Monday, December 22, 2014

Greece’s radical left could kill off austerity in the EU

by Owen Jones


December 22, 2014

Another war looms in Europe: waged not with guns and tanks, but with financial markets and EU diktats. Austerity-ravaged Greece may well be on the verge of a general election that could bring to power a government unequivocally opposed to austerity. Momentous stuff: that has not happened in the six years of cuts and falling living standards that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

But if the radical leftist party Syriza does indeed triumph in a possible snap poll in the new year, there will undoubtedly be a concerted attempt to choke the experiment at birth. That matters not just for Greece, but for all of us who want a different sort of society and a break from years of austerity.

What misery has been inflicted on Greece. One in four of its people are out of work; poverty has surged from 23% before the crash to 40.5%; and research has demonstrated how key services such as health have been hammered by cuts, even as demand has risen. No wonder the country has experienced a political polarisation that has prompted comparisons with Weimar Germany. The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn – which makes other European rightist movements look like fluffy liberals – at one point attracted up to 15% in the polls; though still a menace, its support has thankfully subsided to half that.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Tsipras vows to break Greece's 'bad spell'

December 18, 2014

Greece's radical leftist Syriza party will cancel austerity and ask Europe to erase a big chunk of Greek debt to free the country from the dark spell it has fallen under, leader Alexis Tsipras told Reuters on Thursday.

In an interview at his party headquarters in a gritty Athens district, Tsipras sought to reassure markets wary of Syriza sweeping into power, saying he was committed to keeping Greece in the euro and keeping the budget balanced before debt costs.

"The fear-mongering of 2012 and the fear today that if Syriza comes to power in Greece Europe will be destroyed, in reality works as a self-fulfilling prophecy," said Tsipras.

"A Syriza victory will break the bad spell and liberate markets. It will create a feeling of security."

Fears among investors that Greece is heading for an early national election that will bring Syriza to power have sent Greek stocks and bonds crashing in recent weeks. Markets have been spooked by Syriza's hard line on demanding a debt write-off and plans to cancel an EU/IMF bailout that is keeping Greece afloat.


EU's Greek Drama Needs a Final Act

December 18, 2014

Judging from Wednesday's vote in the Greek parliament, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras may not get the mandate he wants to keep economic austerity measures in place and avoid defaulting on the country's debt. His would be the responsible path, but it's easy enough to see why Greeks wouldn't want to follow it.

The dispute is haunting international investors again because the European Union in general, and Germany in particular, refuses to write off any part of Greece's sovereign debt. Yet, as most economists acknowledge, the country can never emerge from under its current debt pile -- now close to 180 percent of gross domestic product. And the prospect of endless years of austerity spent in the attempt is political poison.

Samaras brought forward Wednesday's vote for a new president, the first of three, as a vote of confidence. He is essentially daring members of parliament to reject his candidate, Stavros Dimas, because that would force new parliamentary elections -- elections that the anti-austerity, neo-Marxist Syriza coalition might win. Judging by this first vote, in which Dimas secured just 160 votes, it's going to be an uphill struggle. To win in the third round later this month, Dimas will need 180 votes.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Greek premier prepared European ground before vote gamble

December 17, 2014

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has bet on Greece's future with an early vote for the presidency. But in contrast to a recent predecessor, he made sure before dropping the bombshell that Berlin and Brussels wouldn't stand in the way.

Samaras's decision last week to bring the three-stage parliamentary vote forward to this month from February took the Greek establishment and financial markets by surprise.

But a select few knew it was coming, among them German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. With Berlin playing a decisive role in European aid for Greece, Samaras and Schaeuble spoke repeatedly by telephone in the days before the early vote was announced on Dec. 8, according to a euro zone official with direct knowledge of the talks.

They discussed details of Greece's international bailout, which Samaras wants to pull out of a year ahead of schedule. They also talked about bringing forward the vote, this person said, even though the conservative premier has yet to secure a majority of lawmakers for the government's candidate.


Greek Lawmakers Gird for High-Stakes Vote

by Stelios Bouras & Alkman Granitsas

Wall Street Journal

December 17, 2014

Greek lawmakers are scheduled to hold a first vote late Wednesday on the country’s next head of state, a largely ceremonial position but one that has become a flash point in Greece’s contentious politics and could determine whether the country goes to early national elections.

