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Alexis Tsipras puts on a necktie, places noose around Greece’s neck (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 36.

Alex Christoforou

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While many Syria party members hailed Tsipras’ victory, the reality is that Greece will be stuck in its bailout for years to come.

The terms of Greece’s exit make it extremely difficult for the next government to bring life to an ailing economy. Greece may have exited the Troika austerity plan, only to enter a new austerity outside of ECB and EU protection.

After long insisting he would only wear a necktie when Greece’s debt problem was solved, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras finally put on a tie last Friday, after he formally announced Greece’s exit form years of eurozone austerity.

Tsipras said…

“Today is an important day for all, but primarily it belongs to those who for eight years was viciously hit by the crisis, for those who saw a lifetime of toils destroyed and those who carried the burden for the country.”

Eurozone finance ministers offered Greece a 10-year deferral and maturities extension on a large chunk of past loans as well as 15 billion euros in new credit to ensure Athens can stand on its own feet after it exits its bailout in August.

Greece’s has a debt mountain equal to approximately 180% of GDP, the highest in the 19-country eurozone.

Greeks have seen their economy shrink by a quarter, unemployment hit record high and salaries and pensions slashed by about 40% since first falling into crisis in 2010.

Greece has already undergone three international bailouts.

A smiling Tsipras addressed members from his radical left Syriza, and right coalition partner Independent Greeks…

“Bets are made to be won. It’s a bit difficult (wearing the tie) but I will get used to it.”

Tsipras publicly removed the tie about half an hour later.

Fofi Gennimata, head of Socialist PASOK party, was not impressed with Tsipras’ theatrics: “The noose around the neck of Greeks remains.” 

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss whether Greece’s exit from austerity is really an exit at all, or just another political ploy with no real economic relief in sight for the Greek people.

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Via Bloomberg

In a way, the debt relief deal Greece has received as it exits its bailout makes good sense: It keeps the country on a tight leash, all but eliminating the possibility that it will go on a borrowing spree in the financial markets and misspend the money as it’s done before. On the other hand, the scheme gets superimposed uncomfortably onto the country’s political cycle: It puts the next government on the spot, making a backlash against it all but inevitable.

The deal hammered out by the Eurogroup, comprising the euro zone finance ministers, extends by 10 years the maturities of 130.9 billion euros ($152.4 billion) in old bailout loans, which make up about 40 percent of Greece’s total debt. They are already due in more than 30 years, but the new deal also defers interest payments on them by a decade. Besides, Greece gets 15 billion euros in cheap funding (the average rate for these bailout loans was 1.62 percent as of the end of March) that it can use to repay expensive debt to the International Monetary Fund, some 2.6 billion euros of which is due by the end of 2019.

It’s at the higher end of what was expected given Germany’s decidedly ungenerous stance on Greek debt, and it’ll let Greece tap the markets, though as Bloomberg Opinion’s Marcus Ashworth writes, it’s not clear investors will turn up in their numbers. The debt deferments are contingent on a large primary surplus (before debt repayments and interest) of 3.5 percent until 2022 and then 2.2 percent until 2060, as well as a whole program of tough economic and governance measures, which will be controlled by the creditors in the course of quarterly inspections. In other words, the country’s exit from the bailout program is far from clean.

It’s easy, therefore, for the political rivals of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to claim that Greece doesn’t get much out of the deal and that it’s not really a bailout exit. “Nothing exciting,” Costis Hatzidakis, vice president of the opposition New Democracy party grumbled about the exit terms. He described them as putting Greece in a “fish bowl” until 2022 with enough cash to pay off maturing debt but not much ability to borrow privately: The interest Greece has to pay on bonds is still too high at about 4.2 percent.

That fits the recent assessment of a group of European economists led by Jeromin Zettelmeyer of the Peterson Institute of International Economics. They wrote:

In the best-case scenario, Greece would maintain high primary surpluses until 2022 or 2023, but a longer period of exceptional fiscal discipline, as imagined by the Eurogroup, is very unlikely. By the late 2020s, it will be clear that the Greek debt dynamics are again unsustainable. At that point, however, the costs of restoring Greek debt sustainability will be much higher than they are today, because a large new stock of expensive private sector debts will have accumulated in the meantime. These debts would either need to be restructured or — in effect — repaid by the European official sector.

