In 2008, as the global economy braced itself for a recession of such magnitude that it would become known as the GFC (Global Financial Crisis), many pondered how bad things could possibly get.
As we ultimately would find out (although not to the same extent in Australia), economies around the world were thrown into reverse, markets into disarray, and many were left jobless and financially up against the wall. In Greece, there was worse to come.
In his book, Jason Manolopoulos seeks to tell the story of an international economic crisis in which this small country would play a crucial role. While the true impact that Greece’s economic and financial woes will have on the state of the European Union remains to be seen, Manolopoulos goes back in time and looks at what predated the GFC, and in particular, the pieces of the Greek puzzle that were, with hindsight, so poorly aligned that economic disaster was imminent.
Manolopoulos draws on similarities in the economic fate that beset Argentina in the early part of last decade with that which Greece currently endures. He also links the two countries to their one-time military dictatorships in the latter half of the 20th century, Greece’s ending in 1974, and South America’s in 1983. He concedes that at times, things looked positive for Greece, most notably during the last decade. In 2001 Greece was accepted into what Manolopoulos asserts was a fledgling European single currency, the Euro.
Three years later, the nation would celebrate the Athens Olympics, a surprise win in the European Football Championships, and a burgeoning tourism industry. Unfortunately, these glories glossed over an economic reality that would in the years that followed, combined with European politics and Greek society, threaten the very viability of the Euro, and to an extent, the European Union itself. Manolopoulos identifies a miscellany of Greek scandals of financial waste; from police uniforms costing more than Armani, to farmers receiving subsidies for non-existent cotton fields.
All the while, Greece kept borrowing more and more money, and by 2009 when things began to look dire, many remained in denial, exacerbating the problem and ultimately attracting the eye of the international community, and leaving Greece’s finances in serious uncertainty. While the bailouts would help alleviate the concern of those looking on from abroad, what it would do to the Greeks themselves, remains a question that probably cannot be fully answered or appreciated for years to come.
All up, the book is a careful considered blow-by-blow account of the problems that led to Greece’s economic and financial woes, as well as the profound implications it would have for the European Union, and is put together with strong and punchy prose, making it an enjoyable read.