x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Revolting workers should get on side

Riots in Greece, strikes in Portugal and threats of strikes in Spain. The PIIGS - Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain - are revolting.

Riots in Greece, strikes in Portugal and threats of strikes in Spain. The PIIGS - Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain - are revolting. While their governments are trying to bring in austerity packages, the public sector workers have decided that enough is enough. The last time the Portuguese workers downed tools was in November three years ago, in protest against a miserly projected pay rise of 2.1 per cent. This time it's different: the government isn't planning to give anything at all, but rather take something away.

Much as the unions and workers moan, surely even they must realise that there is no money to go around? Nada, tipota, zip. Portugal's government is already weakened because of allegations that it interfered with the media, while the Greek government is having a war of words with the Germans. Two German politicians, Josef Schlarmann and Frank Schaeffler told Das Bild newspaper yesterday that as well as cutting public sector pay and freezing pensions, the Greeks should also sell their islands and even historic sites such as the Parthenon and the Acropolis.

"Those in insolvency have to sell everything they have to pay their creditors," said Mr Schlarmann. "Greece owns buildings, companies and uninhabited islands, which could all be used for debt redemption." Understandably, Greek politicians rejected such calls. "I've also heard the suggestion we should sell the Acropolis," said the deputy foreign minister Dimitris Droutsas. "Suggestions like this are not appropriate at this time."

Doomsayers are warning that it won't be long before we see the first government fall because of economic mismanagement. The really miserable ones are saying that the last time such events happened, a short man with a toothbrush moustache seized power in Germany and created mayhem throughout the world. This wasn't part of the plan: Eurocrats in Brussels must be watching events and wondering whether the great European experiment is unravelling. The euro's inflexibility was good news for the periphery of all while it was boom time. The downturn is proving less fun for everybody. But austerity has to start somewhere, so rather than bleating like sheep, the PIIGS should get their snouts out of the trough and get back to work.

@Email:rwright@thenational.ae