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Friday, February 22, 2013


Greece crisis: Readers reflect on parallels with Argentina

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The recent turmoil in the Greek financial markets has been likened by experts to the crisis in Argentina which resulted in the collapse of the peso in 2002.
The BBC introduced Argentinian Nora Casiello to Greek William David Eustratios Mallinson. We asked them to share their thoughts on the economic and political issues that led to financial difficulties in their countries.
William Mallinson is a university lecturer, writer and political activist in Greece. He believes that Greece must leave the euro in order to survive the current crisis.
Nora Casiello is an English teacher and political sciences graduate in Rosario, Argentina. She was in Buenos Aries at the time of the 2001-02 crisis.

So why did it all happen?

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William Mallinson
Greece needs to leave the Euro now”
William Mallinson
William: The situation in Greece occurred, in an immediate sense, because of some false numbers which allowed the country to join the Euro.
Greece's debt is now growing faster than its economy.
It is a vicious circle - the more the borrowing, the smaller the economy becomes.
Default is a mathematical certainty.
Greece therefore needs to leave the euro now and regain its sovereignty.

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Nora Casiello at the Stadium on Mount Parnassus in Delphi
I would rather an orderly austerity plan than chaos”
Nora Casiello
Nora: I am sure the IMF and the main economic powers had their own agenda when they lent money to my country, but somebody in Argentina accepted that money.
The worst thing was that most of the money lent to my country was not invested but squandered.
When Argentina fell into a recession, the prices of our products were no longer competitive.
Devaluation meant a huge transfer of money from those who had saved to those who had not.

Who was to blame?

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Greek MPs are primarily responsible”
William Mallinson
William: Greek MPs are primarily responsible for agreeing to this economic situation in order to save their positions and their skins. They earn far too much, about four times as much as a full professor.
By voting for imposed measures that are destroying the lives of ordinary Greeks like me they have shown that they care more for themselves than for Greece."
Nora: In the case of Argentina, everyone was to blame. Of course, politicians and the establishment were mainly responsible, but everybody enjoyed consuming imported goods and the possibility of buying with credit cards.

How did the community react?

William: The community has reacted with angry restraint, despite the use of illegal gas by the police, which caused hundreds of metro passengers at the metro of the main square, Syntagma, to collapse on Wednesday.
For several weeks, hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens have been petitioning parliament, which has ignored them. Democracy is dying.

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State workers are pushed by riot police in San Juan, Argentina, April 2002.
People reacted with anger”
Nora Casiello
Nora: When the government announced austerity measures, the people reacted with anger, because they were either directly affected by it or found it unfair.
Then, the government established the "corralito", which imposed restrictions on peoples' bank accounts. This triggered the first big demonstration and "pot-banging", which was followed by violent demonstrations.
Several people died in Buenos Aires and the provinces and, once again, supermarkets and shops were vandalised and robbed. But only a very small part of the population took part in this.

What was the personal impact on you?

William: The personal impact on me is that my net salary was cut arbitrarily by a quarter. I have less money to feed my family and have had to take out a hated bank loan, which helps the bank more than my family.
Prices have also shot up. Greek petrol is the most expensive in Europe, while Greek salaries (except for politicians) are very low. The pips are being made to squeak.
Nora: I was one of the lucky ones: I did not have savings at the bank, having used my money to fully purchase an apartment, so I neither lost nor gained. And, fortunately, I kept my job.

Are austerity measures the right way forward?

William: Greece must no longer succumb to the European Central Bank, European Commission and IMF's blackmail and leave the euro, declare the debt illegal, nationalise the big banks and regain our sovereignty.
More co-operation with Russia is also required, since it is the most powerful local country, and has traditionally been friendly towards Greece.
Nora: Yes, I think they are. I would rather have a government applying an orderly austerity plan than the chaos and unfair distribution of effort that resulted from devaluation in my country.

Final thoughts ...

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The average Greek citizen simply cannot pay”
William Mallinson
William: I think there will be backstage pressure by the IMF and the European Central Bank. There will certainly be more chaos in the meantime, since the average Greek citizen simply cannot pay, while the corrupt high-level politicians, shipping people, some club-owners and some private doctors and lawyers continue to hide their taxable money.
If the Greek government does not resign soon, I foresee targeted violence by extremist groups.
Nora: Based on my experience (I have lived through terrorism and repression, hyperinflation and several devaluations), I would say that we, the people, are resilient, and we always find a way out. But we rarely review our own mistakes, we blame others (who very often deserve the blame) but excuse our own actions.
We must learn to improve the institutions and the laws, and not just expect the "magic solution" promised by anyone seeking our vote.

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