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Friday 17 February 2012

Verity Murphy | 11:09 UK time, Friday, 17 February 2012

Is Greece a country in freefall?

It faces a looming deadline in mid-March when it needs to make repayments on a 14.5bn-euro bond, or face bankruptcy.

The EU and IMF have demanded that Greece make deep cuts and restructure its economy in return for the bailout.

But how are the austerity measures affecting the people and the politics of the country?

Newsnight's Economics editor Paul Mason has visited the country and reports on the increasing disenchantment with the state and the political class, and the financial difficulties that many Greeks face.

We'll also be discussing in the studio.


  • Comment number 1.

  • Comment number 2.

    Portugal seems to be making some progress towards paying down its debts and should be an example to Greece.

    I happened to hear Paul Mason on Radio 4 yesterday reporting from Greece - his piece was superb and reminds one that, in terms of factual reportage, 90% of radio is excellent, whereas maybe only 10% of TV is.

    John Humphreys, a few years ago, before he was inexplicably banned by the BBC from writing, used to have some excellent pieces in the ST and one of these described what goes on in Greece (Humphreys has a holiday home there and his son 'works' in Athens).

    Humphreys effectively saw it all coming, expressing bewilderment at the lack of tax collection, the ridiculous perks of the public sector and the sheer laziness of the general populace, including his own son's job with the Greek National Orchestra, where there seemd to be plenty of time for lounging around and not much working.

    You cannot run a country on that basis for very long in the developed world.

  • Comment number 3.

    As Trev would ask, does this man obey our laws, funny he appears to be living in luxury

  • Comment number 4.

    Financial Oligarch Power Raping Greece

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    UK budget deficit could be removed in March 2012 budget by UK requiring that all immigrants including those from EU required to purchase UK health insurance and agree to pay for own housing, education etc and have cash bond before entering the UK. Immigrants need to have 10 years tax payment records before becoming British nationals - far too much abuse there, also.

    This would mean that all immigrants to the UK would be required to evaluate an economic decision of wthere it would be worthwhile their entering the UK for work/study etc. Students should also pay for ALL healthcare, housing, education etc

    This would make a huge dent in UK unemployment as foreign workers would be much more expensive than UK workers - exemptions could be made for UK skill shortages in high skilled positions.

    Many disagree with this, of course - but despite what liar globalised govt/BOE/INS say - UK is in DEEP RECESSION as has never recovered from 2008/2009 credit crunch despite GDP fiddling with QE.

    This is a tough decision in the minds of some (not in my mind though, as everyone has to make economic decisions in their life and for those who have been ex.pat like myself and paid for oneself while overseas, is not difficult at all) - immigrants need to make economic decision before trying to enter the UK & not expect their life long subsidy of public services that they have never paid for or intend paying for as paid for by the blood of our grandparents and great-grandparents on e.g the Somme and D-Day & by some of us paying into the system for many decades.

    The subsidies involved with immigrants and the job stealing is huge - within reason, I don't care how many immigrants enter the UK as long as not criminals or trouble-makers providing they are not 'subsidised'. This would mean that immigration would better reflect the needs of the UK economy and more importantly, from the point of view of its UK population & tax payers.

    This is e.g. of the choice UK need to make if UK is to recover and get control of public finances, deficits, debts, unemployment, exploitation by employers in putting British workers on the dole.

    DECISION TIME - either we're 'up for it' or we're 'GREECE'.

    This is the real underlying reason UK is in recession/depression - our cowardly politicians have abdicated control of the UK to the, bankers, multi-nationals, foreignisers & EU and UK is in recession now - for the average UK person - until some politician or other has the intelligence and guts to do something about these outrageous, perverse obscenities.

    No one, will, of course - take any notice


  • Comment number 8.

    Greece is under attack by Eurocrats from the 'black hole' of bent & non-existing institutional accounting that is known as the EU (17 years without any EU accounts as to its 'black-hole' spending).

