Sean O'Grady: Riot all you want: the economic facts remain the same

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The Independent Online

The protesters in Athens can riot all they want, but they cannot alter the fundamental economic fact of their country – it is busted, mainly because it has been consuming more than it produces for many years. Even a socialist revolution or a generals' coup would not change that reality, and it too could not prevent the harsh cut in living standards that is inevitable.

It is too late now to say that Greece should never have joined the euro at all, as the country simply took the opportunity to borrow at "German" low interest rates but without German high productivity and exports. But it is true that if Greece had not she might now have been able to devalue her currency and made the whole process of "rebalancing" less painful.

We are where we are, however, and the truth is that the political changes that have swept through all the peripheral eurozone economies have made little practical difference. In Ireland and Portugal there are new governments implementing more or less the same austerity packages as their predecessors. Pledges by the new Irish Taoiseach to renegotiate their IMF/EU bailout have come to nought, while the Portuguese were only allowed their rescue if the opposition signed up to it.

If the Pasok government does fail then its replacement is likely to be a conservative one, and, unless it wants to be locked out of international capital markets or chucked out of the euro, it too will have to do what the IMF and EU tell it to.

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