Greek Crisis: Indicators of economic performance: 1974 – 2015

Greek flag - man holding Euro flag up top

The complete history of the Greek debt drama in charts

* By Matt Philips, Quartz, 30 June 2015. Full article and all charts available from Quartz  here

The value of any analysis depends, to a large extent, on the beginning and ending you choose.

So it is with Greece, which is seeing its simmering, half-decade-long debt crisis come to one of its periodic boils—and perhaps a final explosion.

Where to start? Records of Greek public debts stretch back at least as far as the Peloponnesian war—around 400 BCE. Should that be included? Or how about the fact that the modern nationstate of Greece has been in default for roughly half of the years since it gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in the 1830s? (After all, some trace Greek resistance to taxation to the historical taxes levied by the conquering Turks.)

For simplicity’s sake, let’s just start in the years before Greece joined the euro. In the 1980s, and early 1990s, the Greek economy was a bit of a mess.

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Greek Crisis: “On Europe’s cruel capitalism”

Greece. Lines before banks

This referendum is a fight between the Greeks and Europe’s cruel capitalism

– Aditya Chakrabortty, Economics Editor, The Guardian. 29 June 2015

Europe’s top politicians agree that the Greeks will vote this Sunday on one of the most important questions facing any nation. Yet they can’t settle what that question actually is. For Alexis Tsipras, the Greek prime minister, it is about whether his people will tolerate any more “strict and humiliating austerity”. Not so, says Germany’s Angela Merkel. She reckons the Greeks are choosing between staying in the euro and returning to the drachma. The stakes are raised higher still by the boss of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker: come next weekend, “the whole planet” will find out whether Greece wants to remain in Europe.

All of these may be correct, but each swerves the central importance of the moment. The reason to watch Greece this week is because a population of 11 million will hold a contest that the rest of us may one day also get to stage: a fight between democracy, and a broken political and economic system.

That battle – between what people want and what their rulers force down their throats supposedly for their own good – can be glimpsed at every dramatic moment in Greece’s recent history.

It was already there in spring 2010,

– – – > Full text of article here.

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Greek Crisis: Joseph Stiglitz on casting his vote

Joseph Stiglitz - Guardian Greece article

Neither alternative – approval or rejection of the troika’s terms – will be easy, and both carry huge risks

– From The Guardian, 29 June 2015. Full article here.

The rising crescendo of bickering and acrimony within Europe might seem to outsiders to be the inevitable result of the bitter endgame playing out between Greece and its creditors. In fact, European leaders are finally beginning to reveal the true nature of the ongoing debt dispute, and the answer is not pleasant: it is about power and democracy much more than money and economics.

Of course, the economics behind the programme that the “troika” (the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund) foisted on Greece five years ago has been abysmal, resulting in a 25% decline in the country’s GDP. I can think of no depression, ever, that has been so deliberate and had such catastrophic consequences: Greece’s rate of youth unemployment, for example, now exceeds 60%.

It is startling that the troika has refused to accept responsibility for any of this or admit how bad its forecasts and models have been. But what is even more surprising is that Europe’s leaders have not even learned. The troika is still demanding that Greece achieve a primary budget surplus (excluding interest payments) of 3.5% of GDP by 2018.

Economists around the world have condemned that target as punitive, because aiming for it will inevitably result in a deeper downturn. Indeed, even if Greece’s debt is restructured beyond anything imaginable, the country will remain in depression if voters there commit to the troika’s target in the snap referendum to be held this weekend.

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Greek Crisis. Jeffrey Sachs: Let Greece Default

Jeffrey Sachs Bloomberg

Jeffrey Sachs, a professor at Columbia University, talks about Greece’s debt crisis and the nation’s future in the euro.

Some quick quotes from his interview:

This is really a very sad mess. The sort of situation which never should have been allowed to come about in the first place.

It shows very poor economic management from the European side.

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Thomas Piketty calls for European Debt Conference

“We need a conference on all of Europe’s debts, just like after World War II. A restructuring of all debt, not just in Greece but in several European countries, is inevitable. Just now, we’ve lost six months in the completely intransparent negotiations with Athens. The Eurogroup’s notion that Greece will reach a budgetary surplus of 4% of GDP and will pay back its debts within 30 to 40 years is still on the table. Allegedly, they will reach a 1% surplus in 2015, then 2% in 2016, and 3.5% in 2017. Completely ridiculous! This will never happen. Yet we keep postponing the necessary debate until the cows come home.”

