Thursday, December 11, 2008

Greece, again

I was reading this extremely interesting commentary on the Greek riots in the Telegraph today. In it, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard suggests that while the rioting may have been initially triggered by the shooting death of the teenager, it is being fueled by the tremendous debt pressures that most of Greece is under, due to the Euro. To summarize: Greece has the highest proportion of public debt in the Euro-zone, and while this was ignored for awhile due to the housing bubble, now that the bubble has popped everything is going to hell.

This confirms most of what Prof. John Younger told me during my time in Greece. The country hadn't been on the Euro for very long, the housing bubble was in full swing, and there were as many new Mercedes on the street as there were day-laborers waiting on the corner, desperate for work. It didn't seem to match up. Turns out that everybody was doing the whole 'mortgage + hope' equation, sinking themselves into debt, and expecting the rest of Europe to help fix things if they went badly. There are a lot of economic conditions a nation has to meet before it joins the Euro, and it's generally acknowledged that Greece fudged their numbers to join the currency before they were ready.

It's going to be interesting.

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