived in Athens to help the country put its financial house in order, they were widely welcomed. Most Greeks believed the troika could fix a broken system.

Instead, Greece’s “bail-out” packages, initially at high interest rates, were perceived clearly to be only money transfers for the Greek state to pay back its debt. Persistent austerity and fiscal measures eroded further some of the healthy forms of governance that remained (police and judiciary included). This allowed for the rise of the far-right ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn, especially in urban centres.

Not surprisingly, then, the troika’s welcome was short-lived. Those who are suffering the consequences of bad governance and politics are the middle class, the low-income earners, the pensioners receiving just ¤600 a month and now unable to cover their basic needs. They feel insecure and unprotected. Meanwhile, those who took advantage of the old ways of bad governance seem not to be touched that much. In short, the euphoric pro-European mood soured and turned into a silent vote of dissatisfaction and a clear: “Thank you, EU, but no thank you.” What did for the EU in the elections is the serious lack of leadership it has shown in tough times. The euro crisis, for instance, was persistently not seen as such, but blamed as a Greek crisis for its first three years.

More specifically, the stubborn unwillingness of Brussels to use its powers to make quick decisions and avoid the spreading of the crisis constituted a supreme error.

Instead, decisions were offloaded on to the national parliaments. The same parliaments were never asked to approve European subsidies on common agricultural policy or regional harmonisation policy.

The reality was a non-handling of the crisis. We observed the lack of any leadership and responsibility. This created two very different forms of punishment. The first, from the markets, spread the euro crisis and credit “downgrading” of several countries, including France (the second pillar of the Union with Germany). The second punishment, carried by grassroots anger, came from the people, demanding a change of the EU, as seen in last month’s elections

So, in the case of Greece, this is a response to the blind following of austerity which prolonged recession and created a great depression – as well as producing greater inequalities and making a recovery difficult to see.

In the north (France, Germany, Austria), the Eurosceptics are gaining for different reasons. The people are tired of being asked to give more to the south and to those “lazy and irresponsible Greeks” especially since they have their own domestic issues to address.

Leaders are asked to take brave decisions – these still haven’t been taken in Europe, and quite frankly I do not think they will be taken soon because Europe has become a big bureaucratic elephant with a life of its own. Large entities like this are not known for their ability to be flexible or adapt to the reality on the ground. I fear things will become worse before they start getting better.

A growing number of Greeks and other Europeans are now tired. They do not see any light at the end of the tunnel. Positive political statements about the end of the crisis mean very little to them. In general, the EU has disappointed the Greeks. Instead of making decisions, the EU postponed them. There was a lot of talk, endless meetings in Brussels; kicking the can down the road every time only prolonged the pain. This created anger, discontent and impatience.

Europe is no longer the club of the elite (De Gaulle and Adenauer, Mitterrand and Kohl) and these elections made it clear. Last month’s vote reflects this change. The bottom line is that the euro crisis game was played out in Greece, and the European vision has been lost in Brussels.

Elena Panaritis is an economist who has worked at the World Bank and was a Pasok member of the Greek parliament from 2009 until 2012

CNBC: H Έλενα Παναρίτη σχολιάζει τα αποτελέσματα των Ευρωεκλογών

26 May

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http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000278774

CNBC: Elena Panaritis comments on EU elections results – Is greek coalition still strong?

26 May

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Elena Panaritis comments on EU elections results

Εlena Panaritis is interviewed about Tsipras and his views on European elections

20 May

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Εlena Panaritis is interviewed about Tsipras and his views on European elections

Η Ευρωκρίση δημιουργεί αμφιβολίες για το μέλλον της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης

20 May

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Έλενα Παναρίτη

Οι Ευρωσκεπτικιστές μεταφέρθηκαν από τα blogs, στις πολιτικές καμπάνιες. Δημιουργείται ένα νέο ρεύμα λαϊκιστών οι οποίοι εναντιώνονται σε μια ευρύτερη ολοκλήρωση της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης ή και αναρωτιούνται ποιος ο λόγος ύπαρξής της. Στοχεύουν στο να πετύχουν μία μεγάλη νίκη στις επερχόμενες Ευρωεκλογές του Μαΐου.   

