Posts Tagged ‘Budget’

Greece Surrenders to Troika

Monday, July 13th, 2015

After six months of jerking around European negotiators, Greece’s far left Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras finally reaped the fruits of his labors: caving in to austerity measures far worse than the ones Greek voters rejected a week ago in exchange for more loans.

The EU demanded real, demonstrable, non-fake, under-heavy-manners austerity from Greece, rather than the fake kind they were used to pretending to follow:

For those who missed today’s festivities in Brussels, here is the 30,000 foot summary: Europe has given Greece a “choice”: hand over sovereignty to Germany Europe or undergo a 5 year Grexit “time out”, which is a polite euphemism for get the hell out.

As noted earlier, here are the 12 conditions laid out as a result of the latest Eurogroup meeting, which are far more draconian than anything presented to Greece yet and which effectively require that Greece cede sovereignty to Europe, this time even without the implementation of a technocratic government.

  1. Streamlining VAT
  2. Broadening the tax base
  3. Sustainability of pension system
  4. Adopt a code of civil procedure
  5. Safeguarding of legal independence for Greece ELSTAT – the statistics office
  6. Full implementation of automatic spending cuts
  7. Meet bank recovery and resolution directive
  8. Privatize electricity transmission grid
  9. Take decisive action on non-performing loans
  10. Ensure independence of privatization body TAIPED
  11. De-Politicize the Greek administration
  12. Return of the Troika to Athens (the paper calls them the institutions… for now)

Greece must also hand over €50 billion in assets to an escrow fund it can’t control.

Just think: If Tsipras hadn’t been such an ass, Greece could have reached a far-less onerous deal to continue the farce another year or so, and probably before their banks started running out of money.

It seems that Yanis Varoufakis’ ideas about game theory don’t work when one side holds all the cards and the other is dead broke. Who knew?

Greece and the EU Compromise to…Kick The Can Further Down the Road

Friday, July 10th, 2015

It looks like we have an actual, honest-to-God compromise, in that Greece, in exchange for not having their economy collapse and descend into anarchy and cannibalism, will pretend to implement real reforms, while the Troika, in exchange for those promises, and not being blamed for the impending global recession, will give Greece still more loans, write down some previous loans, and pretend this actually fixes the problem.

So expect to see another round of this dance in six months to a year.

Germany caved on debt relief. Greece?

A cursory look at the “new” Greek proposal to creditors suggests PM Alexis Tsipras may have sold out the referendum “no” vote in a final, desperate attempt to avert an economic catastrophe and the collapse of the country’s banks which will be cut off from ELA as of Monday morning in the event Brussels and Athens do not come to terms over the weekend.

And indeed, the austerity outlined in the latest proposal is more severe than the version voters rejected last Sunday. Among the proposals evidently agreed to: No retirement until age 67 or 40 years of paying into the system. Caveat: Pension reforms don’t actually kick in until October, so they’re still kicking the can down the road on that as well.

Also: “Greece will succeed in transferring bonds currently held by the ECB to the European Stability Mechanism.” If the ESM is truly the euro’s firewall, then they’re about to get an infusion of crappy Communist-era Soviet concrete…

Other Greek crisis tidbits:

  • Earlier Greece had floated their totally serious compromise proposal that didn’t cut any pensions.
  • Faced with impending national bankruptcy, Greece’s ruing left-wing Syriza Party concentrates on the essentials: investigating reporters who opposed them. (Hat tip: National Review.)
  • People in Latvia and Lithuania sneer at spendthrift Greece.
  • Greece demonstrates 150 years of socialist failure.
  • Greek event timelines.
  • Greece probably wouldn’t do as well after a Grexit as Argentina did after their default.
  • The sneaky return of Drachmas? Of course this was before the latest agreement. But wouldn’t it be hilarious if Greece got one final big bailout, then turned around and pulled off a Grexit anyway?
  • UKIP head Nigel Farge had some advice earlier in the week:

    Not in 100% agreement, but there’s a lot of bracing truth in there. But the problem, of course, is that Tsipras, as all Socialists do, does indeed want to have his cake and eat it too…

  • What It’s Like To Be an Honest Taxpayer in Greece

    Friday, July 10th, 2015

    I came across this comment from a Slashdot thread on programmers leaving Greece (usual online source caveats apply), and thought it was meaty enough to be worth excerpting and highlighting on its own:

    Let me tell you what happens when you’re 100% legal and declare everything up to the last penny you get as a software developer. In 2012 I had 100,000 Euros income paid 86,000 Euros spent on taxes (income tax with surprisingly different brackets than last year, “temporary” property tax, “temporary special contribution” 4% on the total turnover, mandatory social security, 55% of your current income tax as downpayment for next year). The year before I made 74,000 Euros and paid “only” 50,000 or thereabouts. In return I got: no schools, no roads, no pension, more taxes, more family members depending on me to live. The more you work the less you make (unless you have an ever-shrinking business). Crazy? That’s the Greek tax brackets for you.