Few expect the government to garner the supermajority it needs to elect its candidate, former European commissioner Stavros Dimas, in the first round, and two more votes are likely to follow. But the first round, said analysts and government officials, will show whether the government’s gambit is gaining traction among lawmakers or is heading toward defeat.

The government—a coalition of the conservative New Democracy and socialist Pasok parties—holds just 155 seats in the 300-seat Parliament. It will have to rely on votes of some two dozen independent lawmakers, as well as renegade deputies in two smaller parties to reach the 180-vote threshold in the final round, tentatively scheduled for Dec. 29.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Greece Revisits the Panic

Wall Street Journal
December 14, 2014

Stock markets took a tumble last week as the announcement of a snap presidential election in Athens triggered fears about how lasting Greece’s reform-and-recovery drive will be. This panic about democracy is instructive.

The vote for the ceremonial role of president, which will likely take three rounds of balloting in the parliament over the next few weeks, has become a test of confidence in Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. He will be forced to call a snap parliamentary election next month if he can’t secure 180 votes in the 300-member body for his preferred candidate by the third round. He needs support from 25 independent members to hit that threshold, and he’s not certain to get it. If he fails, voters will elect a new parliament at the end of January.

Mr. Samaras’s decision to call the presidential election that threatens his government appears to be a gambit to neutralize the increasingly popular far-left Syriza party, which promises to undo painful reforms and force creditors to take bigger haircuts on Greek debt. With negotiations for Greece’s exit from its bailout looming, Mr. Samaras seems to hope voters will return his unpopular government to power rather than risk further chaos by handing Syriza power for the exit talks.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Mad as Hellas

by Paul Krugman

New York Times

December 11, 2014

The Greek fiscal crisis erupted five years ago, and its side effects continue to inflict immense damage on Europe and the world. But I’m not talking about the side effects you may have in mind — spillovers from Greece’s Great Depression-level slump, or financial contagion to other debtors. No, the truly disastrous effect of the Greek crisis was the way it distorted economic policy, as supposedly serious people around the world rushed to learn the wrong lessons.

Now Greece appears to be in crisis again. Will we learn the right lessons this time?

What happened last time, you may recall, was the exploitation of Greece’s woes to change the economic subject. Suddenly, we were supposed to obsess over budget deficits, even if borrowing costs were at historic lows, and slash government spending, even in the face of mass unemployment. Because if we didn’t, you see, we could turn into Greece any day now. “Greece stands as a warning of what happens to countries that lose their credibility,” intoned David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister, as he announced austerity policies in 2010. “We are on the same path as Greece,” declared Representative Paul Ryan, who was soon to become the chairman of the House Budget Committee, that same year.


Ο Αριστείδης Χατζής για τις πολιτικές εξελίξεις

Συνέντευξη του Αριστείδη Χατζή στη Φούλη Δημητρακοπούλου (ΝΕΡΙΤ Θεσσαλονίκης)
11 Δεκεμβρίου 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014

How to Buy a Greek Island

by Stelios Bouras & Nektaria Stammouli

Wall Street Journal

December 11, 2014

It’s the ultimate dream property of the superrich: your own Greek island, drenched in sunshine and surrounded by turquoise water.

Traditionally, these islands have rarely come up for sale, staying in the same families from one generation to the next. But Greek’s private-island property market is perking up, bolstered by growing interest from foreign investors, a drop in prices and changes to Greek tax laws. Some 20 privately owned Greek islands are currently up for sale.

Notable new island-owners include Ekaterina Rybolovleva, the 25-year-old daughter of Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev. Early last year, a company belonging to a trust affiliated with Ms. Rybolovleva bought the Greek isle of Skorpios from Athina Onassis Roussel, the granddaughter of Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis. (The island was the site, 45 years earlier, of the wedding of the magnate and former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy.) The sale price was reportedly £100 million, or $158 million; a representative for Ms. Rybolovleva confirmed the sale but wouldn’t comment on the price.

“After Skorpios was sold, and especially during the past year, there has been an intense interest in the islands’ market,” says Alexandros Moulas, an agent for real-estate firm Savills . “An intermediate usually gets in touch with us and the name of the actual investor is kept as a closely guarded secret.”


Greek stocks and bonds in sharp sell-off

Financial Times
December 11, 2014

Greek stocks and bonds suffered another sharp sell-off on Thursday amid mounting fears about the country’s future within the eurozone and mounting political uncertainty.

