'Greek Parents have to pay their Tax': IMF chief

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Lagarde with Greek Prime Minister Papademos

IMF chief Christine Lagarde says she feels little sympathy for the Greek people

Christine Lagarde - head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said in an interview with the UK Guardian that the Greek people should 'help themselves' by paying their taxes. Asked if she did not even feel sorry for the children - who even she could not blame for the crisis, she said: 'Well, hey - parents are responsible, right? So parents have to pay their tax.'

The Greek people are going through the mill at the hands of the IMF, the European Union and the European Central Bank. Education, teachers and children have been particularly hard hit - with jobs lost, schools closed and books often non-existent. Moreover those teachers still with jobs have had their wages and pensions cut. All of this so that the internaitonal bond traders can continue to amass their millions as they bet on the relative stability of nation states like Greece.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that Lagarde should take this attitude. What did amaze this website however was the sheer chutzpah of Lagarde's assertion that she 'thought more of the little kids in Niger who get teaching two hours a day, sharing one chair between three of them.' Niger is one of the so called 'highly indebted poor countries', which are completely under the lash of the policies of the IMF.  In January 2005, for example, a law was enacted on IMF instructions,  increasing VAT on basic goods and services - including wheat, sugar, milk, water and electricity. A large social movement was built in Niger which resisted these taxes and got some of them reversed.  In fact  far from being indebted, Niger is one of many countries in the Global South which has transferred more money back to the North in interest payments than it owed in the first place (See: Toussaint, The World Bank: a Critical Primer). 

Niger was one of the first places Lagarde visited when she became head of the IMF, after the disgrace of former boss, Dominique Strauss Kahn, and she is still imposing the same prescription of 'smoothing out spending' - (for which read cuts in public spending) and attracting private investment. 

Furthermore she says in the Guardian interview that people in low-income countries live on $3,000, $4,000 or $5,000 a year. I don't know which people she is talking about - many teachers in Africa earn less than $1000 a year and in India a public school teacher's salary is less than $2000 a year - with many on temporary contracts earning far less. That she should choose to insult the Greek people by implying that their problems are of their own making (for failing to pay tax) and that any way they are not so badly off as people in Africa - also under the cosh of the IMF - is quite extraordianarily provocative.

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