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Greece's Downfall and Redemption

By       Message Finian Cunningham       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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Reprinted from Sputnik


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Decades of exorbitant military spending account for Greece's present downfall under an Olympian-sized debt. European governments and news media portray the problem of Greece's financial woes as public spending profligacy.
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The truth is that Greece's debt mountain has been incurred from years of wasteful military splurging. That is the tragic downfall of the country, which European creditor governments and the mainstream news media tellingly ignore.

But in this understanding of Greece's modern tragedy, there is hope for democratic renewal and redemption. Because that realization permits a radically different option to restore Greece's economy in a way that is rational and achievable, without piling up more debt and misery for the population. Instead of more austerity imposed on workers and pensioners, the solution is for Greece to embark on a massive disarmament program to overturn decades of reckless militarism.

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Greece's outstanding total debt is around $320 billion -- or 175 percent of its national economic output (GDP). Its creditors -- the Troika of European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- are insisting that the Athens government must oversee more public cuts.

The reality is that austerity is only driving the Greek economy into further depression and debt.

That inevitably means more and more of the Greek people's sovereign rights whittled away to the point of becoming a vassal state dictated to by foreign governments and finance capital.

As a foreboding sign of things to come, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' latest offer of raising corporation taxes in place of cutting pensions was slapped down last week by the Troika.

The imperious demand for more austerity has now forced the Greek government to put the choice to the public in the form of a proposed referendum on the EU's bailout terms, to be held on July 5.

Greece's debt crisis appears to be heading to an even sharper crisis point. But the Greek origin of that word "krisis" also has a positive connotation of decisive event. The Greek people should reject the never-ending debt addiction that the EU creditors and IMF have hooked the country on. For that way only foreshadows increasing austerity and anti-democratic dictate.

What the Greek people can turn to is a realistic and altogether more democratic and humane option -- of demanding their country slash its monstrous military spend.

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Even after five years of economic catastrophe, Greece's annual military budget amounts to $4 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. That translates to 2.2 per cent of the nation's GDP -- a colossal drain on the economy.

To put Greece's military spend into perspective, it is double the ratio that most other EU countries currently spend on defence. For example, Germany spends 1.2 per cent of GDP, Italy 1.1 per cent, Netherlands 1.2 per cent and Belgium 1.1 per cent.

If Greece were to cut its outsized military budget by half that would generate $2 billion in one year alone, which would pay off its immediate bill to the IMF and help the country reach a 1 percent budget surplus that the Troika has set for 2015. In other words, that source of finance would obviate any further need for cutting pensions and workers' salaries.

Why the Syriza government of Alexis Tsipras, which claims to be a radical socialist coalition, does not pursue this more imaginative and democratic alternative is a curious question. Last week, Tsipras offered to cut the military budget by $200 million -- or a mere 5 percent. But the offer was rebuffed by the IMF because it stated that its rules do not permit interference in a country's defence policy. To which Tsipras and the Greek electorate should respond with their own rebuff of IMF absurdity -- especially evident with the IMF's throwing billions of dollars to the regime in Kiev which is waging war on the eastern Ukrainian population.

But that's only a trifling start to addressing the Greek tragedy. The Greek people have legal and moral grounds to repudiate the entire debt mountain as illegitimate or, as economists would say, "odious debt."

During the decade up to the onset of crisis in 2010, Greece was regularly spending 7 percent of its GDP on military. Some estimate that during that decade the country spent a total of $150 billion on defense -- or half of the current debt pile.

As Greek economist Angelos Philippides told the Guardian back in April 2012: "For a long time Greece spent 7 percent of its GDP on defense when other European countries spent an average 2.2 percent. If you were to add up that compound 5 percent [difference]... there would be no debt at all."

Moreover, Greece's past military expenditure was mired in corruption.

In October 2013, ex-defense minster Akis Tsochatzopoulous of the previous PASOK government was jailed for 20 years in a bribery case involving $75 million in kickbacks.

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Author and journalist. Finian Cunningham has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master's graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal (more...)
 

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