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Wednesday, 6 January 2010

New Year's ResoLOLtions

[This post is still under construction]

Happy new year! Turns we're getting our ποδαρικό courtesy of the Comssion as reports have started flying that our deficit may have reached 16% of GDP by the end of the year and we were forced to borrow privately for the second time in a row. Oh and that nobody is going to bail us out. Our current Government did not cause this mess (it's been three decades in the making), but I'm not sure they're getting round to fixing it either.

The Government's resolutions keep changing, but they are more or less out there for anyone with internet access to read. There is a catch though. As with all New Year's resolutions, vowing to change what you do is pointless. Changing how you think works, but it's a hell of a lot harder.

My New Year's resolutions for the Greek state and its fiscal policies are simpler (they don't cost money), but they are way harder to stick to. Here goes:

  1. We will not blame other people for this mess, even if they have had a hand. Yes there are vultures in the capital markets, but they are attracted by the smell of death. (Although if you blame a Jewish, reptilian or Nephelim conspiracy you are most likely plain stupid). Most importantly, at the end of the day the only guarantee foreign investors have of ever seeing their money again is that there is political capital to be made in Greece from not letting the debt get out of hand. If our Government can turn around and say: "Of course, we're not sorting out the deficit, but I'm standing up for you against all these foreign predators" this guarantee becomes weaker. If we cross that tipping point where there is more political mileage to be had from failing to tackle the deficit than from succeeding - and we're not too far from that - we will truly be in trouble.

  2. We will learn to play by the rules even when we no longer like them. Yes credit rating agencies are unaccountable brothels, but that's not what we were saying when we waved our AA rating in the capital markets' faces last year (post-Lehman, when their shortcomings were plain for all to see). Last year we managed - quite heroically - to turn over about a third of our public sector debt against that AA rating. Next time, let's just say, "OK, investors, forget S&P and co., you come have a look at our data and tell us how much interest you want." Who's with me? No? That's what I thought. Don't lick where you spat, and vice versa.

  3. We will learn that our creditors are colour-blind. At home, we treat elections as though they were a regime change - for better or worse, the slate is wiped clean, and the new administration goes about erasing all traces of the old one out so it can take root. Blue Greece and Green Greece are supposedly two different places. But to our creditors, Blue Greece and Green Greece are one and the same. If the one borrows, the other still has to pay. If the one messes up, the expectation is that the other will mess up. They know that the one constant in this country is her people; dysfunctional as our politics may be, in the long run the people call the shots and they are pretty set in their ways.

  4. We will learn that our creditors can hire Greeks to explain all the inside stuff. Time was when we could fiddle the numbers, cook the books and basically pull the wool over their eyes because frankly they were not watching too closely. They are now. Everyone is. Next time we decide that stocks can be flows and vice versa, that payments can be brought forward or pushed back, or that our army isn't part of the state after all, they will put an asterisk next to the figure and ask some spotty intern to find out what the real number is before he goes home at 11. Next time our minister of finance kisses their arses in English in London, or Frankfurt, or Brussels, they'll get a colleague to translate what he says in Greek at a rally two days later.

  5. We will only let one person speak at a time. Having another cabinet member overrule the minister of finance is not just embarrassing; it's expensive.

  6. We will no longer assume that every other Greek out there has our back. Papademos will not pretend he got your memo, he won't approve it on the sly, he won't change collateral rules and he certainly won't quit his exalted job at the ECB to come bail you out just because he's Greek. Get over yourselves.

  7. We will not try to keep everyone happy. Crisis is a Greek word; it means judgment. Unless you show yourself for what you are, you can't get out of it.

  8. We will not console ourselves with how badly everyone else is doing. Yes Spain has more unemployment, Britain has the same deficit etc, Japan has more debt. If you put them all together, they make up one country that's worse off. So?

  9. We will not rely on the dead tree press to keep quiet when we mess up. Blogging is free; people can read, and if the Government won't publish, others will.

  10. Sometimes, it really is best not to ask "the people" what they think. The people include all manner of fuckwits who have more of an incentive to respond to consultation than their calm and literate compatriots who can turn CAPS LOCK off. Besides, the people got us into this mess in the first place. 

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