Greece’s stock market declined 7 per cent following the worst one day fall since the late 1980s this week. Benchmark 10-year government borrowing costs rose 50 basis points to yield 8.79 per cent.

The decline means the Athens bourse has shed nearly a fifth of its value this week after the announcement by Antonis Samaras, prime minister, of a snap presidential election later this month. If he fails to win sufficient support for his candidate, an early general election could follow which investors fear will bring to power the radical left Syriza party that has campaigned on an anti-austerity platform.

“Further volatility cannot be ruled out given the event risk over December,” said Peter Goves, an analyst at Citi.


'Grexit' threat could complicate ECB quantitative easing

by James Saft


December 11, 2014

The return of the idea of a Greek euro exit, as boogeyman or genuine threat, comes at a particularly difficult time, dangerously complicating the already fraught advent of full-scale QE in the euro zone.

A parliamentary vote, set to begin next week, to replace the Greek president may trigger general elections in the new year, elections which the anti-bailout party Syriza could well win.

"We shed blood to take the word 'Grexit' away from the mouth of foreigners, and Syriza is bringing this word back to their mouths," Prime Minister Antonis Samaras said on Thursday, using once more the highly emotive term for a Greek parting of ways with the euro project.

The very idea, much less its invocation by the prime minister, panics Greek markets, which have seen equities lose more than a fifth of their value in three days and a spike in 10-year government bond yields above 9 percent.

There are very good reasons for this, though much has changed since the height of Greece’s crisis.


Samaras’s gamble

December 13, 2014

A Greek presidential election is not supposed to make headlines. The ruling party’s candidate, typically a low-key retired politician, normally wins the required three-fifths majority after a three-round vote in parliament. In the 40 years since Greece replaced its monarchy with a republic led by a figurehead president, no big political upset has occurred. This time it could be different.

Antonis Samaras (pictured), the centre-right prime minister, has called a snap presidential election for December 17th, two months before Karolos Papoulias, the 85-year-old incumbent, steps down. This is at best a risky gamble. Sensing that political instability might rekindle the euro crisis, financial markets panicked. Prices on the Athens stockmarket plunged by almost 13% the day after the presidential vote was announced; yields on Greek ten-year bonds soared above 8% (see chart).

Mr Samaras said he was bringing the presidential vote forward to restore political stability, which he claimed was being undermined by persistent demands from the far-left Syriza party, led by Alexis Tsipras, a radical populist, for an early general election. Since it came first in the European elections in May, Syriza has kept a strong lead over Mr Samaras’s New Democracy (ND) party in the opinion polls. Yet if Mr Samaras’s candidate for the presidency, Stavros Dimas, a former European environment commissioner, fails to win 180 out of 300 votes in the final round, Mr Tsipras will get his way, as an early general election must then be held.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Για γέλια και για κλάματα

του Αριστείδη Ν. Χατζή

Τα Νέα

10 Δεκεμβρίου 2014

Από το πρωί της περασμένης Παρασκευής και για τέσσερις ημέρες το Πανεπιστήμιο Αθηνών αποκόπηκε από τον κόσμο. Καμία ηλεκτρονική υπηρεσία δεν λειτουργούσε, δεν είχαμε πρόσβαση στην ηλεκτρονική αλληλογραφία και φυσικά οι φοιτήτριες και οι φοιτητές μας δεν μπορούσαν να επικοινωνήσουν μαζί μας, να παραδώσουν εργασίες, να δουν τους βαθμούς τους ή να έχουν πρόσβαση στο εκπαιδευτικό υλικό. Η διακοπή αυτή δεν οφείλεται σε βλάβη αλλά στη βίαιη κατάληψη του Κέντρου Δικτύου από μια ομάδα τραμπούκων, οι οποίοι μάλιστα απειλούσαν να καταστρέψουν τον εξοπλισμό αν επιχειρούσε κανείς να τους βγάλει έξω από τον χώρο που κατέλαβαν παράνομα. Ο λόγος που αναγκάστηκαν να διακόψουν την κατάληψη ήταν για να αποφύγουν σοβαρές ποινικές ευθύνες σε περίπτωση κάποιου «ατυχήματος» σε ένα από τα πανεπιστημιακά νοσοκομεία – που βέβαια κι αυτά αποκόπηκαν από το Διαδίκτυο. Όμως μας «υποσχέθηκαν» ότι η πρόσβαση που έχουμε από την Τρίτη το πρωί είναι προσωρινή. Θα επανέλθουν…

