Tag Archives: euro

Total eclipse of the hEaRT

total eclipse by Manos Symeonakis

A cartoon about the Greek Radio & TV’s closure by Manos Symeonakis for the Cartoon Movement.

Greek cartoonists on Merkel’s visit

I always loved to calm fears and tensions with some sense of humour. It’s a humanising effect that is becoming more and more rare during the troubled times this country is going through. Plus, I’ve nothing against Merkel – I keep all my frustration and anger against the austerity, this type of austerity, and the lack of a way-out plan. But, that’s another, huge discussion. Here are some cartoons by Greek cartoonists on the Angela Merkel visit to Greece (I think she landed at the time of writing of this line).

By Dimitris Hatzopoulos

By Dimitris Georgopalis

Translation: Angela Merkel is holding a sign that says AUSTERITY

By Dimitris Hatzopoulos

Translation: REPENT… MERKEL IS COMING…

By Kostas Mitropoulos

Translation:

Soldier: Presnt arms!

Merkel: Are the arms German, Antonis?

By Petros Tsiolakis

Translation:

Samaras: Are the austerity measures enough, Madam?

Merkel: You are pitiless! I bleed with what you are doing.

(sing on the right has a euro-swastika symbol and writes New Occupation)

By Panos Maragos

Translation:

Merkel: What is this Paul [Thomsen of IMF]? The Greeks don’t live in slums, neither do they survive with acorn!!

Paul Thomsen (holding the troika report): The reforms are not completed yet Mrs Merkel.

Last but not list, another one of Dimtris Hatzopoulos. It’s a bit older (I think it was published a week ago) and it’s not directly linked to Angela Merkel. But I really like his style so here you have it.

By Dimitris Hatzopoulos

A message of Hope for the Greek People: the case for a basic income

I received this message to the Greek people by Stanislas Jourdan, an independent journalist who until recently was working for French newspaper La Tribune. The text was originally posted here and I am reposting it here.

Defaulting on its debt and exiting the eurozone is certainly the best thing to do for Greece now. However, this won’t fix all the damages Greece experienced these last years of economical dictatorship. Greece needs more than that. Greece needs a new hope. I think what Greece needs is a basic income.

Let’s face it: far from preserving Greece from bankruptcy, European leaders are denying the simple fact that Greece is already a bankrupt country. Yet the Greek State cannot pay its hospitals’ medicine providers, delays VAT reimbursement, and even the central bank of Greece is printing euros to bail out insolvent banks.

More than never, now is time for a realistic diagnostic: if something might help Greece preserve its economy, defaulting on its debt burden is certainly the first step. Leaving the eurozone would be the second. If necessary, temporarily printing money to fill the budgetary gap, would be another possibility.

These three simple things would relieve every greek citizen from the repayement of an odious debt, it would lead to devaluation of the new drachma thus reinforcing competitivity of the Greek economy. In the end, this would supposedly tackle the vicious circle of economical depression. Theoritically, at least.

Practically, I know things are not so easy, and that these three steps raise a lot of different issues, and will not magically solve all the problems. So, how can we do better than that ? How can we build a better future in Greece, beyond the default ? How can we make this decision progressive and desirable ?

I am not Greek nor i am living there, however, through a lot of readings and some talks with Greek people, i think i have an idea about what is happening there. And I have been thinking of some part of a solution…

A confidence deficit

I feel that what Greece needs the most is much beyond economical measures. The most precious thing Greece has lost these last years is confidence. Confidence in itself, confidence towards others citizens, neighbours, confidence in the future, not to mention confidence in politicians.

This has to be fixed, but deeply relies on economical issues. You cannot ask people to trust each others when they are suffering from hard economical pressures. When you’re too poor to feed yourself or your children, well, things like morality, common sense, or citizenship becomes all relative. This is no more than a human thing, right ?

Moreover, confidence cannot be reached when people feel totally unequal towards some of their fellow citizens. There are studies (notably French ones) that prove this point: the more social welfare is unequal, the more people feel jealous and aren’t willing to play by the rules. They would try to take advantage of the system as much as they can and/or feel others are doing.

What i am saying is that Greece cannot get back on its feets as long as a new social contract is written democratically. And such a contract as to be built upon equality.

The basic income scenario

I don’t have any magic wand, but there is an idea that has been emerging for some years now, here in France, but in many other countries as well : the basic income guarantee. What’s that ? Basically, this consists in giving every citizen a monthly grant. Let say a minimum of 300€ a month for every Greek (this amount should be debated democratically). More from wikipedia:

A basic income guarantee is a proposed system of social security, that regularly provides each citizen with a sum of money. (…) Except for citizenship, a basic income is entirely unconditional. Furthermore, there is no means test; the richest as well as the poorest citizens would receive it.

In others words, if you earn a salary, you also earn the basic income. This detail is important: it means more incentives to work than just receiving the basic income. Of course, the richer actually reimburse the basic income they earn through taxes.

