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TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Bill Radke: You heard about the debt troubles in Dubai. Today, European finance ministers are meeting in Brussels and topping their agenda is the government debt piling up in Greece.
For more, let’s bring in Marketplace’s Europe correspondent, Stephen Beard. He joins us live from London. Hello, Stephen.
Stephen Beard: Good morning, Bill.
Radke: How serious are Greece’s financial troubles?
Beard: Very serious — the budget deficit’s expected to hit 13.5 percent of GDP next year, total government debt likely to reach 130 percent. Greece’s problems are particularly acute because this huge deficit isn’t solely due to the recession to attempts to spend their way out of the downturn. The deficit’s been widening for years because of rampant tax evasion. Greek governments haven’t raised enough tax, yet they go on spending. So they have to borrow.
Radke: Rampant tax evasion. So is the Greek government having trouble borrowing money?
Beard: Yes, and it’s getting al ot more expensive for them. The Greeks are having to pay a lot more than, say, the Germans, for their money — which is pretty extraordinary, sine they’re both members of the Eurozone and both use the same currency, the Euro. Both are controlled by the same central bank, the ECB.
Radke: Right. How much concern is there in Europe that Greece might actually default on its debt?
Beard: Well it seems very, very unlikely that the ECB would stand by and see a member of the Eurozone actually default. It would be very damaging to the Euro. No, Greece is going to be compelled to cut its deficit, and that process will begin in Brussels today. The Greek government will be told it’s going to suffer all sorts of penalties if it doesn’t comply. And this does mean that life is going to become pretty uncomfortable for the Greek people over the next year or so. They face some deep cuts in public spending and perhaps much less of the economic stimulus that they need to get out of the current downturn.
Radke: Stephen Beard is Marketplace’s Europe correspondent, joining us live there. Thanks, Stephen.
Beard: OK, Bill.