    UK is also under attack from those determined to undermine the UK/England as being a 'Christian country' - as including bent, biased, negative agenda, England bashing institutionally racist organisations such as the EHRC.

    UK could (should) offer (better still a country like USA or Australia) its currency to assist Greece use the Eurozone - that is the only solution for a country to leave the EU without triggering major shockwaves across the EU as potentially will be as damaging to the UK as to Greece itself.

    Sounds 'mad' - but if properly undertaken it is, IMWO, in our UK and Greek interests as UK banks are exposed to Greece & UK economy is fragile.

    If we can do it for a country like 'Scotland' - we should be able to do it for a country like Greece.

    'We' should extend limited use of GBP's to Greece ie those countries that are in the EU but outside of the EZ to prevent Greece collapsing & sending shockwaves across EU and beyond.

    Uk is just as vulnerable as Greece - meanwhile ECB can buy UK govt debt and take pressure of BOE's 'financial ************' with QE.

    Better that the UK helps Greece help the UK than the BOE 'financially ************' the UK into collapse by 'over-use' of QE.

    Same with Ireland, if Ireland gets into trouble - UK should do the same for Ireland rather than over-using QE.

    Sitting on the fence will not help the UK - we should get out of EU asap or get stuck in & give direct currency but not financial support to countries like Greece as having the GBP as being arguably the strongest EU currency after the Euro.

    UK is deep in recession with little prospect of 'recovery' in next 10-15 years as any improvement in Uk eceonomy will take UK interest rates higher as will crash about 50 % + of UK economy that is struggling.

    UK needs to forge new relationships, alliances, make new friends - help other countries as can help each other - Greece is a peripheral struggler like the UK - a perfect match.

    Greece is a Christian country & needs our help.

  • Comment number 9.

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  • Comment number 10.

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  • Comment number 11.

    At 14:51 17th Feb 2012, MaggieL wrote:
    On 5 May 2010 a Greek mob spotted some people working in Marfin Bank in Athens. They threw Molotov cocktails into the bank,

    Is a very small, tiny criminal minority & not representative of 'Greece' - worse things than that, happen in the UK, all of the time

  • Comment number 12.

    At 15:15 17th Feb 2012, JohnConstable wrote:
    JC - Just say 'Hello' & recover 'normality'?

  • Comment number 13.

    'reports on the increasing disenchantment'

    I predict a... n unusual level of restraint in terminology from our new Protests Editor.

    Something someone said?

  • Comment number 14.

    Remember the small print: Your sovereignty is at risk if you fail to keep up repayments on Gvt debt.

    Martin Wolf as good as said this on BBC News24 the other day: “well if you can’t finance yourself, then you can’t maintain sovereignty; that’s what happens.”

    So finance trumps sovereignty, democracy and social justice.

    How will the "Greek experiment" fare?

  • Comment number 15.


    In this Age of Perversity, reality need not trouble our deranged 'world leaders'.

    Anyone with practical sense can watch the 9/11 footage (the stuff they could not manipulate) and derive basic information that GIVES THE LIE. But, over ten years, the lie has endured.

    So let's hear no more of freefall. After all, the entire planet, solar system, galaxy and cosmos is in free fall.

    Even Dave can fly.

  • Comment number 16.


    The Emperor is as naked as ever he was, but 'that kid' has been bought off with sweets.

    There'll always be an England
    The same applies for Greece.
    We'll teach them to bomb foreigners;
    Till all the world's at peace.
    There'll always be an England
    Where foreign crims go free
    And England means as much to Dave
    Free speech does to me.

  • Comment number 17.

    Bank of Greece, er , sorry but owned by Germany.....

  • Comment number 18.


    When last I saw such a disgraceful spectacle, it was DAVE SHUFFLING as Limited Ed explained what he was doing wrong, at PMQs. Perhaps Sarko has been watching and learning. . .

    Do we really want this crass mockery masquerading as inter-governmental discourse?

  • Comment number 19.


