Wednesday, December 19, 2012

EU Task Force vs. Troika - where are Greek media?

I recommend making two tables next to each other. List on one side all the articles, blogposts, tweets, etc. published on the Troika in the last 6 months and list on the other side all those published on the EU Task Force (TFGR). I suspect the result would be a very one-sided one in favor of the Troika.

Transpose this into a corporate debt restructuring. The Troika would be the equivalent of a Steering Committee of lenders and the TFGR would be the equivalent of a consulting firm. The Steering Committee reports to the lenders which it represents; the consulting firm reports to the company's CEO. The Steering Committee makes sure that the interests of lenders are defended; the consulting firm helps the CEO to get the company back into shape.

If you were a shareholder, which of the two efforts would be of greater interest to you?

The one-sided fascination on the part of Greek media with Troika-beancounters is simply not understandable to me. It starts with travelling schedules of the Troika. When will they come? How long will they stay? Why did they interrupt the visit? What will be their verdict? Etc.

Search for publications of the TFGR's activities and you will not find too many.

If one is to believe the latest Quarterly Report of the TFGR, there is an enormous quantity of activities under way to provide technical assistance to Greece in reforming the economy and public administration. The reader gets the impression like the building of a new country is in process. Perhaps much of that is 'hot air'. Perhaps it isn't.

This blogpost describes very well the desolate spirits presently prevailing among Greek population; the lack of a future perspective. Well, is that a surprise when all one hears and reads about is how things will get a lot worse in the near future? Of course, hearing and reading good news will not have any impact on the hard facts of the country's problems but publishing good news does have an impact on public sentiment. It is one thing to suffer in a hopeless situation and quite another to suffer with the prospect of a better future.

If one believes the latest TFGR report, there is something to hope for. The problems are so obvious and so large that it seems obvious that, if they get fixed, a more prosporous Greece must be the automatic consequence.

Thus, I would strongly recommend that Greek media, bloggers, twitters, etc. devote time to what the TFGR is doing. Report on their activities, comment on the plausibility of their plans, stimulate a public discussion about those plans.

What is the objective here? An attempt to build a better Greece or a desire to explain why the country is doomed?


  1. Agreed, the TFGR work is barely covered in the media.

    I think, though, they actually prefer it that way. It's long-term cultural change they want to achieve, and that's something only greeks can do. Outsiders can only assist.

    And the sort of shrill greek media coverage would probably be counterproductive.

    I agree, it looks very promising.

  2. By and large the TFGR is not responsible for implementing its recommendations. It's mainly the Greek government and to some degree Greek private enterprise who have to do that. The Greek politicians will want to take the credit for changes - after all it is their jobs on the line.

    Things do get reported, privatisation of 20+ ports, sale of buildings in London, Ljubljana etc, public sector reforms, Jessica funded urban renewal projects. All of which probably had TFGR involvement.

    But of course sites like Keep Talking Greece prefer to focus on trivialities like 92 euros a day expenses for visiting TFGR staff. By his own admission the author of that blog has only read the meagre eKathemerini item.

    The reason the Troika gets more coverage is because its decisions have material effect, e.g. the most recent tranche has enabled reopening of the Athens Swimming complex. And the principle actors - Lagarde, Barroso and Draghi - have high media profiles irrespective of Greece.

    Whats missing from the latest report is a plain language (i.e. without the EU gobbledygook) summary of what's changed since the previous report, and the one before that.

    I found this euBusiness document which is easier going than the report itself ==>> Task Force for Greece, it also has information on how the TFGR is 'funded'.

    With respect to progress I'm not convinced that the truth is as rosy as Reichenbach, Barroso etc would have us believe. Hopefully someone is doing a detailed comparative analysis of the three reports so far issued (Nov 2011, Mar 2012, Dec 2012). My casual perusal doesn't indicate too much progress, due in part to having a couple of elections, but also due to 'business as usual' politics etc.

    There will be no meaningful progress unless the government can survive for least 3 years. There is nothing the TFGR can do to change the political culture of Greece, nor should it try - that's up to the people of Greece.


    1. I've read all three reports. I haven't kept a detailed scorecard of progress, but it is ongoing, and is getting far more detailed - in parts.

      My main focus has been on Administrative Reform of Central Government. And there, they claim they have the "transformation plan" agreed for all ministries by the end of 2012, with the actual "transformation" happening in "early 2013". Those are actually pretty hard, short-term dates.

      The language is, yes, pretty opaque, but I think that's to avoid making greeks angry.

      As to what the "transformation" is going to look like, the TFGR reports match up pretty well exactly with the "key recommendations" and "executive summary" sections of the OECD Review into Greek Central Administration Governance, from last year.

      Hardly surprising, since it was the greek Ministry of Administrative Reform who did most of the work on it!

