PIGS can't fly? Surviving austerity

Saturday 18 October, 16.00 until 17.15, Garden Room, Barbican Austerity Dilemmas

In April this year, the Greek government was able to sell its bonds to the financial markets for the first time in four years. The auction of bonds was heavily oversubscribed, suggesting that the markets had confidence that Greece could service its debts. The worst, it appeared, was over. Not only was the Greek government vindicated, it seemed, but so too was the fiscal discipline imposed by the troika of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the EU, where the German government was at the forefront in demanding austerity measures.

However, to reach that point, the Greek government had imposed what one commentator called a ‘brutal internal devaluation’. The economy shrank by a quarter, unemployment reached 26.7 per cent, and the ratio of government debt to GDP reached 175 per cent. Brutal austerity and recessions were also imposed on the other ‘PIGS’: Portugal, Ireland and Spain. Economic policy - and even government leadership - was taken out of the hands of elected politicians and passed to technocrats. Even though a major factor in the crisis was the demand for cheap credit in Germany and other comparatively well-off states, it was the people in the PIGS that suffered.

Do the green shoots of recovery prove that this fiscal discipline was the right course to take? What have been the impacts on the peoples of the ‘PIGS’? Are national sovereignty and democratic accountability more important than meeting the demands of transnational institutions? Is the crisis really over at all? Could the pain have been less had Greece been allowed to consider leaving the EU? Has anything been done to boost Greece’s productivity for the future?

Listen to the debate:

Frank Barry
professor of international business and development, Trinity College Dublin; editor and lead author, Understanding Ireland's Economic Growth

Daniel Ben-Ami
journalist and author, Ferraris for All: in defence of economic progress and Cowardly Capitalism

Philippe Legrain
visiting senior fellow, LSE’s European Institute; author, Immigrants: your country needs them and European Spring: Why Our Economies and Politics are in a Mess – and How to Put Them Right

Vicky Pryce
board member, Centre for Economics and Business Research; economic advisor, British Chamber of Commerce

Dr Nikos Sotirakopoulos
lecturer in sociology, University of Loughborough; author, The Rise of Lifestyle Activism: From New Left to Occupy

Produced by
Dr Nikos Sotirakopoulos lecturer in sociology, University of Loughborough; author, The Rise of Lifestyle Activism: From New Left to Occupy
Recommended readings
Austerity has been an utter disaster for the eurozone

All of the suffering in Europe – inflicted in the service of a man-made artifice, the euro – is even more tragic for being unnecessary,

Joseph Stiglitz, Guardian, 1 October 2014

Recovery stalls in Europe as austerity grinds on

ECB needs to launch

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, Telegraph, 15 May 2014

What’s so great about going back to 2008?

Delusional economics risks redefining progress and normalising no/low growth.

Mick Hune, spiked, 15 May 2014

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