    This despotic regime, discourages breast-feeding; pressurising mothers to do the kinds of work only dumb men, usually, do. It abuses the old, in a range of ingenious ways, while supplying old and young alike with taxed drugs, readily available 24/7 on the high-street. Perhaps perversely associated: the regime exhibits an unhealthy, over excited fetishism, with ill-health and its treatment.

    The regime is a cabal of 650 Mendacious Puppets under an inexperienced Puppet Master. Inexplicably, the UN has not yet seen fit to bomb them.

  • Comment number 20.

    Struggling Greeks losing belief in the state

  • Comment number 21.

    Very simply.

    a) Greek government lied to the electorate.
    b) EU went along with it.
    c) Greek government didn't get permission of the electorate to run up the debts.

    Now, the Greek population have said, you lied, you didn't ask us, we aren't responsible for the mess. Politicians and the EU are.

    Let the politicians sort it out. The Greeks have decided, we aren't paying and quite right too.

  • Comment number 22.

    There is an alternative you know, Greece could do what Iceland did and say No. Iceland went through a tough 12 month period after they defaulted but how are they doing now?
    Greece could do an Argentina, default, the banks would have to take the hit but Greece could move forward.
    Why aren't they allowed to? Because the resultant swift recovery would prove irresistible to the other PIIS.

  • Comment number 23.

    so far 2,800 women referred to NHS over breast implants. Another privatise the profit socialise the loss?

    That model seems at the root of all 'privatisations' from rail, energy now private medical care. Should there no be insurance cover for these idle vanity procedures?

  • Comment number 24.

    'Google declined to provide further comment to the BBC.'

    surely given the links NN has with Google that NN could get further comment?

  • Comment number 25.

    '24. At 20:25 17th Feb 2012, jauntycyclist wrote:
    'Google declined to provide further comment to the BBC.'
    surely given the links NN has with Google that NN could get further comment?

    Easy tiger, that is getting into 'bad faith' territory and can see a'bannin' loomin on what, one is sure, is simply an editorial to PR decision.

    Have to say this cryptic lark can be fun, if a trial.

  • Comment number 26.

    Hate to ask, but did Mr. Mason get down outside his comfort zone wiv da normal, every day, struggling Greek, or more ones bearing grudges, and the means to articulate them in a byte-friendly form?

  • Comment number 27.

    @26 It's a fair question Junkk, but Mason's record is better than most, and I have seen no evidence to the contrary.

    Peter Oborne's view is interesting. I think he is right about the current relationship between the EU and Greece, and the total callousness with which the Greeks have been treated. Again and again I have used the term "Carthaginian" to describe the settlement being imposed on Greece.

    However Oborne gets carried away by his own rhetoric, and also has an incomplete understanding of UK economic history. For example, he says "Yet the fall in national output during the Depression – from peak to trough – was never more than 10 per cent." However, at the start of the Great Depression, Britain was already depressed, thanks to Churchill's budget of 1925, and the ensuing austerity which caused the 1926 General Strike.

    Oborne's rhetoric "a one proud country" is meaningless. Greece is a country whose civil society has always had shaky foundations, and whose economic development has been repeatedly sabotaged by it's own wealth class.

    However, now self-serving and dishonest ideology, primarily from Merkel's Germany is compounding the misery. Current German prosperity is founded on an artificial exchange-rate advantage inside the Euro which is crucifying the economies of the Mediterranean countries and Ireland. It is dishonest and unrealistic for Germans to demand that the PIIGS emulate them. Firstly, it is mathematically impossible for ALL countries to run a permanent trade surplus. Secondly, the exchange-rate straitjacket and destructive austerity measures demanded by the EU are wrecking already weak economies, creating conditions completely inimical to the necessary investment.

    I would love the Euro to work, but if there isn't to be an internal transfer and regional development policy, that is no internal solidarity, there is no point to the political project, and the single currency itself degenerates merely to be an instrument of economic oppression!

    And finally, Oborne's call for a different strategy from the UK government towards Greece completely ignores their commitment to the same flawed ideology of austerity which is doing all the damage to the Greeks.

