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À trinta anos atrás o estado de Nova Iorque endividou-se até às orelhas e o estado federal eximiu-se de qualquer solidariedade monetária. «Desenrasquem-se!» e o state foi à bancarrota, 10 duros anos volvidos estava para lavar e durar.



Raptado daqui, «In the past weeks ministers from all EU members states gathered to discuss what should happen next. Proposals made by the plagued nation to cut its deficit have been scrutinized and were good enough only for a lukewarm welcome. Do not underestimate the sheer size of the task: Bringing back double digit deficit numbers to below 3%, which is the maximum allowed by official EU guidelines, is no small feat. When eyeing Greece’s Prime Minister Papandreou and other MP’s I would almost start thinking they don’t even want to take harsh measures. And that is probably correct: Protests -albeit unconvincing ones- pop up regularly, and steps that have a negative impact on the lives of citizens’ are rarely popular. The only thing that makes matters a lot easier is that they just don’t have any choice. Greece must cut, or it will eventually have to default, which is not an option within the Euro zone. A first step must be raising taxes. Not just by increasing percentages tied to the level of income, also by improving the tax system itself. As it now stands it is as transparent as a barrel of oil; and a duck and cover game makes many able to evade paying their taxes. Another sound step would be to increase pension age. Current retirement-age average lies around 58 years. The new aim will probably be set at 63 years. Compared to a country like the Netherlands -where a fixed 65-year pension age will probably become 67 by 2020- even that could be considered as too generous. As outlined earlier, it won’t be all up to Greece what happens next. A shared currency also means shared responsibilities and risks. So the question this week was: Will Brussels (i.e. Germany) subsidize Greece? The answer seems to be negative, which is very positive. We should be very unwilling to do that, indeed. Not just will it be unfair to those who have played the game by the rules, it might also set an example that relaxes stances towards a healthy financial balance. An argument that runs along the lines that ‘banks were bailed out, why not a nation’ is not very persuasive. The stakes are too high, all have known for a long time that mismanagement was fashionable and no politician will let Greece get away autonomously after it had happened.


The slippery slope argument of ‘not setting an example’ is hard to pin down as legitimate or not. After all, why should nations ruin their financial system just because they can get away with it? High burdens in the future and preventing to have to take unpopular decisions, maybe, but failure would be devastating. Perhaps -with Portugal, Spain, Italy and Ireland in tight spots- it is not so much making sure countries aren’t sickening their own economies any further with a subconscious feeling of getting away with it, but makings them aware that fiscal prudence must be strived for immediately, and in the long term as well. The name IMF (International Monetary Fund) is already echoing in the hallways. This Washington based institute has much experience when it comes to rigorous handling of financial problems and an image bolstered by the recent crisis. For a European country it would be seen as humiliation to ask the IMF for help, though what other choices are there? The alternative would be for the EU to set up its own equivalent of the IMF, but that would cost time and money, plus create bureaucracy, while the IMF is already set to go.  Besides, would it be any less humiliating? At this moment, taken on the whole, it is not a bad thing that the Euro went down a bit. Its value hovers just below $1,40, which is not worrisome. As the value drops, export becomes more rewarding and attractive, stimulating the economy. This must be prevented on a longer time scale, as a cheap Euro will make importing products more expensive and that could lead to more inflation.  Brussels will no doubt therefore closely monitor the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain). Greece already got a new deadline of one more month to come up with a decent (read: better) plan. I have no idea how they intend to use their precious time. I would urge them not to label anything as taboo, while seriously considering letting in an outsider such as the IMF, which can bring along a more objective viewpoint, leading to long-term stability rather than short-term wishful thinking. After all, a debt of more than 100% of GDP does not exactly radiate a bright light. If Greece embraces neither IMF nor comes up with a satisfactory plan, then we might, for the very first time, need continental interference in national politics. The Eurocrats will love it.»



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