Παρασκευή, 12 Απριλίου 2013

Greece's Daily Torment

Huffington Post
Justine Frangouli-Argyris

The never-ending torment that the Greek people continue to experience, a full three years after the government's bailout loan agreement with the IMF, ECB and EC triumvirate (2010), has brought the nation to a breaking point. With the "troika" descending quarterly on Athens to review the government's progress on reducing the budget deficit, the Ministry of Finance has, literally, been turned into an accounting office, trying to devise any which way to show a diminished fiscal gap in order to appease its daunting creditors.
nstead of the Samaras government focusing its attention on long overdue legislative and taxation reforms to bring in much needed revenue and kick-start some semblance of an economic recovery, it is continuously forced to enlist armies of staffers to prepare documentation showing a shrinking budget hole in order to receive the next bailout installment. Trapped by the relentless demands of its northern European partners, Greece has become a disturbing model of idleness and stagnation.

The most recent evaluation of the country's performance, in lieu of the discussion of the disbursement of the next tranche of funding at this week's meeting of the Eurogroup, created such an asphyxial climate and such heated deliberations that 38-year-old Italian IMF employee, Giovanni Callegari, was sent to a hospital in Athens, having suffered a stroke.
The tension in the air, resulting from the persistent obstinacy of negotiators Klaus Masuch, Matthias Mors and Paul Thomsen, representing the ECB, EU and IMF respectively, was so thick that even moderate Greek Finance Minister, Yannis Stournaras allegedly protested, "... do not push us anymore... if you want more measures, then take the keys to the Treasury and give them to Tsipras [the hard-line leftist leader of the official opposition]."

Among the incomprehensible decrees was a refusal to allow the merger of two of Greece's largest banks, the National Bank of Greece and Eurobank, forcing the troubled financial entities to seek separate re-capitalizations that would be entirely covered by the overburdened state. The directive created much turmoil, adding further uncertainty to a sector already reeling from the recent developments in Cyprus, making depositors and investors very jittery and forcing Mr. Stournaras and Mr. Provopoulos, the Governor of the Greek Central Bank, to offer repeated assurances as to the safety and stability of the Greek banking system.

Another persistent demand is that of the immediate dismissal of 25,000 public servants without any consideration of the negative consequences this measure would bring. For, these employees, overwhelmingly in the twilight of their careers and thus highly paid, would simply end up as early, expensive pensioners or on unemployment insurance, burdening, rather than alleviating, national finances.

This bewildering cocktail of ongoing austerity measures, forced upon an already devastated economy in strict accordance with the "troika's" solitary emphasis on austerity, will cost the Greek economy another 4.6 percent of GDP this year and will push unemployment to a new record high of 27.6 percent, according to the Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research. (Already, Greece's unemployment rate scaled a new record of 27.2 percent in January.)

Sadly, nowhere among the daily discourses and communiqués is there any mention of provisions for the implementation of projects or initiatives that could stop the decay and create growth. Everyone, government officials and economists alike, is in accordance that only a growing economy can bring finances back into equilibrium but, unfortunately, this obvious argument remains buried under the weight of austerity.

The meek Greek government, constricted by the boundaries of producing ever-shrinking budget deficits and by the demands of further tightening from its European partners, sits idly by, helplessly watching a dying economy plunge further into the abyss.

Πέμπτη, 11 Απριλίου 2013

Greek drama goes on! New unemployment record!!!

Greek unemployment hits a fresh record

Greece's unemployment rate scaled a new record in January as the country's downturn entered a sixth year, with young people among the worst hit, data has revealed.

