mercredi 21 septembre 2011

Le Wall Street Journal : la Grèce est un "pays ingouvernable"

    September 19, 2011, 10:42 AM GMT

Greece: Don’t Discount the Role of the Military

By Alen Mattich

Political instability and rebellion have stretched across the Mediterranean’s North African coastline and up to Syria, but why should they stop there? Why should they not stretch to Greece, for example?
It’s worth remembering that Greek generals staged a coup in 1967 and then ran the country as a junta. Democracy wasn’t restored until 1975. That’s not such a long time ago.

The Greek military is still a very significant force in the country. Greece spends more on its armed services as a percentage of GDP than any other European Union country–3.2% against an EU average of 1.6%, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute data.

The day Greece runs out of money–barring yet another massive infusion from the EU, the ECB and the IMF–draws closer by the day. When bureaucrats don’t get paid, they down tools and go on strike. But what happens when the money stops flowing to the army?

In June a report from the CIA concluded that a military coup was possible in Greece. This was picked up business blog Business Insider, for instance.

Every incremental piece of reporting from Athens shows how ungovernable the country is. Tax collectors are refusing to do their jobs. Companies and households are lying about their incomes as never before to minimize the tax that they do end up paying. A desperate government is trying to raise taxes through peoples’ electricity bills, but the electricity unions say they won’t enforce the collections.

Greece can’t even cut its workforce. According to an article in today’s Wall Street Journal, Greece, which agreed to lay off 80,000 public-sector workers over the next four years back in March, also happened to hire 25,000 workers over the past two years.

There is ample reason to believe that Greece will make the requisite promises to get the money from the troika to tide itself over for the next few months. The Greek government’s intentions may well be honorable. But it has failed to keep its obligations so far, not least because imposing yet more austerity on a contracting economy just reinforces the downward spiral. More money now merely postpones default.

The only successful alternative would be for Germany to take on Greece’s obligations in the form of a euro-zone bond and unified fiscal system for the single currency. The problem here is enforcement. German voters are already irritated at being taken for a ride by what they see as the feckless periphery.

Would they be willing to pump ever more money into an economy over which they have no control and which they distrust? Because a euro-zone bond inside the current structure of the euro with its existing membership means more or less permanent transfers from the core to the periphery.

Could Greece default and remain in the euro zone? Some commentators suggest this would be possible, though, once again, without a euro-zone bond, Greece would not only be shut out of the markets but would have to deflate its way to competitiveness very rapidly and then continue to have to live with onerous constraints imposed by a monetary policy geared towards the German economy.

And austerity would cause yet more chaos on Greek streets and give the military yet more incentive to intervene.

Especially if its own position was being eroded.

Is a military coup likely in Greece? Maybe not. But it’s a possibility that can’t be discounted. And if that were to happen, how happy would the European Union be to have a military dictatorship as part of its club?
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