Euro crisis: “The Greek government has become adept at playing Europe’s leaders…”

The Guardian’s Business blog team are live-blogging events following the ‘bolt from the blue’ that was the Greek Prime Minister, George Papandreou calling for a referendum on the ‘rescue package’.  And there’s an emergency Greek government cabinet meeting at 4pm [GMT].

BBC business editor, and still everyone’s hero, Robert Peston, looks at “the price of Greek democracy”.

Opinion polls wouldn’t suggest there’s a high probability of Mr Papandreou winning the day. But views can change.

What’s in it for the Greek people? Well, their country is to receive an additional 100bn euro of bailout loans, so that it can continue to pay its bills. And there is a non-binding agreement with banks to cut what the Greek government has to repay them by half.

But this rescue package will deliver only a modest reduction in the back-achingly heavy burden of Greek indebtedness.

Even if all goes to plan in a fiscal sense – and it hasn’t done that in Greece for years – the ratio of public-sector debt to GDP in Greece would still be 120% in 2020.

Which is still a good 20 percentage points above the ratio considered the upper limit for what would allow private sector and economy to thrive.

Or to put it another way, the rescue does not promise a bright new dawn for Greece any time soon. Or to put it another way, the only way for the referendum to be won by Mr Papandreou would be for him to demonstrate that the alternatives are far worse.

For the rest of the world, those alternatives look shockingly bad.

They could include, in no particular order of probability or potentially devastating impact on the stability of financial market, default by Greece, exit by Greece from the eurozone or a much more generous rescue deal.

It’s that final possibility that has the Guardian’s Larry Elliot suggesting that “Papandreou is in a stronger position than people think.”

The second thing in Papandreou’s favour is that if Europe is a problem for Greece then Greece is actually an even bigger problem for Europe. If ever there was a case of “when you owe the bank €1000 you have a problem but when you owe €100bn the bank has a problem” then this is it. The question for Greece’s partners in the single currency and for the International Monetary Fund is whether they want to push the Greeks so hard that they vote no to the deal, or whether they are prepared to soften the terms in order to safeguard against a disorderly default and all that implies.

My hunch is that even if the Greeks vote no then it will still get enough money to prevent it defaulting because the stakes for the rest of Europe are so high. Europe does not have a Plan B in the event of a Greek default. Let’s be honest, it still doesn’t have a fully worked out Plan A. It needs time to get its act together (assuming that it is actually possible) and will probably be prepared to buy time by making life easier for the Greeks.

Perhaps…  As BBC Europe editor, Gavin Hewitt, notes

The referendum will only be held after the details of the latest deal with the EU are worked out.

That, of course, will enable the Greek government to barter for softer terms in the hope that may sway the voters.

The Greek government has become adept at playing Europe’s leaders.

On the one hand they plead for European solidarity; on the other they know that a Greek default is feared because it could spark contagion in the eurozone.

Except that, as Robert Peston goes on to point out

This might be the least worst option, but it would be painful for eurozone taxpayers and banks.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, European stock markets have tumbled – and shares in big banks are down around 10% or so.

All or any of these frightening scenarios would make it harder and more expensive for European banks to borrow – which has negative implications for European economic recovery and (in a worst case) could see a few banks falling over.

Nor is it especially comforting that Mr Papandreou’s government could tumble before a referendum. Any immediate general election would be the equivalent of a plebiscite on the bailout deal, and would therefore be just as destabilising to markets.

All that said, last week’s eurozone rescue package could unravel long before political events in Greece take their course.

Indeed.  And softening the terms of the Greek ‘rescue’ at this stage could risk contagion of a different sort for key European leaders – domestic political unrest.

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  • john

    Papandreou is nothing but a joke in Greece. His constant slip ups with the language doesnt help the yank. This referendum is his get out of jail ticket. He realises how great the public anger is that by now calling a referendum he will try and pass the blame back onto the people. The choice for the people is great – Vote yes to years of austerity and in 2020 the economy will still be as troubled as Italy is now at debt/GDP of 120% or vote No and jump into the unknown abyss of default and Euro exit (cant see anyone lending them any money ever again if that happens)

  • Mick Fealty

    He’s not helped by a deceitful opposition ( who got the country into the mess it’s in), but the point is this looks likes the denouement of the Euro story… It could be very bad news for all of us…

  • From Reuters:

    But parliamentarians questioned its legality under the constitution, which does not allow referendums on economic issues, only on matters of great national importance.