The counterpart of this basic income would be a removal of most of the current social grants, and (at least) a reduction of pensions grants, and unemployment allowances, thus downsizing the government intervention in terms of administration weight and bureaucracy. Also, this would imply big reforms towards a simplification of the greek fiscal system, perhaps with something like a flat tax.

Greece is in debt crisis, and i suggest to spend more?

Humm, yes and no. On the one hand, yes Greece needs a stimulus, on the other hand, the basic income should be funded partially through the transfer of existing budgets, thus not increasing the total budget of the Greek government, but rather optimizing it.

Now that said, i am not a specialist in the Greek economy and have no idea about the figures we are talking about. Defaulting on the public debt will probably help, but might not be sufficient. In this case, the central bank would to the rest.

Indeed, let’s not forget that if Greece were to exit the eurozone, Greece could then ask its central bank to print money and provide the funds this measure requires. I know this is a sensible topic for many economists, but before throwing me some Weimar-like arguments, please mind that Greece has been suffering from a big bank run for two years now, therefore deflation is more a threat than inflation right now. Growth is being slashed down because of a lack of money, not because of a lack of production factors.

And even though inflation were to rise, let’s not forget that giving a basic income to everyone, you are actually compensating the poorest from an hypothetical loss of purchasing power. Furthermore, in a situation where the government doesn’t manage to collect taxes properly, monetary-driven inflation is actually another way to tax people (the richer, by the way) and fund public spendings. As long as everyone truly benefit from the money you print (and not only the civil servants for instance), i think we can agree this is fair.

And at least, once in History, a central bank in the world would actually behave in favor of People and not only for banks and governments…

Greece badly needs a new Hope

I know this sounds like just another utopia. But this is a very serious proposal i have been advocating for, here in France for several years now.

And I am not alone supporting the idea. For many years, economists have been working on and defending such an idea (some of them, like James Tobin, got Nobel prices). Some countries such as Canada and the United States even experimented such a system. At a wider scale, Brazil also implemented a basic-income like system, called the Bolsa Familia. If you are curious, I highly recommend you to read some papers about these experiments: researchers not only found great results about economical output, but also in terms of Education, health and security issues.

Still, people keep on telling me « people will stop working ! ». And i say : « Of course, the others would ! But you wouldn’t, right ? ». Only once for two year, one person admitted to me he would take some rest before going back to work, so i guess not so many people would actually stop working (as the experiments show, overall).

So what about you ? Would you really stop working ? Or would you simply look for a way to create wealth accordingly to your own values and beliefs ? And if you think so, then wouldn’t it be a good idea to allow such a move in everyone’s life ?

There are many reasons that makes the basic income a good solution, from the end of extreme poverty, better redistribution of wealth and productivity gains, the inversion of the bargaining power in the society (to the civil society), and recognition of the non-market economy. I suggest you to read this text (here in greek) if you want to understand a bit more the vision of the society behind this proposal.

Again, i know this sounds crazy, utopist, or whatever reaction this raises for you. But doesn’t Greece need a new hope now ? Don’t protesters, occupyers, indignados, all over the world need a dream ? At least mine is technically feasible.

Now it’s up to you to embrace it, and make it a reality.

Stuck to the euro

"Despite everything, I remain in the eurozone" by Giannis Kalaitzis

Europe’s worst nightmare

Another article, this time from New York Times’ Landon Thomas Jr., talking about the possibility of a military coup in Greece (see this and this for previous mentions).

It would be Europe’s worst nightmare: after weeks of rumors, the Greek prime minister announces late on a Saturday night that the country will abandon the euro currency and return to the drachma.

Instead of business as usual on Monday morning, lines of angry Greeks form at the shuttered doors of the country’s banks, trying to get at their frozen deposits. The drachma’s value plummets more than 60 percent against the euro, and prices soar at the few shops willing to open.

Soon, the country’s international credit lines are cut after Greece, as part of the prime minister’s move, defaults on its debt.

As the country descends into chaos, the military seizes control of the government.

To read the rest of the article click here.

Greece, a Baklava Republic

An interesting overview of today’s Greece, by Vanessa Andris for the Huffington Post.

It is not at all unreasonable that any intelligent person trying to make sense of Greece’s recent maniacal antics is now desperately asking, “What is this, a banana republic?”

Well my friend, no, not exactly. This is a Baklava Republic.

Welcome to a country stuck in its own syrup. A place where a prime minister, Mr. Papandreou, calls for a public referendum on a bailout deal without even notifying the finance minister who has spent months negotiating the deal with the lenders and his fellow Greek ministers. A republic where one egomaniac, Antonis Samaras, can autocratically hold an entire terrified nation and trembling world markets hostage by refusing to sign an agreement- which he publicly says he agrees to.

Greece, a country which a year ago seemed centuries ahead of the Arab Spring is now regressing so quickly into the most hideous practices of Baklava Republics that any kind of spring for them seems light years away.