  • Comment number 28.

    Greece is like an impoverished town or city, region in a "doing nicely" country.

    There is no way it will be able to emulate its northern neighbours in terms of agriculture or industrial output, manufacturing or extractive mineral production.

    Simply it is a backwater. Like parts of the USA that simply cannot stand up and compete. What is to come of it?
    Good question if I may say so myself!

    Tourism beckons.
    Is that it?

    Retirement condominiums like parts of Florida perhaps.

    But not if there is trouble on the streets.

    No. I fear an exodus. An even more vicious one if Greece is set adrift.
    Yet what is the alternative? Continuous subsidies from greater EU?
    Seems to work for parts of the US.
    But for how long?
    Exodus it is then. Joining a long list of failing states. Getting longer by the day.

    Which begs another question - which country is next?

  • Comment number 29.

  • Comment number 30.


    I claim no monetary expertise (though my business survived) but your view looks astute to me prudeboy.

    "Which country is next" has a chilling ring.

    When demon-driven, needy individuals, whose competence lies (sic) in the black art of 'politics' (blagging, dissembling, obfuscating, avoiding, deceiving) are met with complexity of a high order IN THE REAL WORLD, what chance resolution and recovery? The world now has a bunch of narcissistic actors, putting on a play, as a means to solving its mess; the like of which has never before been encountered. AND THEY THINK THE PLAY IS REAL LIFE.

    The audience - us - has had the ticket-price taken, 'lawfully' from our savings. Further ticket surcharges will be levied, at intervals, for as long as the 'performance' continues, until someone shouts "fire" in the auditorium. All will then be arrested under Terror law.

  • Comment number 31.

    HELP! (#30)

    Right on cue, Billy the Spud KNOWS HOW TO INFLUENCE IRAN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    As if to illustrate my assertion: Hague is a "First Class PPE" - AND IT SHOWS.



  • Comment number 32.

  • Comment number 33.

    Greece will default, no choice since the debt is totally unsustainable

    The questions are when and how, not if. The next set of questions are what currency will they be in post default.

    It seems Greece are just a pawn in a much bigger game - the "investment" "banks" who have their hands all over Greece have re-hypothecated themselves to death. Like the emperor and his famous clothes, nobody in the media or the politicos (already members of the "investment" club) will mention the alternative

    So far we have plan A in various guises - austerity, inflation, wealth erosion for 99% and considerably worse than that if you are in the lowest income brackets

    In summary, anything as long as they keep the zombie banks alive and maintain the illusion

    How many complete society breakdowns will it take before that's questioned?

    Every country need some retail banks, but the same isn't true of the "investment" "banks" & their algarithms - it's just that no-one can remember back to the time when they didn't call the shots. But it wasn't that long ago!

    There's plenty on the economics blogs that know this lot are totally bankrupt off balance sheet but still no-one dare call it - the BRICs don't have any such hang ups in the long run and the global power game is shifting, as ever, with control of the means of production.

    Paul consistently gives the highest quality reporting on the issues that will determine the 21st century but we still only look at one side of the coin - the time has surely come to fully lift the lid on the securitisation practices that have brought us to this hideous place.

    Explaining how these geniuses extract so much power based on the practise of re-hypothecation will take some doing.....

  • Comment number 34.


    migrants causing massive problems in Athens? surely not. clearly someone needs
    re education that there are only benefits.

  • Comment number 35.

    This link is posted on Paul's blog too, just watched it, hard to put into words

  • Comment number 36.

    @35 Very interesting - the slogan on the placard "Οι ΚλεΦτες* Φυλακη ....!" means "(send) the thieves to prison!" It's a common slogan I understand. I'm not sure I approve of the noose (in my rational moments), but the slogan could equally apply in Wall St or the City. But then who helped Greek governments fiddle their accounts?

    *from κλέφτης = kleftis - "thief". The verb κλέπτειν, kleptein, "to steal", is one of the roots of the word 'kleptomania'.