    The last time Greeks held a referendum was in December 1974, when they voted to abolish the monarchy shortly after the collapse of a military dictatorship.

    “It’s debatable whether the constitution allows such a referendum,” said Fotis Kouvelis, leader of the small Democratic Left party. “The country must go to early elections. Given the situation, it’s the most honorable solution.”

    For a referendum result to be binding, there must be a minimum 40 percent turnout on issues of “crucial national importance” and 50 percent on a law that has already been voted on in parliament and “regulates a serious social issue,” according to legislation enacted earlier this year. It was not clear which option the government would favor.

    “If the referendum answer is no, Papandreou has to resign,” said Costas Panagopoulos, an analyst at polling firm Alco.

  • (Sorry, can’t subscribe to new comments by email without posting something)

  • Mick Fealty

    He may be gone already by the end of the week.

  • john

    In fairness Mick the opposition made a mess when they were in power but the problems go back much further than that. Back in the early 80’s the public sector workers started to get massive increases in pay under Pasok. The other problems of corruption and croneyism went on regardless of who was in power – MP’s here were rightfully jailed for the false expense claims in the UK – the politicians in Greece make that look like childs play and the whole lot of them should be locked up – there have been various scandals involving siemens (bribes for state contracts – we are talking tens of millions not a few thousand on a false mortgage claim) mount athos scandal (dodgy landswaps with the church) to name a couple and no-one has been charged lol. The worst bit is most outsiders just think clever Greeks spend spend and then default and keep the money but for most average people they are in real trouble with high unemployment and those that do work are now being hugely taxed whilst the super rich and corrupt politicians laugh all the way to the bank – Disgraceful

  • sherdy

    With the E and IMF bailing out the Greeks they were being robbed of a Greek tragedy on a grand scale. The proposed referendum scuppers all that and opens the way for a national financial suicide. They will be immortalised!

  • If it’s true that the Greek government is about to fall, then this is patently a re-election bauble. Everyone loves a referendum. But as @carlbildt tweeted earlier:

    I truly fail to understand what Greece intends to have a referendum about. Are there any real options?

  • john

    Sorry forget to mention as Sarkozy pointed out years of fiddled stats to the outside world didnt help either and Euro entry should never have happened in the first place. It makes you wonder when a country can just lie about its debt for years and no-one actually bothers to check it

  • lamhdearg

    if you owe a bank £1000 thats your problem, if you own them £1000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000, thats their problem, the greeks are playing us all, thankfully the U.K. (me and mine) wont get the worst, When Greece fails, and lives on.

  • Mick Fealty

    Good point Andrew. Reelection/renegotiation?

  • john

    ”I truly fail to understand what Greece intends to have a referendum about. Are there any real options?”

    I think the referendum should be worded like this

    Which side of the barrel do you want to be bent over?

  • lamhdearg

    by greeks, i do not necessarily mean mr and mrs theo//////// who run the corner shop.

  • We do the Greeks an amazing favour and Papandreou goes out and buys a bucket of oil and a box of matches. This indeed may bring everything crashing down around us. Ungrateful wretch!

  • thethoughtfulone

    “It could be very bad news for all of us…”

    This is the line that’s been peddled since the first of the serious bail outs started (Northern Rock) and the story hasn’t changed every time a government, or governments, come up with a plan to commit us all to even more taxes for even longer in return for even poorer public services and even less infrastructure investment in our respect countries just so that the money markets can get back to doing what they do best, making the filthy rich even richer.

    Well I for one am finding this story increasingly harder to stomach and I don’t think I’m alone. The Greeks are obviously getting near the stage that they just don’t care and maybe they’ll actually be the first to do what we’ve all been talking for ages i.e. screw the bankers!

  • lamhdearg

    What would happen in the life of the avg greek, should greece default, as opposed to what will happen to them, should they suck up the austerity?, honest?!.

  • john

    What would happen in the life of the avg greek, should greece default, as opposed to what will happen to them, should they suck up the austerity?, honest?!.

