News / Europe

Greek Debt Crisis Affects Europe, World Economy

Multimedia

Audio

As Greece embarks on tough economic reforms it is facing the prospect of deep social unrest, with tens of thousands of workers taking to the streets this week. The Greek debt crisis is spilling over to other European economies - and threatening international prospects for economic recovery.

More strikes and social unrest. Tens of thousands of disgruntled workers spilled into Greek streets on Wednesday, registering their discontent with government austerity measures to control Greece's spiraling public deficit and debt. Greece's economic woes have posed the biggest challenge yet for  the decade-old euro currency - and the 16 nations, including Greece, that make up the eurozone economy.

Greece has been a top subject in Brussels, where European Union leaders registered support for Athens and its economic reforms this month - but offered no financial assistance.

The Greek government has promised to slash its public deficit from nearly 13 percent of gross domestic product to nearly nine percent of Gross Domestic Product by the year's end. Greece's debt is currently estimated at more than $404 billion - or about 113 percent of its GDP.

Just how serious is the Greek crisis? Very serious, says economist Paula Subacchi of the Chatham House policy institute in London.

"The crisis is serious and it is serious for many reasons. One is because of the credibility of Greece. And the events of the past couple of days do not really improve confidence in the country and therefore foreign investors are very concerned," she said.

On Thursday, European Economic Commissioner Olli Rehn said he would personally inspect Greek's austerity plans after receiving a report from EU, European bank and IMF auditors who were in Athens this week. Speaking to reporters, Rehn outlined some of the spillover effects of Greece's problems.

"The mood deteriorated in some segments at the start of this year following growing concerns of the fiscal situation in some countries. This led to sharp increases in sovereign bond spreads in the euro area as we have seen recently - especially in the case of Greece," he said.

The European Commission - the EU's executive arm - says it will be monitoring Greece carefully to see it lives up to its promises. Commissioner Rehn says the Greek crisis serves as a lesson for the eurozone as a whole.

Several credit tracking agencies have downrated Greece's credit rating and Standard & Poor's warned it could do so again. That could put Greece in the high risk investment category, making it very difficult for the country to borrow money.

Polls show that despite the social protests, the majority of Greeks support the government's austerity measures. And Subacchi says it is critical Athens sticks to them.

"The Greek government has a huge problem. It needs first of all to regain credibility. And the way to do it is to make sure that the deficit reduction plan is credible. It's not overambitious with the risk of triggering the kind of protest we're seeing - but it's not too mild," said Subacchi.

Analysts fault several factors for Greece's debt crisis. The country overspent and failed to report the true size of its ballooning deficit to the European Union. Critics also say the European Union did not properly scrutinize the figures sent in by Athens.

But Simon Tilford, chief economist at the Center for European Reform in London, says the Greek crisis reflects a larger economic problem in Europe. EU members like the Netherlands and Germany have spent too little and their economies are driven by exports. Meanwhile, southern economies like Greece and Portugal have spent too much and amassed debts as a result.

"So in order to find a lasting solution, we need change on both sides. we need countries that have been hard hit in the south - such as Spain, Greece, Portugal, Italy - to take reforms to boost productivity growth, to cut costs, to manage their public sectors more efficiently," he said.

But Tilford says surplus countries like Germany have to provide more demand for southern European products.

Analysts fear Greece's economic crisis risks spilling over to other southern European countries with shaky economies. It has also raised questions on complex and questionable financial deals between Athens and financial companies like Goldman Sachs. But Tilford says these are symptoms and not the root causes of Greece's dilemma.

Analysts like Tilford and Subacchi believe European governments will ultimately come to Athens's financial rescue - because a Greek crisis may soon become a European one.

"I'm personally very convinced there eventually will be a solution to the Greek problem. Because we cannot think what a default of Greece will trigger. It's a risk nobody wants to take," said Subacchi.

Greece's problems are also spilling beyond Europe's borders. The value of the euro currency has plunged for example, which makes American exports - key to the U.S. economic recovery - less competitive.

Ultimately, Tilford says, the Greek problem reflects a world economic problem.

"The eurozone s really just a microcosm of the global problems we see. So unless we see the big countries in East Asia rebalancing away from exports and toward domestic demand, we are not going to generate a self-sustaining global economic recovery," he said.

But Tilford does not believe Europe is ready, or willing, yet to undertake fundamental economic reforms he thinks are needed to right these imbalances. The region may rescue Greece, he says, but it will only be putting a bandage on a far bigger problem.

You May Like

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs