Over the weekend, the Greek parliament voted to accept Europe’s latest demands for spending cuts and tax rises and other reforms and retrenchments. The aim was to make it marginally less implausible that Greece will pay back the hundreds of billions of euros that its neighbours are lending it. The alternative, we were told, was that it would become “ground zero” for a new financial meltdown, with its exit from the euro leading to social chaos within the country and economic chaos outside.
So Greece’s MPs voted it through, 199 to 74 – despite the tens of thousands rioting on the streets of Athens, despite GDP having contracted for three years in a row, despite tax revenues collapsing thanks to austerity-induced depression and overt, systematic tax evasion, despite the main governing party’s popularity falling to 8 per cent in the opinion polls.
Phew! Now Greece will get its second bail-out package of 130 billion euros (the first 110 billion, given in May 2010, having proved insufficient). Now it won’t default or leave the single currency, and everything will go back to normal… won’t it?