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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 26 October 2011
"Greece's 'Odious' Debt" is subtitled "The Looting of the Hellenic Republic by the Euro, The Political Elite and the Investment Community". The book starts not in Greece nor even in Europe but in Argentina, ten years earlier. Although the comparison between Greece and Argentina is far from exact, it is deeply illustrative, with Argentina's peg to the dollar and Greece's entry into the euro, both having histories of military juntas and clientist economies and both at first highly successful in their currency bindings.

After discussing how Argentina and Greece both "got lucky" with their new currency arrangements, it moves on from the Argentine comparison to discuss the euro. The European Union was always much more of a political idea than an economic one. And so it was with the euro, which was created as a wider rather than deeper monetary union now, with economic convergence expected to come later.

The author is far from an irrational euro-sceptic. To quote from page fifty: ". . . I want to make it clear that I am not a eurosceptic. I agree with the vision of a free-trade European Union, with free movement of people and capital. The completion of the single market has brought huge benefits fro business and ordinary citizens alike since its completion in 1993. I have no philosophical or nationalistic feelings of opposition to a single currency. The euro is a good thing, done badly; and it has been done very badly."

Modern Greece was a European outlier, more a product of the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires than of its classical civilisation. It was more a part of the eastern Mediterranean, even Asia Minor, than the Club Med, let alone northern Europe.

Euro membership gave Greece an over-rated currency and the ability to borrow on the sovereign bond market at rates close to German bunds. The proportion of Greek sovereign bonds sold to the domestic and international markets flipped to international indebtedness as the international finance houses did good business with an eager government. Much of the borrowing was wasted, not invested. There was little systemic reform and little productive investment, some corruption and not very much economic convergence with the rest of the EU.

This is a handily-sized book at just over 260 pages, plus 13 pages of notes which are mainly references to the sources used. It starts with a comparison of Argentina in the 90s and Greece now. Both Argentina's currency peg and Greece's membership of the euro started well and got better, but eventually Argentina's currency peg ended in disaster. The book continues with a discussion of Greece's internal, structural problems, followed by the story of how it all went wrong, and excoriation of the international investment institutions who promoted Greek sovereign bond issues and euro politicians who allowed Greece to issue them in such quantity. All that is missing is a discussion of the international hedge and vulture funds who are currently circling Greece, waiting to feed on the remains.

Throughout the book certain phrases, often italicised, recur and together they give an alternative summary: overconfidence bias, problem of induction, illusion of control, herd behaviour, and group think. To this list could be added two words of Greek origin: hubris and nemesis.
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on 23 May 2011
In the past ten years or so, I have read many good books about the business world. They have provided me with a better understanding of the economic predicaments we have been facing. "Greece's Odious Debt" has surprised me. It is more than a book about Greece; it is more than a book about the European Union. The writing is superb; the information provided is exceptional, and with the unexpected bonus of understanding the psychology that contributed to the devastating economic turmoil we are engulfed in, this has truly given me insight and a clearer picture of how things work and why this happened. Knowledge is vital, it is essential to our understanding the world we live in, and this book has provided an incredible wealth of information that surpasses every single book on economics and business that I have read in the past ten years. I honestly did not expect this, which makes it even more rewarding. This book packs a punch, and amazingly, it is a complete pleasure to read.
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on 15 September 2011
I have read and now will re-read and hi-light Jason Manolopoulos's analysis of the Odious Greek Debt. It is an excellent unbiased right down the middle accounting of how Greece wound up in the position it now finds itself in. I have bought several copies and have sent them to my friends. I hope everyone with an interest in this debacle, will do the same. My only wish is that all of the incompetents in charge would read this book and take heed. Until Greece can establish the principal of fairness and Justice for all - it will remain stuck in this cycle of greed and corruption. I don't have much faith that it can establish or will extricate itself.
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on 5 June 2011
Jason Manolopoulos's DIY guide to the Greek Debt Crisis adds much to our understanding of how the Greeks ended up where they currently are.

The least interesting section of the book is the seemingly long oomparision with the economic woes that afflicted Argentina in the early 1990's. Although some similarities can be drawn between the Argentine and Greek experiences, the overall context of how both countries reached alomst economic meltdown are very different.

Chapter 5 of the book is the most illuminating and gives wide ranging and diverse examples of the dysfunction and and econoimc abornormalities of 'greek economy' from the inside. This chapter deals with corruption, bribery, nepotism and the apparent willingness of the Greeks to go along with a political and economic system that has a bloated and wasteful public sector, widespread cronyism and almost nonchalant acceptance of tax evasion as being the norm.

The overall thrust of the book is that whilst the Greeks themselves have to bear a large chunk of responsibility for the mess they are in, they have been aided and abetted in creating this mess by the EU political leadership, the banking and investment sectors and of course successive Greek governments.

