martedì 19 marzo 2013

A Cipro la Germania sta con gli oligarchi russi

Continuiamo ad occuparci di Cipro riportando altri articoli che sono apparsi sulla stampa estera, ed in particolare su The Nation e London Review of Books. La situazione non è ancora chiara e si sta cercando di raggiungere un nuovo compromesso meno punitivo per i piccoli risparmiatori ciprioti - assolutamente incolpevoli dei problemi delle loro banche. La situazione è precipitata oggi sui mercati, dopo che le modalità del bail out erano state criticate da tutti, da destra a sinistra, FT e WSJ compresi e dopo che la tassa sui depositi sia diventata una bomba ad orologeria per tutto il sistema bancario della periferia europea, col rischio di una fuga di capitali da Grecia, Spagna, Portogallo e pure Italia e Francia se i risparmiatori si sentissero in pericolo.
Sembra dunque evidente come la trojka sia ormai fuori dalla realtà. Non solo è incapace di risolvere la crisi, ma è attivamente impegnata a peggiorare la situazione. Il metodo ormai è noto, prendere o lasciare, ricattando i paesi in difficoltà e poi magari dando loro la colpa degli insuccessi. Con la Germania in prima fila, come riportato un po' ovunque stamattina - (Cyprus' President) Anastasiades is reported to have said to Olli Rehn and Elmar Brok: I warned you that there would be no majority for this, "give my regards to Mrs Merkel"
Germania sempre pronta a punire i paesi in difficoltà, imponendo controproducenti misure di austerity. Sempre preoccupata di pagare il conto, quando poi in realtà tutti i paesei della EU contribuiscono, tra cui l'Italia senza per altro dimostrare la meschineria tedesca. Ed ora impegnata pure a salvare i soldi degli oligarchi russi, imponendo il prelievo forzoso sui conti correnti ciprioti. Una situazione davvero tragica: la Merkel e Schauble sono impegnati solamente a lisciare il pelo agli elettori tedeschi e continuano a castigare il resto d'Europa. Per tre anni hanno imposto politiche economiche assurde e disastrose in nome di un supposto senso del dovere e della moralità - non era giusto far pagare gli errori altrui ai virtuosi nordici. Ora la moralità ha lasciato spazio al salvataggio di rubli sporchi - la costante è solo picchiare duro sui più poveri. Incompetenti, incapaci, meschini e pure un po' corrotti. Difficile immaginare qualcuno di peggio a governare l'Europa.

Why Cyprus Matters: The Eurozone Strikes Again

di Maria Maragonis
da The Nation

The kaleidoscope spins again; the shards are rearranged; this time, the fragment at the centre is Cyprus. Faced with yet another country needing an urgent bailout (and with the German election looming in September), Eurozone leaders and the IMF have come up with a new wheeze: make savers pay to rescue the banks that were meant to look after their money, in exchange for a bailout of 10 billion euros.
Not unreasonable, you might say: Why should the proverbial German taxpayer cough up for Russian oligarchs and shady foreign businessmen who’ve stashed billions on the island? But the plan will take a cut from everybody’s savings—farmers, pensioners, orphans, oligarchs and oil magnates—on a roughly graded scale. (The proposed levy on accounts under 100,000 euros—which were in theory guaranteed by the Cyprus government—will probably now be reduced from 6.7 percent to 3.5 percent, which reminds me of the sage Nasrudin Hoja’s advice to the man whose house was too small.) Over the weekend Cypriots queued at cash machines; one man drove his bulldozer up to the door of the bank.
As the newly elected government of President Nicos Anastasiades postponed a vote on the plan and closed the banks until Thursday, the blame-shifting began: Was it Anastasiades who sold out the small savers to keep the Russians sweet, or the Troika heavies who showed him the brass knuckles? (Answer: it’s complicated, but there were brass knuckles.) Vladimir Putin weighed in, calling the plan unfair, unprofessional and dangerous. Russia has loaned Cyprus 2.5 billion euros; the EU is hoping it will extend the terms.
Why does all this matter? One, because this is the first time the EU and IMF have decided to take money directly from people’s pockets rather than through the messy process of cutting wages and pensions and putting taxes up. You could perhaps read this as a tacit acknowledgment that austerity has failed, economically as well as politically: it’s messy, it’s unreliable, and it makes people vote for leaders who won’t play the game, like Italy’s Beppe Grillo. You could certainly read it as a sign of how profoundly Europe’s leaders have lost the plot. Though the market meltdown predicted over the weekend hasn’t materialized, howls of derision have issued from bankers and business leaders as well as Cypriot indignados: if guarantees on bank deposits aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on, if people’s savings can be siphoned off by fiat, then the world as we know it, or at least the banking system, will come to an end. (It’s worth remembering here that before the last Greek election a Syriza economist proposed tapping private deposits to fund public investment; he was pilloried as a dangerous radical who would destroy the principle of private property.)
Two, it matters because with both ends of the economic spectrum lining up against it, the latest Band-Aid offered for the ailing Eurozone looks more and more like a crowbar to help tear it apart. The European Union, a liberal project with the twin goals of preserving peace and solidarity and facilitating commerce, always had opponents on both left and right. As the crisis deepens and peace and solidarity drop out of the equation, those voices are getting louder, not only in Greece and Italy but in Scandinavia, where far-right parties are rising, and in Britain, too. The anti-immigration UK Independence Party beat the Tories to second place in a recent by-election. Cyprus, a former colony, is home to several thousand British retirees; the front page of the Daily Mail today denounces the great eu bank robbery. The financial “contagion” from the Cyprus bailout might be containable; the political fallout will be more problematic.