    Meanwhile: I have to pay for my own hospital plan because in case I get sick I have to notify the public insurance carrier 15 days in advance of emergency surgery (no kidding!) or 3-4 months before booking an appointment with a doctor. I have to get an additional, expensive pension plan on top of the 350 Euros per month I am currently paying as mandatory social security because there will be no money when I’m 67 years old or have worked 40+ years to get the minimum pension of 700 Euros (nominal; actual payment after taxes and mandatory social security is around 480 Euros). I also need to set aside money to get the kids I’m planning on having to a private school because there are no teachers (not even substitutes) half of the time in the public schools.

    If you are wondering why people tax evade you have to first ask the questions: 1. how much does the state take in taxes and 2. what does the state offer for the money it takes from its citizens? If the answers are “most of your money” and “not that much at all” respectively it doesn’t take a genius to see why you get an endemic tax evasion for free.

    Anyway. After three years of battling the system I gave up and moved away. My last tax filing in Greece was 2014 for my income in 2013. I am owed a 13,000 Euro tax return since August 10th, 2014. Of course it’s NOT credited. And we’re talking about money I have paid as a tax downpayment to the state since August 2013. They hold my money hostage for 2 years and they won’t give it to me. Also, don’t make the mistake of asking whether there’s an interest rate for those two years. Don’t be silly. There’s not! Adding insult to injury I’m still a Greek tax citizen which means I get to pay taxes for the dividends I’m paid from my company abroad. Don’t be ridiculous, of course they are NOT offset by the money the Greek state owes me! I have so far paid another 40+ thousand Euro taxes in these two years where the Greek state owes me the 13,000 Euro tax return.

    I understand all this sounds alien to you. Why so much taxation, why no services in return, why the state isn’t punctual in paying back. Beats me, brothers and sisters. I have concluded that one must be outright insane to try and do business if they’re born in Greece.

    And here you have the endpoint of the cradle-to-grave welfare state: benefits are theoretically generous for those on the dole (though good luck navigating the maze of inefficient, corrupt bureaucracy to collect them), while taxes are prohibitively high for those actually work for a living.

    This is why implementing fake austerity through higher taxes never works: It drives out the productive, the social compact is irreparably broken, and those living off the state’s largess feel no qualms about wringing every last possible penny from it.

    Greece Starts Reaping the Fruits of Its Choices

    Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

    The problem with holding a gun to your own head is, sooner or later, someone is going to call your bluff.

    EU leaders have given Greece until Sunday to “Reach a new bailout agreement with its creditors” or “face bankruptcy and expulsion from the euro currency system.”

    The European Central Bank also hiked Greek ELA Haircuts. Translation: Hope you enjoy the scent of burning bridges, Greece, because now your banking system is even more screwed than before the referendum. (Note: Zero Hedge is down as of this posting. Maybe China got tired of him exposing their financial house of cards…)

    And Greece’s leftist PM Alexis Tsipras is still playing his old tricks. “Screw all of you! You suck! Oh, and here’s a new proposal for a bailout that doesn’t meet any of your conditions! Please give us money! Pretty please! Screw all of you!”

    “The Greek people spent part of the weekend in the streets celebrating their status as international deadbeat. They spent the rest of the weekend hoarding food, fuel, and medicine in preparation for the manmade disaster they have inflicted upon themselves.”

    Also: “The Greeks may have burned their bridge to Europe, but the Germans are roasting marshmallows over the flames.”

