Imperfect central bankers last hope for Europe
Current Greek debt is result of generations of Papandreou-led incompetence, writes Marc Coleman
Published 06/11/2011 | 05:00
WHEN it became known -- at around 3 O'Clock last Thursday -- that George, son of Andreas, son of Giorgios (Papandreou) was cancelling his referendum, the europhobes on twitter went predictably ballistic. Having stuck out an Achilles heel for opponents of the euro to take aim at, it's sudden withdrawal created a rash of disappointed and histrionic denunciations amongst the twitterati. Denial of democracy blah blah. Germany pushing Greeks around blah blah. Homeland of democracy sullied blah blah.
But one of the reasons why the very idea of a Greek referendum was insane is reflected in my use of the patronymic form of Mr Papandreou's name. The name, Papandreou, is -- literally -- "McAndrew" or son of Andrew, but in Mr Papandreou's case there is another meaning to it. Like his son George and his father Giorgios before him, Andreas Papandreou was a prime minister of Greece. At 145 per cent of GDP, the current unsustainable level of Greek public debt is the result of decades of family-run incompetence and corruption against which the ruling hereditary clans of Fianna Fail look like Quakers.
At 116 per cent, Italian debt isn't far behind. But Italy also has something that it referred to with great effect back in 1997 when it overcame German doubts about its high public debt: a massive level of private wealth that -- should the need arise -- can be taxed to offset its public liabilities. Italy also has a functioning industrial economy with some of the world's leading companies. Not so in Greece, alas.