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Greece rejects
new loans as
money runs out
By Aurelia End
he decision by Greece’s anti-austerity government in Athens to refuse fresh EU-IMF loans has
set economists guessing how long Greece’s
meagre finances can last. “From what I hear, Greece
can barely hold on until February,” Alexandre
Delaigue, economics professor at the French military
academy Saint-Cyr, told AFP. The new hard-left government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras that took
over after the Jan 25 general election faces a daunting
debt repayment schedule this year. It must repay €9.0
billion to the International Monetary Fund this year,
including €2.3 billion in February and March, according to BNP Paribas.
There is subsequently another €6.7 billion in bonds
held by the European Central Bank which must be
paid in July and August, and €15 billion in short-term
debt held by Greek banks owed throughout this year.
Greece’s rejection of new EU-IMF loans, and its insistence on Friday in talking directly to its international
creditors without the intervention of lower-level fiscal
auditors, has alarmed financial markets. The yield on
Greek 10-year bonds now exceeds 11 percent, an
impossible rate for Greece to borrow at today were it
to attempt to raise money without EU-IMF protection.
Asking for Time
After rebuffing the committee of EU-IMF fiscal
auditors known as the ‘troika’, which Finance Minister
Yanis Varoufakis dismissed as “rotten” and “antiEuropean”, Greece is asking creditors for time. “We
need time to breathe and create our own mediumterm recovery program, which amongst other things
will incorporate the targets of primary balanced
budgets and radical reforms to address the issues of
tax evasion, corruption and clientelistic policies,”
Tsipras said in a statement to Bloomberg.
The Greek finance ministry on Saturday said it had
hired advisory investment bankers Lazard “to advise
on issues of public debt and fiscal management”.
Lazard in 2012 had assisted Athens in brokering a 50percent writedown on the country’s short and medium-term debt. Lazard CEO Matthieu Pigasse had said
ahead of Saturday’s announcement that it was
“absolutely necessary” to reduce half the Greek debt
held by public institutions, effectively a cut of around
100 billion euros.
Tsipras’ administration has promised to pull Greece
out of a “humanitarian crisis” caused by five years of
fiscal cuts with a stimulus program estimated to be
worth around 13.5 billion euros, according to BNP
Paribas. This includes hiring back thousands of civil
servants, restoring the minimum wage and raising
pensions, mainly among the poor. The government
says it can find the money by closing tax loopholes
employed by wealthy Greeks and by cracking down
on smuggling and corruption. Domestic critics note
that similar pledges by the socialist administration of
George Papandreou in 2009 bore little fruit.
Ahead of the election, many Greeks stopped paying their taxes and state coffers are nearly empty.
Greek daily Kathimerini has noted that less than €2.0
billion remain, and will be used up by the end of
February. “The government is able to finance itself
because Greek banks buy its short-term debt issues,
and because the European Central Bank supports
them. If the ECB turns the tap off, it’s over,” warned
Credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s said in a
note on Friday that Greece’s top banks had been considerably weakened from a recent outflow of deposits
and the weight of existing non-performing loans. “We
believe the four banks’ liquidity has deteriorated significantly over the past few weeks,” the agency said,
adding that it had revised their cash position to “very
weak”. “Depositors have been withdrawing money for
weeks, around 5.0 billion euros in December and 15
billion euros in January,” added Adam Memon, economist at Britain’s Centre for Policy Studies. —AFP
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Dark day for Woods raises prospect of ‘yips’
By Mark Lamport-Stokes
tunned golf fans at the Phoenix
Open were left to ponder how the
mighty have fallen after Tiger
Woods plunged to new depths with
the worst score of his professional
career in Friday’s second round.
Looking more like a struggling
amateur than the greatest player
of his generation, and arguably
of all time, Woods was out-ofsorts in every phase of his game
as he laboured to a mind-boggling 11-over-par 82 at the TPC
Scottsdale. His chipping, in particular, was poor and many pundits are
now pointing to Woods, a 14-times
major champion once renowned for
his magical skills around the green, as
being a sufferer of the ‘yips’ when it
comes to that component.