  Οι πρώτες ενδείξεις έρχονται από τις Γαλλικές Δημοτικές εκλογές. Δεκαεννιά πόλεις ψήφισαν «Εθνικό Μέτωπο», το κόμμα της MarineLePen, ένα ευρωσκεπτικιστικό ακροδεξιό κόμμα. 

  Χωρίς αμφιβολία, το αποτέλεσμα των εκλογών θα είναι το πιο διχαστικό αποτέλεσμα που έχει διεξαχθεί από τότε που εγκαθιδρύθηκε ο θεσμός των άμεσων εκλογών για τα μέλη του Ευρωπαικού Κοινοβουλίου(35 χρόνια πριν). Φυσικά, μένει να δούμε πώς τα 300 εκατομμύρια ψηφοφόροι στα 28 κράτη μέλη της ΕΕ θα ψηφίσουν την ημέρα των εκλογών. Αυτό που είναι βέβαιο, ωστόσο, είναι ότι οι Βρυξέλλες είναι αρκετά υπεύθυνες για την εξάπλωση των Ευρωσκεπτικιστικών κομμάτων.

Η άνοδος των Ευρωσκεπτικιστών, είναι άρρηκτα συνδεδεμένη με μια βαθιά δυσπιστία με το οτιδήποτε προέρχεται από τις Βρυξέλλες. Είναι το αποτέλεσμα των συνεχώς αυξανόμενων και μη ανταποκρινόμενων θεσμικών οργάνων του Ευρω-Εργαστηρίου.                             

Ένα παράδειγμα είναι η αδυναμία της ΕΕ να αντιμετωπίσει την οικονομική κρίση μίας μικρής χώρας –όπως η Ελλάδα(2,7% του ΑΕΠ της Ευρωζώνης). Για τα δύο πρώτα χρόνια η ελληνική κρίση αντιμετωπίστηκε ως μια κρίση των τεμπέληδων, διεφθαρμένων και αναποτελεσματικών Ελλήνων. Στη συνέχεια, η κρίση μεταλλάχτηκε σε ένα ευρύτερο πρόβλημα της Νότιας Ευρώπης, τα γνωστά σε όλους μας PIGS (Πορτογαλία, Ιρλανδία, Ελλάδα και Ισπανία). Φαίνεται ότι η ΕΕ προτίμησε να παίρνει αποφάσεις που βασίζονται σε τέτοια σενάρια που δημιουργούν διχασμό, παρά να αντιμετωπίσει τα διαρθρωτικά προβλήματα της Ένωσης έγκαιρα.

Η αλήθεια είναι ότι η ΕΕ δεν αντέδρασε αρκετά γρήγορα έτσι ώστε να προλάβει τις στρεβλώσεις και τις ανεπάρκειες στις αγορές των κρατών-μελών της.

  Αντίθετα, η ΕΕ επέτρεψε τη συζήτηση να μετατραπεί σε ένα κυνήγι μαγισσών – ψάχνοντας κάποιον να κατηγορήσει, αντί να ασχοληθεί με φλέγοντα ζητήματα όπως η αναποτελεσματικότητα του ενιαίου νομίσματός της και η δημοσιονομική Ένωση.

Κατά ειρωνεία της τύχης, η διαχείριση της Ευρωκρίσης από την ίδια την Ένωση ήταν αυτή που οδήγησε στην άνοδο του λαϊκισμού και στην αντίδραση στην ηγεσία των 28 κρατών-μελών.

  Για πρώτη φορά στην ιστορία της ΕΕ, ένας άνευ προηγουμένου αριθμός ψηφοφόρων από όλα τα κράτη- μέλη θα ψηφίσει κόμματα τα οποία σθεναρά αμφισβητούν την αποτελεσματικότητα ακόμα και τη σημασία της.

