A modern hospital is equipped with a variety of specialized wards. One of them is the intensive care unit, or ICU. Here go those who are especially sick and in need of the most devoted attention. The existence of the ICU recognizes that illness and operations do not affect all patients in the same way. Some, who are robust, recover quickly. Others who are weaker, or older, or sicker, may require different treatments and more help.
Europe’s financial hospital has been busy for five years, dealing with victims of the world crisis and of the lending binge that came before it. Ireland, Portugal, Spain and (to a degree) Italy have filled the beds. They have taken the medicine, and followed the prescribed routine. Not one has fully recovered. But then again, none of those countries were ever lethally sick – at the worst, they suffered declines of 5 to 10 percent of GDP, and have been more or less stable for the past few years.
Greece is a special case. She was a weak patient to begin with. Her institutions were not strong. Her industries were not competitive. She binged on those pre-crisis loans. And when the collapse came, Europe and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) prescribed an exceptional dose of the standard drugs – perhaps three times more than was given to anyone else. The results were toxic. Greece has lost over a quarter of her income, she has 29 percent unemployment and her government has no cash reserves.