Unemployment in January stood at 27.2pc, up from a revised 25.7pc in December, Greece's statistics service Elstat said on Thursday. Photo: AFP PHOTO / LOUISA GOULIAMAKILOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images

Against a backdrop of tough austerity measures imposed under its international bailout, Greece's jobless rate has almost tripled since the country's debt crisis emerged in 2009.
Unemployment in January stood at 27.2pc, up from a revised 25.7pc in December, Greece's statistics service Elstat said on Thursday.
Youth unemployment - among those aged between 15 and 24 - edged further towards the 60pc mark, rising to 59.3pc in January, up from 51pc in the same month in 2012.
Joblessness has trickled steadily higher in Greece as tax rises and spending cuts demanded by its creditors take their toll on the embattled country. The economy is expected to shrink 4.5pc this year.
"The first quarter will remain tough amid the deep recession, despite an improvement in the previous two months due to seasonal hirings," said Nikos Magginas, an economist at commercial Greek lender National Bank.
Finance minister Yannis Stournaras said in February that pre-bookings for the tourism season in Greece were "very good" and a finance ministry official indicated earlier this week that tourism is expected to offset the effect of Cyprus' banking crisis.
Data earlier this month showed that unemployment across the eurozone as a whole hit a record 12pc in February. Statistics office Eurostat estimated that 19m people in the eurozone were unemployed in February, a 33,000 rise on the previous month.
Highest increases in unemployment rates were witnessed in Greece, and Spain, where 26.3pc are unemployed. Austria, Germany and the Netherlands were among those countries with the lowest rates.
After three years of austerity policies to tackle the economic crisis in the European Union, some politicians have warned that cost-cutting measures which raise unemployment could result in the rise of populist governments.
"Prolonging austerity today risks not achieving a reduction in deficits but the certainty of making governments unpopular so that populists will swallow them whole when the time comes," French President Francois Hollande said last month.
EU jobs commissioner Laszlo Andor has described the "unacceptably high" levels of unemployment as a "tragedy for Europe".

Τετάρτη, 10 Απριλίου 2013

Greece's Chief Banker: No haircut for the Greek banks' deposits

AMNA--Central Bank of Greece (BoG) governor George Provopoulos assured that deposits in the Greek banking institutions are totally secure, regardless of the size of the sum, speaking to parliament's standing committee on financial affairs on Wednesday.
The central bank chief attributed the recent suspension of the merger of National Bank of Greece (NBG) and Eurobank, two of Greece's four systemic banks, to their inability to raise the required 10 percent of their recapitalization from private investors, but explained that the final decisions, in the event that generation of the 10 percent by the two banks proves not feasible, will be taken by the Hellenic Fiscal Stability Fund (HFSF) on the basis of the wider public interest.
Provopoulos further defended the BoG's choices in the face of the crisis in Cyprus but did not elaborate, citing the confidentiality of the board meetings of the European Central Bank (ECB), and stressed that deposits in Greek banking institutions are totally secure, regardless of their size or bank.

Τρίτη, 9 Απριλίου 2013

National Bank of Greece -Eurobank no deal! Ordeal!!!

Greek banks NBG and Eurobank face state rescue

Reuters) - Two of Greece's biggest banks risk being nationalized after admitting they were unlikely to raise enough cash from private investors and seeing their merger blocked by the country's international lenders.
National Bank (NBGr.AT) bought 84.3 percent of smaller rival Eurobank via a share swap in February, as Greek banks consolidated to survive a debt crisis that has pushed the country's economy into a six-year slump.

But lenders fear the combined entity, with assets of about 170 billion euros ($221.4 billion), will be too big relative to Greece's 190 billion euro economy and make it difficult to sell in the future, prompting the state to halt their integration until a state bank support fund decides their future.

Both banks told the central bank they are unlikely to raise a set portion of their planned share issues from the market, meaning they would fall under the control of the support fund, the Hellenic Financial Stability Fund (HFSF).

Shares of both banks initially fell as much as 30 percent on Monday on concerns their investors would effectively be wiped out if the HFSF takes full control of the lenders.

But Eurobank shares reversed course to gain 25 percent in late trade on talk the bank would make a final push to meet the required private sector participation on its own and stay privately run.

