Saturday, 13 February 2010

Greece is the word, democracy isn't

Ancient Greece was the birthplace of democracy - the word coming from two Greek words demos (meaning 'the people') and kratos (meaning 'to rule').

It was very clear this week that in modern Greece the people certainly don't rule, though they are fighting back.

By joining the Eurozone, Greece is subject to the Growth and Stability Pact (meaning its deficit cannot exceed 3% of GDP) and its currency is run by the European Central Bank (ECB). As a relatively minor economic force what hope have the people of Greece got of the ECB taking decisions in its favour?

The EU approved austerity plan was reported on the BBC as being:
  • Cut budget deficit below EU ceiling of 3% of GDP by 2012, from 12.7% in 2009
  • Freeze public sector salaries and cut bonuses
  • Replace only one in five of people leaving civil service
  • Raise average retirement age by two years to 63, by 2015
  • Raise taxes on fuel, tobacco, alcohol and property
In short, freeze public sector pay, cut public sector jobs , make people work longer, raise regressive taxes. Yes, the EU's solution to the crisis of neoliberalism is more neoliberalism.

There are lessons for the UK here too - our deficit is about the same as that of Greece (12.5% to 13%). If the UK was in the Eurozone we might be having austerity packages imposed on us. As ever with the UK though we don't wait to have economic stupidity imposed upon us - we have three political parties fighting a general election on so far mystery austerity packages (cuts: bold, swingeing or savage - the choice is yours!).