GREEK TO US – AT 8:55 A.M. ET: Greece is one of the great centers of Western civilization. But right now I suspect Plato and that other guy, Aristotle, might have sought foreign publishers for their work. Greece is a mess, and the mess may get worse as the result of an upcoming election. The country is a crisis. It's affecting all of Europe. From the Scotsman:
Greek unemployment hit a record high in the first quarter the year, according to figures released yesterday, just days before the country goes to the polls.
The jobless rate hit 22.6 per cent in the first three months of 2012, double the eurozone average – reflecting the deep economic malaise that forced many voters to reject austerity in an inconclusive election last month.
The figures will provide ammunition to politicians campaigning against the bail-out terms imposed on the country by the IMF, the EU and European Central Bank.
The last published surveys showed the conservative New Democracy party, which backs the €130 billion (£106bn) bail-out, running neck-and-neck with Syriza, which wants to cancel the rescue deal.
The statistics service said the number officially unemployed reached 1.12 million in the first quarter, up 57.3 per cent year-on-year, feeding public discontent and hurting consumer confidence ever more.
“Employment is still shrinking rapidly in construction and manufacturing. Even the more resilient sectors like wholesale, retail trade and tourism are taking a hit,” said National Bank economist Nikos Magginas.
In the year to the end of March, construction jobs fell 18 per cent, while those in the manufacturing sector dropped 15 per cent. Tourism, which accounts for about one in five jobs, is expected to be weak this year.
COMMENT: Among the dangers always posed by economic crisis, especially in Europe, is a lurch toward extremism. Greece has a history of political instability. It was one of the first battlegrounds in the Cold War, pitting Soviet-influenced Communists against Western-influenced democrats, in the 1940s. Now there are extremist groups on both the left and the right.
Greece is also a key member of NATO.
This is an unfolding story. If Greece collapses financially, the ripples will be felt on our shores. And right behind Greece, as candidates for instability, are Spain and Italy.
June 15, 2012