New Democracy isn’t just making populist noises. It’s highly likely that it will run the next government, to be elected by October, 2019. It has led the polls since 2016, gradually expanding its lead over Tsipras’s leftist Syriza bloc. Tsipras  appears resigned to a loss next year and mainly interested in assuring his legacy: That would explain his recent efforts to resolve the dispute with neighboring Macedonia over its name, to which Greek governments have long claimed the former Yugoslav republic has no right. The compromise has led to suggestions that Tsipras deserves a Nobel Peace Prize, since the name deal would remove a major obstacle to the entire former Yugoslavia’s ending up in the European Union, but it doesn’t help Tsipras at home where most Greeks oppose it.

If the center-right New Democracy wins next year and consolidates power, quick economic gains will be required if it hopes to keep some modicum of public trust. After all the hardship Greece has endured, the roughly 2 percent a year growth the Bloomberg consensus forecast promises the country in 2018, 2019 and 2020 is painfully insufficient. But how does one stimulate growth while forced to maintain large primary surpluses and only borrow at rates that can make Greece’s debt look unmanageable again by the end of the electoral cycle in 2023?

Ironically, New Democracy, which lost power to Syriza in 2015 because Tsipras promised an end to austerity and a debt write-off, is now in Syriza’s position, bemoaning Tsipras’s inability to reduce the face value of the debt and Greece’s lack of leverage in speeding up economic growth. If it tries to run up Greece’s private debt to spur investment, it may get slapped on the wrist or create a new debt crisis for the next four-year parliamentary period.

The heavy-handed bailouts may have helped keep Greece running and in the euro zone, but, just as their critics have claimed, they have rendered the Greek democracy somewhat redundant. Officially out of the bailout program, Greece still cannot really make its own policy. It may be doomed to a cycle of protest votes, weak governments, and, unless these governments are prudent, debt crises. Breaking that cycle might just be a goal that would justify allowing some moral hazard; it’s just hard to imagine the creditors trusting Greece again enough to loosen the leash.

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French opposition rejects Macron’s concessions to Yellow Vests, some demand ‘citizen revolution’

Mélenchon: “I believe that Act 5 of the citizen revolution in our country will be a moment of great mobilization.”

RT

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Via RT…


Macron’s concessions to the Yellow Vests has failed to appease protesters and opposition politicians, such as Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who called for “citizen’s revolution” to continue until a fair distribution of wealth is achieved.

Immediately after French President Macron declared a “social and economic state of emergency” in response to large-scale protests by members of the Yellow Vest movement, promising a range of concessions to address their grievances, left-wing opposition politician Mélenchon called on the grassroots campaign to continue their revolution next Saturday.

I believe that Act 5 of the citizen revolution in our country will be a moment of great mobilization.

Macron’s promise of a €100 minimum wage increase, tax-free overtime pay and end-of-year bonuses, Mélenchon argued, will not affect any “considerable part” of the French population. Yet the leader of La France Insoumise stressed that the “decision” to rise up rests with “those who are in action.”

“We expect a real redistribution of wealth,” Benoît Hamon, a former presidential candidate and the founder of the Mouvement Génération, told BFM TV, accusing Macron’s package of measures that benefit the rich.

The Socialist Party’s first secretary, Olivier Faure, also slammed Macron’s financial concessions to struggling workers, noting that his general “course has not changed.”

Although welcoming certain tax measures, Marine Le Pen, president of the National Rally (previously National Front), accused the president’s “model” of governance based on “wild globalization, financialization of the economy, unfair competition,” of failing to address the social and cultural consequences of the Yellow Vest movement.

Macron’s speech was a “great comedy,”according to Debout la France chairman, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who accused the French President of “hypocrisy.”