Dottie Pepper, who won 17 times on
the LPGA Tour, including two majors,
tweeted on Friday: “Never fun seeing, let
alone reporting on, 2 dreaded topics in
golf: shanks & yips. Sadly, #Tiger has the
latter. Nerves not mechanics.” Arron
Oberholser, a PGA Tour player who also
works as an analyst and commentator for
Golf Channel, said: “I think the greatest
player that I’ve ever seen has the yips.
“Whether that’s because of a release pattern
or whether it’s not enough reps, it’s flat out
the disease. He’s got the yips.”
Woods had also struggled with his chipping in his previous tournament, last
month’s Hero World Challenge in Orlando
where he tied for last place, and at
Scottsdale he hit chips fat and thin while
occasionally resorting to a putter instead.
Before any rush to judgement is made,
however, it is worth emphasising that
Woods was competing at Scottsdale in only
his second event in five months, having
endured back problems for much of last
year after undergoing surgery.
Required Comfort Level
He is also still adapting to the fifth swing
change of his career, this time with new
consultant Chris Como, and history will
recall that Woods took a long time to reach
the comfort level he wanted for each of his
previous four overhauls. “He’s really revamping his golf swing and just seems like he
needs some more repetitions,” American
world number nine Jordan Spieth said after
playing the first two rounds at the TPC
Scottsdale with Woods. “From the looks of it,
he looks very healthy, looks like nothing was
bothering him, so he should be able to get
out there and get a lot of practice in. I would
look for him to make a strong comeback this
Others were not so optimistic on Friday
after Woods, for the first time in his career as
a professional, missed the cut in consecutive
PGA Tour events, his previous one having
occurred at the PGA Championship in
August. “I think he needs to get rid of Chris
Como,” Oberholser said on Golf Channel. “He
needs to get rid of all of these biomechanic
guys. You don’t go to a biomechanic guy
when you’re the best guy who’s ever played
the game practically.”
Woods, limited to just nine tournaments
worldwide last year due to his back issues,
has often struggled to take his game from
the practice range to the golf course, and
fellow PGA Tour player Colt Knost believes
this is once again the case. “I watched tiger
hit balls for 30mins yesterday on the range
and he absolutely striped it! Something is
going on in that head of his,” Knost tweeted
on Friday. After missing the cut at the TPC
Scottsdale, Woods conceded that his chipping problems stemmed partially from a
mental block.
“To an extent, yes it is, but I need to
physically get the club in a better spot,” said
the 39-year-old Woods. “My attack angle
was much steeper with (previous instructor)
Sean (Foley). Now I’m very shallow, so that
in turn affects the chipping. I’m not bottoming out in the same spot.” Time and again
during his remarkable playing career,
Woods has successfully overcome assorted
challenges - many of them injury-related. If
yips are in fact his latest challenge, it would
be foolish for anyone to write him off any
time soon. —Reuters
World’s problems enter Japan’s psyche, again
By Ken Moritsugu
he Japanese, who inhabit
one of the safest countries
in the world, have been brutally reminded that the world is a
dangerous place. In a shock to a
country that can feel insulated
from distant geopolitical problems, two of its own have reportedly been killed by Islamic radicals in Syria, the latest apparently
beheaded in a video posted
online this weekend by militant
This island nation closed itself
to the outside world for two centuries under samurai rule. Then
rising militarism and occupation
of neighboring countries preceding World War II had disastrous
consequences, driving Japan back
into an isolationist mindset. It has
ventured out in fits and starts for
the past two decades, and Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing for
Japan to play a larger international role, most controversially by
seeking to loosen constitutional
restraints on its military.
As Japan has learned before,
venturing out inevitably has risks.
