They are protesting against the draconian austerity measures imposed by the government of George Papandreou at the behest of the EU and the IMF from whom Greece received last year 110bn euros (£95bn) in emergency loans. This has not been sufficient to allay the creditors’ increasing fears of a sovereign debt default and negotiations are under way to provide a new package of 65bn euros. The price for all this is already being paid by the working people of Greece who are reeling from unprecedented cuts in public spending. The creditors are demanding an accelerated sell-off of state property – a 50bn euros privatization drive - and further belt-tightening in the form of ever more drastic cuts to wages and pensions, decimation of welfare services, loss of benefits and soaring taxes. The protests are growing. On June 3rd trade unionists stormed the finance ministry and erected a banner calling for an “organized overthrow” of the austerity measures, which, they claimed would “turn workers into modern slaves.”
But the unbearable misery inflicted on millions of Greeks is not something that concerns the dignitaries of the EU and the IMF or the investors who bought Greek government bonds. Their far loftier concerns leave no room for such trifling matters. To the extent that such things impinge at all on their consciousness, they are interested only in ensuring that Papandreou pushes the austerity measures through at all costs and copes firmly with the consequences. The noxious medicine must be administered regardless of the pain caused the patient. A Greek debt default, they calculate, would seriously destabilize the Euro zone and, given the inevitable knock-on effect on the near bankrupt economies of Ireland, Portugal and possibly Spain, could lead to a European crisis with incalculable global consequences. Alarm bells are ringing very loudly.
Now, to strike a rather less somber note, readers may find interesting – even entertaining – a leaked document from the consortium of secretive commodities traders, Slashburn-Snatchett and Grabclaw. Grabclaw’s publicity-shy founder, Mr Stark Richman, fled the US in the early 1980s after being indicted for tax evasion of $50m, but returned later having been granted a Presidential pardon. Although not confirmed, it is likely that the leaked document was written by him as, according to those who know him, it bears his inimitable style and reflects his subtle and nuanced approach to market trading. It is, however, likely that it was a joint effort with his colleague Mr. Aristotle Mistakenideas, who runs Grabclaw’s zinc, copper and lead section. Mistakenideas is one of the two richest men in Greece. The document candidly sets out Grabclaw’s perspective on the present crisis in Greece:
“Greece is a basket case. Whatever the outcome of the current negotiations with the EU and IMF for a second bail out, the Greeks are definitely gonna default on their sovereign debt. It’ll happen this year, probably sooner rather than later. They deserve all that’s coming to them and they don’t deserve sympathy. The country’s got too few real entrepreneurs and too many indolent, devious layabouts. They may have had some sort of culture two thousand years ago, but they got none now. They don’t want to pay their taxes. It’s fine and commendable for real go-getters, genuine risk takers - who by dint of their financial and economic brilliance in the market have enriched themselves as well as giving something back to the country – it’s OK for them to avoid punitive taxation. But we’re talking about millions of lesser people, way down the pecking order. They’re the ones who’ve brought the country to its knees. And then the government has wasted billions on inflating a parasitic state, funding a welfare system and paying people pensions they don’t deserve. The dependency culture’s got to end. The state’s too big. It’s got to be cut down to size. Greece is over-ripe for shock therapy.
It’s here that the real opportunity for calculated risk-takers comes in. The EU and the IMF are right to demand more privatization. There should be NO limits on privatization. The Greeks have got a lot of assets they don’t deserve. They don’t know how to run them. There’s a simple principle here: everything must be thrown open to the market, to competition. All state assets must be sold off to any willing bidder. Let’s consider some of the assets. Last year a couple of German politicians, Josef Schlarmann of the CDU and Frank Schaeffler of the FDP proposed that the Greeks should be made to sell the Acropolis and the Parthenon. Merkel was too scared to follow up on the proposal and the idea was dropped. But that’s exactly what should happen and it shouldn’t stop there.
The Greeks have neglected these ruins for too long. Now they’re taking too long to clean them up. The country’s bankrupt. They can’t afford it. This is where we come in. The Akropolis and the Parthenon should be sold and dismantled. They were built by slaves about 2000 years ago and now there are a lot of unemployed people in Greece – about 16% of the workforce. Soon there are going to be a lot more. All their benefits are being cut which is as it should be. Thousands of them can be employed dismantling these ruins. They can be sliced up and shipped to the USA where they can be reconstructed close to Las Vegas, where they will look really nice and can be made the centre of a big Grecian theme park. Lord Elgin had the right idea two hundred years ago. He took the sculptures from the Parthenon and sold them to the British government. But he left a lot of them there. We can finish what he started and they can be taken somewhere where they will be really appreciated. There are a lot more ruins there that can be cleared up very profitably.
The Greek government has fired so many state employees that they don’t have enough staff to guard the displays in the National Archeological Museum in Athens. They’ve had to close most of the exhibits down which has annoyed the tourists who are being short-changed. This can’t continue. The same situation exists in the other 350 museum sites in Greece. The obvious solution is to close them all down and sell off the exhibits to private collectors who will really appreciate them and may be prepared to loan them out to other museums. The Saudis should be very interested in getting in on this deal. The Russian oligarchs will also be interested and will pay very high prices for some of this crap. Our job is to be in at the start and snap up the best bits.
Then there are the islands. There are about 6.000 Greek islands. Only about 200 are inhabited. There’s enormous potential here. It is a disgrace in this day and age that most of these islands are state property. The main ones that attract so many tourists have been developed by a handful of enterprising Greeks and foreign corporations. The government should be compelled to sell off all the islands. They can then be properly developed to maximum advantage. Obviously restrictive planning regulations which prevent tall buildings being constructed and dictate that they should all be painted white, must be scrapped. There are large numbers of uninhabited islands with great potential for development and a huge expansion of tourism may be anticipated when they’ve all been privatized.
All this will need a steady hand at the helm and cool heads in command. The situation on the streets must not be allowed to get out of control. Unless the Greek government is able to resist the mass protest movement being stirred up by left-wing malcontents and trade union militants, it may be blown off course, with unpredictable consequences for a free market economy. The rabble-rousers must be brought to heel. If the police can’t handle them, the army should be called in before things get out of control. And if the army proves to be squeamish about taking the necessary action to clear the streets of the rabble, our recommendation is that the US private security firm Xe Services (formerly Blackwater) should be called in. They did a sterling job in Iraq and have exactly the military skills and experience this situation demands. A rowdy and disgruntled populace that is unable or unwilling to see what is good for them may need to be taught a lesson. After all, there have been periods in twentieth century Greek history when the imposition of a strong disciplined regime has not come amiss. An earlier German government faced with Greek communist terrorists between 1941 and 45 stood for no nonsense. Firm discipline was necessary after the war to deal with armed insurrection and the strong government of the colonels between 1967 and 1974 brought law and order to a fractious people. Something similar may be need again if things get out of control.”