Exactly ten years ago, on 15 September, 2008, Lehman Brothers, one of America’s biggest banks, filed for bankruptcy.
That sealed the emergence of the biggest financial crisis after the Crash of 1929 and the Great Depression, which evolved into a fiscal crisis and made its way to Europe in the form of a debt crisis, the impact of which continues to beleaguer Greece.
This was the result of an absolutely deregulated and supposedly self-regulated financial market, and of a sequence of smaller credit events that developed after the autumn of 2007 and reached a peak after the collapse of the American banking giant, revealing a world of imprudence and artificial, untrammeled borrowed prosperity.
The starting point of the dramatic events a decade ago, which shook the world and affected the lives of millions of people on the planet, were mortgages with reduced guarantees, which banks offered profusely for the sake of profits and executive bonuses.
The bolstering of the entire operation with derivative financial instruments multiplied the weight of the crisis and rocked the credibility of the banking sector globally.
Greece found itself entirely unprotected and absolutely exposed, due to the over-indebtedness of both the state and the private sector.
Everyone knows what followed. Our country lost 25 percent of GDP, millions of people lost their jobs, others were forced to emigrate, and everyone else was saddled with unbearable taxes and saw their standard of living decline dramatically.
Ten years later, Greece remains over-indebted and bound by commitments for decades, and its banking system has yet to recover. The system is bedeviled by the problem of non-performing loans (NPLs), and is still not in a position to provide even the most basic funding for the Greek economy.
Most businesses, even the most healthy, remain excluded from the banking system and are struggling with their own resources under difficult conditions. They are in danger of collapsing due to the lack of working capital.
Unfortunately, official authorities are dragging their feet, and measures to put the financial sector in order are being implemented extremely slowly. Banks’ management appear to be bound and immobilised by a vicious circle of political cost and administrative inertia.
The Greek economy right now is operating almost without banks, without the oxygen of auxiliary credit, and condemned to a vicious circle of stagnation and underdevelopment.
Just the day before yesterday, former British PM Gordon Brown, one of the politicians who managed the great crisis, warned that the world is sleepwalking toward a new financial crisis, with disastrous effects for everyone. It is clear that there is no time for postponements or delays.
Most recently, our banks have been sinking almost daily into a cycle of stock market price devaluation, due mainly to neglect and the continued high cost.
If today’s currents continue, it is a matter of time before a new existential crisis develops in the Greek banking system.
There is no more room for self-deception and delusions. The Greek banking system is urgently in need of a restructuring and reorganisation, without postponement and reservations.
Both the government and the Bank of Greece must make choices, and decide at long last with whom they will go and who they will leave behind.
The interests of the Greek economy are above those of stockholders, and the interests of depositors are above all others.
This must be understood by everyone. There is no longer any time for personal or other strategies.
The time for major decisions is now.