Greek elections and austerity

While mulling over possible content for my latest blog, I had an unpleasant experience that in a strange way was not altogether unrelated. I tried to pay for some shopping with my debit card, only to discover there was insufficient funds in my account. While not disastrous in my case, it was embarrassing to say the least and also illustrates the need for financial accountability, something I’m not that good at despite being an important part of what I was thinking about, which was to do with the Greek election results that had just been announced and the subject of austerity that keeps cropping up in discussions, which at the present time significantly impacts many.

There were all sorts of reactions to the result of the Greek elections that have taken place. One struck me, from one my Green activist Facebook friends, linking his remarks to an article from the Telegraph, making the comment: “The end of austerity politics is in sight. Syriza in Greece has firmly rejected the pain caused by forcing the people to pay for a failed banking system. Spain and the UK (Green Party) will be next, with both electorates being offered an end to austerity. The days of the super rich getting a lot richer, while the rest suffer, may be coming to an end.”

I must firstly say: “I am no economist”. While looking back at recent years, reflecting on the banking crisis and the later bale out of some of the defaulting on repaying debt European economies in the Eurozone, the ongoing cut backs at national and local government level, especially those which impact on the poor and vulnerable, and solutions being mooted ranging from more austerity, to cutting back in other areas e.g. scrapping Trident or reverting to old fashioned socialist ideas of redistribution of wealth, to printing more money (as just prior to the Greek result was announced regarding members of the Eurozone), I do not know, but one thing for sure though …

We cannot keep getting away with spending what we don’t have (as I was strongly reminded yesterday). While governments are adept at delaying the consequences through financial wizardry, it is not so easy for ordinary individuals. I often remind myself of the words of Wilkins Micawber, a character in Dickens’ book, David Copperfield: “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.”

I sympathise with the Greek people who have suffered, especially the poor, as a result of the austerity measures being put in place as a condition of its financial rescue by its European partners, and with no end in sight or obvious sign the measures are working. I can also sympathise with my Green activist friends who see much the same happening in the UK, and with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. But to not tackle the budget deficit in an appropriate way would be creating problems that will have to be dealt with eventually and at greater cost than if we deal with it now.

As we look forward to another General Election, I look forward to the debate on how we deal with these matters and hope beyond hope that it will not come down to a war of soundbites that might be reduced to something along the lines: austerity or no austerity, with either side attempting to claim the moral high ground. I suspect that somehow with the proverbial (Greek) cat now set among the pigeons that the matter of austerity and how we deal with the economy and yet still provide services will be high on the political agenda.


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