  • Comment number 37.


    I have posted before regarding Tyrannies; differentiating between OVERT, as Libya, Iraq etc, and COVERT, as UK, USA.

    Billy Hague's assertion that Somalia is "The world's most failed state", brings into stark focus that the overt/covert distinction applies to failed states too!

    Somalia has no complex charade - what you see is what you get. But our cultural deceit - sold to the world over centuries, and now honed to near perfection, induces Billy to leave these shores, dressed in his 'Emperor Line' suit, and deliver his 'wisdom' to those 'less blessed'.

    Bide, up 'ome lad. Tha's a mite impertinent.

  • Comment number 38.

    @36 Sasha

    Thanks for the info, & that is the way they went in Iceland, to what is now some success

    We could all surely send many to jail for pretending this is genuine business

    But instead, what we do is pander to them some more so they can continue to pretend their emperors clothes are worth personal fortunes through their bankrupt shadow banking corporations -oh and put them in charge of central banks and unelected into nation states. Good luck to Greece, whatever currency she's in post March

  • Comment number 39.


    It was recently in the news that our names and initials guide us to related ways of 'making a living'.

    Nuff sed

  • Comment number 40.

    @38 Your first link is especially interesting - the second just corroborates - at at least repeats - what many nasty suspicious minds have been thinking!

    Back to the first link: I didn't realise how widespread this practice was. Not only to banks "issue credit" (create money) backed by the notional value of some asset, this asset can be thus used simultaneously by more than one borrower. AAAAARGH! (BTW "hypothèque/Hypothek is of course the French/German word for mortgage.)

    "We could all surely send many to jail .... But ... what we do is pander to them some more...."

    The ratings agencies are a case in point. Surely they should have been liquidated after the subprime securitisation scandal, but....

    What is clear is that the letter of the law seems always to trump the spirit/intention: much to the profit of lawyers and others. It's time to have a legal principle that attempting to use creative small print or foreign agents to circumvent or pervert the clear intention of the law is it self illegal.

    @39 Yes BS! (But my full initials are CAC, so I can't talk.) ;-D

  • Comment number 41.


    Levity without losing gravitas Sasha - mark of maturity!

  • Comment number 42.

    Remember the worldwide reporting of child sex abuse cases in the Roman Catholic church?
    I believe a Hollywood film starring Meryl Streep was even made about it.

    Well here’s one story you won’t see being picked up in the West's MSM.

    Child sex-abuse scandal in Australia's Jewish community spills into U.S.

    Members of the Australian Jewish community say suspected child molesters ended up in the United States after community leaders failed to report them to law-enforcement authorities.

  • Comment number 43.


    The obvious specrum of sexual behaviours (now compounded by scanner readouts) puts religion and law in a terrible bind. If all aberrants are embraced (all to often literally) the result is unendurable to those impinged upon. But acceptance of castration or execution went out even before mothering and honour.

    Your average PPE hasn't a clue how to handle something as complex as aberrant sexuality. And as MPs are selected for aberrance: what chance?

  • Comment number 44.

    @1) Well, he ain't a Muslim!

    Our student days in London overlapped: I remember him being regarded as an able opportunist. I expect his background would be Christian: the slaves of the West Indies were coerced into the religion of their owners/captors, and most of their descendants have retained this.

    Like many West Indians, Phillips looks mixed race to me, so that makes him "kith and kin" to native Brits.

  • Comment number 45.


    That is precisely how he comes over to this 'people watcher' Sasha. Just like Blair, he spotted a gap in the market.

    Oh yes - definitely mixed. But that's no reason we shouldn't go on bombing Johnnie Foreigner - er - is it?

    Don't be Vague - ask for Billy.

  • Comment number 46.

    @45 Frau Merkel is bombing "Hansie Ausländer" with extremely destructive financial toxins instead!

    They "deserve it" because, like all foreigners, to all foreigners, they're dirty, lazy, prone to criminality, and, as you might suggest, the greatest crime of all: DIFFERENT!