"We will mobilize and try to cover the required 10 percent from the market. I am not saying we will make it, but we will try," a Eurobank executive who declined to be named told Reuters, putting the bank's needs from the private sector at 580 million euros.

Both bank boards will meet on Tuesday to spell out their recapitalization plans. Together they need 15.6 billion euros to boost their solvency ratios to levels set by the central bank after losses from a sovereign debt writedown.

Greek government officials have said deposits in the banks will be unaffected by the deal's suspension, in a bid to reassure jittery Greeks after a bailout to rescue Cyprus included slapping a levy on deposits.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said the troika of the country's international lenders has not vetoed the deal, adding that the 50 billion euros set aside from the bailout package for the recapitalization would be sufficient.

"No one has vetoed the National Bank-Eurobank integration. Whether it will take place or not depends on the terms the HFSF will set," Stournaras told lawmakers on Monday.


Under a recapitalization plan agreed with Greece's international lenders, the HFSF will supply most of the capital the banks need in exchange for new shares and contingent convertible bonds.

But to stay private, banks must ensure private investors buy at least 10 percent of their share offerings. Analysts have warned that Greece's banks will not be able to bounce back immediately despite an injection of billions of euros.

"It will take time for banks to get on a more sustainable footing as the economy continues to shrink. It's too early to expect that credit flows will lift the economy," said Giada Giani, an economist at Citigroup.

If National and Eurobank are nationalized, it would result in about 40 percent Greece's of banking sector being controlled by the state, while the other two major Greek lenders remain privately run.

National Bank's 84.3 percent stake in Eurobank could be diluted down to a low single-digit holding if the HFSF pumps in all the capital it needs.

Rival lenders Alpha (ACBr.AT) and Piraeus Bank (BOPr.AT) have already announced share offerings, aiming to meet the required 10 percent private-sector take up.

Whether NBG and Eurobank will be eventually integrated or run as stand-alone entities will be decided by the HFSF fund after their recapitalization is completed. If the plan is dropped, Piraeus will emerge as the country's biggest bank.

"The key issue for Greece is to have a well capitalized banking system, willing to lend and get the economy out of free-fall," said economist Ben May at Capital Economics in London.

"From a macro-economic perspective, it doesn't make that much difference if this means having 10, seven or five banks," May said. ($1 = 0.7679 euros)

(Additional reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by David Holmes and Leslie Adler)

Σάββατο, 6 Απριλίου 2013

Justinmania or Trudeaumania?

Justin has created his own brand "Justinmania" and he is ever present at the Greek Community events!

Justine Frangouli-Argyris
The Huffington Post

Justin Pierre James Trudeau was born "prorfyrogennitus," the name bestowed upon the children of sitting Byzantine emperors who, upon seeing the light of life, were immediately vested in the regal imperial garment or purple robe.
Justin, 41, the son of legendary Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, appeared in Ottawa one chilly Christmas eve in 1971, a mere 10 months after his 51-year-old father stunned the nation by marrying Margaret Sinclair, a hippie 29 years his junior.
While growing up in the official residence at 24 Sussex Drive, a young Justin would, on the one hand, suffer the difficulty of his parents' divorce while, on the other, rejoice in the opportunity to escort his father around the world, visiting over 50 countries by the age of 13.
The eldest of three boys, he would grow up under the watchful gaze of his Dad, a strict disciplinarian who would demand the best of his sons, pushing them to excel in sport as well as in the classroom according to the ancient adage of "a healthy mind in a healthy body."
His upbringing notwithstanding, Justin did not seem destined for a career in politics from the outset. In university, he would complete degrees in literature and education before dabbling in engineering and enrolling in a Master's program in environmental geography. He would take on various odd jobs, everything from water rafting instructor to bunjee jumping coach to radio host but settle in to teach French and social studies at a high school in Vancouver.
Regardless, his personal charm and brilliance would lead his friends and family to hope that he would eventually opt to follow in the footsteps of his revered father and aspire to the leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada.
His political calling would come, quite surprisingly, at his father's funeral, where, in October 2000, he would rise to national prominence by delivering an unforgettable eulogy in front of numerous world leaders at Montreal's Notre Dame Basilica.
As a result, he would become more and more involved with the Liberal party in the following years. In 2005, he would marry television host Sophie Grégoire with whom he would have two children and, subsequently, citing the demands of his young family, Trudeau would rebuff repeated calls to run for office.

