Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The Financial Crisis in Greece

Recently the financial crisis in Greece has hit the global news headlines. Last Sunday, the referendum in which millions of the Greeks chanted "oxi" by vote, a loud and clear "no" to austerity proposed by its creditors, the Eurozone and the rest of the world.

Unfortunately, I haven't come across anything in the local press that provides the readers an accessible introduction to what is going on, which may find its roots in a similar crisis five years ago, or even before that. All I can do is to make another good use of the online search engines to find something to feed my curiosity and ignorance.

For those who bother to know what is going on in Greece, Nobel-winning economist Joseph E Stiglitz offers an easy, quick but insightful introduction in his latest commentary published last week. There are some other quick guides in the English or American press such as the BBC and The New York Times, but none of those can shed light on the actual, fundamental issues at stake like Professor Stiglitz's. In essence, according to his article, the real issue is not about economics, but politics. For one thing, "many European leaders want to see the end of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras's leftist government". For another, which is more important, is that the current Greek administration's "concern for popular legitimacy is incompatible with the politics of the Eurozone, which was never a very democratic project". This is "because the economic model underlying the Eurozone was predicated on power relationships that disadvantaged workers."

In his column on Sunday, before the referendum concluded, another renowned economist Paul Krugman shared some more insights on the chronic crisis: "And let's be clear: if Greece ends up leaving the euro, it won't mean that the Greeks are bad Europeans. Greece's debt problem reflected irresponsible lending as well as irresponsible borrowing, and in any case the Greeks have paid for their government's sins many times over. If they can't make a go of Europe's common currency, it's because that common currency offers no respite for countries in trouble. The important thing now is to do whatever it takes to end the bleeding."

Readers curious enough should have little problem finding more information to verify the comments of these world-class economists. But their remarks are powerful enough to encourage the common readers to re-examine the real issues at stake or underlying causes that are known to but a few.

Indeed, opinion leaders are still important because they, with their expertise, can shed light in the right direction to help people better understand a problem or an issue. Unable to identify or understand the real problems can only bring about wrong answers. This is why truly knowledgeable and insightful experts are still very much sought after at this time of the egalitarian online/social media when traditional authority and power hierarchy are continuously under attack. One of the major problems of our time is that we are bombarded by excessive information every second and most of us simply don't have the time and intellectual power to process the data properly, by which I mean with reason and logic. We need guidance and instruction. It would be even better when someone is smart enough to provide an answer, or some sort of interpretation.

At the journalism school I was taught that journalists are not only watchdogs of the government and authorities, but also gatekeepers of information who educate the people about events and issues that may impact their lives. Unfortunately most journalists and news media seem to have forgotten, or abandoned, their educational duties. If it is hardly surprising that many of them fail to make some sense out of the complicated matters in the Greek crisis because it is too remote for their readers and audience, what about the array of local issues that affect the lives of eight million people of this city? What is the point of wasting our time and effort to relay the bickering, rather than focusing on the truly important issues affecting the millions of lives here?

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