Category Archives: Debt

Greek Christmas trees are dying of austerity


If there is one single story that epitomizes neoliberalism and its ruthless agenda, consider this one from the nation hardest hit by the Wall Street-bankster initirated Great Recession and the austerity regime imposed by the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank, and the European Commission.

From Kathimerini:

Demand for real Christmas trees has been declining steadily since the start of the crisis in Greece, and this year the Environment Ministry has approved the felling of around 17,000 fewer firs than last year, figures show.

Last year, 124,976 fir trees were cut down in the country, and in 2014 the number was 153,728. This shows a marked reduction from before the crisis, when the number of Christmas trees harvested came to above 200,000 a year on average.

The majority of the Christmas trees sold (85,935) last year came from cultivated forests around the country and the remainder from private farms.

And see the comments below for more.

Troikarchs continue to ramp up heat on Greece


No extra help for pensioners, they declare, even though a series of more than ten pension cuts have pushed half of elderly Greek below the poverty line,

From Kathimerini:

The institutions involved in Greece’s aid program have issued a “critical” report assessing whether unilateral measures announced by Athens are compatible with its bailout obligations, a German Finance Ministry spokesman said on Friday.

“The report is preliminary and it is quite critical,” spokesman Dennis Kolberg said, adding that the German government would evaluate the content in detail next week.

Germany had asked the institutions involved in Greece’s aid program on Wednesday to assess whether a planned pre-Christmas payout to poor pensioners was compatible with Greece’s bailout obligations.

More from Reuters:

Under Greece’s latest bailout, Athens can spend more on social programs if it exceeds its fiscal targets, provided it consults its creditors first. Earlier this year, Greek lawmakers approved a social justice bill providing health insurance to vulnerable citizens and offering jobs for the unemployed.

But political experts say the bonus was calculated to garner public support ahead of a big showdown with Greece’s emergency lenders, the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

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Almost a dozen pension cuts have pushed nearly half of Greece’s elderly to below the poverty line with income of less than 665 euros a month. After rent, utility bills and health care, they barely make ends meet.

Troikarchs demand still more austerity from Spain


Spain, one of the European nations hardest hit by the Wall Street-created Great Recession, must apply more austeirty, declared the International Monetary Fund, one of the three pillars of the troika overseeing loans to the most-afflicted European nations.

Austerity, of course, means yet more draconian measures inflicted on those least able to afford them, and n the case of Spain,, mandated measures include yet more cuts to education and continuation of hikes in valued-added [sales] taxes, that most regressive of all measures of mining the populace for wealth.

From El País:

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has called on Spain to raise reduced rates of value-added tax (VAT), special taxes and environmental levies, including those on fuel. What’s more, it is calling on the government to look into the efficiency of spending on education and health. The aim of all of these changes is to bring down the deficit and public debt, the size of which, says the global organization, is leaving the Spanish economy “highly vulnerable to external disturbances.”

“We are not suggesting austerity,” said Andrea Shaechter, the IMF economist in charge of monitoring the progress of the Spanish economy, at a press conference at the Bank of Spain on Tuesday. “The adjustment can be gradual and be carried out via tax hikes,” he added, using the example of sales tax. “Compared to the rest of Europe, there is a large margin in terms of the reduced rates of Value Added Tax [in Spain], such as the rate collected by restaurants.”

In its analysis of the Spanish economy, the institution headed up by Christine Lagarde says that the country’s public deficit could end up coming in above original forecasts. “Immediate attention should be focused on restarting a gradual fiscal consolidation with the aim of setting the high volume of public debt on a steady descending course,” the IMF concludes.

The way to do this, according to the IMF, is through tax rises. “Spain can allow itself a rise in revenues,” the report argues. “By gradually reducing the number of VAT exemptions, the amount it collects would approach those of other EU countries. What’s more, and especially in these times of low energy prices, there is room to raise special taxes and environmental rates, as well as dealing with the inefficiencies and differentiated treatment of the tax system,” it argues. The IMF believes that this would see the tax burden pass from work to consumption, which would help growth.

Greece grants relief to its poorest; Troika is furious


Syriza Party leader Alexis Tsipras lead his party to victory in Greece two years ago on a promise to end the austerity imposed on his nation by the financial oligarchs of the Troika — the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission.

Their reign had deepened the nation’s staggering unemployment, forced massive pay, healthcare and benefits reductions, raised taxes, and forced the selloff of many of the nation’s resources and infrastructure to foreign investors.

But as prime minister he failed to deliver, delivering his nation over to yet more rounds of austerity and sending his party plunging in popularity.

But now his government has offered a modest measure of relief to those most deeply affected by the diktat of the Troika, and the oligarch are furious.

To Vima reports on the relief measure:

The Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced on Thursday evening that 617 million euros will be distributed to 1.6 million low income pensioners, while the scheduled VAT hike on the islands of the north Aegean Sea – which are bearing the brunt of the refugee crisis – will be suspended. As he explained in his statements, these actions were possible thanks to exceeding the primary surplus targets.

“It has been the government’s pledge to redistribute every euro of surplus from available sources to our weaker citizens. Today, staying true to this pledge, we decide the immediate redistribution of the outperformance of 2016 revenues to low-income pensioners” the Prime Minister explained in his televised proclamation via ERT. Pensioners on less than 850 euros will receive the benefit, which will be at least 300 euros.

Specifically 10% of pensioners (about 270,000) will receive 500 to 850 euros, 20% (about 570,000) will receive 300 to 500 euros and 30% (about 750,000) will receive 300 euros. These benefits will be paid out along with January’s pensions, which are due on the 22nd of December. The Prime Minister added that these benefits are 4.7 times more than the EKAS benefit that was suspended in 2016.