    The austerity measures are crippling most of the population and strangling small businesses and generally affecting joe average who isnt really to blame for the Greek debt (apart from some of the cushy public sector lot) as for the alternative well no-one knows, every so called economist seems to have a different opinion my own gut feeling is it would be a mess with no future foreign investment the only plus point is the Greeks would be able to set their own interest rates and print their own money but the flip side is the new drachma might not be worth the paper its written on

  • Framer

    The Greeks will of course vote yes in the referendum (NB in the last riot or dramatised event in Athens the communists were even fighting the anarchists and not bothering with the police.)

    Wouldn’t you vote yes to stay in the Euro if during every crisis your debts get reduced by 50%? Pity the Irish and the Portuguese who did not go for drama and thus no debt reduction. They were just offered a lower rate of interest when they started complaining.

    The capture of the BBC/C4 correspondents in Athens who only reported soup kitchens and impoverished public servants, (whose 14 months a year wages were going to be cut to 12 months) was a sight to behold. Nary a detail of the actual cuts and their timing.

    Gavin Hewitt is a very rare and late exception, He presumably is more worried about Brussels than Athens or London.

    Our problem is the exposure of UK banks to the reduction in Greek debt, now and in the future. If Greece is not forced out of the Euro we will continue to pay for their past (and future) profligacy. As well as our own.

  • Greenflag

    Greece as a society was failed by it’s political and economic elites who paid Goldman Sachs huge amounts of dosh to cook their Eurozone application to fit the requirements for entry . From the outset the Greek political elite like their Irish and Icelandic counterparts simply abused the ‘cheap ‘money on tap from the stronger Euro zone economies as they sought higher returns for their investments .

    I listened to former German Kanzler Helmut Schmidt a few days ago who made the point that Greece should have been permitted entry into the EU but not into the Eurozone . It’s hardly credible that even the then German and other EU officials were not aware of the serious structural problems within the Greek economy .

    But that as the man said is now passe . There is’nt any political stomach among the French , Germans or Americans for another larger write down of Greek debt say 80% instead of 50% as they now have . The Germans wanted a write down of 60% but that was not acceptable to the French who are the most exposed to a Greek default .

    It’s hari kari time for the Greeks or back to the drachma at least for a period . They won’t be allowed to bring down the eurozone nor would it be the disaster that some make out if Greece were to default . Who is going to cry over German , French , British or American bank losses other than their shareholders. ?

    The Greeks had the option of adjusting to the Eurozone the easy way and now if they exit which seems the only possible outcome the way back will be a long hard slog assuming they would even want to .

    As to the future of the Greek people in the aftermath of a default ? That’s a consideration that’s getting less attention as 3 years of ‘faffing’ around the issue has German and other European taxpayers increasingly impatient with the Greeks .

  • Greenflag

    @ thethougtfulone,

    ‘The Greeks are obviously getting near the stage that they just don’t care and maybe they’ll actually be the first to do what we’ve all been talking for ages i.e. screw the bankers’

    Perhaps the Greeks and I mean the ‘thoughtful’ Greeks now have come to the conclusion that the better option is to as you say ‘screw the bankers ‘ or in this case the international bond markets . Beware the man and or nation that has nothing to lose . There is no way politically that Greece would go through 10 to 20 years of austerity merely to achieve the goal of reducing their debt to 120% of GDP .

    One would think that 3 years after the Bear Stearns bail out and the collapse of Lehman Bros and the property bubble induced Irish and American and Icelandic economic catastrophes that the worlds major economies would have grabbed the problem by the throat and ‘fixed ‘ the banksters .

    Alas virtually nowt has happened .Instead we read another hedge fund ‘gambler’ has bit the dust in the USA with consequences down the line for other major financial institutions .

    MF Global said it failed after getting margin calls spurred by disclosure of more than $6 billion of European government debt investments. It told regulators that client accounts had “deficiencies,” the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission said yesterday.

    The full story at
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-11-01/mf-global-stock-to-be-delisted-by-nyse.html

  • Asked a Greek friend to post earlier on this:
    Whether the referendum is an idea to (1) placate internal differences in Pasok and that is all that matters, (2) a means to leave the Euro without taking the blame, or (3) a – very brave- tactic to play hardball and get the Germans to cough up faster. Whichever it is, calling a referendum and then making it known that that won’t be until the deal is finalised (when most think that will take a long time) leaves months of uncertainty and a huge reluctance to lend to Greece at all – which may lend weight to (3). Sometimes politicians can be too clever. Not sure ND would do any differently as they are part of the EPP and Bildt & Co would expect them to behave and do as they are told.

