Zoe Konstantopoulou, Speaker of the Greek parliament, on Tuesday announced the establishment of an Audit Committee of Public Debt to be headed by SYRIZA MEP Sofia Sakorafa and Eric Toussaint, the well known Belgian expert on odious debt.
Zoe Konstantopoulou, Speaker of the Greek parliament, on Tuesday announced the establishment of an Audit Committee of Public Debt to be headed by SYRIZA MEP Sofia Sakorafa and Eric Toussaint, the well known Belgian expert on odious debt. They will begin work in early April, presenting their findings in an international conference on public debt in June.
The committee will examine what proportion of Greece's public debt can be considered 'odious' and therefore illegitimate, looking not just at debts incurred during the 'crisis years' but also prior to 2010 and the public contracts for the Olympic Games, arms, transport, Siemens and the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE S.A.) in particular. The committee will, Konstantopoulou explained, work in the interests of both Greece and the wider European community to ensure justice.
In international law, debt can be defined as odious when the money is misappropriated – i.e. when the government uses the borrowed funds in ways that don't benefit citizens. It has been argued that successive governments should not be held accountable for this odious debt.
When Greece's bailout programme began, leading anti-debt campaigners, the UK based Jubilee Debt Campaign, warned that the programme was repeating mistakes made in the developing world in recent decades, and that the loans were geared towards bailing out the banks
rather than helping the Greek people, then leaving the burden of debt to be borne by the state and the Greek people thereafter.
As Toussaint points out
, Article 7 of a regulation adopted by the European Union in May 2013 “on the strengthening of economic and budgetary surveillance of Member States in the euro area experiencing or threatened with serious difficulties with respect to their financial stability”, concerning countries subject to a structural adjustment plan, states that, “A Member State subject to a macroeconomic adjustment programme shall carry out a comprehensive audit of its public finances in order, inter alia, to assess the reasons that led to the building up of excessive levels of debt as well as to track any possible irregularity”.
Therefore, there is certainly grounds for such a committee, and Toussaint believes that it will show that,”the so-called bail-out of Greece set up by the European institutions with assistance from the IMF, has in fact enabled the banks of some European countries with a decisive influence on European institutions to continue collecting debt repayments while at the same time transferring the risk to the Member States through the Troika. It is not Greece that has been saved, but a handful of big private banks mainly based in the strongest countries of the EU.”
Opposition parties criticised the move, with Potami accusing the Speaker of overstepping her authority and confusing government policy at a time when the official line is not to pursue any kind of debt haircut.
The Press Project will follow closely the work of the committee.
* The committee will present their findings in an international conference on public debt in June
* They will examine what proportion of Greece's public debt can be considered 'odious' and therefore illegitimate