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

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7305
JPY
USD
101.53
GBP
USD
0.5830
CAD
USD
1.0656
INR
USD
60.075

Rates may not be current.