  • The Greek folks sense of entitlement is astoundingly unbelieveably monstrous. They have lived beyond their means for many years, convincing themselves that, because they were in the EURO, that meant they could live like rich hardworking Germans. If they say No in a referendum, they should unceremoniously be thrown out of the eurozone.

  • thethoughtfulone

    “Beware the man and or nation that has nothing to lose .”

    Exactly!

    But the thing is, Greece by the extreme nature of it’s position only serves to illustrate what is happening to ordinary people throughout the world and what lies in store for us all in future.

    Is it not about time that more of the worlds politicians grew a pair and set about removing the parasites from the worlds economy. No easy thing but it’s the only way that it can be sorted. The commodity traders, investment banks, money markets rule the roost but why should they? They don’t own any oil or earths resources of any kind, they don’t grow any food, they don’t produce anything at all so why should they be so powerful and why should it be so difficult to simply remove them from the loop.

  • thethoughtfulone

    “The Greek folks sense of entitlement is astoundingly unbelieveably monstrous. They have lived beyond their means for many years, convincing themselves that, because they were in the EURO, that meant they could live like rich hardworking Germans. If they say No in a referendum, they should unceremoniously be thrown out of the eurozone.”

    Oh come on, it’s not that cut and dried.

    The Germans have happily dragged along a few other weaker economies knowing that their presence has helped to de-value the Euro giving their (Germanys) own exports a huge advantage all over the world.

    But at the same time, they obviously had no concern what damage the eurozone fiscal policies (very much geared to the needs of themselves and France) may have been having on these economies until it was too late so the Germans are only reaping some of what they’ve sown themselves.

  • Two thoughts come to mind:

    Throwing Greece out of the euro would inevitably result in a 100% default on their debt, rather than the 50% proposed. Eurozone banks would still be exposed to Greek debt, and (more importantly) the credit-default swaps that underwrite that debt, not to mention the knock-on effects of the capital flight restrictions necessary to facilitate the exit. One of the major problems with trying to predict the outcomes of various actions is that there is no transparency around who underwrites the C/Ds and what exactly would trigger them. Who is it exactly that’s being punished in this scenario?

    It’s fashionable to slam the greedy bankers, but it’s not their money that they’ve been throwing around, it’s yours. Insurance premiums, pension contributions, ISSIs… Fund managers always need higher returns, because we keep living longer and getting more expensive diseases. So the money that gets paid out to the bondholders isn’t necessarily money down the drain – some of it is paying for your hip replacement. The question is not how to get out of jail free, it’s how to spread the pain around equitably so that nobody suffers too much. Lumping it all on the bankers just pushes it out in unpredictable directions, because it’s always somebody else’s money.

  • Sorry, that should have been who owns the C/Ds

  • Yes, it’s my money but I have no say on how much those managing my money pay themselves in what are, quite frankly, obscene bonuses, whether they do a good job or a bad one.

  • The Greeks are the highest spending European Union country on defence. If they even came down to the EU average that would have a couple of billion euro a year immediately. Of course, that would require the Turks to cop on too…

  • Into the west

    It a trojan horse this one from the Greeks

  • Joe,

    In theory you do – if they paid themselves smaller bonuses they could give you a better deal and the market would drive prices down. But that’s assuming a) that the total amount of bonuses foregone, if spread out across all customers, would amount to anything much and b) that the average consumer understands enough about financial products to make an informed choice, which is doubtful. And of course none of that was a problem when everything seemed to be going smoothly. It’s also important to differentiate between the collective behaviour of the financial markets (which was obviously irrational) and the behaviour of individual actors within the market, which remained more or less rational (in the economic sense) right up to the end. The financial incentives in any bubble are to be the last-but-one to jump. Also, individual employees may well be doing a superb job under difficult circumstances, so should they be punished for the failure of others? Are we as careful to distinguish between “front-line” financial services personnel and management as we are in other sectors (say, the health service)?

  • DC

    I don’t understand why people are resigning from his government it seems a good call to me.

  • Pete Baker

    “I don’t understand…”

    We know, DC, we know…

  • DC

    Is that the royal smart arse ‘we’?

  • Pete Baker

    “Is that the royal smart arse ‘we’?”

    Ha!