Along with Matthew Lynn's recent publication - BUST - we now have two contemporary books that between them disect and analysis the real story behind the headlines. Recommended reading.
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on 26 July 2012
Everbody should read this excellent book. Don't be misled its title: it is not just about Greece, but about the whole Euro project, and how it has been bungled from the start. And what is more, it is not burdened by techical jargon, but is an easy read. I found it gripping and hard to put down - and after reading it I had a much better understanding of what is going on in the currency markets, and why.
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VINE VOICEon 13 June 2011
Manolopoulos has produced a no-holds barred analysis of Greece's currently catastrophic economic situation. The book examines the links between the Greek and the Argentinian history of debt trouble, the effects of entry into the currency union for Greece, delves into the core of Greece's problems of state corruption and inefficiency. The book is a damning expose of a multitute of factors that led to the current situation: Greece being on the precipice of default. The book is written in an accessible manner to the non expert and will appeal to a wide audience. Indeed, the book is more aimed to the general readership than an academic audience. There are however enough undrepinnings of scholarly work to make one think that the book could make a doctoral submission if some of the theoretical parts were further developed. For instance, Manolopoulos traces the ideas of 'confirmation bias', 'herd behaviour', 'illusion of control' and 'overconfidence bias' in the behaviours of agents contributing to the crisis. Some more theory coud have gone into explaining those ideas to make them a more secure backbone to the analysis that follows. This book, unlike some others in this field, will also be relevant to read after the Greek drama was reached some type of conclusion in the near future. What led Greece to where it is, is what the book focuses on, instead of what stage in the economic cycle the country is at the moment. Perhaps the most significant criticism of the book is that the title does not adequately represent the content. 'Odious debt' may lead one to think that the book is an analysis of this particular legal doctrine and its application to Greece. This it is not.
I would highly recommend this book to everyone interested in Greece's calamities, and to all who should have a sense of history when pondering marcoeconomic problems in their countries.
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on 31 May 2011
It is hard to keep your anger in check when considering this mess in the eurozone; the ruinous self-interest which influenced the bankers, the regulators, the politicans and (most culpably) the intellectuals, strikes you as powerfully as an eight year old's fart. How can something so accrid emanate from something you hold out so much hope for? Its honesty, depth of insight, range of knowledge and verbal energy makes this a publishing sensation. I bridled at the ferocity with which, through extensive quotation, he whips the perpetrators, but that is as it should be, given their rank dishonesty or complacent stupidity. He navigates his tale through fifty years of political history, financial theory and trading guile in an almost impossibly capable way, maintaining as direct a course as you could hope for, given the tornadoes he has chosen to describe. I came across it in an article by Sam Brittan who once wrote that there are some things - like the evils of inflation or the sanctity of contract - that you can not explain but must absorb as an act of faith. In this history of the eurozone, he comes as close as anybody can to explaining something which is almost impossible to explain - readably. I can't think of a faster, more thorough way of learning about what is going on in Europe right now. You won't find a better dissection of today's financial disarray, which is both accessible to general readers and thought provoking for specialists.
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on 13 August 2012
I would highly recommend reading this book, particularly for anyone looking for some good background reading on the Euro / Greek crisis. The author does very well to cover the various political, economic and cultural issues that lead up to the crisis and continue to weigh on the nation. I've also read the book written about the Irish bubble and subsequent crisis "Ship of Fools", and while that book is OK, I think this is a far better read.
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on 20 February 2013
This is a useful survey of Greece's plight. Jason Manolopoulos points out that the euro was always a subprime currency, achieved by bundling together very different economies.

He explains the crisis, "investment banks recouped fees for arranging the loans, and in many cases cashed in as the boom ended by shorting government bonds as the price fell. Although Europe's leaders publicly denounced such speculation, they encouraged the bubble characteristics that made shorting so profitable by arranging fresh debts and calling them a `bailout', even beyond the point at which it had become a Ponzi scheme - the Greek government was only able to maintain payments to existing creditors by taking on new ones." Bailouts and Quantitative Easing fuel the banks, brewing up a deeper crisis.

In 2004-09, only China, India, South Korea and the UAE spent more on arms than Greece - $6.143 billion. Germany is the world's third largest exporter of arms, and its two biggest customers are Turkey (14 per cent of its exports) and Greece (13 per cent). German and French banks were loaning Greece money to buy German and French arms.

The EU's economics commissioner said in the late 2000s that Greece's economy was `better than the EU average'.

Manolopoulos concludes of the euro, "The euro as currently configured stands little chance of survival: the austerity being asked of Greece is simply too much; the political risks on the periphery are likely to be too high and most importantly the economic fundamentals and structures of the economies of the countries too different."

Then, inconsistently, he urges austerity - wage cuts, spending cuts, higher taxes - which he admits `will create a dramatic fall in Greek GDP'. He attacks trade unions and welfare. He doesn't even mention unemployment in his index, reminding us that he is, after all, co-founder of a hedge fund.

He states wrongly, "As devaluation is not currently available." Of course, Greece could and should exit the euro ASAP.

More sensibly, he recommends that Greece defaults on its debt (as Argentina did), reintroduces capital controls and credit controls, and regulates financial markets.

He denounces Greece's `narrow parasitic capitalist class'. He proposes an end to immunity and special treatment for politicians: Greek MPs should face corruption and other charges in regular courts, not in special parliamentary committees.

He points out that borrowing financed private investors, not public investment; it funded private fortunes, not the public's future. Observing that banks are oligarchical and out-of-control rent-seekers, he writes "break up the financial oligarchies."

He urges a block on investment, to stop foreigners buying domestic bonds. "Our reliance on foreign government borrowing exposes the country's finances to the fickle capital markets and the next global crisis."
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on 6 March 2012
After reading endless newspaper opinion pieces decrying the mismanagement in Greece post its entry into the Eurozone I was looking for some more detailed historical context. This book was exactly what I was looking for. It is well written while being accessible for the general reader. The front cover makes it look like an academic textbook which I imagine could turn off a lot of non-specialist readers which would be a crying shame. I have recommended this book to many.
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