Monday, March 8, 2010

Greek to me, b’y

It’s not often that Newfoundland and Greece are mentioned in the same breath, but it’s been the case lately.

The latest such breath comes today from the Financial Express, the only English financial daily in Bangladesh, of all places.

A columnist with the paper, David Hale, says the European Union could ask the Greek government — which is $440 billion in debt and teetering on the financial edge in terms of defaulting on its loans — to suspend its parliament and turn over powers to a commission government.

A commission made up of six bureaucrats (three from Athens; three from Brussels) would guarantee Greece’s debt and rule the country until it regained solvency.

Sound familiar?

How could it not.

It's not easy to forget one of the most embarrassing, desperate chapters in our history.

Newfoundland was ruled by a seven-member Commission Government between 1934 and 1949 — the only country in history to voluntarily surrender its democracy (in our case, Responsible Government).

For 15 years no elections were held, no legislature convened, services were cut (or kept to a bare minimum) and tens of thousands of people lived on the dole, or 6 cents a day.

That’s one way (the hard way) for Greece to get its finances in order.

Good luck with that.

A word of advice to Greece if she goes the commission route: make sure to spell out exactly how, and when, the country will return to a democracy.

She might end up Canada's 11th province.

Couldn’t resist.

On a more serious note, there’s a school of thought that Newfoundland should have been allowed to return to Responsible Government before deciding whether to join Canada.

That didn’t happen, with charges leveled to this day that Newfoundland was maneuvered into Confederation by Canada and Great Britain.

Commission government may help a country get its finances in order, but it’s a cold, cold way to run a country.

A democracy has a heart.

A commission does not.
•••
Greece isn’t the only country in economic trouble these days.

Iceland — our one-time island nation roll model/hero — is also up to its neck in debt.

Icelanders defied their parliament and international pressure this past Saturday (March 6th) in a referendum, with more than 93 per cent rejecting a $5.3-billion plan to repay Britain and the Netherlands for debts spawned by the collapse of an Icelandic bank.

Iceland’s population of 320,000 is prepared to repay the money, but the terms and conditions were thought to be too onerous.

According to news reports, many Icelanders remain angry at Britain for invoking anti-terrorist legislation to freeze the assets of Icelandic banks at the height of the crisis.

Which prompted the worst diplomatic spat between the two countries since the Cod Wars of the 1970s over fishing rights.
•••
Ah, the Cod Wars.

I do enjoy a good tangent.

Iceland knew how to turn a cod stock around — it didn’t diplomatically tread water for decades as its fishery and culture slowly faded.

No sir, it dragged giant scissor-like cutters over the nets of British trawlers, eventually forcing them home.

John Efford had an Icelandic skipper brought over here in the early ’90s to show Newfoundland fishermen how it’s done … how to use scissors to clean up the Nose and Tail.

But then Ottawa came up with another fish-aid package, some more make-work and an EI top-up or two and the rabble quieted down and settled in for a long winter’s nap.

Which brings us to the here and now.

I never understood why we’re such an apathetic bunch.

It’s Greek to me, b’y.

1 comment:

Alex said...

Greece probably won't have a World War to boost the economy and bring around the financial solvency that the commission desires either.

Could you post the original link next time please?