Eruoean Debt Conference 1953

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Greek Crisis: Piketty steps up to bat on Germany and Debts

Thomas Piketty - books

In this no holds barred interview that appeared in the influential German publication Die Zeit today, Thomas Piketty reminds their readers that debt forgiveness has to be part of the on-going negotiations between Europe, the IMF and the Greek government.  For those with short memories, he reminds us about how debt forgiveness has played an important role for the restructuring of the German economy at a time of utmost difficulty.

Here are some selected extracts from that exciting exchange. For the full article in English, thanks to the excellent translations of Gavin Schalliol, click to https://medium.com/@gavinschalliol/thomas-piketty-germany-has-never-repaid-7b5e7add6fff 

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Greek Crisis: Learning from the Referendum

gREEK FLAG STORMY SKY

Athens, 27 June 2015. The leader of the Greek coalition government, Alexis Tsipras, who had previously indicated that he might be obliged to call a referendum, or even national elections, if Greece was not able to secure an acceptable agreement in the restructuring negotiations, announced this morning that a national referendum on the topic would be held on Sunday 5 July.

Click here for offical Greek Government website for the Referendum (Ministry of Communications)  – http://www.referendum2015gov.gr/en/

In the face of what he and his team considered wrong-minded, punitive and impossible to meet conditions set out in the last round of unbending proposals on the part of their negotiating partners, the “troika” of led by the European Commission (EC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Central Bank (ECB), Tsipras announced that his government was going to turn to the Greek people and ask them, Yes of No, whether to accept the latest troika’s terms.

Within hours the swords were drawn and the harsh words started to ring out, almost always with more passion than reason.

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From Nantes: Three Little Words to Shape the Future of Cycling

Philippe Crist - with bike but no nameWe are pleased to be able to share with you the speaking notes prepared by a friend of many years and emerging pillar on the international transport policy scene, Philippe Crist of the International Transportation Forum for his opening keynote address to this year’s Velo-City conference in Nantes.

Philippe, who for years has spent more than an hour each day peddling through Paris traffic to work at the OECD,  takes a few steps back from the immediate concerns of the many workshops and events, and invites us to contemplate the big picture and hopefully in the process remember three words that he has chosen for the core of his presentation, three words that he proposes can help us understand, shape and support the future of cycling in our cites, smaller towns and rural communities around the world. The words are: Serendipity (stumbling on something important by keen eye and happy chance); the concept of Resilience; and the initially puzzling neologism “Supernormal”. To put this presentation to work, we invite you to review it in parallel enjoying the illustrated 12 minute video of his address which you will find at the Opening Plenary Part 3 at  http://livestream.com/lacitenantes/Velocity2015/videos/89111933 (start viewing at 36:30).

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The Encyclical Dialogue: What happens next on World Streets?

Pop Francis listening critically

World Streets accepts this wise invitation of open discussion of these critical matters with grateful thanks to the Pope and the Vatican, and a genuine desire to participate usefully.

Pope Francis has invited us all, invited the world in all its varieties and contradictions, to read, ponder and comment on the carefully crafted forty thousand words of his Encyclical, Laudato Si’: On Care for our Common Home. In the opening lines of the long, varied and challenging document he addresses us in these words.

In this Encyclical, I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home. . . I urgently appeal for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.

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Encyclical Laudato Si’: On Care for our Common Home

pope francis in crowd

Photo: Massimo Pinca/AP

Pope Francis’s just-promulgated encyclical “Laudato Si’: On Care for our Common Home”, is without a doubt the most important single document to be published, initiative  to be taken, since the phrase sustainable development was invented three long and patently unsuccessful decades ago. This extraordinary document of less than one hundred pages aims to inform and to rally the forces of responsible  behavior and responsible governance to the cause and the plight of our planet and to the role of active democracy.  Beautifully written (the English language version at least), clearly presented and cogently argued in clear day to day language.    It is an excellent and inspiring read. However it is not a recipe, it has its shortcomings — it is a challenge, and thus requires that we read it carefully and do our own sorting out of the issues and the counsel it offers. Hardly an effortless process.