Ασφαλώς όλα αυτά ακούγονται εξωφρενικά στους φυσιολογικούς ανθρώπους και τερατώδη στους συναδέλφους μας στο εξωτερικό. Όταν χρησιμοποίησα εναλλακτική διεύθυνση για να έρθω σε επαφή με τους τελευταίους, μου έκαναν μερικές απλές, αφελείς ερωτήσεις: «Γιατί δεν επενέβη ο εισαγγελέας; Η παράνομη βία δεν είναι αυτόφωρο έγκλημα; Το πανεπιστημιακό άσυλο δεν προστατεύει την ελευθερία επικοινωνίας και την ακαδημαϊκή ελευθερία;»

Η πανεπιστημιακή κοινότητα τι έκανε; Με λίγες εξαιρέσεις, τίποτα απολύτως. Πάσχουμε άλλωστε από βαριά μορφή μιθριδατισμού. Έχουμε συνηθίσει ακόμα και τις πιο ακραίες πράξεις βίας, αυθαιρεσίας και αυταρχισμού. Έχουμε μάθει να ζούμε μέσα σε ένα άθλιο περιβάλλον, να εργαζόμαστε με μισθούς εξευτελιστικούς και να σκύβουμε το κεφάλι σε κάθε τραμπούκο. Μην περιμένετε πολλά από εμάς.

Οι φοιτήτριες και οι φοιτητές; Την προηγούμενη εβδομάδα κατάφεραν να σπάσουν την παράνομη κατάληψη της Νομικής. Στη συνέλευση του φοιτητικού συλλόγου ανεξάρτητοι φοιτητές/τριες πέρασαν ένα δικό τους ψήφισμα υπέρ των ανοικτών σχολών απομονώνοντας τις κομματικές παρατάξεις. Αυτό δεν εμπόδισε τους τραμπούκους να καταλάβουν τη σχολή την Τρίτη και να την κρατούν κλειστή με τη βία. Όμως και πάλι φοιτήτριες και φοιτητές έκαναν ό,τι μπορούσαν για να ανοίξει, δυστυχώς χωρίς αποτέλεσμα.

Ζούμε σε ένα κράτος το οποίο αδιαφορεί για την παιδεία, ιδιαίτερα την ανώτατη, εκτός αν μπορεί να αποκομίσει πολιτικά οφέλη. Με ένα υπουργείο Παιδείας που κουρεύει ερευνητικά προγράμματα για να αναδιανείμει το ποσό σε δραστηριότητες περισσότερο επικερδείς πολιτικά. Το πανεπιστήμιο έχει γίνει ένας τεράστιος άθλιος σκουπιδότοπος, χωρίς φύλαξη, γεμάτος άσχημα graffiti, αφίσες και ιπτάμενα κουρέλια.

Η μόνη παρηγοριά είναι το μάθημα, η επαφή με τις φοιτήτριες και τους φοιτητές. Και η έρευνα, η ανάπηρη έστω επαφή μας με τον κόσμο της επιστήμης. Μας τα αφαιρούν κι αυτά. Κάθε τραμπούκος μπορεί να μας απαγορεύσει να κάνουμε μάθημα, κάθε θρασύδειλος νταής μπορεί να μας εμποδίσει να επικοινωνούμε ηλεκτρονικά με τον έξω κόσμο.

Αναρωτιέμαι λοιπόν…Τι μας απομένει; Δεν μπορούμε να προστατεύσουμε τους εαυτούς μας, δεν μπορούμε να προστατεύσουμε τους φοιτητές μας, δεν μπορούμε να προστατεύσουμε την εκπαιδευτική διαδικασία. Απουσιάζουν ακόμα και οι βασικές προϋποθέσεις στοιχειώδους λειτουργίας. Ποιον κοροϊδεύουμε παριστάνοντας ότι αυτό είναι πανεπιστήμιο;

* Ο Αριστείδης Χατζής είναι αναπληρωτής καθηγητής Φιλοσοφίας Δικαίου και Θεωρίας Θεσμών στο Πανεπιστήμιο Αθηνών.

