Greek debt crisis: an existentialist drama with no good end in sight

By Larry Elliott

Original post date: 5 February 2017

Put three people in a room who can’t get on with each other. Condemn them to stay there for all eternity while they torture each other. Sit and watch as the gruesome story plays out. And what do you have?

One answer is the 1944 existentialist play by Jean-Paul Sartre, Huis Clos. Another is the story of the neverending Greek debt crisis in which the three main characters are Alexis Tsipras, Wolfgang Schäuble and Christine Lagarde.

The plot is as follows. Greece has been through a terrible slump. Its economy has shrunk by more than a quarter, equivalent to the Great Depression in the US. Its financial position has become so parlous and its credit-rating so poor that it needs financial help to get by. It is currently on its third bailout.

Up until now the money has been provided by Europe and the International Monetary Fund and it has come with strings attached. The money for Athens is disbursed in tranches and can be stopped if Greece fails to go ahead with promised reforms. Athens is balking at inflicting further pain on its population, which has led to the threat that no more assistance will be forthcoming. To complicate matters, the Europeans and the IMF have fallen out.

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