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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.8140
JPY
USD
118.81
GBP
USD
0.6402
CAD
USD
1.1597
INR
USD
63.066

Rates may not be current.