Economy contracted in 2016 after all – and was that really a surprise?

Elstat - eKathimerini

Revised figures of the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT) published on Monday showed that the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) shrank 1.1 percent on an annual basis in the October-December period, leading to a marginal contraction of 0.05 percent for the whole of 2016, against a previous estimate of 0.3 percent growth.

These figures should not be not much of a surprise to those European finance ministers and ECB economists who (should) know that the  GDP is the value of all the goods and services a country produces  for export or domestic consumption.

In the last quarter of 2016, the year in question, Greeks were called  to pay roughly four billion euros into the state coffers as  several tax deadlines expired on the last working day of the year.

The  fifth installment of the property tax, road tax and business taxes  and VAT, all had to be paid by the last day of the year, reducing once again the disposable income of some six million taxpayers who would be happily be spending their money on Christmas gifts rather than repaying interest on the loans to service the national debt.

And it is possible the economy would have shrunk even more had not the government re distributed 617 mil euro from excess revenues to low income pensioners before Christmas.

In  the beginning of 2017 a new wave of taxes were imposed by the lenders, worth an additional  2.6 billion euros  while at the same time they estimated the economy to rebound by  2.7% ,  something many analysts (including the IMF) considered as over optimistic given the squeeze on incomes that further curtails domestic demand.

And what is more, the insistence of the lenders (IMF and Europe alike) for even greater additional austerity to keep to the required primary surplus targets of 3.5% for ten years is not likely to help improve the prospects of growth for Greece.

It would not be too far fetched to say that every time the economy is showing signs of recovery, the lenders make sure that the economy fails by making new demands.

So what do the lenders expect when they are asking Athens to deliver more and more austerity over and above what was agreed in 2015? Is this the continuation of the Schaeuble plan to make Greeks want to abandon the euro, or another attempt at regime change?

In either case the Greek people are the ones suffering as a result of political games played in Europe. The time has come for a serious, rational discussion about Grexit without the scaremongering and the hysteria that shouts down voices that try to argue for the merits of Grexit, putting forward the naive argument that the internal devaluation imposed on Greece at the moment would somehow be far less painful than a devaluation that will follow the return to a national currency.