Εδώ θα βρείτε το άρθρο σε PDF (όπως δημοσιεύθηκε στα Νέα)

Εδώ θα βρείτε το άρθρο στην ιστοσελίδα των Νέων

Εδώ θα βρείτε ένα πρόσφατο σχετικό κείμενό μου για τη βία στα πανεπιστήμια και εδώ παλαιότερα κείμενά μου για την κατάσταση στην ανώτατη παιδεία

Samaras Appeals to Lawmakers’ Principles and Pocketbooks

December 9, 2014

With his choice for the presidency, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras made an appeal to Greek conservatives -- and to the self interest of opposition lawmakers.

Nominating Stavros Dimas, a 73-year-old former European commissioner, offers conservatives in the 300-seat parliament a candidate in line with their values, and gives Samaras a chance of staying in office.

It also gives those members concerned that the rise of anti-austerity Syriza party could cost them their jobs a reason to side with the government, said Aristides Hatzis, an associate professor of law and economics at the University of Athens. Samaras will have to dissolve parliament unless he can muster the support of 180 lawmakers for Dimas.

“Many of these guys were elected in 2012 for the first time,” Hatzis said by phone yesterday. “And it will probably be the last time.”


Monday, December 8, 2014

Tsipras May Become Next Greek Leader, Mixing Mao With Bond Yield

December 8, 2014

As Alexis Tsipras moves closer to taking control of Europe’s most indebted country, he’s trying to convince bond investors they have nothing to fear.

The 40-year-old leader of Coalition of the Radical Left, better known as Syriza, alarmed an entire continent at the height of the euro-area crisis in 2012, when his party narrowly lost the second Greek election that year. He campaigned then on a pledge to tear up the country’s bailout agreement, risking a euro exit. Now he’s pledging fiscal prudence.

“We don’t want to return to deficits,” Tsipras told the Greek parliament in Athens during a debate last night. “We don’t want new borrowed money.”

Tsipras is trying to convince voters exhausted by five years of austerity that he can walk a tightrope between rolling back spending cuts and balancing the budget. While economists question the math underlying his pledge, some investors say the prospect of a Tspiras government isn’t reason to panic just yet.

“If Syriza wins the elections then there might be maybe a short-term repricing in Greek assets, but I don’t think it’s going to be a long-lived weakness,” said Nicola Marinelli, who helps manage 110 million euros ($135 million) of assets at Pentalpha Capital Ltd in London. “It might even be an opportunity to buy.”


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Greece Turns Triumph Into Tragedy

by Simon Nixon

Wall Street Journal

December 7, 2014

Greece’s latest drama has the potential to turn into a tragedy. Six months ago, the country seemed to be past the worst and there was widespread optimism among policy makers and the markets that the overhauls had laid the foundations for an investment- and export-led recovery.

Foreign investors had snapped up Greece’s first government-bond issue since the start of the eurozone debt crisis and had poured fresh capital into the banking system.

The long-stalled privatization program was attracting serious expressions of interest from global companies and hedge funds, and private-equity groups were on the hunt for bargains.

The mood today is rather different. If anything, the economy has outperformed expectations, growing 0.7% year-to-year in the third quarter, the fastest growth of any eurozone member, boosted by tourism.

Next year, Athens expects growth of close to 3%. Unemployment is finally falling and the country is delivering both a primary-budget and current-account surplus.


Greek radical left spooks global bond investors

Financial Times
December 7, 2014

Investors are increasingly worried about the outcome of Greece’s forthcoming presidential election, which could enable radical leftwing party Syriza to take power in March.

Senior Syriza politicians visited London two weeks ago to present their economic programme to a number of large fund houses and banks, but the meetings have sparked anxiety among investors.

A leaked memo from Joerg Sponer, an analyst at Capital Group, the ninth-largest fund house globally, with $1.4tn of assets, described the programme as “worse than communism” and “total chaos”. “Everybody coming out of the meeting wants to sell everything in Greece,” he said.

Syriza denied that Mr Sponer was at any of the meetings it held, but acknowledged other Capital Group analysts were present. Capital Group said the memo did not represent its universal house view.

Since the Syriza meetings took place, a flurry of Greek bankers and brokers have travelled to London to try and reassure clients. The Syriza road-trip “has made some investors quite nervous”, one of the bankers said.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Oil Price Plunge Lends Unexpected Hand to Southern Europe

December 3, 2014

The plunging oil price is giving an unexpected lift to Europe’s crisis-battered southern periphery as decreasing fuel costs help spur demand.