The question is whether those
risks will drive Japan back into its
shell. Analysts say it is too early to
predict the impact of the Islamic
State hostage crisis on government policy and the public psyche. Past experience suggests
that Japan may, after some handwringing, continue what has
been a very gradual expansion of
its militar y role. A major test
could come in the spring, when
the parliament is expected to
take up Abe’s proposals to allow
its Self-Defense Forces to do
“Contrary to what some people are arguing, the ongoing
hostage crisis will have little to no
effect as far as official policy or
public opinion is concerned,” predicts Jun Okumura, an independent analyst. In office about two
years, Abe has traveled far more
widely than his predecessors,
meeting dozens of his counterparts in Latin America, Africa,
Europe and Southeast Asia. His
most recent trip was to the
Mideast, where he pledged
humanitarian and development
group that controls parts of Syria
and Iraq. “I will pledge assistance
of a total of about 200 million US
dollars for those countries contending with ISIL, to help build
their human capacities, infrastructure, and so on”. His words
reached the Islamic State group,
which in a video three days later
accused Japan of donating money “to kill our women and chil-
imposed by the postwar constitution - some say too far. At home,
many opposed the deployment.
In Iraq, half a dozen Japanese
were kidnapped. One was found
decapitated, his body wrapped in
an American flag, after thenPrime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
refused demands to pull the
troops out of Iraq.
Such violence is shocking any-
Junko Ishido, mother of slain Kenji Goto, speaks to reporters while her husband Yukio
Ishido stands beside at their home in Tokyo yesterday. —AFP
aid for the countries battling the
Islamic State group. A larger global role includes joining the effort
against terrorism, even if Japan
cannot contribute troops under a
post-World War II constitution
that limits its military to defending Japan.
“All that, we shall do to help
curb the threat ISIL poses,” Abe
said in a Jan 17 speech in Cairo,
using an acronym for the militant
dren” and threatened to kill two
Japanese men it held as
It’s not the first time Japan
faced such a crisis. In 2004, it sent
several hundred troops to Iraq to
help in the reconstruction.
Though it was a noncombat role,
the overseas deployment was a
significant break with past policy.
It required special legislation and
stretched the self-defense limits
where, but par ticularly so in
Japan, which has among the
world’s lowest murder and gun
ownership rates. The troubles of
the Mideast can seem farther
away than in the United States or
Europe. Unlike New York or Paris,
Tokyo hasn’t been attacked by
radicalized Muslims. The most
infamous terrorist act in recent
times was homegrown, the
release of poisonous gas in the
Tokyo subway system by a religious cult in 1995. “It is unusual
for Japan, which has not participated in the military operations
(against the Islamic State group),
to be targeted,” the Mainichi, one
of Japan’s major newspapers,
observed in an editorial. It concluded: “We no longer live in a
time when we can feel safe, just
because we are Japanese.”
In the decades after World War
II, the country focused on economic growth and relied heavily
on the United States for protection from global threats. It still
does today, but Japan has been
edging its own military overseas
for more than 20 years now,
though in a very cautious way. The
risks came home early. Over public opposition, the Japanese parliament passed a law in 1992 that
allowed it to dispatch troops and
others to UN peacekeeping operations. A Japanese police officer
was killed in Cambodia the following year. While the police withdrew from peacekeeping for several years afterward, the
Cambodia mission was completed, and the military has continued
to join others in the years since,
notes Okumura, the analyst.
The 2004 killing of one of the
hostages in Iraq increased pressure
on the government to pull out its
troops, but that mission continued
too, until 2006. A decade later, Abe
is trying to push the edge of the
envelope. He laid the groundwork
when his Cabinet reinterpreted the
constitution last year to allow
Japan, in some situations, to
defend allies that come under
attack. He still needs lawmakers to
approve legal changes necessary
to empower the military to do that
and more. Heated debate is
expected, but his party holds a solid majority in parliament and Abe
may well get his way. —AP