Δυστυχώς, οι ψηφοφόροι τον Νότου θα είναι αυτοί που θα κάνουν την αρχή καθώς αισθάνονται τιμωρημένοι από τις μεταρρυθμίσεις που έχουν μόνο να κάνουν με αυστηρή λιτότητα. Ποιος θα ήθελε να συνεχίσει να αυτοαποκαλείται Ευρώφιλος όταν νιώθει τιμωρημένος;

  Η ειρωνεία της ιστορίας είναι ότι η ίδια η ΕΕ έχει δημιουργήσει μία παράξενη θερμοκοιτίδα κριτικής και δυσκαμψίας. Το ερώτημα είναι ένα: Τι είδους Ευρώπη θέλουμε και πως η ΕΕ θα μπορούσε να ανατρέψει την παρούσα κατάσταση;

Euro Crisis Leads to Scepticism About the Future of the European Union

20 May

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elena-panaritis/euro-crisis-leads-to-skep_b_5062259.html?1396271779

 

Elena Panaritis

The Eurosceptics have moved from blogs, to op-eds, to political campaigns. A new wave of populist politicians who oppose greater European Union integration or question the raison d’étre of the EU are vying to make big wins in the upcoming European Parliament elections in May. The first signs come from French Municipal Elections in France. About 19 cities turned to the National Front party lead by Marine Le Pen. A serious Eurosceptic party of the far right.

Without a doubt, the outcome of the elections will be the most divisive since direct elections for Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) were first held 35 years ago. Of course, it remains to be seen how the 300 million voters in the 28 member states of the EU will vote on Election Day. What is certain, however, is that Brussels is to blame for the growth of Eurosceptic parties across the EU.

The rise of the Eurosceptic parties, which are united in a deep distrust of anything coming from Brussels, is the result of the increasingly irresponsive organisations and institutions of the European Union. One example is the EU’s inability to address the troubles of one small country – Greece. For the first couple of years, the Greek crisis was treated as just that – a crisis of the lazy, corrupt and inefficient Greeks. Then, the crisis was perceived as a wider problem of the southern Europeans dubbed as the PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain). It seems the EU preferred to make decisions based on these scenarios creating divisiveness, rather than addressing the structural problems of the Union fast.

The truth is that the European Union was not fast enough to react to market distortions and inefficiencies in its Member States. Instead, the EU allowed the debate to turn into a witch hunt – looking for someone to blame, rather than dealing with the underlying issues like the inefficiencies of the EU’s Single Currency and the fiscal union.

Ironically, it is the Union’s handling of the Eurozone crisis that lead to the rise in populism and the backlash against the leadership of the 28-member bloc.

For the first time in the history of the EU, an unprecedented number of voters from across the 28-member bloc will vote for parties that are strongly questioning the effectiveness and even the relevance of the EU. The southern voters may unfortunately lead the way since they feel they have been punished by the EU reforms of severe austerity. Who wants to continue calling oneself a Europhile when they feel they are being punished?

The irony of the situation is that the European Union has itself created a strange incubator of criticism and inflexibility. The question now What type of Europe we want and how will the Union EU turn things around?

Ανάπτυξη: Μύθος ή αλήθεια;

20 May

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Έλενα Παναρίτη – Χριστόφορος Πισσαρίδης

Υψηλόβαθμοι γραφειοκράτες της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης παρουσιάζουν το 2014 ως το έτος ανάπτυξης της Ευρωζώνης.

‘Όμως αποσιωπούν ότι είναι μικροσκοπική σε σχέση με αυτή των Ηνωμένων Πολιτειών Αμερικής αλλά και ολόκληρου του κόσμου το ίδιο έτος.

Παίρνοντας το 2007 ως τελευταίο έτος πριν την παγκόσμια κρίση του 2008 παρατηρούμε ότι για παράδειγμα, σήμερα, το συνολικό ΑΕΠ της Ευρωζώνης είναι πολύ χαμηλό (3% χαμηλότερο από αυτό του 2007) και δεν προβλέπεται να αυξηθεί. Ενώ το ΑΕΠ των ΗΠΑ έχει αυξηθεί 7% περισσότερο από αυτό του 2007.

Η ανεργία στις χώρες της Ευρωζώνης σήμερα είναι 12%. Το 2007 ήταν 7,5%.