Spain, Europe’s fourth-largest economy, could add as much as 1 percent to annual growth with oil prices between $80-90 a barrel, the government said. Italy, which is in its fourth year of recession, stands to boost GDP 0.3 percentage points with a sustained $10 oil price drop, according to BNP Paribas SA.

“There’s no doubt lower oil prices will act as a stimulus to growth in the region,” Frederik Ducrozet, a Paris-based economist at Credit Agricole, said by phone. “Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy would be clear beneficiaries.”

The region’s crisis-ravaged southern arc is looking forward to an unexpected boon from the oil drop after years of contraction left record debt levels and unemployment that confound economic recovery. As importers of oil, the countries gain economically from the plummeting price through lower energy costs and increased buying power for consumers.


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Greece’s Creditors Likely to Extend Its Bailout After Talks Fail

Wall Street Journal
November 26, 2014

Greece’s international creditors are looking at extending the country’s bailout program by up to six months, two eurozone officials said Wednesday after two days of marathon negotiations with the country’s officials here failed to reach an agreement.

The country’s so-called troika of lenders—the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund—is leaning toward a six-month extension of Greece’s current program, one eurozone official said.

The IMF and Germany, often aligned when it comes to the Greek bailout program, back the idea, a second official said.

The talks in the French capital, which began Tuesday afternoon and continued almost nonstop for 24 hours, were aimed at wrapping up the final review of the country’s austerity and reform program. They come as Greece fast approaches a year-end deadline to hammer out a new financing deal with creditors.

The financial markets have looked negatively on the possibility of Greece’s early exit from the program. In addition, Greek banks could be cut off from the European Central Bank’s cash lending if Greece is not under internationally approved supervision.


Friday, November 21, 2014

Greece Submits Budget With Troika Talks Still at Impasse

by Marcus Bensasson and Christos Ziotis


November 21, 2014

Greece submitted its 2015 budget to parliament without prior sign-off from its international creditors as talks with them remained stalled.

The plan sees the government posting a budget surplus before interest payments of 3 percent of gross domestic product next year, or 5.6 billion euros ($7 billion) compared with a forecast of 2.9 percent of GDP in an earlier draft of the budget last month, Alternate Finance Minister Christos Staikouras told reporters in Athens today. Hours earlier, talks between the government and officials representing the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund, known as the troika, ended without an agreement over those forecasts.

“The risk of a complete breakdown is quite high,” said Aristides Hatzis, an associate professor of law and economics at the University of Athens. “This is a pre-electoral message. There’s a competition going on between the government and Syriza over who can unshackle Greece from the bailout accord the quickest.”


Give Greece a Chance

November 21, 2014

Greece's creditors are testing the country's endurance -- again. If they keep pressing, they could split the euro area apart, which would be a disaster for them as much as for Greece. They need to stop insisting on the impossible, and find a way to relieve the country's debts.

The European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund have told the government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to cut the country's debt burden, the biggest in the euro area, by reducing public spending even further. In return, they propose a last injection of bailout money and an emergency credit line.

The offer is toxic because further efforts to reduce debt through fiscal tightening are almost certain to fail. And that's assuming they don't plunge the country into political instability, as they well might. Polls suggest that the radical left-wing Syriza party, led by Alexis Tsipras, is in a strong position to replace Samaras's moderates in elections next year. (A few months back, Syriza rode a wave of anti-Europe sentiment to victory in elections to the European Parliament.)



November 22, 2014

The euro area stayed in the doldrums in the third quarter, according to data released on November 14th. Output rose by 0.2% compared to the second quarter, equivalent to just 0.6% on an annualised basis. That was only slightly faster than the meagre 0.1% growth in the second quarter (0.3% annualised). Against this dismal backdrop there was one nice surprise: of the 14 countries in the 18-strong currency union that reported data, Greece fared best, growing by 0.7%.

It turns out that the Greek recovery started in the first quarter of this year, when it grew even faster, by 0.8%, according to the new figures (for technical reasons quarterly figures had been suspended since 2011); it then slowed to 0.3% in the second quarter. The upturn has meant that the economy is now growing on a yearly basis (see chart). Apart from a blip in early 2010 just before the first of two bail-outs, this is Greece’s first spell of annual growth since the start of 2008. Between the pre-crisis peak, in the second quarter of 2007, and the trough at the end of last year, GDP contracted by 27%, a decline rivalling America’s in the early 1930s.