Regarding the planned VAT [Troika-mandated sales tax] hike, the PM stressed that it will be implemented “but though when our fellow citizens are bearing the weight of the whole of Europe due to the refugee crisis. It is time that Europe recognized this”, the PM explained.

And the reaction, as expected

From a second To Vima story:

The Greek Prime Minister’s decision to distribute 617 million euros among pensioners, while the second bailout review has yet to conclude, appears to have ‘surprised’ Brussels.

A European officer noted that the EU had not been informed and estimated that they will make the negotiations between Europe and the IMF for the surplus targets of 2018 and beyond harder.

Sources from the European Commission also reported that it appears that there will be serious difficulties in the implementation of the recent Eurogroup decision.

So reducing Greece to the status of a Third World nation isn’t enough.

In a reverse Oliver Twist ploy, the Troika is demanding, “Please, sir, can I have some more.”

Greeks hold strike, marches against austerity


With the reign of austerity continuing in Greece, an ultimatum accompanying the modest debt relief granted the nation by the financial oligarchs of the Troika earlier this week, Greeks held a general strike today and turned out on the streets.

From Kathimerini:

A nationwide strike in Greece against spending cuts disrupted public transport, state-run schools, ferries and national rail services Thursday, and left public hospitals running with emergency staff.

More than 7,000 demonstrators marched in three separate demonstrations in the capital to protest against cost cuts the government is taking to satisfy its bailout creditors.

“We can either accept our continuing descent into poverty or fight against it,” theater actor Dionysis Xenakis said.

He was joined at the rally by musicians playing drums, as a nearby group of demonstrators chanted “People, fight back. They’re drinking your blood.”

Protests were held in cities around Greece, with more than 5,000 at marches in the country’s second largest city, Thessaloniki.

Troika agrees to modest debt relief for Greece


Greece, the European nation hardest hit by the Wall Street-sparked Great Recession, has been granted some modest debt relief, but conditions set the Troika [the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank, and European Commission] mandate that the regime of austerity continue.

That means that cutbacks in pay, pensions, healthcare, and other social programs will continue, along with privatization of national resources and higher taxes on necessary consumer goods.

But the conditions set also require that the government maintain a high surplus, a measure ensuring that austerity pains will continue.

From Ekathimerini:

Monday’s decision at a Eurogroup meeting in Brussels to approve short-term debt relief measures for Greece was a “decisive step towards stabilizing the Greek economy and restoring trust,” the government spokesman said on Tuesday.

Speaking to the press, Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that the government will continue negotiations with its eurozone partners for longer-term measures to reduce Greece’s huge debt pile, but stressed that Athens will “under no circumstances” agree to more belt-tightening once the bailout program is complete.

Tzanakopoulos was referring to the International Monetary Fund, which has demanded more structural measures in order to join the Greek program.

“The IMF cannot pressure the Greek government for new measures and not its European partners for lower primary surplus targets,” Tzanakopoulos said, referring to a demand that Greece maintain a primary fiscal surplus of 3.5 percent after 2018, a factor considered crucial by the IMF.

His comments echoed those of Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos who warned international creditors, including the IMF, on Monday not to pressure Athens to implement measures it had not previously agreed to.

But the IMF isn’t as happy with the deal as Tzanakopoulos indicated and has called for a halt to further austerity measures, as well as a lower GDP surplus, reports To Vima:

The International Monetary Fund welcomed the short-term debt relief measures that were announced at the Eurogroup, however it noted that they are not sufficient.

An IMF officer reportedly told Bloomberg that the Fund insists that the primary surplus targets after 2018 must not exceed 1.5% of the GDP, since anything higher is unrealistic.

As the officer commented, the targets set must not require austerity and argued that the fewer years the high targets are maintained, the lesser the impact will be on the country’s growth, since the 3.5% GDP target will require additional reforms in the pension and tax system.

The officer also called Athens and Brussels to present measures to be taken, should the primary surplus target of 3.5% be maintained after 2018.

The Troika’s official statement is posted here.

Finally, some debt relief for Greece on the table


After cutting out their pound of flesh from Greeks workers, the poor, the disabled, and their schools, as well as forcing their sale of much of their national wealth, the Troikarchs may be cutting the beleaguered nation a little slack.

Greek was the nation hardest hit by the Great Recession, the crisis ignited by the greed of banksters in Wall Street and London,, and they’ve paid the highest price for the ensuing crisis.

From Kathimerini:

Eurozone finance ministers hope to forge a compromise on Greek reforms on Monday in a final push to secure the support of the International Monetary Fund for Athens’s bailout program by the end of the year.

The 19 ministers of the currency bloc were holding their regular meeting a day after Italian voters rejected constitutional reform plans in a referendum, putting the euro under renewed pressure and reigniting the smoldering eurozone crisis, further complicating the Greek talks.

Athens is required by its eurozone creditors to pass wide-ranging reforms and sell state assets under an 86 billion euros ($92 billion) bailout program, but negotiators have not been able to agree on labor and energy reforms or Greece’s 2018 fiscal targets, leaving ministers to close the remaining gaps.

A deal would allow discussions on substantial relief measures for Greece, whose debt, at about 180 percent of gross domestic product, is the highest in the eurozone.

Meanwhile, the banksters who caused it all continue to collect their billions in bonuses. and continue to toast their greed aboard their yachts, rather than eating the swill in the prisons where they belong.