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Loan-sharking Greece

For those that haven’t been following, there’s a huge protest movement going on in Greece at the moment.  People have taken the squares of Athens in an attempt to avoid having an IMF “bail-out” forced upon them (a situation that Flavia has written about here with regard to this decades-long practice in Latin America).  These “bail-outs” are in fact a high finance form of loan-sharking, which “structurally adjust” an entire country’s economy in order to strip the country of its assets.  The debt in Greece incurred by last year’s bail-out is enormous and exponentially growing already–meaning that another “bail-out” would simply add more fuel to the fire–and it is this, and not austerity cuts themselves–that the agnaktismenoi (“outraged”) are resisting.

So, here is a good primer to the situation in Greece, as well as the numerous mischaracterisations going on in the Anglophonic press.  And if that’s too depressing, here is a piece I wrote about Kanellos and Loukanikos, the famous stray dogs of Athens’ protests.


  1. fuchsia wrote:


    As a Greek I’m divided on how to react to this post. I get that your heart’s probably in the right place and I appreciate that you’re consciously avoiding the knee-jerk “lazy Mediterranean’s deserve what’s coming to them” reaction. At the same time almost everything in the post you linked to is an exaggeration or outright fabrication. Nobody is seriously suggesting that Greece sell off its islands or privatise the Acropolis (just because a couple of German politicians shoot their mouths off doesn’t mean the world should stop and listen). The majority of Greeks have not been swaggering around with Versace sunglasses and taking vacations in Thailand (the majority of the population in even the richest Western countries do not do this). Middle class Greeks are not routinely returning to farming for lack of food. And if the doctors accept bribes (which they do), it is not a new phenomenon or one driven by desperation rather than greed.

    For what it’s worth I agree with the first four of the blogger’s listed “myths”. On the other hand I happen to think that saving the eurozone (to which Greece belongs, btw, and the collapse of which will devastate our economy as well, small detail) is a worthy cause. And my perception (in contrast to the blogger’s) certainly is that the Greeks do indeed want the bail-out without the austerity measures. The extent to which this is an unfair or unreasonable reaction is another, slightly trickier question. In any case, I do think it’s fair to point out that what distinguishes citizens in rich countries from citizen’s in poor countries is *not* that the former are conscientious, hard-working people, but simply that they happened to be born in a rich country and that generally works quite well in improving your prospects.

    But yeah… although I disagree with his assessment of the situation, sturdyblogger at least comes across as familiar with the Greek situation and culture. I don’t get the same impression from you. Reading one blog post on the internet does not make you an expert on the intricacies of the *very* complication financial woes of a country with which you’re clearly very unfamiliar. And I guess I’m getting kinda impatient of uninformed foreigners blithely offering their very strong (and very coloured by their own experiences with their very different problems) opinions.

    Also, it’s “aganaktismenoi”. You missed an “a”.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 6:42 pm | Permalink
  2. Emily Manuel wrote:

    Oh cool, I’ll tell my extended family in Athens how little I know about Greece. Seriously, you don’t need to be insulting to point out that I have not grasped at the entire truth of a situation in a quick blog post. Gawd.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 10:24 pm | Permalink
  3. Jordan wrote:

    As a foreigner, my problem with articles like the linked to one is that they actually undermine attempts to hold creditors accountable for their errors, by ludicrously trying to absolve the debtors of all their own responsibility.

    The rich bankers who made loans to Greece it could never afford to repay deserve lose some of that money; Greece needs to default, nyt take endless bailouts. But corruption, tax avoidance, a grossly inefficient public sector, are all serious problems according to every credible source as fast as I can tell. Obviously part of the protest movements are poor people who are really suffering, but it seems clear there are some selfish interest groups who want to maintain the status quo even though its unsustainable and in fact hurts the interest of most Greeks, especially groups like unemployed youth.

    Sharia finance looks more and more appealing.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 11:22 pm | Permalink