Εντωμεταξύ η Αμερική έχει αναπτυχθεί με ρυθμούς 7% υψηλότερους από αυτούς του 2007. Για μας τους Νοτιοευρωπαίους τα στοιχεία θα λέγαμε ότι είναι απογοητευτικά. Όταν συζητάμε την κατάσταση σήμερα οι Ευρωπαίοι ηγέτες αποτυγχάνουν να επικοινωνήσουν το γεγονός ότι υπάρχει άνιση διανομή της ανάπτυξης. Δεν είναι άλλωστε ειρωνικό ότι ο πλούσιος Βορράς γίνεται ολοένα πλουσιότερος και ο φτωχός Νότος όλο και φτωχότερος;

Για παράδειγμα η Γερμανία καταγράφει εγχώρια παραγωγή 3% υψηλότερη από αυτή του 2007. Αντίθετα η Ελλάδα καταγράφει μείωση 27%. Το ίδιο συμβαίνει και στον τομέα της ανεργίας και ειδικότερα στην ανεργία των νέων. Στη Γερμανία η ανεργία των νέων (15-24 ετών) μειώθηκε από το 12% στο 7,8%. Στην Ελλάδα όμως από 22% που ήταν το 2007 «σκαρφάλωσε» στο 58% το 2013. Γενικότερα στην Ευρωζώνη, τα ποσοστά ανεργίας αυξήθηκαν από 15% το 2008 σε 23,7% το 2013.

Επιπλέον, η κακή διαχείριση της Ευρωκρίσης προέβαλλε την έλλειψη ηγεσίας και οράματος που αντί να εμπνέουν τους Ευρωπαίους πολίτες τους ωθούν στον Ευρωσκεπτικισμό δημιουργώντας ένα συνεχώς αυξανόμενο ρεύμα θυμωμένου λαϊκισμού.

Αυτή είναι η σημαντική διαφορά αυτής της κρίσης με άλλες του παρελθόντος.

Αυτοί οι λάθος χειρισμοί έχουν ως αποτέλεσμα τη διάβρωση της αξιοπιστίας της Ευρωπαϊκής Ένωσης.

Θυμηθείτε πώς διαχειρίστηκε η τότε Δύση την πολιτική και οικονομική κρίση μετά τον Β’Παγκόσμιο Πόλεμο. Οι ΗΠΑ έδωσαν βοήθεια μέσω του MarshallPlan για την ανασυγκρότηση της Γερμανίας και όχι μόνο, χωρίς να ζητήσουν την άποψη των Αμερικάνων φορολογούμενων πολιτών. Και αυτό γιατί η δράση έπρεπε να ήταν άμεση προσδοκώντας ένα υγιές μέλλον και πιστεύοντας ότι μία ευήμερη Γερμανία είναι πολλή καλύτερη  από μία χρεοκοπημένη.

Στη κρίση όμως του 21ου αιώνα έχουμε ηγέτη μας τον λαϊκισμό που πολλές φορές παίρνει αποφάσεις όχι βασισμένες σε ορθολογική οικονομική σκέψη αλλά στο πώς θα αντιδράσουν οι ψηφοφόροι των Ευρωπαϊκών Κοινοβουλίων αμελώντας τα μακροπρόθεσμα οφέλη.

 Hανάπτυξη στην Ευρώπη δεν σημαίνει ότι ξεφύγαμε από την κρίση ή ότι το Ευρώ θα επιβιώσει. Το μόνο σίγουρο είναι ότι οι πολιτικές λιτότητας δεν μπορούν να αποτρέψουν την ύφεση (μάθημα που πήραμε από τη Μεγάλη Ύφεση/Crash του 1930). Άλλο παράδειγμα είναι η λιτότητα που επιβλήθηκε στη Δημοκρατία της Βαιμάρης βλέποντας πολιτικές ακρότητας, κάτι που αρχίζουμε να βλέπουμε και στην Ελλάδα.

