The intrigue begins. Greece, as mentioned in the previous leg of our story, developed a hilariously democratic electoral system whereby jobs were allotted to walking . As years passed, this ever-growing group of walking ballots leeched more money from the national treasury and went on strike whenever their demands for a pay rise were not met. The country’s finances were ill-used. Politicians, contractors and anyone who could dip their fingers in the honey pot, dipped not only their fingers but dove in unabashedly, disregarding the long-term impact this would have on the country as a whole. It was only a matter of time before the bubble burst. The question is why it burst and who burst it.
Before going into the blitz, let’s take a look at the state of affairs in the EU. According to statistics, Greece is #30 on the list of countries according to at $32,100, #23 with $29,663 according to World Bank 2009 figures, and #29 with $28,833 by IMF standards. Not bad I’d say on list that includes over 180 countries, with France and Germany managing around $24,000 and $36,000 respectively.
Ok, you might snap back, GDP isn’t an indicator of good health. Let’s take a look at external debt, then. A quick note to the uninitiated: external debt takes both public and private debt into consideration. According to the CIA World Factbook, Greece is at #19 on a very long list of countries . Not good. But if you take a look at the top ten, you find the US at the top, with the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Japan, Luxembourg following. Greece owes $552 billion. To compare, the US has gone overboard at approximately $13.5 trillion, the UK at $10 trillion and Germany at $5.5 trillion.
In February 2010, Greece was shocked at the sight of the cover of the German magazine Focus in a way a Muslim would be on seeing the 2005 «Betrüger in der Euro-Familie» – Swindler in the European Family (etymologically the word «betrüger» is related to «betrayer», and if there’s one thing Greeks never take lightly, it’s being called a snitch, rat or traitor) – wasn’t enough, the rider after it read «Is Greece killing our money, and what’s up with Spain, Portugal and Italy?»cartoons of Mohamed in Denmark, minus the jihad. The sight of brandishing the finger was not our cup of ouzo. If the translation of the headline
Of all the countries to pick on, Greece was picked on, by the Germans no less who still haven’t fully paid Greece reparations since the second World War. Many hypothesize it was because the EU had to make an example of someone and what better scapegoat than a small country that made the idea of mass goat sacrifices to the gods a fad? In Greece of course, the problem that was stressed was public debt. I repeat. The reason why we were in a deep cesspool, to put it politely, was because our public debt had gotten out of hand. Fair enough.
So let’s inspect this public debt caused by the government and the incessant rapacity of contractors, big CEO’s and civil servants. Glancing at the 2010 CIA World Factbook figures, Greece is top among the EU countries and 5th worldwide. Yet 2009 figures which should have been the reference point for articles, criticism and general malaise within the Commission, show Greece faring better than Italy and Iceland in debt. Belgium was just 2% better. But no, only Greece had big problems. And Germany deemed itself fit to play the big bully. And I ask myself, why wasn’t a blitzkrieg unleashed against Italy or Belgium?
Instead a program of denigration that only referred to Greece as the prime culprit began. Greeks knew they had serious problems. They knew corruption had set its claws into the country and that these claws couldn’t be removed no matter the size of the pliers used. Greece’s image as a whole was permanently destroyed from any point of view you look at it, but worst of all, we Greeks were all ticked because everyone thought we were all lazy, testicle-scratchers (please refer to the previous article for an explanation), who couldn’t wait to pilfer other people’s money. It was like calling all women hos, all Neapolitans members of the Camorra, all illegal aliens criminals.
Yes, Greeks took offense at this generalization, especially when most of them work two jobs, who according to European statistics agency Eurostat work longer hours than any other Europeans, and have to put up with bureaucratic crap from politicians and government agencies. A minority of the population had misappropriated funds, but we were all guilty and the Germans had to point the finger at the country furthest from their borders to save their sovereignty within the EU. Amazingly, though they knew the straits we were in, they demanded we buy their antiquated submarines for billions of Euros while preaching public spending cuts in the same breath . Go figure. More on the hidden agenda to come.