Saturday, June 8, 2013

George Papandreou - Modern Day Greece's New Sun Good?

NZZ published a biting article about George Papandreou which really deserves translation:

"There he stood in the main conference hall of the Interlaken Congress Center and presented himself as an Elder Statesman. Dressed in a suit of fine yarn, the former Prime Minister of Greece, whose family had guided the destiny of their homeland into the wrong paths many years ago, gave at the Swiss Economic Forum (SEF) advice not so much to his own people but rather to the Europeans, advice as to how the Old Continent could achieve an economic turn-around. One had to rub one's eyes and wonder why he had not implemented his 'wisdoms' while he was Prime Minister. It was only the financial markets which eventually showed Greece that it had lived beyond its means and that it was no longer competitive - resulting in Mr. Papandreou's removal from office in 2011. Sadly, Mr. Papandreou did not care to discuss his own contribution to Greece's downfall. Rather, his country had meanwhile become the herald of reforms and for this reason, the rest of Europe would now have to move to help the periphery back on its feet.

He has no sympathy for austerity and the Amercan-born could not help but to mention the Nazi past of Germans in Greece. Tax competition within the EU cannot work and the Northern EZ countries have to increase their spending and wages in order to boost aggregate demand in the common currency area. Not to mention the need for community bonds in the Euro countries ("Euro Bonds") to prevent the insolvency of states and to ensure the survival of the single currency. The modern Greek version of the Sun God pointed his finger at others at the SEF. The real Greek tragedy is the deeply rooted 'larmoyanz' (*) and the lacking will of the former ruling elite to admit their mistakes".

(*) I checked the word 'larmoyanz' in the dictionary. It means: oversensibility bordering on whining and excessive self-pity.

Personally, I had fallen victim to Mr. Papandreou's charisma, his ability to eloquently express himself in English and his polished demeanor for quite some time. I thought that, deep down, he had a Master Plan and everything else was just appearance to cover up his true (and tough!) strategies versus Greece's funders and creditors.

In fact, I had considered his referendum idea as a unique negotiating ploy. The referendum idea would test the nerves of Merkozy and before they lost them, Mr. Papandreou would offer to retract the referendum if the Troika offered a 2-digit BEUR figure for investments in the Greek private sector. Before that meeting in Nice, I had written that we would now see whether Mr. Papandreou was a Margaret Thatcher or only 'the son of his father'. Sadly, it turned out that he was only the son of his father.

I just came across the below interview which Mr. Papandreou gave on the Canadian TV program The Agenda earlier this week. After watching the full 31 minutes, I could understand again why I had fallen for the man. He does indeed carry off a good show. Sadly, it was a show and no more.


  1. One most interesting question in the interview (after 9'):

    "Did you feel in Greece that you were maikng those decisions to try to get back to daylight or was it more of a sense of the outside world imposing this on all of us and we don't really have an option here"?

    Papandreou's response was wishy-washy, but the question related to probably his greatest failure.

    Whenever a country gets into external payment crises triggering difficult consequences for its people/voters, the most important thing for the government and/or Prime Minister is to visibly call the shots. Bill Rhodes had advised Mr. Papandreou that he could under no circumstances leave the impression as though he is only doigg all of this to make the outside world happy; because Greece doesn't have an option.

    Mr. Papandreou never called the shots and the result was that the outside world ended up telling Greece what it should and had to do.

    One sure way to lose the support of one's people/electorate!

  2. Mr Papandreou was fired (there is no other word for it) by the G20, when he proposed the referendum. The blatant way this was carried out, in front of the whole world, indicates that a) the referendum threat was real ie he was preparing an exit. A Greek exit from Euro would take lots of time and be very obvious(think of the necessity of changing ATM's) making a run on Greek banks certain.Any plot to take Greece out of the Euro must take account of this fact. The referendum was apparently a plot to do the work while pretending that nothing will really happen, thus avoiding the bank run. b) There are serious global political reasons that necessitate the Greek presence in the euro.

    1. My whole point is that no one other than the Greek parliament can fire a Greek PM. G20, Merkozy & Co. can only threaten him to send Greece back to the stone age unless he withdraws the referendum and/or resigns. That's one bluff. The other bluff is that Papandreou says 'ok, do that but I will not withdraw the referendum until I get from you this!'.

      And then one will quickly find out which side blinks first. Personally, I think Merkozy & Co. would have basically done anything just to get Papandreou to withdraw the referendum, but that's only a guess of mine. I just don't think that anyone among the arrogant EU-elites would have had the balls to chance that Greece causes havoc to the Euro-system.