Greece: Profile of a Failed State
Greece: Profile of a Failed State
by Stephen Lendman
Greece exhibits failed and rogue state characteristics. It governs irresponsibly. It’s beholden more to foreign interests than its own. Banker needs are prioritized. Ruling authority outside Greece dictates terms.
The country’s unable or refuses to provide public services. It threatens the welfare of its people. It spurns legitimate rule. It’s bankrupt but won’t declare it.
Governance in Greece combines travesty, tragedy and shame. Democracy’s birth place spurns it. It also displays an unprincipled disregard for human need at a time of rampant corruption and prioritized military spending.
In 2011, seven billion euros went for arms. Greece is the tenth largest weapons importer. It’s one of 28 NATO countries. Collective defense requires member states to purchase arms and buy them from alliance partners.
As a percent of GDP, Greek defense spending is nearly double that of other EU nations. Germany is one of Athens’ main creditors. It’s also one of its largest arms suppliers. They account for 15% of Berlin’s weapons exports.
No justification exists. Greece has no enemies. It’s also broke. It can’t or won’t provide public services. It borrows hugely to repay and service debt, and rampant corruption is out-of-control.
Transparency International (TI) says “Greek people live in a state of ‘corrupt legality,’ meaning that the law often condones or even fosters corrupt practices. Corruption is endemic: not limited to any party or social class, nor to the public sector.”
“The public sector suffers from substantial gaps in both law and practice, thus allowing corruption to thrive. Public officials have been allowed to act for decades without any transparency or effective oversight.”
“As a result, lack of integrity, tendency to demand and accept bribes, and unfaithfulness to public service have proliferated. Wrongdoing has eroded the rule of law and facilitated a culture of impunity.”
Privileged elites hide wealth in favored tax havens. Doing so explains part of the problem.
Unaccountability lets them get away with what no one should tolerate. It’s especially outrageous at a time of economic crisis and appalling human deprivation. Force-feeding more pain exacerbates deplorable conditions.
Last May, dominant parties polled poorly. Voters rejected austerity. Many voted with their feet and opted out. Ordinary Greeks are beset by crushing wage, benefit, and other social cuts.
Impoverishment, homelessness, and unemployment result. Public anger expresses itself in street protests, strikes, and opportunities sought elsewhere.
Some of Greece’s best and brightest are leaving. Why stay without job prospects or futures. Other professionals abroad aren’t returning.
Dire economic conditions created a lost generation. Brain drain exodus affects the country’s future. Greece is inhospitable to human welfare. Who can survive without jobs, income or futures?
Rage against rogue governance grows. On November 6, The New York Times headlined “Normal Life on Pause, and a Sense of Simmering Rage,” saying:
Proprietors go out of business for lack of enough customers and revenue to cover expenses. Deepening Depression conditions exist. Greece’s economy is on a downward spiral to oblivion.
“The vitriol toward politicians is in many ways more intense than the outrage expressed toward the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.”
“Politicians here rarely venture out in public, and when they do, even the most obscure member of Parliament is accompanied by at least one bodyguard.”
On November 7, more austerity measures were enacted. Included are some of the most draconian so far. Street rage became violent. Prior to the vote, 100,000 angry Greeks marched on parliament in Syntagma Square.
Why they haven’t stormed it so far they’ll have to explain. Don’t be surprised if they do ahead in a country best described as a tinderbox ready to explode.
People only take so much. Once pain levels exceed a threshold of no return, all bets are off. Politicians are playing with fire. Revolutionary anger is visceral. One spark too many may ignite it.
Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse crowds. Protesters threw Molotov cocktails at security forces. A bus stop and kiosk were set ablaze. Athens resembles a war zone.
Dozens of arrests followed. Hundreds or thousands more won’t quell rage. Greeks are justifiably mad and show it. It’s just a matter of time perhaps before the whole country explodes.
Strikes brought Greece to a halt. Hospitals operate with skeleton crews. Commerce shut down. Journalists walked out. They joined strikers. Broadcasts and publications were suspended.
Troika authority demanded and got another $17.2 billion in budget cuts. At issue is qualifying for $39.6 billion in bailout funds. Greece barely gets enough to pay bureaucrats. Debt service and bailing out bankers get top priority.
