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Up the Greek

Greece and its perilous financial state is a prime example of how the EU in general and the Euro in particular doesn’t work. If you share a currency with another sovereign state you have to be sure that state has reasonably similar financial safeguards to your own, that it is not institutionally corrupt and that there isn’t a widespread culture of tax evasion. OK so corruption and tax evasion exist in every country, but the Greeks seem to be in the Olympic class.

The latest bail out is of course a short term fix for a problem that will re-emerge sooner rather than later. Imagine Europe as a family  living under the same rules and codes more or less. Greece is the inconvenient son who keeps gatecrashing the family gatherings. Turning up drunk with no money, promising to change his ways. “Just help me out this once. I’ll stop the drinking if you just give me some money to get back on my feet – honest!”

Check out the following graph and gulp!

I don’t know how much of the UK bank debt to Greece is borne by the ‘nationalised’ banks but it could be the government debt is higher than depicted here. But jeez! look at France and Germany’s exposure.

The calls now seem to be that Greece needs to privatise huge chunks of their government owned companies in the way that the Germans did with East German government owned assets at reunification.

However,the Treuhand agency, used by Germany to sell off 14,000 former East German firms between 1990 and 1994  failed to deliver any profit, oversaw huge job losses and eventually closed its books with a deficit.

Then there’s the fact that the bail out has striking similarities with what happened in Argentina in 2001. As Friday’s Financial Times reported:

“It was June 2001 when Argentina, struggling with a sovereign debt burden, doubled down on a losing bet by executing a giant voluntary bond swap to push off repayment to the future. Six months later, it crashed into the biggest sovereign default in history.

Ten years later to the month, Greece is threatening a new record for government bankruptcy. A plan has emerged, originally from Paris, to buy time by persuading the owners of Greek bonds to roll over their holdings. The plan’s viability – and final details – remain to be seen. But one thing is clear: addressing a solvency crisis with a series of short-term liquidity fixes neither solves the problem nor invites confidence in those tackling it.”

Worries over Greece seem to have eased over the weekend with the Euro rising in value, but I can’t help thinking that the next panic isn’t far away.

As a simple soul all I see is that at each turn and each bail out, the countries above are exposing themselves to greater and greater risk. One of the first rules in business is not to throw good money after bad. It looks as if that is precisely what is being done here.


Failure – On a Plate

This is a typical crowd scene from a River Plate v Boca Juniors match in Buenos Aires:

And here were the scenes the other day when River Plate were relegated to the second division for the first time in their history:

I heard it described yesterday as being like Manchester United being relegated (an event which I can actually remember!)

From the BBC link above:

Both clubs formed in a Buenos Aires area called the La Boca, but in 1938 River Plate earned their ‘millionaires’ nickname after moving to the affluent Nunez neighbourhood.Boca remained and became known as the people’s team, with the majority of fans coming from the local Italian immigrant community.

So what about the rivalry?
The game is called the ‘Superclasico’.

The red and white of River versus the blue and yellow of Boca and the two sets of fans really don’t like each other!

Boca fans refer to River supporters as ‘gallinas’ (chickens) because they think River are afraid of everything!

And then the River fans hit back by calling their rivals ‘los puercos’ (pigs) because their stadium is located in a poor Boca area and is said to smell most of the time!

The rivalry is more about class and money, with River Plate’s support traditionally coming from the high-fliers in the Buenos Aires society.

And the Boca supporters tend to come from the working classes and migrant communities.

Thank goodness we’ve just got the Old Firm eh?

How to Celebrate a Goal!

Argentina style (It’s about 45 seconds in)

The Hand of God

Last night Scotland played Argentina in a meaningless friendly match at Hampden.

Argentina got an early goal.

Scotland got nil.

The game however has since Sunday been overshadowed by the return of Diego Maradona to Scotland for the first time since 1979 when he played and scored in a 3-1 victory for the then World Champions. Maradona is now Argentina’s national coach.

He is, the press would have us believe, a national hero in Scotland for his part in defeating England in the 1986 World Cup quarter finals but specifically because the first of his two goals was clearly illegal  (he scored with his hand). Since that day it has been known as ‘the hand of God goal’ which was how Maradona described the goal after the game.

I much prefer to remember Maradona’s second goal in the game which was probably one of the best ever witnessed in world football in which he beat six England players (one twice) in a solo run before scoring. A poll on the FIFA website voted it as goal of the century.

However the Scottish press prefer to dwell on the fact that England were cheated out of possible progress in a competition 22 years ago.

The English dwell on it despite the fact that the goal arose from a miss kick from England defender Steve Hodge and a fumbled attempt at a save from Peter Shilton who was ever so slightly taller than Diego Maradona.

I don’t know who is worse. I do know I’m sick to the back teeth of hearing about it and I’m pleased that Maradona et al fly out today. We can now get back to the real news, you know, John Sergeant and Strictly Come Dancing.

No Excuse Needed

To show this wonder goal from my youth. Watch as Dalglish loses the ball and it breaks to none other than former Celtic boss Wim Jansen. Then Archie takes over.