Yet many found Melanchon’s calls to rise up against the government unreasonable, accusing the 67-year-old opposition politician of being an “opportunist” and “populist,” who is trying to hijack the social protest movement for his own gain.

Furthermore, some 54 percent of French believe the Yellow Vests achieved their goals and want rallies to stop, OpinionWay survey showed. While half of the survey respondents considered Macron’s anti-crisis measures unconvincing, another 49 percent found the president to be successful in addressing the demands of the protesters. Some 68 percent of those polled following Macron’s speech on Monday especially welcomed the increase in the minimum wage, while 78 percent favored tax cuts.

The Yellow Vest protests against pension cuts and fuel tax hikes last month were organized and kept strong via social media, without help from France’s powerful labor unions or official political parties. Some noted that such a mass mobilization of all levels of society managed to achieve unprecedented concessions from the government, which the unions failed to negotiate over the last three decades.

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Soros Mimics Hitler’s Bankers: Will Burden Europeans With Debt To ‘Save’ Them

George Soros is dissatisfied with the current EU refugee policy because it is still based on quotas.

The Duran

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Via GEFIRA:


After the Second World War, many economists racked their brains to answer the question of how Hitler managed to finance his armament, boost the economy and reduce unemployment.

Today his trick is well known. The economic miracle of Führer’s time became possible thanks to the so-called Mefo promissory notes.

The notes were the idea of the then President of the Reichsbank, Hjalmar Schacht, and served not only to finance the armament of the Wehrmacht for the Second World War, but also to create state jobs, which would otherwise not have been possible through the normal use of the money and capital markets, i.e. the annual increase in savings in Germany.

The Reich thus financed the armaments industry by accepting notes issued by the dummy company Metallurgische Forschungsgesellschaft GmbH (hence the name Mefo) rather than paying them in cash. The creation of money was in full swing from 1934 to 1938 – the total amount of notes issued at that time was 12 billion marks. The Reichsbank declared to the German banks that it was prepared to rediscount the Mefo notes, thus enabling the banks to discount them.

Because of their five-year term, the redemption of notes had to begin in 1939 at the latest. This threatened with enormous inflation. Since Schacht saw this as a threat to the Reichsmark, he expressed his doubts about the Reich Minister of Finance. But it did not help, and Schacht was quickly replaced by Economics Minister Walther Funk, who declared that the Reich would not redeem the Mefo notes, but would give Reich bonds to the Reichsbank in exchange. At the time of Funk, the autonomous Reichsbank statute was abolished, the Reichsbank was nationalized, and inflation exploded in such a way that Mefo notes with a circulation of 60 billion Reichsmark burdened the budget in post-war Germany.

George Soros also proposes such a money flurry in the style of Schacht and Funk.

Soros is dissatisfied with the current EU refugee policy because it is still based on quotas. He calls on the EU heads of state and governments to effectively deal with the migrant crisis through money flooding, which he calls “surge funding”.

“This would help to keep the influx of refugees at a level that Europe can absorb.”

Can absorb? Soros would be satisfied with the reception of 300,000 to 500,000 migrants per year. However, he is aware that the costs of his ethnic exchange plan are not financially feasible. In addition to the already enormous costs caused by migrants already in Europe, such a large number of new arrivals would add billions each year.

Soros calculates it at 30 billion euros a year, but argues that it would be worth it because “there is a real threat that the refugee crisis could cause the collapse of Europe’s Schengen system of open internal borders among twenty-six European states,” which would cost the EU between 47 and 100 billion euros in GDP losses.

Soros thus sees the financing of migrants and also of non-European countries that primarily receive migrants (which he also advocates) as a win-win relationship. He calls for the introduction of a new tax for the refugee crisis in the member states, including a financial transaction tax, an increase in VAT and the establishment of refugee funds. Soros knows, however, that such measures would not be accepted in the EU countries, so he proposes a different solution, which does not require a vote in the sovereign countries.