    Of course it is, DC, of course it is.

    No-one else thinks it…

  • Pete Baker

    Btw

    Let us know how your e-petition goes…

  • DC

    I was just wondering if you are now their spokesperson, I thought you were just the guy that lifted other people’s work and posted it on slugger as if it were meant to be some sort of analysis.

  • Pete Baker

    “I thought you were just the guy that lifted other people’s work and posted it on slugger as if it were meant to be some sort of analysis.”

    The Slugger archive’s there for a reason.

  • Pete Baker

    When it works…

    *sheesh*

  • slappymcgroundout

    “One of the major problems with trying to predict the outcomes of various actions is that there is no transparency around who underwrites the C/Ds and what exactly would trigger them. Who is it exactly that’s being punished in this scenario?”

    Those dumb enough to play the game. Don’t know if you’ve heard of Michael Burry, formerly the owner/manager of Scion Capital, but he was calling the collapse of the housing market back in late 04. Took one look at the huge rise in the subprime mortgages and knew that it was only a matter of time before the sh-t hit the fan, as it were. He gave a talk at Vanderbilt University in April of this year (2011). Among the various and sundry things he said was:

    We are building a debtors’ prison for our children. Legacies are a fatal burden in a fast changing world.

    He’s right and so f-ck them. F-ck them all. Why should the Greeks lock their children into debtor’s prison in order to bail out French and German banks (primarily)?

  • slappy,

    Do you have life assurance? Or a pension? If so, you’re one of the dumb ones playing the game.

    Sure, Burry was prescient (and to be fair, he wasn’t the only one). But how do you translate that prescience into collective action? Individual actors aren’t going to volunteer to step aside while others carry on making money. This is why macroeconomic policy and regulation are vital.

    Why should the Greeks lock their children into debtor’s prison in order to bail out French and German banks

    Wrong question. Why should they bail out the investors in French and German banks? I don’t believe they should, but somebody may have to, so who will foot the bill? The Presbyterian Mutual Society will pale in comparison. At some level at least some of the risk will have to be socialised, the only question is where and how much (and how soon). Unless of course we relish the thought of decimating* the continent’s life savings.

    And that’s not even getting started on liquidity, which is probably a lost cause until there’s some faith that the worst is over.

    * In the old-fashioned sense of picking random individuals and destroying them while leaving the rest unscathed.

  • Alias

    Hopefully, the Greeks will have the good sense to reject the proposal if it is put to them in a referendum but it doesn’t look like they will. Almost three quarters of them want to stay in the eurozone according to a recent poll – and why wouldn’t they when it has been an over-milked cash cow to them?

    If the government survives the confidence vote and a referendum is actually called, then it is hard to see how rejecting it wouldn’t lead to exiting the eurozone and default. Regaining control of its macroeconomic, fiscal, and monetary policy and defaulting would enable Greece to undo some of the damage that europhilia has done to its economy. Staying within means economic servitiude to French and German bondholders (who own 21% of government bonds) and would mean more severe austerity, more wage deflation, and more unemployment. That won’t be just for the duration of the period it takes the country to generate 320 billion in wealth but will be never-ending since Greece’s macroeconomic and monetary will continue to be woefully mismanaged by a system designed only to cater for the economies of Germany and France. EU rule will lead Greece from ruin to utter ruin.

    Of course, Ireland is a shareholder in the ECB so Irish taxpayers will also have to pick up the tab for their shate of Greek debt, with the ECB recklessly throwing billions more of our money away in order to promote its failed politial project.

    If the Greeks accept the proposal (assuming it is put to them), then the EU will socialise more private debt to keep its pet in the cage, and all of the EU’s citizens will have thrown more good money after bad. Eventually, the EU will have to accept that the game is up and that it has made its member states into the most endebted states in the world. So any solution is just eurofanatics continuing to sacrifice the prosperity of European nations to keep their demented little dream of a single superstate alive when it is deader than Michael Palin’s parrot…

  • aquifer

    Papandreou’s move could work. The street protests may be the work of a minority of disaffected lifestyle revolutionaries rather than a reflection of the views of the Greek people, in which case he has called a bluff. There are left groups in Greece that will always oppose the survival of capitalism there on principle, and which has a resentment of governance dating back to the days of the ruling military junta, but when the broader population has tasted prosperity the vote may go his way.

