Thomas Fricke: What Germany can learn from Greece


What were those times! When we told the Greeks, upset, that they could not do anything economically. Only make olives. Have a failed state. We should keep our time as we do – if they can. Because they prefer to sit in the sun. And always trick. What analyzes in strongholds of German thought (such as the "Bild" newspaper) halted so. And should not now even presume to determine what is good for them.

Not with us. Because. We. The. Money. To have. And just better.

Now our credibility has suffered quite a bit since we did not really go German with, say, the construction of our capital airport, which has been thriving in the sun for years. And we were not so perfectly virtuous in setting readings in diesel automobiles. And it took us almost half a year to regain government – something we usually trust others.

Stupid enough. Only that it threatens to get worse, where now the recently booming German industry is in recession – and report the colleagues from the "failed state" Greece in earnest flourishing business. Are you crazy?

It might be worthwhile to learn quickly from it. Before we have to apply for help from the Greeks, if this continues.

Not funny. At least as far as the latest trends are concerned. German industry's output has been shrinking for months, and in February there were spectacularly 8.2 percent fewer orders than in the previous year. And the crash seems to be accelerating. According to surveys among purchasing managers, the industry index is only 44 points below the 50 mark, from which experience has shown that growth is mirroring. New orders dropped more than they had since the great recession of 2009.

For Greece, the opposite has been the case for months in the same survey: the index is well above the growth threshold – rising to nearly 55 points in March. And so many jobs are created as they have not been for twenty years. Rather boom than recession.

Also no slip-up. Last year, the Greek economy grew stronger than the German economy for the first time since the Great Crisis. And while the growth forecasts for us were recently lowered to well below one percent, the European Commission recently even raised its forecast for the Greeks – to 2.2 percent for this year. Well so what.

Whereby that fits into the picture otherwise. In March, the government in Athens succeeded in selling ten-year government bonds for the first time since 2010. And as the Brussels Commission notes, Greek exporters gain market share worldwide. Huh?

Cliché selective perception

Now, of course, it could be that the Greeks have suddenly reformed quite a bit against their inclination – and therefore depend on the economy. And only no one at the "Bild" newspaper has said. Possible. Or? That would not otherwise have arrived in the German editorial offices. As was to be read as usual until the end that Greece "in the implementation of the reform pledges", Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras "does not deliver", Athens is still "not ready to play by the rules" and competitiveness is at risk – and instead, the government is doing such awful things as raising the minimum wage.

Now, behind such findings in this country seems to hide a mysterious tendency to stereotypical selective perception – which could explain a part of the surprise: Of course, the Greeks were never lazy per se. And the state did not fail per se. And of course the Greeks have steadily improved things over the past few years. Otherwise they would not have gotten some credit tranches.

Fortunately, the days of old Schäuble drills are over, in which reforming has been confused with the utterly truncating of funds for pensioners and hospitals – which made the crisis worse and worse until 2016 as the economy broke demand. What's in the younger programs does not have much to do with it – but increasingly (also) with more constructive ideas like setting up hospital wards; or more attitudes in key authorities.

If Greece's economy is actually growing again since 2017, it is against all the old economic notion that the government in Athens is not cutting back so much and increasing taxes since then. And instead, as recently as the minimum wage raised.

How much the price has been eased can be measured by how the (structural) surpluses in the budget develop beyond special and economic effects. Said surplus in 2019 should be lower by almost three percent than in 2016 – so much money was added to the economic cycle. Since then, the economy is also improving again. Especially since there was no German finance minister, who leads personal feuds against indecent Greek colleagues and threatened with expulsion of the euro – which only causes panic and animated speculators.

Say: It was better than and because the breeding mastery stopped. What has been true for Spaniards and Portuguese for years. And what, if knowledge had arrived in Berlin earlier, many Greeks would have been spared suffering.

Why the Greeks are even better at dealing with the crises of the world than we do has another noteworthy reason. What has been held up to the country in the euro crisis, suddenly seems like a stroke of luck: first, that only a relatively small part of the economic output comes from the export of goods – so now the economy gets less from Brexit and US President Donald Trump and Italian government turmoil , as the tightly globalized German. On the other hand, Greek exporters are barely on the move in the automotive and engineering sectors, where it is particularly rumbling, and instead in the sale of generic drugs. As Berenberg Chief Economist Holger Schmieding says: more of a safe number for the future.

Maybe the Greeks will even become our role models

And: those who are less dependent on exports also live more strongly on domestic demand. Not a bad model in these times. Especially since tourism is running. And private consumption. For example, thanks to rising minimum wage.

Of course, what the Greeks are experiencing is anything but a boisterous party – more like an attempt to gradually overcome an economic disaster. And it will take a while for people to feel it right.

Nevertheless, the strong positive signals make one sit up. Who knows? Maybe the Greeks will even become our role models. We can always learn from it. How good it is to stop with austerity – and perhaps not to start. Or how an economy works that was not made as crazy about whether the beautiful export is running, the world is nice to us – and political gunmen like Donald Trump, Theresa Brexit May or Matteo Salvini are for or against us. The Greeks can pursue this much more relaxed.

Not that someday they will have to send a troika with recommendations for improving our economic policy to Berlin.


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