The world is simultaneously less solid and more durable than we think. Take the EU. It isn’t forever. It didn’t even exist at the end of the Second World War. It had a beginning and perhaps it may even have an end. Thus, joining it isn’t equivalent to ‘making it’.
A ratings agency has made Greece the first European country to be an ex-developed nation. “Greece’s long-running crisis has culminated in its downgrade to emerging-market status and its exit from the club of developed nations, according to one index provider.” Erin McCarthy and Prabha Natarajan of the Wall Street Journal say it is an insult to emerging markets.
Countries deemed to be emerging markets by Bank of America-Merrill Lynch are expected to grow an average of 4.9% this year, according to the bank’s analyst. In contract, the International Monetary Fund predicts Greece’s economy will contract by 4.2%….
“You don’t think of a submerging market like Greece when you think of emerging markets,” says Brian Jacobsen, chief portfolio strategist for Wells Fargo Funds Management, which advises on assets worth $225 billion. “Greece is a bit of a sore thumb that will stick out in the index.”
In some universe, probably the present one, it is possible for China and South Korea to overtake Europeans countries. Rudyard Kipling once wrote that to be born British was to “win first place in the lottery of life.” A recent poll says Britain has fallen to 27th place, behind South Korea and Chile, in the current rankings of where people want to be born. It’s entirely possible for the words “I’m an American” to eventually become the equivalent of “I’m from India” someday.
The present changes. Greece has become poor. The Atlantic has a photo gallery of homelessness in Greece set amidst abandoned theaters, public parks. They are former hotel clerks, painters, small businessmen, chefs — not exactly the kind of alcoholic and dysfunctional crowd one might expect; the detritus of an assured future that never was.
And yet Greece may become rich again. The Economist argues that the fires of recession have burned out the fevers and leeched out the bad blood. The Germans are coming back to a cheapened Greece and the Russians are buying up everything in sight. “WHAT a difference a year makes.”
This summer should see a record 17m tourists crowding Greek beaches. Bookings from Germany and Russia are soaring, say travel agents. A projected rise of €1.5 billion-2 billion in tourist revenues will give the budget a boost, even though many hoteliers are struggling to service bank debts. Greek contractors expect to resume work in the autumn on €6 billion of EU-financed motorway projects stalled since the crisis. They could create 30,000 jobs.
Privatisation is under way after several false starts. Opap, the state gambling monopoly, has been sold for €712m to a consortium of Greek and east European investors. Gazprom is expected to bid for Depa, the natural-gas monopoly. Sintez, a private Russian energy company, and Socar, Azerbaijan’s state gas producer, are vying for the gas distributor Desfa.
Well who knows? Greece has been a long time dying. Byron famously wondered what had become of classical Greece when he saw its debased state in the 19th century.
THE isles of Greece! the isles of Greece
Where burning Sappho loved and sung,
Where grew the arts of war and peace,
Where Delos rose, and Phoebus sprung!
Eternal summer gilds them yet,
But all, except their sun, is set
Yet Greece even after the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, the World Wars and the crash of the EU lives still after a fashion. Perhaps the moral of the story is that the world keeps turning. You and I might not survive, but time marches on.