Greece’s referendum on Sunday was a first for reasons hardly mentioned. On no other occasion has a country’s population been asked to approve or disapprove the conditions laid down by creditors for a country.
The nearly 300 adjustment/austerity programmes required of countries in Africa and Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s were never put to a country’s people.
Instead, they were negotiated behind closed doors by financial officials of the government with visiting bureaucrats of the IMF and the World Bank, often in secret even from other ministers of the government and elected parliamentarians.
Usually, the only means for people to express their views was by demonstrations and protests, which became a not uncommon occurrence. A young World Bank official once told me that as his aeroplane was taking off from a Caribbean island for Washington he saw from the plane window people rioting in the streets. Having just negotiated and signed an adjustment programme with that country, he wondered how much he was responsible.
Did such secrecy matter? A wealth of careful research has shown that the orthodox adjustment/austerity programmes in Africa and Latin America over nearly two decades had “a strong statistically significant negative effect on economic growth in the long run”.
Asking the people is not only democratic but may produce answers that the experts and politicians fail to recognise.
Professor Sir Richard Jolly
Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, Brighton
Greece is being bullied by northern European Eurocrats who have little empathy for southern Europe and no desire to reach any understanding. This saddens me and, I’m sure, the many people who love this wonderful country and especially its even more wonderful and hospitable people.
In addition to its economic woes, Greece is in the front line of nations expected to receive the rising tide of refugees from the Middle East, who enter the country via Turkey and the Aegean islands. How can it possibly be expected to cope? (Britain has managed to wriggle out of any responsibility.)
If Greece is forced into leaving the eurozone, or indeed the EU, the rest of the EU will have only itself to blame. Meanwhile, all of you who love Greece, don’t desert her, please.
In my letter to you a couple of weeks ago, I compared the Greek crisis to my asking my bank manager to lend me a further £20,000 in order to pay back my long overdue loan of £10,000. A proposal which was received less than enthusiastically.
I have now come up with Plan B. I shall ask my bank manager to write off the loan as an alternative money-management strategy – and as my extended family recently voted for this option, being fed up with our reduced circumstances, I think this should be acceptable to all. I will keep you posted on the outcome.
Michael G Scott-Robinson
I note, with concern for his wife’s safety, that Yanis Varoufakis is the one in the crash helmet as he leaves the ministry on his Yamaha superbike (7 July). Neither is wearing gloves, either, in this rather typical Greek motorcycling scene.
Just about everywhere else in Europe, simple legality – not to mention safety – would have him brought to book. I have ridden a motorbike in Athens, and even properly attired it is an even riskier business than Grexit.
Newcastle upon Tyne
STILL HAUNTED BY WEST LOTHIAN
The Government is representing English votes for English laws (Evel) as the answer to the “West Lothian Question” and a return to the status quo. It isn’t either, but it does put the future of the United Kingdom at risk. A return to the status quo would mean reversing devolution, which is not feasible. The genie is out of the bottle.
The Northern Irish Assembly at Stormont, the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff and the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood have been given powers to legislate in matters affecting their own peoples. A similar arrangement cannot apply to England, because England has 84 per cent of the population of the United Kingdom.
A federal Britain might be possible by devolving to the regions, but the people don’t want the regions. They showed that years ago when the people of the North-east defeated devolution in a referendum.
There are two alternatives. One is the introduction of Evel, allowing things to take their course leading to the break-up of the UK. That would mean that England could have its English Parliament at Westminster and continue much as now, but without Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
The alternative is devolution to the North and Midlands, north of the Wash (population 24 million); devolution to the South, south of the Wash (18 million); and London (9 million), which already has a devolved assembly. The Northern parliament could be in Leeds or Nottingham and the Southern in Bristol, roughly halfway between Cornwall and Essex. The federal UK parliament would be unicameral and be in a suitably remodelled Palace of Westminster.
A decision on the federal parliament and the necessary modification to Westminster to make it unicameral should be made before the estimated £7bn is spent on repairing the building.
No matter how far you kick a can down the road, you eventually catch up with it, and we have caught up with the West Lothian Question at an inopportune moment for the SNP.
Having insulted England in every possible way, the SNP now finds its easygoing centre-right neighbour wants no input into its domestic affairs from a bunch of bellicose, leftist Celts.
Why, in any case, should the SNP want to interfere in English matters that are none of its concern and for whose implementation it cannot be held accountable by voters?
Rev Dr John Cameron
St Andrews, Fife
The cost of NHS no-shows
I think Barry Wadeson (letter, 6 July) misses the point about missed NHS appointments. Each appointment missed decreases the efficiency in the system, since that appointment time is inevitably wasted (it is simplistic to assume that the time can be usefully spent carrying out other tasks, or allowing more urgent cases to be seen). I think, however, that the whole issue highlights a more fundamental problem.
My experience over many years as a general practitioner is that most of those who fail to attend offer no valid reason for missing their appointment, and offer no apology.
Since most people have no experience of anything other than NHS care free at the point of access, I feel that this has now become seen by many as a totally free service, and is treated as such, with scant regard to the actual cost to society.
Unless we are able to restore a sense of ownership of the NHS back to the public, and with that a need for responsibility towards its appropriate use, we will always struggle to meet genuine need.
If 100 per cent of appointments were kept, I have no doubt that waiting lists would decrease without any extra spend.
Dr Adrian Canale-Parola
A silence for the other victims?
David Cameron decided we should observe a minute’s silence to remember the people murdered in Tunisia and in the 7/7 bombings in London 10 years ago.
It is right that we should reflect upon the tragic deaths resulting from these horrific incidents.
In the interests of balance, should we not also observe a minute’s silence on 19 March, to remember the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed following the British/American invasion on that date in 2003, the event which, more than any other, caused the hatred which led to the killings in London and Tunisia.
Stourbridge, West Midlands
OAP perks: You ain’t seen nothing yet
The Government is to insist that the BBC funds the television licence fee for over-75s. I am looking forward to reaching that milestone as, by the same Tory logic, I will be able to get free food at Tesco, fly free on BA, travel free on the railways, get free coffee at Starbucks, eat free food from McDonald’s and drink myself stupid at Wetherspoons.
Simon G Gosden
The workers’ struggle
With almost two million workers on zero-hours contracts, the gap between the rich and poor at record levels, the best the Trades Union Congress can come up with is to ask for employers to take a sympathetic attitude to workers’ dress code in hot weather. RIP the British trade union movement.