Michael Roberts on the continuing sweating of the Euro, the trouble in Spain and Italy and the signal now that support for Greece is going to be cut short with the IMF having signalled that it won’t take part in any additional financing for Greece and German Vice Chancellor Philipp Roesler saying: “What’s emerging is that Greece will probably not be able to fulfil its conditions. But if Greece doesn’t fulfil those conditions, then there can be no more payments.”
The reality is that Greece was and is a very weak capitalist economy run by one of the most inept and corrupt capitalist class anywhere. Its people work the longest hours in Europe and have raised productivity considerably since joining the EU and the Eurozone (see my post, Europe: default or devaluation, 16 November 2011). But big business and the political elite in Greece have squandered the value created by their workforce, by taking it abroad or engaging in conspicuous tax-avoiding consumption. The World Bank ranks Greece at 100th (just ahead of Papua New Guinea) in the list of ease of doing business. It’s easier to do business in the Republic of Yemen than in Greece. It takes 77 days (and probably a few bribes) for a business to turn on electric service; in Germany, it takes 17 days. Greece ranks 70th on the most recent press freedom index, behind Bhutan and ahead of Nicaragua. Only one in ten Greeks think there are enough corruption prosecutions or strong enough punishments for financial offences. During the crisis, Greece’s governing elites have not dealt with corruption but instead imposed austerity on their people, mainly by destroying their pensions and public services.
Martin Wolfe is also challenging the nostrum about the crisis being brought on countries that deserve it because their workers are more idle than those in more prudent and hard-working surplus countries.
Economic crises bring forth a great deal of nonsense. One of the most frequent bits of such nonsense is the idea that the countries in crisis in the eurozone are full of idle people, while the countries that are not in crisis are full of hard-working ones.
This, it so happens, is the reverse of the truth. Indeed, if one went by the hours worked on average by each worker, one would conclude that the fewer hours people work, the less crisis-prone will be the country.
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