Susan George is a Franco-American political and social scientist, activist and writer on global social justice, Third World poverty, underdevelopment and debt. She is a fellow and president of the board of the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam. Here’s a quote by her from a recent interview:
“European policies so far are disastrous! They are the same so-called “remedies” that were forced on developing countries in the 1980s, now better known as the “lost decade for development”. The austerity programmes being imposed on Greece, Ireland or Portugal come straight from the neoliberal handbook of Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs), from A to Z.
The result is savage contraction of those economies to an unheard-of degree. When radical privatisation, salary cuts, social spending wipe-outs and so on were imposed in really poor countries like Niger, they actually led to famine and mass deaths. In Europe, we have more leeway, some cushions, but Greece’s economy has already shrunk by more than 5% this year, unemployment has soared with no compensation, small businesses are failing in droves and everything in sight is being privatised.
It’s a criminal policy designed to push workers back into 19th century, to get rid of the social benefits people fought for over many generations. As usual, the rich will escape and international capital will have a heyday with the privatisation possibilities. Ordinary people are paying twice for the financial crisis—first to bail out the banks and now to sacrifice and bring about the ruin of their own countries and livelihoods.
Obviously, austerity will only worsen economic woes—less tax revenue, more unemployment, low investment, a larger underground economy and so on. Plus enormous human suffering and possible breakup of the Euro. There has not been a single case where a country came out better off because of IMF austerity policies.
It’s obvious all the stopgap measures won’t work in Ireland or Greece. I’m not even sure they are meant to. In the developing countries and now in Europe, debt allows creditors to exercise a kind of colonialism without an army or an imperial administration. It’s no accident that the Latin Americans prioritised paying back the IMF as soon as they could afford to. It was the only way they could start running their own economies again.
One of the reasons we fought so hard in France against the Lisbon Treaty was that it enshrined neoliberal economic policy at the heart of Europe, and set us up for the kind of crises we now face. Now the European Commission wants to examine all individual country budgets before their parliaments vote on them to make sure they meet certain standards. This is a blatant attack on democracy.
Everything under the European Commission is now judged in terms of “competitivity” which includes suicidal competition between European countries themselves. Not everyone can be Germany. In the Euro zone, government spending is still around 50% of GDP but corporations and capital want to get control over as much of that as they can. Once again, we’re being slowly dragged back into the 19th century.”
Read the full interview here.