    Further:

    The presence of Greece in the Eurozone is the result of a lie: The Greeks pretended to get their deficits and debt under control, and the Europeans pretended to believe them. That was the first act. In the second act, after the advent of the current crisis, the Greeks pretended to enact fiscal reforms, and the Europeans pretended to believe them. Political logic is, not coincidentally, lawyer logic — which is to say, it substitutes consensus for reality. If enough people (jurors, voters) are convinced that your position is the correct one, then you “win.” Maybe the election turns out your way, as with Tsipras and the referendum. Maybe political consensus prevents your opponents from enacting their favored policies, just as conservatives have for decades been frustrated in their efforts to enact entitlement reform by cheap and dishonest images of grandmothers being pushed over cliffs. Maybe O. J. Simpson walks.

    Mark Steyn reiterates the fundamental problem:

    Since Obama took office, it’s been fashionable to quote Mrs. Thatcher’s great line: “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” But we’re way beyond that. That’s a droll quip when you’re on mid-20th-century European fertility rates, but we’ve advanced to the next stage: We’ve run out of other people, period. Hyper-rationalist technocrats introduced at remarkable speed a range of transformative innovations — welfare, feminism, mass college education, abortion — whose cumulative effect a few decades on is that the developed world has developed to breaking point: Not enough people do not enough work for not enough of their lives. In the course of so doing, they have fewer children later. And the few they do have leave childhood ever later — Obamacare’s much heralded “right” for a 26-year old to remain on his parents’ health insurance being merely a belated attempt to catch up with the Europeans, and one sure to be bid up further.

    A society of 25-year-old “children” whiling away the years till early middle age in desultory pseudo-education has no desire to fund its prolonged adolescence by any kind of physical labor, so huge numbers of unskilled Third World immigrants from the swollen favelas of Latin America or (in Europe) the shanty megalopolises of the Muslim world are imported to cook, clean, wash, build, do. On the Continent, the shifting rationale for mass immigration may not illuminate much about the immigrants but it certainly tells you something about the natives: Originally, European leaders said, we needed immigrants to work in the mills and factories. But the mills and factories closed. So the new rationale was that we needed young immigrants to keep the welfare state solvent. But in Germany the Turks retire even younger than the Krauts do, and in France 65 percent of imams are on the dole. So the surviving rationale is that a dependence on mass immigration is not a structural flaw but a sign of moral virtue. The evolving justification for post-war immigration policy — from manufacturing to welfare to moral narcissism — is itself a perfect shorthand for Western decay.

    So welfare entitlement states create a sense of entitlement. Who knew?

    “The European Union is dying before our eyes.” So there is an upside to the Greek crisis…

    Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before…

    Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

    Greece’s leftwing Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wants more negotiations. Because, you know, Europe just hasn’t had enough of those over Greek debt.

    Mr. Tsipras said Greece was “prepared to accept” a deal set out publicly over the weekend by the creditors, with small modifications to some of the central points of contention: pension cuts and tax increases.

    In other words: Groundhog Day on the Aegean. Yet again.

    More Greek crisis links:

  • “Socialism is a one-way ticket to misery and failure.” Also: “The Greeks are simply the vanguard in a long line of nations who have buried themselves under mountains of unpayable debt.”
  • Greece: “We’re suffering so hard!” Poorer countries in Europe: “Suck it up, you proliferate spendthrifts!”
  • Possible post-referendum timelines in Greece. I hope you like flow charts…
  • Greece Officially Defaults on IMF Payment

    Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

    And verily it came to pass.

    Greece lost its financial lifelines Tuesday, as the country missed a crucial payment to the International Monetary Fund amid growing questions about whether it would be able to remain in the euro zone.

    Greek leaders had made a last-ditch attempt to come up with the necessary cash, asking European countries for a new bailout hours before its last ones were set to expire, but E.U. finance ministers rejected the request as unrealistic. The missed payment, confirmed by the IMF, was a landmark moment in Europe’s five-year battle to preserve its common currency.

    A few more Greek tidbits:

  • Greek banks are about to enjoy some ECB-mandated haircuts. He who pays the piper calls the tune…
  • Dear PIIGS citizens: Don’t blame austerity, blame your corrupt politicians.
  • Europe’s Democracy Deficit:

    The bureaucrats in Brussels and their counterparts in Europe’s national governments are furious with the Greeks for daring to consult their own people. Daniel Hannan, a British member of the European parliament, sarcastically tweeted, “Calling a referendum is, to Eurocrats, the most offensive thing a politician can do.” Stripped of their veneer, Eucrocrats’ arguments against all referendums amount to saying that referendums are a bad idea because they shift power from small cliques of unelected but wise rulers to an unsophisticated, nationalistic mob that might fall prey to populism

  • Via the People’s Cube: Greece declares victory.
  • Greece Slides Toward Default

    Monday, June 29th, 2015

    Looks like that optimism over Greece caving in to reality was a bit premature, since Alexis Tsipras is back to his old tricks again, proclaiming loudly that he won’t be “blackmailed.” Because we all know that agreeing to cuts in your bloated welfare state to pay for the loans you already agreed to is “blackmail.”

