Greek debt: Playing the blame game

A woman looks at anti-govermant slogans outside a bank the morning after violent protests took place against the Government's austerity plans, February 13, 2012 in Athens, Greece. Will businesses there be able to survive after the latest bailout?

Adriene Hill: Today we start -- as we do so often -- in Europe, where a meeting on the Greek bailout has been delayed. Eurozone leaders want more assurances from Greek leaders that they'll make the spending cuts they've promised. The news has triggered more frustration in Athens. The question of the day: Who's really to blame for the mess?

Marketplace's Stephen Beard reports.


Stephen Beard: Greek protesters seem to blame everyone but themselves for this crisis. Despina Katzoumba, a public sector worker, points the finger at the markets for speculating against Greek government bonds.

Despina Katzoumba: When did we decide that  markets can rule the world? Do we vote for markets? We vote for governments and we’re ruled by markets; by people that we don’t even know, by people that earn from our disaster .  

Others blame Greece’s European partners -- and especially Germany -- for failing to bailout Greece as soon as the crisis erupted. Student Anna Maria Piscopani:  

Anna Maria Piscopani: There was a very small problem at the beginning, but they did not do anything to prevent it . And some of them took advantage of it, also.

But most Greeks now accept the cause of the crisis lies much closer to home. Here’s Spiros Kapralos, a shipping company boss:

Spiros Kapralos: First, it’s Greece's fault. I think that we created a monster -- a monster in the public sector -- that is eating a lot of resources. 

Greece has borrowed almost half a trillion dollars, to pay -- among other things --  inflated wages, and for early retirement in the public sector; and to pay for high-profile public projects like the Olympics.  Economist say this has driven Greece to the brink of bankruptcy.

Stefanos Manos, a former finance minister, says Greek voters are to blame.

Stefanos Manos: We voted for whoever spent the most. And we did not look where the money came from. The guys were borrowing money. They were borrowing, and borrowing and spending it. And people who didn’t look further were very happy.

Greece’s European partners postponed today’s  meeting on the bailout, claiming that Greece has not yet shown that it is prepared to mend its ways.

I’m Stephen Beard for Marketplace.  

About the author

Stephen Beard is the European bureau chief and provides daily coverage of Europe’s business and economic developments for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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