The Greeks have exasperated their supporters and all but exhausted even the EU, the stakeholder with maybe the most to lose from their demise. They have displayed such primitive responses to difficulties that no one in the global community really wants to deal with them anymore.

In one year, and particularly in the last month of unpredictable counter-productive episodes, the Greeks have virtually alienated themselves from the civilized world they themselves fathered centuries ago.

If you think that what Sarkozy and Obama said about Netanyahu while their microphones were on was bad, imagine what they and the EU and IMF might rightfully be saying about the Greeks. And note the Baklava parallels between the Greek and Israeli leadership, starting with a lack of transparency and ending with complete impossibility.

Since the debt crisis began, we have watched our beloved Greece, dizzy with fatigue and despair, teetering on the fulcrum of its future, leaning first northwest like an insecure sophomore posturing to fit in with the polished seniors of the EU.

Then suddenly like all people under stress, reverting to her primal training on how to survive. Swooning now east to circle around the Mediterranean tragically re-identifying herself with cousins from ancient civilizations that have made minimal progress in their development; Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, and even Libya.

These are the Baklava Republics, a continuum of countries related by variations on one pastry, characterized by a pathetic lack of process skills, rule of law as it serves individual agendas, leaders incapable and disinterested in self-regulation, and proud of their willingness to destroy any and everything in the name of defending their dignity.

A string of countries differentiating themselves from the rest of world with a combination of primary commitment to face-saving, a need to create drama, and a defiance of reality so insanely illogical and destructive that people world-wide see them as nuts.

Not sure whether a given country could be considered a Baklava Republic? Here’s a litmus test: Are the leaders instantly insulted by anything that can be construed as questioning their honesty or good intentions? Is their best defense acting as if they have been monumentally offended? Do they regularly elevate issues to fight or flight dramas?

From Samaras to Ahmadinejad, we see the masters of Baklava Republic tactics regularly enact a predictable but no less maddening three-act drama.

Act One: Outrage: A question about duplicitous behavior is met with incredulous anger; “You dare to question me?”

Act Two: Arrogance: “You have insulted me and anyone who would be so ill-mannered is so far beneath me that they are unworthy of my cooperation.”

Act Three: Threat: “I am a victim, rightfully volatile now because of your behavior. Either provide me a face-saving way to get out of this or I will sabotage this process, set fire to the whole country, commit mass invasions, and/or make my child a suicide martyr. It’s dignity or death.” (Additional Baklava Republic specialty: Add concocted conspiracy theory and implication that the alleged perpetrator is evil, sinful, or crazy to Act Two).

To read the whole article click here.

Living in Greece at the end of November 2011

I just checked today’s newspapers and they had few exciting headlines. However, yesterday’s front pages would probably cause either panick or depression to a society somewhere in North Europe. As I stood there, watching all the post-apocalyptic headlines, I realized that in some years I will be saying that this is how it was to live in Greece at the end of November 2011.

Firstly, I will begin with the cover of this week’s Economist which has been reproduced, partly or as a whole, by several Greek newspapers.

Economist

“Eleftheri Ora” newspaper, which is a fringe paper that hardly sells a bit above 2.000 copies per day, has chosen to reproduce the whole Economist front page. Oh yes, with no reference at all. This paper is famous for its populist content, full of conspiracy theories, front pages of dead monks whose prophecies are now becoming reality, and so on. Actually I think that a daily translation of the paper’s front page could offer enough material for a separate blog. Anyway, when I think that usually it should be the last one in these posts of translated front pages due to its lower circulation. I only place it first here because of its relation to the Economist’s cover.

Eleftheri Ora

Title: The evil plan of the New World Order’s “Messiah”

Another newspaper which chose to use the euro meteor illustration is Dimokratia.

Dimokratia

Title: The Wehrmacht is approaching Europe

Overhead title: Everyone is talking about the coming financial Armageddon

“Ethnos” newspaper was the only one to reproduce the whole Economist front page, thus indirectly referring the source.

Ethnos

Title: A whole town is sleeping in the streets

Overhead title: Social shock – more than 20.000 homeless around Greece

Eleftherotypia and Kathimerini highlighted the continuing struggle of the Egyptians at Tahrir square.

Eleftherotypia

Title: The extra tax will be paid too by unemployed who worked even for one day (in 2011)

Picture’s caption title: Tahrir square does not succumb

Kathimerini

Title: Suffocation around the euro zone

Picture’s caption title: Egyptians overwhelm Tahrir square

Ta Nea

Title: Run Lucas Run! (a cartoon depicts Lucas Papademos in the body of Pheidippides, the first “marathon runner”)

Overhead title: A 100-day race for the government

Eleftheros Tipos

Title: Last chance for saving the euro

Overhead title: Germany leads euro zone off the cliff

Avriani

Title: Countdown for the euro