While hardly surprising to anyone who actually paid attention over the past two months to events in Greece (instead of just reacting to headlines) where among those on strike were the very tax collectors tasked with "fixing the problem", we now get a first glimpse of the sheer collapse in the Greek economy, which also confirms why Germany is now dying for Greece to pull its own Eurozone plug (predicated by a naive belief that Greece is firewalled as was discussed before. As a reminder Hank Paulson thought that Lehman, too, was firewalled on September 15, 2008). And what a collapse it is: according to just released data from Kathimerini, budget revenues lagged projections by €1 billion in the very first month of the year. "Revenues posted a 7 percent decline compared with January 2011, while the target that had been set in the budget provided for an 8.9 percent annual increase. Worse still, value-added tax receipts posted an 18.7 percent decrease last month from January 2011 as the economy continues to tread the path of recession: VAT receipts only amounted to 1.85 billion euros in January compared to 2.29 billion in the same month last year." This it the point where any referee would throw in the towel. But no: for Europe's bankers there apparently are still some leftover organs in the corpse worth harvesting. Unfortunately, at this point we fail to see how this setup ends with anything but civil war, as the April elections will merely once again reinstate the existing bloodsucking regime. We hope we are wrong.
The VAT revenue data represent a particular worrying sign regarding the depth of recession for 2012, while even more painful measures are expected to lead to a reduction in salaries and therefore a further drop in consumption. This is the vicious cycle that the government will have to tackle by way of additional fiscal measures this summer.
According to the current data, the 2012 budget will certainly have to be revised soon, given that the original estimate for a contraction of 2.8 percent is now raised to 3.5-4 percent of gross domestic product.
Finance Ministry officials attribute the slump in VAT receipt figures to the major cash flow problems that enterprises are facing. Some of the latter are choosing not to pay for their VAT in order to plug other holes caused by liquidity problems.
At the same time the crisis is seriously hurting the competitiveness of Greece’s economy, resulting in a considerable drop in entrepreneurship. Finance Ministry data showed that some 111,000 companies shut down in 2011, against just 75,000 new businesses being set up. In fact the majority of new start-ups are not actual enterprises but newly self-employed professionals.
This is attributed to the dramatic fall in market turnover and the insecurity that entrepreneurs feel, dissuading them from getting engaged in the local business field.
And this is the background against which the Troika wants Greece to cut another 150,000 people, and to cut minimum wage even more? Does nobody realize that at this point the entire Greek economy has frozen to a dead halt, and has joined only its utterly insolvent banking system in the dumpster?
How much longer will doctors fret around the patient before they finally have the decency to admit the patient has long since passed away?