Η ρίζα του προβλήματος της κρίσης στην Ευρωζώνη εστιάζεται στις στρεβλωμένες δομές της αφού έχει περίπλοκους κανονισμούς, οι οποίοι καθίστανται αφιλόξενοι στο πεδίο της επιχειρηματικότητας, στις νέες ιδέες και στην καινοτομία.

Το αποτέλεσμα είναι τα υψηλά χρέη και ένα υπερδιογκωμένο, ανεπαρκές τραπεζικό σύστημα. Αυτού του είδους τα προβλήματα πρέπει να διορθωθούν πριν οποιαδήποτε λιτότητα εφαρμοστεί έτσι ώστε να υπάρχει αποτελεσματικότητα.

Αυτό που χρειάζεται είναι βελτίωση της παραγωγικότητας η οποία θα υποστηρίζεται από την καινοτομία και την επιχειρηματική δραστηριότητα έτσι ώστε να δημιουργηθούν νέοι οικονομικοί τομείς και νέες θέσεις εργασίας.

Είναι ανώφελο να προσδοκούμε από έναν λαό να υπομείνει τις θυσίες των διαρθρωτικών αλλαγών χωρίς την υπόσχεση των άμεσων οφελών. Γιατί η λιτότητα δεν φέρει αποτελέσματα αλλά και να τα έφερνε δεν υπάρχει ζήτηση προϊόντων.

Η συνήθης απάντηση στις δικές μας απόψεις για μείωση της λιτότητας είναι ότι το χρέος θα διογκωθεί ακόμα περισσότερο και θα είναι ακόμα λιγότερο βιώσιμο.

Είναι αλήθεια ότι χώρες όπως η Ελλάδα έχουν μεγάλο χρέος αλλά το μέγεθος του χρέους δεν αποτελεί επαρκή ή ικανοποιητική συνθήκη ασφάλειας έναντι πιθανής χρεοκοπίας. Ακόμα και αν το χρέος είναι χαμηλό, χρεοκοπία μπορεί να συμβεί. Αυτό συνέβη τη δεκαετία του 1990 στη Λατινική Αμερική όπου χρεοκοπήσανε με ποσοστό χρέους λιγότερο από αυτό που έχει τώρα η Ευρωζώνη (Αργεντινή χρεοκόπησε με περίπου 60% του ΑΕΠ της και ο μέσος όρος χρέους της Ευρωζώνης σήμερα είναι 96%).

Οι χώρες της Λατινικής Αμερικής που επιτυχώς διέφυγαν την κρίση το έκαναν μόνο αυτές που έκαναν ριζικές διαρθρωτικές αλλαγές μειώνοντας δραστικά τη γραφειοκρατία με μακροοικονομικές προσαρμογές. Το ίδιο συνέβη και σε ασιατικές χώρες. Αυτό δηλώνει ότι μείωση χρέους μέσω λιτότητας δεν αποτελεί εγγύηση ενάντια στη χρεοκοπία της Ελλάδος. Αλλά δεν υπάρχει αμφιβολία ότι διαρθρωτικές αλλαγές είναι πιο εύκολο να επιτευχθούν όταν το χρέος δεν είναι τόσο βαρύ στις πλάτες των πολιτών.

Μαθαίνοντας από τις εμπειρίες της Λατινικής Αμερικής και Ασίας η άφεση χρέους ήταν το κλειδί για την ανάπτυξη. Για αυτό το λόγο προτείνουμε η άφεση χρέους να εκληφθεί ως σοβαρή υπόθεση και να αποτελέσει προτεραιότητα όλων των υπολοίπων βοηθητικών και υποβοηθητικών πρωτοβουλιών βοηθείας έτσι ώστε να δοθεί το βήμα στις διαρθρωτικές αλλαγές.