Three, it matters because the plundering of ordinary people’s savings to bail out the banks lays bare more starkly than before where the real power lies. What price is democracy, when the European Central Bank’s Jorge Asmussen can present an elected European leader with the choice to accept the deposit tax or we will let your banks go under, and your economy too? (And yes, I know that Cyprus has a bloated banking sector; I know its people elected the governments that chose to let this happen; I know it’s a center for money laundering. But so are Switzerland and Luxemburg and the City of London, not to mention—according to the Basel Institute of Governance—Germany.)
Last but not least, it matters because Cyprus matters. Always in the cross-hairs of Great Power rivalries, betrayed by its former colonial masters, pushed and pulled by the politics of its neighbors Greece and Turkey, the island has struggled for decades to shape its own destiny. When the crisis hit Greece a couple of years ago, a Cypriot friend wrote to me, “Don’t bring us down with you, the way you did last time.” She meant 1974, when the junta in power in Athens launched the coup in Cyprus that sparked the Turkish invasion that split the island in two. Cyprus’s fall this time is due in part to its exposure to Greek bonds, which were given a short back and sides last year by the same financial wizards who have hatched this latest plan.
You might be forgiven for thinking that those wizards want the Eurozone to fall apart. But that’s conspiratorial, and gives them too much credit. Like the British in Cyprus the 1950s, they’re trying and failing to juggle their own contradictory interests. And as in the 1950s, it’s the locals who’ll get hurt first.

di James Meek
da London Review of Books

Years ago, in the early days of the financial crisis, Cyprus was one of the first European countries to reassure bank savers of relatively modest means by guaranteeing their deposits up to a limit of €100,000. What this meant was that the government made a promise. Anything could happen to a bank. It could go bankrupt. Branches could crumble into lumps of concrete and shards of glass, servers explode in showers of sparks, cashiers and mortgage consultants plunge flaming from fourth-floor windows, and small savers would still get their money back.
Suppose, for instance, a Cyprus bank adopted lax practices. Suppose it took in deposits from trusting small savers, pooled it with money of uncertain provenance from Eastern Europe – suitcases of cash were acceptable – and used it to gamble, lending it on to risky businesses. Suppose these lax practices weakened the bank to the point where it went bust. Under the deposit guarantee plan, this would not be a disaster. A lousy business would have succumbed to the pressure of the market. The big losers would be the bankers and the fat cats with millions deposited in the banks: they would lose heavily, but what were they doing with so much money if they didn’t know how to look after it? The modest savers, those with €100,000 or less, would walk out of the rubble unscathed, not having lost a cent.
How is it, then, that when real banks in Cyprus face actual financial collapse as a result of their conduct, it is not the banks themselves that suffer, nor the foolish rich who stashed their money there, but those savers of modest means who were promised their money was sacrosant? Those who thought they were safe with the guarantee are now being hit with a tax of €6.75 for every hundred euros they have in savings, in order to save the banks that screwed them over. It is true that those with over €100,000 are being made to pay more – €9.90 for every hundred euros – but the percentage game is in itself a game for the rich, whereas the less well-off live in a world of absolutes. A euro savings millionaire still has €901,000 left after the levy. If you’re saving up for a €200 plane ticket, on the other hand, and your savings go from €200 to €186.50, you don’t fly.
As I write, Cypriot and German politicians are blaming each other for the terms of the deal. This seems to me to be missing the point. Whether it was Germany who was to blame by insisting bank customers help pay for a loan to restructure the Cyprus banks, or Cyprus who was to blame by not wanting to over-tax the rich Russians who have pumped so much money into the island, the fact is that neither side was prepared to insist on honouring the deal to protect the less well-off. Nor did either side, it seems, dare consider asking the big foreign financial institutions foolish enough to lend Cyprus banks €1.7 billion over the years if they would mind taking a loss on that investment.
The most predictable moment in the Cyprus debacle came when George Osborne piped up to cite it as a dreadful warning to Britain to continue on the path of austerity or face disaster. Whatever bad happens in Europe, as far as George Osborne is concerned, is a dreadful warning to Britain to continue on the path of austerity or face disaster.
Recent events in Cyprus have nothing to do with routine government spending, with austerity or stimulus, and everything to do with what happened in Britain, Ireland and Iceland a little over five years ago. What’s happening in Cyprus is not, at its heart, about a government failing to pay its way, but about banks failing to pay their way, and having to be rescued by government. If there is a government failing it is not that it spent beyond its means but that it allowed the banking sector to swell to grotesque, unsustainable proportions, like some obscure organ of the body that has bloated up until it can’t be removed without destroying the host, and all the resources of the body are consumed by the need to carry it. In Cyprus, the less well-off face a deposit tax to pay for the rescue of their banks by Europe and the IMF; in Britain, we continue to endure spending cuts, higher VAT and the hidden tax of a weakened currency as a consequence of a bank rescue carried out from our own resources. We rescue our banks; who will rescue us?

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