The Full Catastrophe Book Summary - The Full Catastrophe Book explained in key points

The Full Catastrophe summary

James Angelos

Travels Among the New Greek Ruins

21 mins
Table of Contents

    The Full Catastrophe
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    When Greece entered the eurozone, its economy was booming; but the boom was a bubble.

    To understand the current Greek crisis and Greece’s fraught relationship with the euro, let’s first take a look at the country’s economic situation when it first entered the eurozone in 2001.

    When Greece joined the eurozone, its economy was booming. Foreign investment flowed into the country; cheap credit was available and easy to obtain.  

    As a result, Greek citizens began consuming more, with fancy cars on the road and busy retail shops a common sight in even the smallest of Greek towns. In fact, Greece’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by an impressive 4 percent each year.

    Yet this boom was based on a credit bubble, meaning Greece’s strong growth wasn’t sustainable.

    At the time, the Greek industrial sector was less developed than in other European countries. Instead of investing borrowed money to improve industry, train workers and develop new technologies, Greece’s government used it mostly to increase wages, pensions and benefits.

    As a result, the economy failed to produce or export enough goods to cover its growing debts.

    Yet crucially, the trust creditors had in Greece’s economic health was based on a lie.

    As a member of the eurozone, Greece was by default considered creditworthy. Membership signalled financial stability, as countries were required to meet certain criteria before joining. A country’s annual deficit, for example, had to be less than 3 percent of GDP.

    Yet it was realized too late that Greece from the very beginning didn’t meet the criteria, and had actually faked its numbers to join the eurozone.

    In 2009, the government through a large accounting revision revealed that Greece had a projected budget deficit of 12.5 percent of GDP, instead of a previous estimate of 3.7 percent – a discrepancy so large that it couldn’t just be blamed on the global economic crisis alone.

    What’s more, the EU statistical office also found evidence of previous “widespread misreporting” on behalf of the government.

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    What is The Full Catastrophe about?

    The Full Catastrophe (2015) takes you beyond the headlines on the Greek debt crisis to discover how citizens in Greece and beyond have survived it. Through real-life interviews with people in mountain villages, tourist resorts and in the capital city of Athens, the author lays bare the effects of government budget cuts, austerity policies and endemic corruption.

    Best quote from The Full Catastrophe

    Greece had been rescued, but by this point, it was perishing by a thousand cuts.

    —James Angelos
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    Who should read The Full Catastrophe?

    • People interested in international politics or European policy
    • Anyone who wants to understand the Greek debt crisis
    • Economists or students of economics examining the effects of austerity

    About the Author

    James Angelos is a journalist and former correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, and has also written for the New York Times.

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