Christine Lagarde: the Wrong Person to Deal with the Greek Crisis.
Protesters gather in Trafalgar Square to support the Greek government’s attempts to throw off austerity (Photo: Chris Plexidas via Twitter).
The Greece Solidarity Campaign wants a European conference to cancel Greece’s debts, and around three thousand people are at the square now to show their support and hear speeches from a range of MPs and activists including Paul Nowak from the TUC, Owen Jones, Sarah-Jayne Clifton of Jubilee Debt Campaign, Andrew Burgin of Left Unity, and John Rees of the People’s Assembly.
Jeremy Corbyn has said: “There is an escalating crisis of Greek society. There is no sane solution to the situation in Greece that involves repaying this debt. “The only sensible way forward is to cancel the Greek debt – or at least substantial swaths of it – and for the international community to support Greece’s democratically elected government to rebuild its society and its economy.”
Andrew Burgin from Greece Solidarity Campaign said: “We are coming together today to stand with the people of Greece and say: no to austerity, yes to democracy.
The news today:
If Greece does not transfer the equivalent of €1.6bn to the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday, it will become the first advanced economy to default to the fund in its 71-year history. The country will also take a step closer to what some fear could be its exit from the eurozone and another round of economic turmoil in Europe.
Writes the Financial Times.
It continues on site with a list of “10 things worth keeping in mind.”
One should add another “thing” to remember.
Christine Lagarde is the IMF managing director.
Christine Lagarde was appointed head of the IMF – following Dominique Strauss Kahan’s ‘resignation’.
One reason was that it was “buggin’s turn’ – the post would still be held by a French person, but after the (Socialist politician) this time it would be a right-wing French politician.
Largarde’s political career has taken place essentially in the exalted regions of appointees, beyond more than nominal engagement in electoral politics (councillor in the 12th arrondissement of Paris).
But she was, from 2007 to 2011, Ministre de l’Économie under Prime Minister François Fillon (more detailed summary on French Wikipedia)
That is, perhaps more significantly, during the reign of President Nicolas Sarkozy.
This was a right-wing government pursuing a neo-liberal economic strategy, mired in scandal.
This relates to a notorious, and long-lasting, ‘affaire’.
On 3 August 2011, a French court ordered an investigation into Lagarde’s role in a €403 million arbitration deal in favour of businessman Bernard Tapie. On March 20, 2013, Legarde’s apartment in Paris was raided by French police as part of the investigation. On 24 May 2013, after two days of questioning at the Court of Justice of the Republic, Lagarde was assigned the status of “assisted witness”, meaning that she was not herself under investigation in the affair. According to a press report from June 2013, Lagarde has been described by Stephane Richard, the CEO of France Telecom (a former aide to Lagarde when she was Finance Minister), who has himself been put under formal investigation in the case, as having been fully briefed before approving the arbitration process which benefited Bernard Tapie. Subsequently in August 2014 the Court of Justice of the Republic announced that it had formally started a negligence investigation into Lagarde’s role in the arbitration of the Tapie case.
This is what Lagarde said in an interview with the Guardian in May 2012 when asked about the crisis in Greece.
….when she studies the Greek balance sheet and demands measures she knows may mean women won’t have access to a midwife when they give birth, and patients won’t get life-saving drugs, and the elderly will die alone for lack of care – does she block all of that out and just look at the sums?
“No, I think more of the little kids from a school in a little village in Niger who get teaching two hours a day, sharing one chair for three of them, and who are very keen to get an education. I have them in my mind all the time. Because I think they need even more help than the people in Athens.” She breaks off for a pointedly meaningful pause, before leaning forward.
“Do you know what? As far as Athens is concerned, I also think about all those people who are trying to escape tax all the time. All these people in Greece who are trying to escape tax.”
Even more than she thinks about all those now struggling to survive without jobs or public services? “I think of them equally. And I think they should also help themselves collectively.” How? “By all paying their tax. Yeah.”
It sounds as if she’s essentially saying to the Greeks and others in Europe, you’ve had a nice time and now it’s payback time.
“That’s right.” She nods calmly. “Yeah.”
At the time Le Monde commented that the Greeks felt “shocked” and “humiliated” by the Director of the IMF’s lecture on how, after living the life of Riley, they should now pay their taxes.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon remarked that it was Greek ship-owners and the Orthodox Church who ahd avoided paying taxes, not the ordinary people. (Les Grecs se disent “humiliés” par les propos de Christine Lagarde.)
Largarde has made one notable further gaff (Wikipedia),
In January 2015, on the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Lagarde said “he was a strong believer in pushing forward women’s rights”.
Christine Lagarde is a vegetarian and is near-teetotal. Her pastimes include hanging out in the gym, swimming and cycling.