Auditing the Greek Debt: Unity of Place, Time, and Action
Date Written: 2015-06-02
Year Published: 2015
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX17649
The recent debt currently being claimed presents features that make it irregular, illegitimate, illegal, unsustainable, and even odious. Allegedly Greek debts that were accumulated before 2010 were already to a large extent illegitimate and/or illegal.
we note obvious characteristics of illegality and unsustainability. Here are the four definitions I put forward as soon as the setting up of the Committee was announced at the press conference on 17 March 2015:
* Illegitimate public debt: debt that was contracted by a government without considering the public interest, a debt contracted in favor of a privileged minority.
* Illegal debt: debt contracted in violation of the current legal or constitutional system.
* Odious public debt: granted on conditions that violate fundamental human rights (social, economic, cultural, civic, and political rights of the people).
* Unsustainable public debt: debt that can only be paid back with dire consequences for the people, such as a dramatic degradation of their living conditions, of access to health care or education and an increase in unemployment. In short, a debt that undermines basic human rights. An unsustainable debt is a debt whose repayment makes it impossible for governments to guarantee the population’s fundamental human rights (good public health system, good public educational system, good social protection system, decent wages, and retirement pensions, etc.).
With regard to the illegitimate or indeed odious nature of the debt, several authors consider that three conditions must be present, namely lack of consent, lack of benefit to the population, and awareness of the lenders. I put forward that those three conditions are present in the case of the Greek debt. Neither the population nor its representatives gave their bona fide consent, and democratic rules were not adhered to; the population most obviously has not benefited from the policies implemented; and creditors, particularly the Troika institutions, were aware of the fact that the measures they enforced would not improve the population’s living conditions since they demanded and still demand that tens of thousands workers be laid off, that wages and pensions be lowered, social expenditure decreased, freedom of negotiation restricted, etc.