What to Do When Reality Refuses to Cooperate With Your Theory, Greek Edition

Michael Stephens | March 6, 2013

The evident failure of the ongoing austerity and “structural adjustment” experiments in Greece and the rest of the eurozone might have prompted some reconsideration of the intellectual foundations of those policies.  Instead, as C. J. Polychroniou observes in his latest policy note, one notable reaction seems to have been to blame the test subjects:

In drafting the document for the so-called “Second Economic Adjustment Programme for Greece,” the EU’s neoliberal lackeys contended that “Greece made mixed progress towards the ambitious objectives of the first adjustment program.” On the positive side, it is noted, the general government deficit was reduced “from 15.75 percent of GDP in 2009 to 9.25 percent in 2011.” On the negative side, the recession “was much deeper than previously projected” because, it is claimed, factors such as “social unrest” and “administrative incapacity” (including a lack of effectiveness in combating tax evasion) “hampered implementation.”

The antigrowth “fiscal and structural adjustment” program was perfectly designed and would have produced all the anticipated results if the government were better fit to carry out the policies … and if the citizenry did not on occasion make some fuss about them by staging demonstrations here and there or by occupying the square outside the Greek parliament building. In essence, this is what the above statement says.

The puny excuses of the EU bureaucrats for the fiscal consolidation program’s causing a much sharper economic decline than “previously projected” fly in the face of the recent partial concessions made by the IMF: that the policies carried out in Greece ended up having much more adverse effects on the economy because the Fund miscalculated the impact of the fiscal multiplier. Indeed, the executive summary of the “Second Economic Adjustment Programme for Greece” goes on to state unequivocally that, insofar as the prospects of the success of the second adjustment program are concerned, “the implementation risks . . . remain very high” but the success of the program “depends chiefly on Greece.”

The neoliberal economics applied to Greece by Germany, the EU, and the IMF did not simply cause a greater decline in Greek GDP than “originally projected” or make the debt grow substantially bigger in the course of the last two years (from 126.8 percent in 2010 to 180 percent in 2012). It also produced an economic and social catastrophe of proportions unparalleled in peacetime Europe.

Read Polychroniou’s policy note here.

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