However, in 2008, he would eventually acquiesce and prepare a bid for his party's nomination in the Liberal stronghold of Outremont, in urban Montreal. His plans were upended, however, when party leader Stéphane Dion refused to sanction his candidacy, forcing him to enter a difficult race against very experienced rivals in his father's original seat of nearby Papineau.
Easily winning on the first ballot, Justin would no longer be simply referred to as "the son of Pierre" but, rather, be henceforth identified as a serious politician in his own right. Indeed, in an election that would see his party's support plummet and the Liberals lose 18 seats, Trudeau would score a stunning victory, capturing the seat held by popular Bloc Québécois incumbent Vivien Barbot.
Difficult times would follow, the Liberals descent would accelerate and the party would fall to third place and lose its standing as Her Majesty's Official Opposition (May 2011). Conversely, Trudeau's popularity would continue to soar and, after winning re-election, rumors would begin to circulate about his Prime Ministerial potential.
His detractors dismiss him as "one born with a silver spoon in his
mouth" and a political lightweight who proposed little, if any, pieces of legislation in his four years in parliament.
He has stood by his beliefs, however, taking a hard line in favor of the controversial long-gun registry but refusing to reinstate it should he be in a position to do so. And, although an avowed federalist, he has admitted that he could accept Québec independence and the breakup of Canada should Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper move the country so far to the right, insofar as issues such as abortion and gay marriage are concerned, that it would no longer be recognizable to him.
Justin Trudeau is no rookie. He has fought through adversity from a very young age, having to deal with his parents' separation and his brother Michael's tragic death, to develop into a confident, young family man with supreme communication skills and a promising political future.
He may owe his chance at becoming Liberal boss to his last name, but there can be no denying his charisma and flamboyance, qualities sorely lacking in the party for years and in all other leadership contenders. It is no coincidence that a recent Léger Marketing poll showed the Liberals and Conservatives in a virtual tie for the lead with Trudeau at the helm.
Justin Trudeau may be an as yet unproven commodity but he has created a buzz around his "Justinmania" brand. Based on the glory days of Trudeaumania, he is on the verge of achieving a stature and profile that can lead the Liberals to a new, even more promising era than that of his father.

Πέμπτη, 4 Απριλίου 2013

Golden Dawn unmasked by Montreal filmmakers!

Montreal filmmakers exposing Golden Dawn in 29 minutes

Article Image
Peter James (L) and Philippos Balabanos (R) on the set of Dichotomous with members of the cast and crew
Article Body
The actual filming of Dichotomous - an official selection at the 2013 Greek Film & Foto Week in Toronto next month - could be made into a documentary about two Greek Canadian filmmakers in Montreal determined to make it against all odds.
There was controversy: The film, which is about the rise of Greece’s right-wing anti-immigrant nationalist party Golden Dawn in North America, sparked plenty of debate. And there were a number of unpredictable twists and turns: After unsuccessfully seeking funding for the film on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, the two Greek Canadian filmmakers, Philippos Balabanos and Peter James, struggled to complete the film on a very tight budget and even tighter shooting schedule. Cast and crew took a 100% pay cut.
The behind-the-scenes drama continued when the film was initially disqualified from the Greek Film & Foto Week because it was 14 minutes too long.
“In the end, everything worked out,” says Balabanos. “We waited to hear what the Greek America Foundation would decide to do with us.”
The Greek America Foundation decided to make Dichotomous one of its featured shorts for the Greek Film & Foto Week.
“Going into the shoot, I had a nagging feeling that we may have made too big of a film,” says Balabanos. “Peter had warned me there was no way we were going to do it, but I thought we had to go ahead and make the film. There was no way we could cut it to 15 minutes. We cut as much out without taking away from the story or the meaning of it. I think it was always meant to be a 29 minute story.”
Five locations, three days, one message
Dichotomous tells the story of Nick Dysmas (Peter James), a Greek Canadian photojournalist who has been covering the rise of the Golden Dawn in Greece. When he returns to his hometown of Montreal, he learns that Golden Dawn have opened a local branch. Through a twist of fate, his road converges with the local Golden Dawn leader known only as The Chief (Constantine Kourtidis) and the two find themselves on a path which tests their beliefs and endangers everything they hold dear.
It’s the first film short produced in Canada to address the growing popularity of Greece’s extreme (also described by critics as Neo-Nazi) Golden Dawn party among Greek expatriate communities.