The new EU debt should be made by the EU taking advantage of its largely unused AAA credit status and issuing long-term bonds, which would boost the European economy. The funds could come from the European Stability Mechanism and the EU balance of payments support institution.

 “Both also have very similar institutional structures, and they are both backed entirely by the EU budget—and therefore do not require national guarantees or national parliamentary approval.“

In this way, the ESM and the BoPA (Balance of Payments Assistance Facility) would become the new Mefo’s that could issue bills of exchange, perhaps even cheques for Turks, Soros NGOs. Soros calculates that both institutions have a credit capacity of 60 billion, which should only increase as Portugal, Ireland and Greece repay each year the loans they received during the euro crisis. According to Soros, the old debts should be used to finance the new ones in such a way that it officially does not burden the budget in any of the EU Member States. The financial institutions that are to carry out this debt fraud must extend (indeed – cancel) their status, as the leader of the refugees expressed such a wish in his speech.

That Soros is striving to replace the indigenous European population with new arrivals from Africa and Asia is clear to anyone who observes its activities in Europe. The question is: what does he want to do this for and who is the real ruler, behind him, the real leader?

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The French People Feel Screwed

For the first time in his presidency, Macron is in trouble and Europe and America are looking on.

The Duran

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Authored by David Brown via The Gatestone Institute:


On December 4, French Prime Minister Édouard Phillipe told deputies of the ruling party, “La République en Marche”, that a proposed fuel tax rise, which had led to the largest protests France has seen in decades, would be suspended.

The protesters, called Gilets-Jaunes — “Yellow Vests,” because of the vests drivers are obliged by the government to carry in their vehicles in the event of a roadside breakdown — say that the fuel tax was the last straw from a president who took office with a promise to help the economically left-behind but instead has favoured the rich.

Even by French standards, the protests of the “Yellow Vests” during the weekend of December 1 were startling. Burning cars and vast plumes of grey smoke seemed to engulf the Arc De Triomphe as if Paris were at war. Comparisons were drawn with the Bread Wars of the 17th Century and the spirit of the Revolution of the 18th Century.

For more than two weeks, the “Yellow Vests” disrupted France. They paralyzed highways and forced roads to close — causing shortages across the country – and blocked fuel stations from Lille in the North to Marseilles in the South.

During protests in France’s capital, Paris, the “Yellow Vests” were soon joined by a more violent element, who began torching cars, smashing windows and looting stores. 133 were injured, 412 were arrested and more than 10,000 tear gas and stun grenades were fired.

One elderly lady was killed when she was struck by a stray grenade as she tried to shutter her windows against the melee.

There was talk of imposing a State of Emergency.

The “Yellow Vests” present the most significant opposition French President Emmanuel Macron has faced since coming to office in May 2017. Unlike previous protests in France, which have divided public opinion, these have widespread support – 72% according to a Harris Interactive Poll published December 1st.

Fuel tax rises — announced in November before being retracted on December — were intended to help bring down France’s carbon emissions by curbing the use of cars. Macron makes no secret of his wish to be seen as a global leader for environmental reform.

He forgets that back at home, among the people who elected him, fuel prices really matter to those outside big cities, where four-fifths of commuters drive to work and a third of them cover more than 30km each week.

The increases have incensed people in smaller communities, where they have already seen speed limits reduced to please the Greens and cuts to the local transport services.

These additional costs-of-living increases come at an extremely bad time for ordinary French people working outside of Paris. Lower-middle class families are not poor enough to receive welfare benefits but have seen their income flat-line whilst cost-of-living and taxes have risen.

An analysis by the Institut des Politiques Publiques think-tank shows that benefits cuts and tax changes in 2018 and 2019 will leave pensioners and the bottom fifth of households worse off, while the abolition of the wealth tax means that by far the biggest gains will go to the top 1%

This is tough to swallow. Macron is seen as being out of touch with ordinary people and is unlikely to escape his new title, “the President of the Rich.”

“People have this feeling that the Paris technocrats are doing complicated things to screw them,” said Charles Wyplosz, an economics professor at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva.