    He’s called for a national referendum on bailout agreement terms. The problem is, that vote is July 5 while $1.7 billion payment Greece owes the IMF is due June 30, and the IMF can’t offer extensions, and Greece is too broke to make its debt payment.

    Greek banks are closed until July 7, and the “European Central Bank (ECB) said it was not increasing emergency funding to Greek banks.” ATMs are running dry and withdrawals are bveing limited to 60 euros.”

    Stocks in Europe and China are in freefall, with bank stocks in Europe particularly hard hit. Greek stocks are off 17% despite their stock market being closed.

    A few more Greek crisis tidbits:

  • Holy fark: 70% of Greek mortgages are in default.
  • Nothing says “vibrant economy” like adults forced to live with their parents.
  • “The strange thing is that neither Tsipras nor a large majority of the Greek people want to leave the euro (more than 70 per cent support keeping euro polls show). But despite the country being united on this, the government is still unwilling to make the compromises that would keep Greece in the euro zone.”
  • The bill for Greece’s profligate spending and fake austerity was always going to come due sooner or later. Tsipras’s disasterous term in office merely ensured that it would come sooner and with a maximum of economic pain for the Greek people…

    Greece Introduces Capital Controls

    Monday, June 22nd, 2015

    The economic collapse of Greece is unfolding pretty much exactly as observers predicted it would: “Greek banks have imposed an unofficial ceiling of €3,000 on walk-in withdrawals, the commercial banker added.”

    More capital controls are most likely coming, especially since bank runs have meant that Greek banks “will soon exhaust eligible assets they can pledge to the Bank of Greece for cash under the Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) scheme.” The ECB backstopping of Greeek banks has been extended for today only. And today’s Eurozone talks have already broken off.

    Despite that, Greece’s feckless ruling Syriza Party is still insisting on ignoring reality: “I repeat: The deal will either be compatible with the basic lines of Syriza’s election manifesto, or there will be no deal.”

    Translation: “Europe must continue to throw money down the rat-hole of our bankrupt welfare state, or else!” What the “or else” might be when the country is already too bankrupt to pay pensions and keeps the lights on remains a mystery. The problem with holding a gun to your own head is that eventually someone will call your bluff.

    Greece is finally finished with the “gradually” phase of their bankruptcy and is now in the “suddenly” phase…

    Animation on the Greek Debt Crisis

    Sunday, June 21st, 2015

    Even though this whiteboard animation is from 2012, it’s still mostly accurate.

    My only quibbles would be:

  • It doesn’t mention how Greece lied about it’s finances to get into the Euro in the first place.
  • It doesn’t discuss what that debt was spent on, i.e., mainly an overly generous and unsustainable welfare state.
  • Because it was made in 2012, it overstates how exposed European banks will be to a Greek default. By now, banks and insiders have managed to offload the vast majority of their default exposure to Greek default onto the European taxpayer (which, of course, was the real primary purpose of the bailout).
  • But it gets the big picture right, namely how out-of-control debt destroys nations…

    Bank Runs Start in Greece

    Saturday, June 20th, 2015

    The bank runs have started in Greece. Why the Greek peeople would even keep their money in banks, having the example of Cyprus’s bank “bail-ins” before them, would keep any but the most minimal amout of cash in a Greek bank is a mystery.

    Given that Greek banks are insolvent without the European Central Bank’s backstop, one wonders why Greek PM Alexis Tsipras thinks he can continue to bluff the EU caving on reform demands. It’s tough to bluff when you have no hole cards…

    There’s talk of a “new” Greek proposal, which could mean Tsipras and Syriza are finally coming to their senses and giving in to EU demands, or it could be just another smokescreen. I mean, we’ve only seen about a dozen “new” Greek proposals this year that didn’t offer meaningful reform. What’s one more?

    Stay tuned…