James and Balabanos (photo, L-R) shot the film over three days at five locations across Montreal.
“As far as the actual making of the film, I have to say it was a weird experience,” says Balabanos. “It was just chaos. I wouldn’t call it fun, but it was satisfying.

“I hadn’t realized just how little people know about Golden Dawn’s origins,” he adds. “They only know what they hear on TV. They don’t know about Golden Dawn’s longterm goals, which is all on their website.”
Most members of the local Greek community are still very “hesitant” about the film, which is scheduled to premiere in Montreal on April 6 (see below for more details) . “People are supportive, but are keeping their distance,” says Balabanos. “I can understand this because Golden Dawn has ties with the Greek government and they are an official party.”
“We stuck to our story,” adds James. “We didn’t go to any extremes. We did not make this movie to - excuse my language - piss off Golden Dawn or anything like that. But we knew there would be some backlash... There were some rumblings from one of the local chapters [of Golden Dawn] when were making the film. Some people weren’t too happy.”
Both James and Balabanos say they are “very proud” of the film and hope that “it will speak to at least a few of the young minds which have been washed up into the terrifying phenomenon which is the Golden Dawn”. Even if it doesn’t, they say “it's a hell of ride with some great twists along the way".
Hope for Greece fundraiser
Balabanos and James have decided to dedicate the premiere screening of Dichotomous in Montreal (De Seve Theatre) on April 6 to the people of Greece.
A large part of the proceeds from the sale of the tickets will be donated to the Greek America Foundation’s Project Hope for Greece (a nationwide fundraising effort to support a range of charities and important institutions in Greece that are responding to the crisis in substantive and systematic ways and working to solve important problems for the people of Greece).
The April 6 screening is sponsored by PHOS films, carpe noctem pictures, the Hellenic Community of Greater Montreal and the Greek America Foundation.
Ten dollars of every $15 admission ticket sold will be donated to Project Hope. The rest will be used to cover the cost of the screening.

Τετάρτη, 3 Απριλίου 2013

NY still in winter mood

We spent the Easter weekend in NYNY and we enjoyed every moment of it. The city still lives its winter, the trees are not green yet, the wind was strong, the temperatures were low.

Nevertheless, the windows are full of spring colors, the new spring/summer collections are out already and you smell orange blossoms in the air.

I am madly in love with Manhattan.

 Fulton Market has not recovered yet from Sandy
 Trees are still bare

 Central Parc still has the winter look
 New World Center tower is almost ready
 Plazza hotels is a landmark of the American Metropolis
 A view from the Parc
 Touring around
 I love midtown NY
 A blend of Art Deco and new ear architecture downtown NY

 Mercer's kitchen is the best bistrot in Soho. The manager (in the middle) is Greek and looks like Antonio Banderas!
 The Stock Exchange has had some highs lately
 Lonely in the Central Parc
 Homeless are still around
 Wall Street