    2. My respect for your clear comment.
      About the Greek media: I know about the Greek media because my friend follows all the channels and I get the translations.
      That is why I agree more with Herr Kastner. It fits completely with my Greek friend's view.

      Truth is not per definition rosy, but concerning Greece it will get rosy when people finally get out of the hopelessness, and feel the strength again to go on, and not to drown and die in negativity. Negativity is overwhelming present in the Greek media.
      Even when my friend uses headphones I can hear them shouting to each other. Not one is listening to the other. They all talk at the same time.

      The change will not be there by just believing it will change. The change will not be there by not believing in it. Things have to be done. Barosso has published a wonderful list of actions/ideas. It is the script of a program that creates, if followed, chances. Without it there is not any chance at all.

      My new video is there:
      The Task Force for Greece (TFGR) ~ Message for the Greek media

  3. Dear Klaus Kastner,

    Yesterday I started to make a video for YouTube about the Task Force for Greece, and I have used words from Barosso in it for the introduction, also your words, with your "guesses" and questions, Of course I mention your blog, your posts, I add all links in the information. It needs time to render, and inspection if all words are written right. If all is perfect (enough).
    When it is uploaded in my FondOfGreek channel I will send a new comment here.

    Note: I must admit that also me, myself, did not read anything earlier about it.
    Politics and News have been a long time (many many decades) a too heavy psychological weight for me.
    Now I have "found" Barosso, and the wonderful TFGR.
    Thank you.

    1. Watched your videos Antoinette - very good. But unfortunately I'm not a Greek journalist.

  4. Dear Klaus Kastner,

    I have been thinking about Greece's troubles - and one solution for young people would be to make a move to Britain. Even in the short term, it would guarantee them some social benefits.

    Under the EU regulations a government does not have to pay benefits to anyone who has not had their residence registered in that country for five years.

    This five year ruling is crucial for the UK because it has no registration scheme. That means any EU citizen arriving in the UK can claim benefits from the moment they arrive. After all, the onus is on the country to prove that the immigrant has *not* been registered.

    The only downside is the weather, which many Greeks might not find so conducive.

    What are your thoughts?

    1. Dear Gemma, beste Gemma (ik ben ook Nederlands),

      Een dag eerder schreef Herr Kastner:
      "The message that something positive is happening must reach the ‘common man’. Above all, it must reach those 41% of the young generation who, as I read today, are considering leaving the country. If they got the message that Greece is the place where the future action will be, they might change their minds and take part in that action."

      Groet uit Noorwegen, fijne kerstdagen!

    2. One of the key differences between the US as a currency union and the Eurozone is that in the US you have more or less complete mobility of labor. If the jobs disappear in Bosten but are created in San Diegeo, Americans will quickly relocate several thousand miles (but they remain in America!). While I am certain that there will be a significant labor movement away from the Periphery to other places in the EU, I am not sure that this is a defensible long-term proposition. A US state is something different from an EU country. I can't see the prospect of an EU which says in order to make a living, you have to leave your own country and turf. To me, that's a cultural matter and not an economic one.

  5. The TFGR document is pretty convincing and pretty positive. Its nonappearance in the Greek media is probably due to a number of factors. Two have to do with the Greek media: TFGR has no drama or conflict, no totemic evil (IMF) and it involves long term planning (an incomprehensible concept for most Greeks). But I agree with R. Bourke: they like it this way. To drive the point home: is the document written in Greek? I doubt it. Not many Greeks can read such a document in English. Also there is no direct link from Pres. Barosso site to the document, so it can be found only through Google or DuckDuckGo. This is borderline hiding.
    However I suspect that for many Greeks it will also make oppressive reading, as it implies that we move towards a well organized state ie away from the addiction to politically covered money or land grabs that have sustained the Greek dream for so long. Hence the need for low key operation. Countries have a few differences with corporations, a basic one being that the CEO does not need the vote of millions of stakeholders.

  6. Dear Klaus Kastner,

    More and more I get updated with the Task Force for Greece.
    It is amazing.
    For many many years (decades) I did not follow politics anymore, was so disappointed, and in a depression because of the situation in the world.

    Because of the situation in Greece, and finding in your blog subjects with explanations that I can really read and understand, I awaken and become again a part of that what is going on, but in a constructive way. I feel I can do something. Talk at least. By reacting in your blog and be allowed to write what I write.
    Stupid or not.

    I have been talking about that, what I find back in the Questions and Answers document of the European Commission, and all I was mentioning, wishing and hoping for, and more, are all in the document of the European Commission!!!! :))
    That is giving me a really wonderful energy.
    Because of that I see a glimpse of light, hope is back.
    I am continuing the serial about it in more videos in my Greek YouTube channel, to try to reach the Greeks and the Greek media.
    Yesterday I also made:
    The Task Force for Greece, part 2 ~ Questions and Answers ~ Question 1

    Thank you for your great effort to explain, to create insight.
    True and real insight.