  • “The Greek government has become adept at playing Europe’s leaders…”

    And yet a case can be made that the calling of a referendum is actually in the European interest. It is naive to suggest that a Greek default will be avoided just so long as its Government follows all EU directions.

    At the moment, the opposition in Greece is so irresponsible with its attacks on the Government that relying on this approach alone will not work. A “yes” to the measures in a referendum will get the people behind the decision. It is what Greece needs and what Europe needs.

  • Sean Og

    What are the chances of a military coup in Greece?

    The heads of defence were all replaced yesterday – why? Odd timing to say the least. Did the Govt suspect something was planned?

    What would happen if there was a coup? Greece would he expelled from the EU and there would probably be open warfare on the streets for a time.

    Could a military Govt take the hard decisions required to get the Greek economy growing, outside the EU and having defaulted on it’s debt?

    I very much doubt it but some in the Greek defence forces may not agree. “Stepping forward to save the Nation in a time of national crisis” and all that…

    It’s happened before.

  • thethoughtfulone

    Increasingly it appears that those in power at present want to play it the French/German way, and the population don’t (although I will accept the possibly that it’s maybe yet another case of the vocal minority grabbing all the attention).

    But, assuming that the majority of the population want out, which is true democracy? The brave politicians leading the country down what they perceive to be the best route even though it may be unpopular, or simply reflect the will of the majority, default on the loans, and hang the consequences.

    Might only be the first country of many whose politicians face the same dilemma in the short/medium future.

  • Greenflag

    ‘simply reflect the will of the majority, default on the loans, and hang the consequences.’

    When there’s a rope around your neck it’s very important that your legs are long enough to reach the ground . Right now Greek necks are being stretched and the outlook is for further stretching even if the recent ECB offer is accepted . Greeks may come to believe ‘rationally ‘ that if one is about to be hanged then it had better be by a quick exit from the Eurozone than a long slow lingering death of a thousand cuts which would only result in another military dictatorship sooner or later .

  • Alias

    Contrast the Greek negotiators with our drooling eurogombeens.

    Noonan focused on the interest rate to be paid on the debt, thereby (a) accepting that the debt was legitimate, and (b) accepting that 100% of it was owed.

    When he crawled on his knees to the Comission he was told that if he wanted a reduction on the interest rate then he would have to hand over the Irish nation’s sovereignty over it tax affairs to the EU.

    Instead of dismissing this nonsense outright, he allowed the EU to link two entirely seperate issues and to offer to trade one for the other.

    Noonan then protested that if that was the case he would rather not have a reduction than lose tax sovereignty, so he packed his bags and went home without getting a cent off.

    It was only later than the EU provided a reduction at the behest of the IMF, having zero to do with Noonan.

    That didn’t stop Noonan offering to trade what he had earlier refused to trade in return for a reduction that he would have gotten (thanks to the IMF) without trading.

    So Noonan duly surrendered Irish tax sovereignty to the EU…

  • Sean Og

    Hard to believe that when Europe is is facing it’s biggest crisis since the 1930s – most posters on here are more concerned with Sinn Fein’s vote in the Irish Presidential election.

    This is important. The Presidential vote wasn’t IMO.

  • Brian

    Were there people out there warning of the dangers of the EU expanding like it did and letting somehwat dysfunctional governments and economies in the Eurozone? Was there significant opposition to it?

    I wasn’t paying much attention back then.

  • A referendum – let me see, that would be democracy in action would it not?

    What EU leader would have a problem wit the Greeks exercising their democracy?

    An unelected EU office holder maybe.

    Good on the Greeks, hold yer ground, You have 50% write off of debts, maybe you will get 100% if the referendum votes NO

  • Zig70

    If the banks were in the same position as the Greek’s, then they would have filed for bankruptcy ages ago and stuff the lot of us. Time to eat cake.

  • I have nice dreams but, if the Greeks vote “No”, I suspect they will be having nightmares. What if Germany has a vote in a referendum on the bailout?

  • Zig70

    Having no money, no job and a massive debt, with samaritan style handouts is a bigger nightmare to me than having no money, no job and no help. In truth though would the IMF see the Greeks starve? The banks aren’t lending anyway while this trundles on and most of the casualities will be financial houses that have insured the bad debt. Don’t think anyone in NI can cast dispersions on others living beyond their means.