The term bailout is a misnomer. Grand theft and extortion more accurately explain policy. Ordinary Greeks are victimized. So is Greece’s economy.
It’s a shell of its former self. It’s a zombie waiting for its obituary to be written. Bankers responsible for crisis conditions are rewarded. Irresponsible governance steals from ordinary people to pay rich ones and corporate crooks.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaris heads Greece’s rogue government. On Wednesday, he said Athens took “a big, decisive and optimistic step. A step toward recovery. I am very pleased.”
The more Greece borrows, the greater its debt, the harder it is to service and repay, the more future aid that’s needed, and faster the country heads toward total collapse.
Catastrophic conditions are pushing people toward deplorable living conditions and starvation. Prioritizing debt service and repayment by greater borrowing guarantees an eventual bad ending.
Impossible to bear pain may become uncontainable rage. More than buildings may burn. Politicians may be targeted. They could be tarred, feathered or shot.
University of the Aegean lecturer Panagiotis Sotiris told Russia Today:
<blockquote>”Every austerity package in the last two and a half years was supposed to be the last one. So it won’t be the last one this time. We are going to see more of this.”
With minimal discussion, parliament “pass(ed) a huge law. We are very far from democratic procedure. This is a set of measures, which are actually dictated by the Troika.”
Ordinary Greeks have no say. Parliament surrendered to diktat authority. A banner one protestor held expressed mass sentiment, saying: “TRAITOR SAMARAS GET OUT”
In August, Greek unemployment hit a record high. Officially at 25.4%, one in four workers have no jobs. Monthly for the last three years, figures rose. True unemployment may be much higher. Moreover, most jobs pay subsistence wages and poor or no benefits.
Young people are hardest hit. In the 15 - 24 age category, 58% are jobless. It’s likely closer to two-thirds. In the last three years, wages have been cut up to 60%. Around 70,000 small business ceased operating.
The latest austerity round targets another 150,000 jobs, further wage cuts up to 30%, pensions cut up to 15%, and fewer healthcare benefits.
Bureaucrats across the board are affected. Minimum wages, holiday benefits, and severance pay will be reduced.
Education will also be hit hard. Universities will be shut. Mass staff reductions will follow. Retirement will be raised from 65 to 67. Job protections are weakened. Layoffs are now easier. Redundancy notice was decreased from six to four months.
The done deal isn’t quite complete. On November 11, parliamentarians have to meet Troika officials. Their revised budget must be approved.
Greece also wants more. It seeks a further “emergency growth package.” It’s worth another 10 billion euros. It’s nowhere near enough for what Athens needs. Expect more bailout deals to follow.
On November 5, Greek journalist walked out for the second time in a week. They’re protesting plans to merge their social security fund with a national system.
Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras initially couldn’t get a parliamentary agreement to merge the social security funds of journalists, civil engineers, lawyers, and others into the National Organization for Healthcare Provisions (EOPYY). On November 7, the measure passed.
Greece stands at the abyss of collapse. It’s mired in deepening Depression. Since 2007, it’s economy shrunk nearly 22%. It continues heading south.
Ordinary Greeks bear the greatest burden. Multiple rounds of wage cuts, layoffs and lost benefits created unforgivable hardships.
Bad as things are now, more force-fed austerity is planned. Expect no end of it ahead. Greece is banker occupied. It’s debt entrapped.
Class war rages. Living standards plummeted precipitously. Troika authorities demand state-run enterprises, public land, tourist sites, ports, water, and other Greek crown jewels stripped of all worth and sold at fire sale prices.
Brussels calls it a rescue. Ordinary Greeks know it’s impoverishment and unemployment. It’s financial warfare. It’s more destructive than pillaging armies.
It grabs everything in sight and wants more. Corrupt politicians steal what they can and agree. Ordinary people bear unconscionable pain. Earlier hard times produced Nazism.
World War II followed. Failure to learn from history risks repeating it. At issue is doing it disastrously. No one seems to notice or care. It may be too late to matter once reality hits home. It may come sooner than most imagine.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at [email protected]
His new book is titled “How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.