ATHENS – Last week, major financial institutions in Europe were put on notice when letter bombs were sent to the International Monetary Fund and the office of Germany’s financial minister. Only one of those bombs exploded and injuries were minimal. But not-so-coincidentally, both of those bombs, as well as eight others that were intercepted just this week, all originated from the same country – Greece.
Now bearing the brunt of the ninth year of their country’s debt crisis, some Greeks have come to see radical groups, such as those responsible for the letter bombs, as their only chance for having their voices heard by the European Union’s technocratic bureaucracy. A major factor for the widespread disillusionment among the Greek populace has been the national government’s continued ineffectiveness in the face of its nearly decade-long financial predicament – one that has decimated the economy, eroded pensions and caused surges in unemployment.
Indeed, since the crisis began, Greece has had nine different governments, at least thirteen austerity measures, severe capital controls and multiple bailouts – none of which have brought even a semblance of relief to the Hellenic Republic.
While many outside spectators view the Greek debt crisis as an unfortunate experiment in fiscal mismanagement and as proof that long-term public funding of popular social safety nets is unsustainable, the origins and consequences of Greece’s predicament suggest that this was a crisis the nation was never supposed to survive.
Goldman Sachs and the Plan to “Colonize” Greece
Greece’s financial woes began back in the early 2000s, when its government sought to adopt the euro and gain entrance to the EU. Though Greece did not meet the financial requirements necessary to become a full member of the EU at the time, they were granted membership anyway – largely thanks to “creative accounting” carried out by none other than the infamous U.S. investment bank Goldman Sachs.
In 2002, U.S. bankers helped Greece cover up its fiscal deficits, which were unacceptable by EU standards, by issuing Greek government debt in dollars and yen. This debt was then swapped for debt priced in euros for a certain period. This “cross-currency” swap, thanks to its use of a fictional exchange rate, was essentially a giant chunk of credit that obfuscated the actual levels of Greek government debt.
However, like all credit and loans, that “swapped” money would eventually have to be exchanged back into its original currency – a ticking time bomb that would engulf the nation in a mountain of unsustainable debt upon its maturation.
The bonds created by Goldman Sachs were set to mature in 10 to 15 years, at which point they would need to be repaid and, therefore, added to Greek’s already burgeoning deficit. Not surprisingly, when these bonds began to reach maturity in 2011, Greece’s debt began to exceed 150 percent of its gross domestic product and has been growing ever since – no matter how much austerity Greece has imposed and no matter how many bailouts they have received.
The ultimate consequences for these cross-currency swaps were well-known to Goldman Sachs bankers and top Greek politicians who were in power at the time. Those responsible were aware that the massive debt explosion that would eventually materialize would ultimately require the intervention of the International Monetary Fund or the financial institutions of the EU.
As is often the case with IMF bailouts, as well as other such deals brokered by similar financial institutions, nations whose debts have become insurmountable are forced to “voluntarily” privatize their public holdings and impose austerity on their citizens. This essentially amounts to a massive wealth transfer from public to private hands.
In the case of Greece, these bailouts and their subsequent austerity packages have transferred the nation’s once publicly-held wealth to private entities based in the EU’s largest creditor nation – Germany. Indeed, previous bailouts greatly benefited German business interests, who assumed control of several key Greek public assets and utilities, including its airports, marinas and seaports, as well as water utilities. Nine years after the country’s debt crisis exploded, Greece is now little more than a German colony.
The Final Pillage: Greece Set to Surrender Remaining Wealth as Next Bailout Looms
Greece’s continuing crisis, culminating in its default to the IMF in 2015, is set to enter its final stage, as the country is poised to run out of funds once again by this July, forcing it to request yet another bailout from its EU creditors. Bavaria’s Finance Minister Markus Soeder recently announced that Germany will be taking a “tougher” stance this time around, stating that “new billions should only flow when Athens has implemented all the reforms” and that Greece’s remaining public holdings in cash, gold and real estate must serve as collateral.
Once this deal is set in stone, Greece will surrender its remaining assets of real, tangible value in exchange for euros that will go toward making payments on Greece’s massive debt. Greece’s remaining public property, set to serve as collateral, is only valued at 50 billion euros, a figure that pales in comparison to the 90 billion euro in debt payments it must make over the next year on its prior bailout packages.
The implementation of this plan is tantamount to the final pillage of Greece, marking what may well be the last transfer of the nation’s remaining wealth after nine years of economic plunder. Once confirmed, Germany will once again be the biggest beneficiary of the bailout, along with the multinational corporations and other states that have been involved in ransacking Greece.
Though Greece is one of the more notable examples of countries that have been plundered by private banks and multinational corporations, it is far from the only one. These entities and the institutions and politicians that serve them have only worked to concentrate power and wealth in the hands of the elite.
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