Even though the euro zone as a whole is doing badly, the Greek recovery looks set to continue, at least in the short-term. An economic-sentiment index compiled by the European Commission stood at 102 in October, well above its level a year before, when it was 92, let alone during the worst of the euro crisis, when it sank below 80. Since the indicator tends to track GDP growth this suggests a decent start to the current quarter.


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Aristides Hatzis: The Economic Crisis and the Economic Science

Crisis Observatory

November 19, 2014

Aristides N. Hatzis, Associate Professor at the University of Athens (Department of Methodology, History & Theory of Science), answers the following questions of the Crisis Observatory, concerning Economics and the way it is being taught since the beginning of the crisis.

Question 1: In the wake of both the financial crisis and the economic crisis that ensued (and continues to cause problems, especially to the European economy), Economics came under harsh criticism. This criticism involved its failure to foretell the crisis, but also the validity of its established models and approaches in general, as well as their capacity to correctly diagnose economic problems and to offer appropriate policies therefore. In your opinion, is this criticism justified and, if so, what do you think are the lessons that Economics should draw from the recent crisis?

Question 2: Based on your previous response, what do you think that ought to change in the way Economics is being taught in universities, considering that the economic policy makers of tomorrow are today's the students of Economics?


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Greek Bailout Review Stalls as Troika Demands Final Steps

by Nikos Chrysoloras


November 17, 2014

Greece’s government and its international creditors are deadlocked over a final round of measures required to release the last tranche of the country’s bailout, two people familiar with the negotiations said.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s government is resisting pressure from the so-called troika of creditors for additional budget savings in 2015 of as much as 2.5 billion euros ($3.1 billion), said the people, who asked not to be named because the negotiations are private. The impasse risks leaving Greece without a backstop on Jan. 1 after the program ends, they said.

Troika representatives are furious because the Greek government has failed to come up with any concrete measures to plug the fiscal gap since euro-area finance ministers warned earlier this month about a lack of progress in Greece meeting its commitments, one person said. With the government in Athens refusing to concede there is a funding hole, the standoff means Greece may miss a Dec. 8 deadline for agreement on the steps required to unlock the aid and what comes after it, both said.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Greek Economy Returns to Growth

by Stelios Bouras & Alkman Granitsas

Wall Street Journal

November 14, 2014

Greece’s crisis-stricken economy has returned to growth following six years of recession, official data showed Friday, marking an end to one of the steepest and longest economic contractions in postwar European history.

According to figures from the Hellenic Statistical Authority, or Elstat, gross domestic product in the third quarter rose 1.7% from a year earlier, thanks in large measure to a record summer tourism season.

The figures were better than expectations—making Greece one of the fastest-growing economies in the eurozone—and confirm that a promised recovery is now under way. Economists had forecast between 1% and 1.4% growth compared with a year ago. On a seasonally adjusted basis, Greece’s GDP rose 0.7% quarter-on-quarter.

Output was also revised higher for the first six months as part of Europe-wide changes to GDP estimates. They showed that Greece technically emerged from recession in the second quarter when the economy grew 0.4%. The latest figures confirm that Greece is now on track to record its first full year of growth in more than half a decade this year.


The disabled children locked up in cages

by Chloe Hadjimatheou

BBC News

November 14, 2014

Disabled people in Greece are often stigmatised and can struggle to get the support they need. Some disabled children who live in a state-run home are locked up in cages - staff say they want to improve conditions but money is short.

Nine-year-old Jenny stands and rocks backwards and forwards, staring through the bars of a wooden cage.

When the door is unlocked she jumps down on to the stone floor and wraps her arms tightly around the nurse. But a few minutes later she allows herself to be locked back in again without a fuss.

She is used to her cage. It's been her home since she was two years old.

Jenny, who has been diagnosed with autism, lives in a state-run institution for disabled children in Lechaina, a small town in the south of Greece, along with more than 60 others, many of whom are locked in cells or cages.

Fotis, who is in his twenties and has Down's syndrome, sleeps in a small cell separated from the other residents by ceiling-high wooden bars and a locked gate. His cell is furnished only with a single bed. There are no personal possessions in sight anywhere in the centre.