ORIGINAL POST, SEE UPDATE BELOW: The game in Europe is well established by now.
The possible future leaders of Greece have to pretend they will completely defy the current agreements made with the IMF/rest of Europe.
The rest of Europe/IMF have to pretend that there is no way they’d consider backing down from their current agreements.
That being said, the latest comments from IMF chief Christine Lagarde seem like a deliberate provocation designed to get the Greek voters to shift in one direction or another.
In a Guardian interview, she agreed that it’s “payback time” in Greece and that sympathy should be reserved for the children in developing countries that are the typical beneficiaries of IMF help. Furthermore, the Greeks need to point blame, she says, at tax dodging parents, rather than projecting their ire outwards.
So when she studies the Greek balance sheet and demands measures she knows may mean women won’t have access to a midwife when they give birth, and patients won’t get life-saving drugs, and the elderly will die alone for lack of care – does she block all of that out and just look at the sums?
“No, I think more of the little kids from a school in a little village in Niger who get teaching two hours a day, sharing one chair for three of them, and who are very keen to get an education. I have them in my mind all the time. Because I think they need even more help than the people in Athens.” She breaks off for a pointedly meaningful pause, before leaning forward.
“Do you know what? As far as Athens is concerned, I also think about all those people who are trying to escape tax all the time. All these people in Greece who are trying to escape tax.”
Even more than she thinks about all those now struggling to survive without jobs or public services? “I think of them equally. And I think they should also help themselves collectively.” How? “By all paying their tax. Yeah.”
It sounds as if she’s essentially saying to the Greeks and others in Europe, you’ve had a nice time and now it’s payback time.
“That’s right.” She nods calmly. “Yeah.”
And what about their children, who can’t conceivably be held responsible? “Well, hey, parents are responsible, right? So parents have to pay their tax.”
Again, talking about Greek parents and it being “payback time” seems like language deliberately designed to invoke a reaction.
Now the question is: Which Greek politician can use that to their advantage.
UPDATE: And Lagarde is already walking things back a bit.
Photo: Christine Lagarde, Facebook
You should click on the link to the Facebook comment above. The commenters are livid, and even professionals are Greece are scratching their heads about what she could have been thinking.