News / Economy

For Hard-Hit Greeks, IMF Mea Culpa Comes too Late

Employees of Greece's health system shout slogans as the banner reads ''Government'' during a protest against government health cuts in Athens, April 17, 2013. Employees of Greece's health system shout slogans as the banner reads ''Government'' during a protest against government health cuts in Athens, April 17, 2013.
x
Employees of Greece's health system shout slogans as the banner reads ''Government'' during a protest against government health cuts in Athens, April 17, 2013.
Employees of Greece's health system shout slogans as the banner reads ''Government'' during a protest against government health cuts in Athens, April 17, 2013.
Reuters
Greeks reacted with an air of vindication and outrage at the International Monetary Fund's admission it erred in its handling of the country's bailout, berating an apology that comes too late to salvage an economy and countless lives in ruins.
 
Anger was palpable on the streets of Athens, where the EU-IMF austerity recipe that the Washington-based fund says it sharply misjudged has left rows of shuttered stores and many scrounging for scraps of food in trash cans.
 
“Really? Thanks for letting us know but we can't forgive you,” said Apostolos Trikalinos, a 59-year-old garbage collector and a father of two. “Let's not fool ourselves. They'll never give us anything back. I'm sorry for all the people who killed themselves because of austerity. How are we going to bring them back? How?”
 
The IMF acknowledged on Wednesday that it underestimated the damage done to Greece's economy from spending cuts and tax hikes imposed in a bailout, which was accompanied by one of the worst economic collapses ever experienced by a country in peacetime.
 
A report looking back on the bailout said the Fund veered from its own standards to overestimate how much debt Greece could bear, and should have pushed harder and sooner for private lenders to take a “haircut” to reduce Greece's debt burden.
 
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras told reporters the acknowledgment justified his positions. He had criticized from the outset “what the IMF has called mistakes”.
 
“And we have been correcting those mistakes over the past year,” Samaras told reporters during a visit to Helsinki.
 
Greeks have seen their incomes plunge by about a third since the debt crisis erupted in 2009 and prompted Greece to seek two bailouts from the EU and the IMF. The unemployment rate has hit nearly 27 percent and suicide rates have soared. Worst hit have been the youth, nearly 60 percent of whom are unemployed.
 
“The IMF admits to the crime,” the leftist Avgi newspaper declared on its front page. Top selling newspaper Ta Nea branded it an “admission of failure”.
 
In the corridors of power, some officials suggested the admission could strengthen their hand in future talks with the IMF, European Union and European Central Bank, collectively known as the troika, on debt relief or new austerity measures.
 
“It is positive that the report recognizes that there were mistakes in Greece's program in the past and we hope that they will not be repeated in the future and then create the need for corrective action,” a senior government official told Reuters.
 
Vindication
 
For many Greek politicians who complained for years that they were forced to sign off on the bailouts under the threat of a chaotic default and eurozone exit, it was also a moment of vindication.
 
“The IMF report confirms and records the positions that we have repeatedly presented in public, which formed the basis of our arguments during tough negotiations with the IMF and the other two parties of the troika,” former Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos said. “There are many choices that we would have never made on our own, but we were obliged to take in order to avoid the worst.”
 
Venizelos, who now leads the Socialist PASOK party in the ruling coalition, negotiated Greece's second bailout in 2012 after reluctantly backing the first bailout. His predecessor, George Papaconstantinou, who negotiated the first bailout in 2010, declined to comment.
 
Other former officials felt the Greek position was finally being given its due.
 
“I feel vindicated like most of the Greeks who felt that they have been punished more than they deserved by the troika”, said Pantelis Kapsis, the government spokesman under the former technocrat Prime Minister Lucas Papademos's government.
 
All political parties - especially the leftist, anti-bailout front - are likely to claim victory from the IMF admitting it misjudged the impact of austerity on Greece's economy, but Samaras, in particular, could leverage it into a bargaining chip in future talks with EU and IMF, say analysts.
 
“It makes it easier for the Greek government to say 'slow down all on these measures' that have led to six years of recession and record high unemployment,” said Theodore Couloumbis from the ELIAMEP foreign policy think-tank. “It's like going to a doctor who's been treating you for cancer when you fundamentally had Parkinson's and the doctor says, 'I'm sorry.”'
 
The apology could also begin to heal the wounded pride and humiliation that Greeks felt from being portrayed as lazy, overpaid and living off the largesse of hard-working northern Europeans.
 
“The recognition of this mistake is part of the credibility which has been restored in the country and may become the starting point for Greeks to get part of what they have lost so far,” said Dimitris Mavros, head of the MRB pollsters.

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7537
JPY
USD
103.79
GBP
USD
0.6032
CAD
USD
1.0957
INR
USD
60.522

Rates may not be current.