The calamity of austerity in Greece

Niki Best
Wed 12, 2018, Articles Member-contributed
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While the troika celebrated the end of its Greek bailout programme, the Transnational Institute TNI was busy reporting on the devastating impact of its enforced austerity.

According to the European Central Bank [ECB], the European Commission [EC] and the International Monetary Fund [IMF], Greece has recuperated and its economy is now fit enough to grow and its public finances strong enough to bear the interest on public debt. TNI, however, points out that the troika’s criteria for success are very thin, overlooking huge human costs in the process.

For the EC, Greece’s-interest-obligations-criterion will remain the most important for the better part of this century, as Ewald Engelen points out in the Dutch weekly De Groene Amsterdammer. During the crisis twenty-five percent of the Greek economy vanished for good. Water, electricity and seaports have been sold for peanuts, the revenues flowing off to rich Americans, Chinese and North Europeans. The unemployment rate is almost one fifth: one million Greeks. House prices are still only half of what they used to be in 2009. Structural poverty is still massive and has sharply increased in rural areas. Per capita income decreased by one third. Meanwhile, food prices in Greece have risen more rapidly than inflation in the eurozone.

In its report, Democracy not for sale, TNI concludes that the troika has severely harmed the human rights of the Greeks. The right to adequate food and the state’s obligation to provide the means of existence, have been seriously disregarded. More than 40 per cent of Greek children in 2016 faced material and social deprivation. The winners seem to be foreign food producers and large foreign retailers, who during the crisis took over from the Greek small-scale petty producers. Former net food exporter, Greece now has become a net importer of food. Ewald Engelen reminds us of this finding of Nobel prize winner Joseph Stiglitz: in its new market legislation for Greece the troika stretched the definition of fresh milk from 5 to 10 days, opening up the Greek market to cheap pasteurised milk from North European dairy producers.

According to Olivier de Schutter, former special rapporteur on the Right to Food (2008-2014) at the UN and a member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the EU could be held liable for violating the Greeks’ right to food.

MeRA25 could play an important role to bring about such a charge. DiEM25 with its European New Deal strives to put an end to the disproportionate power of large companies and their lobbying in Brussels.

Image credit

Michael Kountouris, Greece, Cagle

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