Greece has been part of the "euro zone" since 1999. When the 2008 recession hit, their nation was especially affected. If it had its own currency, the drachma, it could have printed more money. This would have lowered the value of the drachma internationally, making Greek exports more competitive. It would also have lowered interest rates at home, encouraging investment and making it easier for Greeks to service their debts.
But Greece did not have this option. Instead, the European Central Bank has lent it money to prop up its economy. Now the Greek government cannot repay these loans. Stronger countries such as Germany don't want to loan them any more money unless the Greeks agree to even more stringent austerity measures. Last Sunday, Greeks voted by a large margin to reject such demands. No one is sure what happens next.
Who is to blame?
We can blame the Greek government. As a member of the European Union, it was required to limit its deficits and debt, but it enlisted foreign banks to evade these rules and borrowed money to enable spending. In 2009, the government admitted that it had borrowed four times as much as it was allowed. Now its massive debt threatens to collapse its economy.
We can blame the Greek people. Tax evasion is a major problem, going back to when the people avoided paying taxes to the Ottoman Empire and then to the Nazis. A 2012 study found that the true income of the average Greek is about 92 percent higher than income reported to the government.
We can blame stronger European nations such as Germany. Exports to members of the European Union are a major part of their economies. They fear that a Greek exit would tempt other nations to leave the euro zone. To prop up the Greek economy, they have made loans the Greeks could not repay and imposed austerity measures many consider to be unfair.
Whoever is to blame, the Greek people are suffering. As taxes have risen and lending has largely ceased, businesses are closing at the rate of 59 a day. Unemployment stands at 26 percent today, and more than 50 percent for youth under the age of 25. Pharmacies are running low on medicines. Tourism, a mainstay of the economy, is declining. Retirees are losing their pensions, and banks are in danger of collapse.
This crisis is not limited to Greece. In fact, when it comes to human nature, every nation is Greece. Every nation needs leaders who tell the truth and trust the people. Every nation needs people who choose integrity over avarice. And every nation needs the transforming power of the gospel. (Tweet this)
The story is as old as Eden: Corruption fueled by self-interest leads to innocent suffering. The remedy is as old as Calvary: "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness" (1 Peter 2:24).
I have traveled many times to Greece, and love the nation and her people. This historic country is usually considered the birthplace of Western civilization. But the Greeks sometimes say, "We gave light to the world and held onto the darkness."
Today they need the Light of the World (John 9:5) more than ever. Have you prayed for Greece today?
Publication date: July 7, 2015
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