It is probably not as complex as that. The French people feel screwed.

As employment and growth are slowing, Macron, for the first time in his presidency, is under serious pressure. Unemployment is at 9%; his efforts to reform Europe are stalling, and his approval rating has plummeted to just 23% according to a recent opinion poll by IFOP.

Images of Macron at the Arc De Triomphe daubed in graffiti calling for him to step down, or worse, have done little to bolster his image abroad.

So far, Macron had said he would not bow to street protests. To underline his point, in September 2017, he called protestors against French labour-market reform “slackers”.

The political U-Turn on the fuel tax is a turning point for the Macron presidency. The question is : What next, both for Macron and the “Yellow Vests”?

Macron most likely needs to plough ahead with his reform agenda, and doubtless knows he has the support of a solid majority in the National Assembly to do so. France is crippled by debt (nearly 100% of GDP) and its grossly bloated public sector. There are 5.2 million civil servants in France, and their number has increased by 36% since 1983. These represent 22% of the workforce compared to an OCDE average of 15%.

Tax-expert Jean-Philippe Delsol says France has 1.5 million too many “fonctionnaires [officials]. When you consider that public spending in France now accounts for 57 per cent of gross domestic product. Soon the system will no longer function as there will be less and less people working to support more and more people working less”.

Macron’s mistake, in addition to a seeming inclination for arrogance, is not to have made national economic reform his absolute priority right from his initial grace period after his election. Lower public expenses would have made it possible to lower taxes, hence creating what economists call a virtuous circle. Instead, he waited.

Now, at a time when he is deeply unpopular and social unrest is in full sway he is looking to make further reforms in unemployment benefits, scaling them back by reducing the payments and the length of time beneficiaries can receive the money. The “President of the Rich” strikes again.

There is talk that he may also re-introduce the wealth tax to try to placate the protestors.

Macron’s presidential term lasts until May 13, 2022. Understandably, Macron will be focused on the elections to the European Parliament expected to be held May 23-26, 2019. Headlines have signalled that Marine Le Pen and the National Rally (formally National Front) are ahead in the polls at 20%, compared to Macron’s En Marche at 19%.

The shift is understandable, given the divide between the countryside, where Le Pen has solid support, and the cities, where Macron’s centre-left prevail.

In contrast, the “Yellow Vests” have galvanised support after standing up for the “impotent ordinary”, and seem much buoyed by the solidarity they have been shown by both fire fighters and the police. There are images online of police removing their helmets and firefighters turning their backs on political authority to show their support for the protestors.

Whilst Macron’s political opposition may be fragmented, this new breed of coherent public opposition is something new. Leaderless, unstructured and organised online, the “Yellow Vests” have gained support from the left and right, yet resisted subjugation by either.

Being leaderless makes them difficult to negotiate withor to reason with in private. The “Yellow Vests” seem acutely aware of this strength, given their firm rebuttal of overtures for peace talks from the Macron government.

Enjoying huge support from the public and with reforms to the social welfare system on the horizon, the “Yellow Vests” are not going away.

For the first time in his Presidency, Macron is in trouble and Europe and America are looking on.

After Macron rebuked nationalism during his speech at the armistice ceremony, Trump was quick to remind the French President of his low approval rating and unemployment rate near 10%. A stinging broadside from Trump on twitter suggests that Macron may well be relegated to Trump’s list of global “Losers“:

“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!”

The “impotent ordinary” in the United Kingdom, who might feel betrayed over Brexit, and the nationalists in Germany, who have suffered under Merkel , are no doubt staring in wonder at the “Yellow Vests”, wishing for the same moxie.

The historian Thomas Carlyle, chronicler of the French Revolution, said the French were unrivaled practitioners in the “art of insurrection”, and characterised the French mob as the “liveliest phenomena of our world”.

Mobs in other countries, by comparison, he argued were “dull masses” lacking audacity and inventiveness. The blazing yellow vests of the French protest movement , however, have made Macron appear increasingly dull and weak too.

David Brown is based in the United Kingdom.

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