Varoufakis said that Schäuble, Germany’s finance minister and the architect of the deals Greece signed in 2010 and 2012, was “consistent throughout”. “His view was ‘I’m not discussing the program – this was accepted by the previous [Greek] government and we can’t possibly allow an election to change anything.
“So at that point I said ‘Well perhaps we should simply not hold elections anymore for indebted countries’, and there was no answer. The only interpretation I can give [of their view] is, ‘Yes, that would be a good idea, but it would be difficult. So you either sign on the dotted line or you are out.’”
– From last year’s post: Everything You Need to Know About the Greek Crisis and ECB Fascism in Two Paragraphs
By now, most of you have heard about Wikileaks’ release of internal deliberations between the top two IMF officials in charge of managing the Greek debt crisis – Poul Thomsen, the head of the IMF’s European Department, and Delia Velkouleskou, the IMF Mission Chief for Greece.
In nutshell, the two discussed whether or not a new credit crisis would be required in order to force EU creditors to agree with the IMF’s debt relief objective. Shedding some much needed perspective on the situation, former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has chimed in, and he makes one thing perfectly clear — no matter who comes out ahead in this dispute (the IMF or the EU), it will be the Greek people who lose.
Here are a few excerpts from his op-ed published at Der Spiegel.
The feud between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European side of Greece’s troika of creditors is old news. However, Wikileaks’ publication of a dialogue between key IMF players suggests that we are approaching something of a hazardous endgame.Ever since the first Greek ‘bailout’ program was signed, in May 2010, the IMF has been violating its own “primary directive”: the obligation not to fund insolvent governments. As a result, the IMF’s leadership has been facing a revolt from its staff members who demand an exit strategy arguing that, if the EU continues to obstruct the debt relief necessary to restore the solvency of the Greek government, the IMF should leave the Greek program.
Five years on, this IMF-EU impasse continues, causing a one-third collapse of Greek GDP and fuelling hopelessness to a degree that has made real reform harder than ever.
To the uninitiated it looks as if the IMF-EU tussle is about some botched numbers. But the real issue behind them is deeply political and has ramifications well beyond Greece.
The IMF is right that the Commission’s numbers do not add up and, thus, engender the insufferable hypocrisy of a Commission pretending to prefer “lighter” austerity when its denial of debt relief translates into a primary budget surplus target (total tax revenues minus government expenditure, exempting debt repayments) of 3.5 percent of Greek GDP which, in turn, requires measures even harsher than the IMF’s.
Are the IMF’s numbers any better? Regarding the primary budget surplus target (a crucial number that must be kept under 1.5 percent of GDP to give Greece any chance of recovery) Thomsen and Velculescu embrace precisely the number that I was proposing to the troika last year.
Why then did the IMF not back me in 2015 but are adopting the same 1.5 percent surplus target now? Because they also wanted something that I would never grant: crushing new austerity which is inhuman and unnecessary but which, today, the Tsipras government (according to Velculescu) seems ready to accept, having already surrendered once in July 2015.
The IMF’s austerity package is inhuman because it will destroy hundreds of thousands of small businesses, defund society’s weakest, and turbocharge the humanitarian crisis. And it is unnecessary because meaningful growth is much more likely to return to Greece under our policy proposals to end austerity, target the oligarchy, and reform public administration (rather than attacking, again, the weak).
To give a monstrously exaggerated but terribly instructive parallel of the IMF’s logic, if Greece is nuked tomorrow the economic crisis ends and its macroeconomic numbers are “fixed” as long as creditors accept a 100 percent haircut. But, if I am right that our numbers added up just as well, while allowing Greece to recover without further social decline, why did the IMF join Berlin to crush us in 2015?
For decades, whenever the IMF “visited” a struggling country, it promoted “reforms” that led to the demolition of small businesses and the proletarisation of middle-class professionals. Abandoning the template in Greece would be to confess to the possibility that decades of anti-social programs imposed globally might have been inhuman and unnecessary.
To recap, the Wikileaks revelations unveil an attrition war between a reasonably numerate villain (the IMF) and a chronic procrastinator (Berlin). We also know that the IMF is seriously considering bringing things to a head next July by dangling Greece once more over the abyss, exactly as in July 2015. Except that this time the purpose is to force the hand not of Alexis Tsipras, whose fresh acquiescence the IMF considers in the bag, but of the German Chancellor.
Will Christine Lagarde (the IMF’s Managing Director with ambitions of a European political comeback) toe the line of her underlings? How will Chancellor Merkel react to the publication of these conversations? Might the protagonists’ strategies change now that we have had a glimpse of them?
While pondering these questions, I cannot stem the torrent of sadness from the thought that last year, during our Athens Spring, Greece had weapons against the troika’s organised incompetence that I was, alas, not allowed to use. The result is a Europe more deeply immersed in disrepute and a Greek people watching from the sidelines an ugly brawl darkening their already bleak future.
Sad beyond words.
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