  • Comment number 47.

    @46 Oh and I forgot: Enoch identified the greatest fear of all!

  • Comment number 48.



  • Comment number 49.

    @40 Sasha

    "I didn't realise how widespread this practice was." - regarding re-hypothecation. Sadly that article doesn't tell the half of it - its a monster, no THE monster. It drives every economic response being pulled - the scale of it is so great that once anyone starts claiming on a default, the game of pass the parcel begins. Guess what happens once you understand how rehypothecation starts

    And MF Global weren't truly big time players in the scheme of things

    This is where the masters of the universe (Wizards of Oz more like) really make their pretend profits and wealth appear out of thin air. And still not exposed anywhere in the media - you have to wonder why

    I would also hugely recommend reading this blog - long articles but great for those of us not totally familair with the terminology the Wizards use to sound invincible

    Oh so nice not to have 400ch limit :)

  • Comment number 50.

    Just a few years ago I knew two government employees who were involved with the closing of schools with a low pupil count. One in the South East and one nationally, I knew them well so felt free to speak my mind.

    I kept remarking to both that we now had mass immigration, especially of young people, and that the birth rate was rocketing, and we would need these schools, they still carried on recommending closure. I know I'm no-one just an ordinary Joanne Blogs, but even I could see these schools would be needed desparately in the future.

  • Comment number 51.


    Hi Lizzy. Unfortunately, as is so very obvious, individuals who claw their way to power (over other people) tend to be drowning in need, rather than surfing high on ability. I have found this writ large in Westminster and, more recently, in West Berkshire Council. When the ciphers meet with wise words, they panic and dig in. Finding themselves in a hole - they keep digging.

    Nuff sed

  • Comment number 52.

    '27. At 13:43 18th Feb 2012, Sasha Clarkson wrote:
    @26 It's a fair question Junkk, '

    Thanks for that.

    'but Mason's record is better than most,

    Sadly, I must disagree...

    '... and I have seen no evidence to the contrary.'

    Because I have. And saved it. Which seems to be what is causing Newsnight producers spinning complaints some problems.

    In the face of clear written evidence, saying 'I don't think it is, therefore it isn't' is not enough to make the nasty man stop asking questions.

  • Comment number 53.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 54.

    ABOUT THIS BLOG... the BBC should put a stop to the foul-mouthed "comedians" , vile Dramas and chat show hosts blaspheming

  • Comment number 55.

    In reply to one of the previous comments, about imposing more restrictions on immigrants, the immigrants as the sole reason for the recession etc (I know the post was tongue in cheek)

    “UK budget deficit could be removed in March 2012 budget by UK requiring that all immigrants including those from EU required to purchase UK health insurance and agree to pay for own housing, education etc and have cash bond before entering the UK. Immigrants need to have 10 years tax payment records before becoming British nationals - far too much abuse there, also.”

    My response is
    Having been through the hurdles of immigration rules of the UK , which are highly variable at the best of times depending on the political climes, milking the immigrants for all they are worth has been standard practice for ages.

    Personally I have been through the Life in the UK test (the British citizenship test), which is probably the most important obstacle in this process, the older work permit process, ILR – Indefinite Leave to Remain application process, satisfying the Citizenship application paperwork, last but not least the citizenship ceremony itself.
    My advice to immigrants is as follows
    1. Stay positive about these ever changing goal posts, and requirements.
    2. Just get on with it and get these requirements out of the way
    3. Even though you have to pay for these test and applications, There are many free resources, supported by volunteers, which are there to help you, for example the free resources like the practice tests and the free iphone app from life in the UK Test advice site is quite helpful and discussed among many participants for its effectiveness. It also provides an advisory service, which has been quite popular among the immigrants.
    4. There is no need to spend time or money unnecessarily, to satisfy the immigration requirements.

    Above all keep a positive attitude towards the recession and all the very best.

  • Comment number 56.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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