Thursday, April 05, 2012

Greece suicide

A few years ago, I was attending a meeting organized by a private equity firm. They had invested in our company at that time. (Since then, they have exited.) Things were quite bad then. The US financial markets had crashed, taking with them a whole lot of companies around the world. Countries were on the verge of bankruptcy.

A Swiss investment banker, one of the principals who deals with billions of dollars of investment talked at length about the hardship Europeans were going to face. There was a talk of Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and several other countries.

People living in these countries have not seen dire poverty since the second world war. There is unemployment benefit and a decent social security system. But the countries are over-leveraged and in serious debt problem. The economy is tanking. The middle class are in the brink of becoming poor. Youngsters have lost their confidence.

The Swiss banker was talking about the kind of turmoil these countries were going to go through. The reported suicide by the 77 year old Dimitris Christoulas is the beginning.

If you do not have any savings and your Government is cutting down on its expenditure (and in particular social security payments such as old-age pension or the unemployment allowance) where will you go? If your children themselves are trying hard to make their ends meet, how will they support you? That too in countries where parents supporting children above a certain age and children supporting parents in their old age is not known?

There are thousands of farm suicides in India. A majority of Indians are wallowing in poverty. I am not trying to compare one suicide in Greece to the situation of millions dying or mal-nourished in India. However, in case of India, contrary to what the "opponents of neo-liberalism" would say, I have only seen steady, albeit slow, progress towards a better life.

What the single incident in Greece has shown is the beginning of the trend towards more such gory incidents - deaths, street fights, crime and overall heart ache - in Europe. It is for this that this event is significant.

We are about to witness one of the worst decades for Europe.

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