 Οι Ευρωπαίοι εταίροι καλούνται να αναλογιστούν την πορεία της Ευρωζώνης και να ξεκαθαρίσουν τί είδους ένωση επιθυμούν.  Τα μεγάλα ποσοστά χρέους μπορούμε να τα θεωρήσαμε εν μέρει ευθύνη του κακού σχεδιασμού των θεσμών της Ευρωζώνης. Κάποιες μεταρρυθμίσεις έχουν εφαρμοστεί αλλά ο δρόμος για την τραπεζική ενοποίηση είναι ακόμα μακρύς, ας μην μιλήσουμε για την κάποιου είδους δημοσιονομική ενοποίηση. Αντί για μια Λατινοαμερικάνικου τύπου χρεοκοπία, πιστεύουμε ότι το ευρωπαϊκό χρέος θα πρέπει να χαρακτηριστεί ομοσπονδιακό έτσι ώστε να προωθήσουμε τις διαρθρωτικές αλλαγές και η ανάκαμψη να μετατρέψει την Ευρωζώνη εν μία νυκτί σε μια πραγματική ένωση με ίσα μέλη.

Η ομοσπονδιοποίηση του χρέους μπορεί να γίνει με διάφορους τρόπους. Ο πιο προφανής είναι η έκδοση ελεύθερα εμπορεύσιμων Ευρωομολόγων από την Ευρωπαϊκή Κεντρική Τράπεζα τα οποία θα εξυπηρετήσουν τα εθνικά χρέη.

Αυτό είναι για μας προτιμότερο των χρεοκοπιών ή ακόμα της διάσπασης της Ένωσης το οποίο θα διασπάσει περαιτέρω την ευρωπαϊκή οικονομία.

Η Ευρώπη πρέπει να πάρει γρήγορες και αμετάκλητες δράσεις έτσι ώστε να μπορέσει να ξεφύγει από τον φαύλο κύκλο της λιτότητας/ύφεσης/λιτότητας/ύφεσης.

Αυτός είναι ο μόνος τρόπος να διασώσουμε μία ολόκληρη γενιά που πνίγεται ολοένα και βαθύτερα στην περιθωριοποίηση.

Is There Growth or Is it Just Plain Wishful Thinking?

20 May

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elena-panaritis/is-there-growth-or-is-it-_b_4956096.html?1394717898

Elena Panaritis – Christopher Pissarides

High-profile European officials are playing up the fact that Europe is expected to see positive growth in 2014. But what they don’t like to talk about is the fact that it will be miniscule compared to the United States and much of the rest of the world. They also rarely talk about how deeper the recession in Europe has got since the global financial crisis erupted in 2008. It is so deep that Europe still needs a lot more time to get back to where it was in 2007, when advanced countries reached their pre-recession peak.

- Today, domestic output in the Eurozone as a whole is still very low (3% below what it was in 2007), a gap that is not expected to close in 2014.

- The rate of unemployment in the Eurozone is 12%, compared with 7.5% in 2007.

In the United States, output is almost 7% higher than its level in 2007, even though the rate of unemployment remains somewhat higher, climbing to 6.7% this month from a five-year low of 6.6%.

For us southern Europeans, the facts are rather depressing. When discussing the situation today our European leaders fail to mention that there is an unequal distribution of the rewards from growth. It is not without irony that the relatively rich north is getting richer and the relatively poor south is getting poorer.

Germany’s domestic production, for instance, is currently running at about 3% higher than in 2007. In Greece, it has fallen by more than 27%. As for the rate of unemployment in Germany, it is just 5.2% – this is 3.5 percentage points lower than when the crisis started. In Greece, the rate of unemployment has soared to a high of 28% – this is 20 percentage points higher.

If one probes deeper into these unemployment figures, they will be confronted with yet another horror story: youth unemployment. In Germany, the rate of unemployment for men and women aged between 15 and 24 has actually dropped from 12% to 7.8%. Not so in Greece, where youth unemployment has risen from 22% in 2007 to a staggering 58% in 2013. Meanwhile, in the Eurozone as a whole (where EU heavyweight Germany is the biggest member), the rate of youth unemployment increased from 15% in 2008 to 23.7%, according to the latest available figures.

In addition, the serious mishandling of the Eurozone crisis has highlighted a dangerous lack of leadership that would inspire European citizens, which in turn has created a growing and very angry outburst of populism.

