Greece and the euro
The euro is still vulnerable, and Greece is not the only problem
IT WAS almost exactly five years ago that the euro crisis erupted, starting in Greece. Investors who had complacently let all euro-zone countries borrow at uniformly low levels abruptly woke up to the riskiness of an incompetent government borrowing money in a currency which it could not depreciate. There is thus a dismal symmetry in seeing the euro crisis flare up again in the place where it began.
The proximate cause of the latest outbreak of nerves was the decision by the Greek government, now headed by the generally competent Antonis Samaras, to advance the presidential election to later this month. The presidency is largely ceremonial, but if Mr. Samaras cannot win enough votes in parliament for his candidate, Stavros Dimas, a general election will follow. Polls suggest the winner would be Syriza, a populist party led by Alexis Tsipras. Although Mr. Tsipras professes that he does not want to leave the euro, he is making promises to voters on public spending and taxes that may make it hard for Greece to stay. Hence the markets' sudden pessimism.
导致投资者精神突然紧张的直接原因是希腊政府的决定。现任希腊领导人Antonis Samaras相对还比较有能力，他将在本月晚些时候提前进行总统选举。本次选举基本上是仪式性的，但如果Samaras不能在议会为其接班人Stavros Dimas赢得足够多的选票，接下来还会进行一次普选。民意调查显示，由Alexis Tsipras 领导的民粹主义政党左翼联盟将会赢得普选。尽管Tsipras表示他不会支持希腊脱离欧元区，但他在公开场合向选民做出的关于公共支出和税收的承诺会令希腊很难留在欧元区。因此市场突然悲观情绪弥漫。
As it happens, there is a good chance that Mr Dimas, a former EU commissioner, will win the presidential vote at the end of this month (see article). But the latest Aegean tragicomedy is a timely reminder both of how unreformed the euro zone still is and of the dangers lurking in its politics.
It is true that, ever since the pledge by the European Central Bank's president, Mario Draghi in July 2012 to “do whatever it takes“ to save the euro, fears that the single currency might break up have dissipated. Much has been done to repair the euro's architecture, ranging from the establishment of a bail-out fund to the start of a banking union. And economic growth across the euro zone is slowly returning, however anaemically, even to Greece and other bailed-out countries.
But is that good enough? Even if the immediate threat of break-up has receded, the longer-term threat to the single currency has, if anything, increased. The euro zone seems to be trapped in a cycle of slow growth, high unemployment and dangerously low inflation. Mr. Draghi would like to respond to this with full-blown quantitative easing, but he is running into fierce opposition from German and other like-minded ECB council members (see article). Fiscal expansion is similarly blocked by Germany's unyielding insistence on strict budgetary discipline. And forcing structural reforms through the two sickliest core euro countries, Italy and France, remains an agonisingly slow business.
Japan is reckoned to have had two “lost decades“; but in the past 20 years it grew by almost 0.9% a year. The euro zone, whose economy has not grown since the crisis, is showing no sign of dragging itself out of its slump. And Japan's political set-up is far more manageable than Europe's. It is a single political entity with a cohesive society; the euro zone consists of 18 separate countries, each with a different political landscape. It is hard to imagine it living through a decade even more dismal than Japan's without some political upheaval.
Greece is hardly alone in having angry voters. Portugal and Spain both have elections next year, in which parties that are fiercely against excessive austerity are likely to do well. In Italy three of the four biggest parties, Forza Italia, the Northern League and Beppe Grillo's Five Star movement, are turning against euro membership. France's anti-European National Front continues to climb in the opinion polls. Even Germany has a rising populist party that is against the euro.
It's the politics, stupid
Indeed, the political risks to the euro may be greater now than they were at the height of the euro crisis in 2011-12. What was striking then was that large majorities of ordinary voters preferred to stick with the single currency despite the austerity imposed by the conditions of their bail-outs, because they feared that any alternative would be even more painful. Now that the economies of Europe seem a little more stable, the risks of walking away from the single currency may also seem smaller.
Alexis de Tocqueville once observed that the most dangerous moment for a bad government was when it began to reform. Unless it can find some way to boost growth soon, the euro zone could yet bear out his dictum.
Alexis de Tocqueville曾经做过观察，他认为一个失败政治最危险的时刻是在其正准备开始改革的时候。除非它能很快找到刺激增长的方法，欧元区可能仍需为其坚持的政策提供证明。译者:邓小雪（译文属译生译世）
1、commissioner n. 理事；委员；行政长官；总裁
2、inflation n. 膨胀；通货膨胀；夸张；自命不凡
3、manageable adj. 易管理的；易控制的；易办的
4、dismal adj. 凄凉的，忧郁的；阴沉的，沉闷的
1). ADJ Something that is dismal is bad in a sad or depressing way. 惨淡不良的
...Israel's dismal record in the Olympics.
2). ADJ Something that is dismal is sad and depressing, especially in appearance. (尤指外表) 沉闷的
The main part of the hospital is pretty dismal but the children's ward is really lively.
5、austerity n. 紧缩；朴素；苦行；严厉