DüsseldorfWhen you were invited by friends, you would like to say afterwards: It was nice. You felt at ease and you were impressed by the things you’ve heard and seen. Unfortunately, looking back in such a pleasant way has turned out to be impossible in the case of the research tour to Greece a 20-member team of the Handelsblatt undertook in order to get information in the epicenter of the crisis. Sure, over the past days we have met courageous entrepreneurs bracing themselves against the crisis – a crisis that is stronger than they are. We have paid visits to brave officials in their raddled offices. They try to impart some order to the anarchic. We have talked to politicians who are aware of the historic moment imposed on them by fate.
But the predominant impression has been different:
We’ve come upon an exhausted country, a country suffering from a double burden: Its self-inflicted debt chaos and a European rescue policy which is only making matters worse. The results the helpers achieved could hardly be more dismal: The economic output decreases, unemployment is on the rise, young people dream of a life abroad. And the state deficit is soaring as if nothing had happened. Such a mountain of debt can’t be shed by shrinking the economic strength. Although the country initiated the toughest austerity package a Western country ever has undertaken outside wartimes its debt burden grew by 67 billion Euros; as measured by the economic strength, it increased from previously 127 per cent of economic strength to now 157 per cent of the economic power. You can’t get muscles by starving.