This is in stark contrast to how previous world crises were handled and is causing further erosion of confidence in the EU and in the proposed solution packages. A pertinent example of a previous economic crisis is Germany’s need for reconstruction after World War Two. The United States provided generous assistance through the Marshall Plan without any recourse to US taxpayers for their views. The leaders at the time had a forward-looking vision, realising that a prosperous Germany was better for the West than a bankrupt one. In the first economic crisis of the 21st century, however, we have a popularized leadership that sometimes makes financial decisions not on the basis of sound economic argument but on the basis of whether or not voters want to pay higher taxes now (ignoring future benefits that might accrue).

Positive growth in Europe does not mean that the Eurozone crisis is over, or that the Euro will survive.

The austerity policies that the EU adopted in 2010 and continues to implement are unsustainable and quite frankly harmful. One of the most difficult lessons learned as far back as the Great Depression of the 1930s is that austerity cannot reverse recession. The situation in Greece and Spain is not all that different from the one that the United States and other advanced countries had to deal with in the 1930s, but the lesson does not seem to have been learnt. Another example of the damage that austerity can do is from the austerity that the Allies imposed on the Weimar Republic after the First World War. It merely served to fuel political extremism. This is something that we are starting to see in Greece.

The root of all the problems of the Eurozone is structural and manifested in overly complicated and burdensome rules and regulations that are unfriendly to entrepreneurship, new ideas and innovation. This has ultimately resulted in large debts and an over-expanded inefficient banking system. These problems have to be fixed first before austerity can be effective.

What is needed is some serious productivity improvement that is supported by innovation and entrepreneurial activity and that will open up new sectors of economic activity and will lead to much-needed job creation. Europe desperately needs more investment – not more austerity which in the end serves to stifle demand and create more problems than intended to solve.

It is futile to expect a population to go through the pains of structural reform without the promise of immediate rewards.

There are no immediate rewards under austerity because the implementation of such reforms is put at risk and even if successful, there is no demand for the products of new enterprises and there can be no growth.

The usual response to a plea like ours is to ask “What about the debt?” and “Won’t an abandonment of austerity lead to more and even less sustainable burdens of debt?”

Indeed, this is the case in countries like Greece that have a very large debt to GDP ratio. But low debt is neither necessary nor sufficient as a safety valve against default. Even if debt is low, default can still occur.

This is what we experienced in the 1990s when many Latin American countries defaulted with a much lower debt to GDP ratio than the eurozone periphery has today. For example, Argentina defaulted with a debt of about 60% of its GDP, much less than the eurozone average (96%). The countries of Latin America that defaulted managed to exit their crisis thanks to serious structural reforms coupled with macro adjustment. Some Asian countries underwent a similar solvency crisis and adjustment period. What all this means is that austerity-induced debt reduction in Greece is no guarantee against default.

But there is no doubt that structural adjustment is easier to achieve when the debt burden does not weigh heavily on people’s shoulders. In this respect, Europe can learn from the experiences of Latin American and Asia. In these crises, as well as in Eastern Europe after in the 1990s, debt forgiveness played a key role in recovery. For this reason we suggest that in order to give structural reform a chance to succeed, debt forgiveness must first be seriously considered in the case of Greece and be given priority over other assistance initiatives.

The Eurozone partners need to take stock of how far the union has come and what kind of union do they really want for the future.

The high debt levels can at least partly be blamed on badly-designed Eurozone institutions. Some reforms have been implemented, but we are still a long way from the necessary banking union – not to mention a fiscal union of some kind. Instead of a Latin American-style default, we believe there should be a mutualization of European debt in order to facilitate structural reform and recovery which will transform the Eurozone (almost overnight) into a true union of equal partners. Mutualization can easily be achieved in a number of ways. The most obvious is the issuing of freely traded Eurobonds by the European Central Bank, which can be used to service sovereign debts. This seems to us to be preferable to defaults, or even to a break-up of the union, which will merely disrupt the European economy even more. Europe needs to take more firm action and it needs to do this fast in order to get out of the vicious cycle of austerity-recession-austerity-recession. This is the only way to rescue an entire generation from sinking deeper into an abyss of oblivion.