First of all, I apologise for my absence from Inside Greece for the last few weeks. I can assure you that after posting on this blog at least once a week over the last four years, it has felt strange to neglect it.
There is, however, a good reason for this. After 274 blog posts and more than 2,300 comments, it is time for Inside Greece to become part of something bigger and more comprehensive. I am part of a team effort – involving several colleagues and friends – to provide economic and political analysis about events in Greece.
Our new website, www.macropolis.gr, launched this week. You can find out more about what we aim to do here.
This blog has been viewed by almost 170,000 people since it began in September 2009. Back then my aim was simply to create an archive for the commentaries I wrote for Athens Plus. Over time, Inside Greece has evolved into something much more important for me. The feedback and interaction with readers has been the blog’s lifeblood and has helped my development immeasurably.
Inside Greece’s cycle is now complete but much of what I learnt and enjoyed here will be incorporated in Macropolis. We have already created a blog section, which is called The Agora and can be found here.. I have already made my first entry and hope you will also join the discussion and read what others write there as well.
I appreciate that being able to subscribe to this blog has helped many readers keep in touch with what I’ve been writing and I’m happy to say that subscribing to the posts on The Agora is equally easy. It can be done by clicking here.
In the meantime, many thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my thoughts over the past few years. It’s time to move on up.
At the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Council of Ministers in Paris on Wednesday, Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras challenged the institution’s forecast that Greece will remain in recession next year, which would mean a seventh straight year of contraction. Stournaras thinks the OECD will be proved wrong. There isn’t a Greek in the world who doesn’t hope he will be proved right.
The OECD’s recent Economic Outlook contains some alarming messages for Greece, messages that are in contrast with the recent wave of positivity from the government and upbeat assessments from the media domestically and abroad. The Paris-based organisation does not see a return to growth in 2014 but predicts a further economic contraction of 1.2 percent, a gap from Stournaras’s projections that translates into about 3.6 billion euros of economic output. It goes as far as suggesting that additional financing from the EU/IMF program will be required for Greece so automatic stabilizers are allowed to kick in if the recession turns out to be deeper than initially anticipated.
As much as Stournaras was quick to challenge the OECD’s projections on growth, he did not comment on the devastating projections for unemployment. The finance minister has designed Greece’s medium-term fiscal strategy based on average unemployment of 22.8 percent for 2013 and a lower figure of 21.4 percent for 2014. The OECD and the Bank of Greece, which also gave its forecast this week, think otherwise.
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At this time of year, lists are usually a cause for celebration but this festive season there was no Santa Claus bearing gifts for ex-Finance Minister Giorgos Papaconstantinou, PASOK and Greece’s political establishment as a whole. In fact, following revelations that the Lagarde list of Greek depositors at HSBC’s Geneva branch was doctored, all of the above will feel as if the Grinch has come along to steal Christmas, which came early thanks to the disbursement of new EU-IMF bailout funding on December 14.
The seriousness of the accusations against Papaconstantinou cannot be underplayed. In late 2010, when he was finance minister, he was given a CD by his French counterpart Christine Lagarde containing the names of more than 2,000 Greeks with Swiss bank accounts. Papaconstantinou was part of a government, led by George Papandreou, which had promised to clamp down on tax evasion. There is no evidence to suggest that all or any of the Greeks on the Lagarde list are tax evaders but under Papaconstantinou’s watch, authorities in Athens treated the data they had been given as if it was useless or even dangerous.
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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read my thoughts and share theirs. All the best for 2013.
Here’s an excerpt:
19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 89,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.
Click here to see the complete report.
Illustration by Manos Symeonakis
I have received a number of comments (positive and negative) regarding my response to David Cameron’s suggestion of a block on Greek migrants in the case of a euro exit. Thanks to all those who read the piece and took the time to comment, even if they disagreed.
A number of issues have been raised in these comments and I thought it might be useful to group the common themes in a Q&A by way of a response. This will be my last comment on the issue as I feel there is no use in dragging it out. It’s clear Cameron was saying something for domestic consumption and, as opposed to it as I am, I think dwelling on it simply breeds further division at a time we’re in desperate need for unity.
The UK is within its rights to block immigrants from another EU country
I am not an expert on EU law but from what I have read, the UK does not have the right to unilaterally block the entry of citizens from another EU member state. The free movement of people is one of the EU’s “Four Freedoms”. Article 46 of the Treaty for the Functioning of the European Union prohibits the restriction to this free movement on the basis of nationality. Article 224 of the EU treaty requires any member state to consult with the others if it intends to prevent the functioning of the common market, even “in the event of serious internal disturbance affecting the maintenance of law and order, in the event of war or serious international tension constituting a threat of war.”
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