One of the more disheartening passages includes his listing of all the promising international agreements that have failed for lack of support from the leaders who signed them.

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Extra-urban Mobility Revolution Coming to your Doorstep

If I live outside of a city — say, in a classic spread suburb, rural area, commuter town or other hard to serve low density area — and if I happen not own a car, or on days when my car is not available, I am going to have an extremely hard time getting to work or wherever it is I need to go this morning.

rural carshare cowIn principle I have a few choices, for example: (a)  Get down on my knees and beg for a ride from family or neighbors. (b)  Try to find (and somehow get to) a bus or local pubic transport (in a period of ever-decreasing public services and budget cuts, so good luck!). (c) Search out a taxi if you can find one, call, wait for it eventually to show up and then pay a hefty amount. (d) For work trips, and if I am lucky, there may be a ride-sharing scheme.  Or, for many less comfortable but still possible, (e) the  hitchhiking option. (f) Or do like an increasing number of my fellow commuters and buy a cheap motorcycle. And perhaps most likely of all (g) be obliged to reschedule or forget the trip. But at the end of the day, and all things considered, I am forced to conclude that the reality of life in suburbia and rural areas today is: no car = no mobility. Harsh!

But stuff changes.We are entering a new and very different age of technology, communications and mobility, and as American writer Josh Stephens reminds us in the following article, things are starting to look up.

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Bike sharing: Impacts and processes of implementation and operation

cropped-paris-velib-station.jpg

Miriam Ricci, a Research Fellow at the Centre for Transport & Society at the University of the West of England, has recently completed a research report on bike sharing that will be of interest to our readers. Her paper is concerned with identifying and critically interpreting the available evidence on bike sharing to date, on both impacts and processes of implementation and operation.

The ten page analytic report is freely available online from Elsevier until July 19, 2015 at http://authors.elsevier.com/a/1R6t47sdbMZRLC. A short description and introduction to the report follows here.

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Climate Change. . .  and why we are not taking it seriously

open car open rooad closed mindLisa Bennett,  a writer and communications strategist focusing on climate change, has just published an article in Grist in which she picks out ten problems that we just about all have with our behaviour, our psychology and our attitude toward the future, and in particular the inevitably uncertain future of climate change. We have extracted the ten points she speaks to in this summary below. For the full article you will have to turn to Grist here –http://goo.gl/hO9E3E.

The bottom line has to be that to the extent all those concerned are until now unable to mobilize enough people on these issues to make a difference, we are simply going to have to be  far better in making our case — and making and making and making it — than we have been up to now. Hard work ahead. Brain work! Let’s listen to Lisa.

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Victoria Transport Policy Institute. Late spring 2015 Newsletter

This carefully compiled seasonal report from Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute is a fine tool and up to date source guide for researchers and policy makers worldwide. We are pleased to present it in its entirety here, together with references you will find handy to take these entries further. Thanks for your fine continuing contributions Todd.

Vtpi Litman Canada

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English as a second language: Good choice? Bad choice?

drawing woman writing at desk

Like it or not, however, English is an awful choice for an international language, not least because its spelling and pronunciation abide by no rules. How much easier it would have been for the world, if we had, say, taken Italian as our shared language where every clearly pronounced word is immediately and impeccably spellable. However fate wished otherwise, so today we are condemned to work with what we have, English. But here are a few words of comfort for those who are often confused about the awful slip between the spelling and the pronunciation, and vice versa. Hopefully it will cheer you up. As you will see, if you are at times baffled you are not alone.

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Our (very) mobile conscience

Dealing with good and evil (in traffic)  v.2

drawing head held anxietyIn 2010 a 38-year-old motorist filled with remorse entered a police station in the Netherlands to give himself up. Twenty years earlier he had run over a child and was ridden with guilt. The man explained that he slept badly since the accident, suffered from nightmares and could not find a decent permanent job. The approximately five-year-old child unexpectedly crossed the road and he could not brake in time. While another motorist took care of the victim, he drove away and since then he lived contrary to his conscience. Until it was too much for him that morning and he decided to surrender himself.

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