Sunday, 16 June 2013

What price austerity?

The fragile Greek government, seeking to prove that it's serious about austerity, last week shut down the state broadcaster. This message from the musicians of the shut-down national radio and television centre in Athens was published by Norman Lebrecht:
"Dear friends, these are our colleagues from our National Radio Orchestra and Chorus, performing in tears, in their rehearsal room, yesterday night. The room, albeit hot and humid as the air-condition is not working, is packed with people, while thousands are watching outside on the video wall. Both the orchestra and chorus were shut down along with the state radio and tv channels three days ago. 2650 families are now with no job. Please spread the news, we need your support… Let us keep the art alive! Let us keep democracy alive!"  

Greece has failed to see that austerity economics have never worked. It's a debunked approach favoured by those who mistakenly liken the finances of nation states to domestic budgets. In Greece, income cuts and tax increases have exacerbated a crippling recession, forcing tens of thousands of businesses to close and sending unemployment to a record of 27%. Poverty has become widespread and the suicide rate has doubled in the last three years.

Austerity is a dangerous idea. Here's why:

Cut or invest? Public investment in arts and culture can drive economic growth. In England,14p is the amount that each person contributes per week via the Arts Council to investment in arts and culture. That's equal to less than 0.1% of Government spending.

Last week, the International Monetary Fund admitted that it got Greece wrong. It might be too late, for this the birthplace of Western democracy and culture.

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