In the last few years, we have learned to live in fear of bankruptcy. Almost every month – and definitely when some negotiation with our partners and creditors is in progress – the same reign of terror propaganda is reproduced: we will go to the ATM and find no money; the State will declare suspension of payments (regarding salaries and pensions because in every other respect we’re not exactly far from that); banks will set a limit for maximum withdrawal amount per person per day (capital controls); money from bank accounts above a certain limit will be confiscated (just like it happened in Cyprus in 2013); and many others.
Regardless of actual possibilities that any of the above will happen and without any desire for political analysis of all those scenarios and the intentions they probably serve, in this article we will mention some characteristics and ideas for survival in the event of actual “credit default swap” (CDS in short), as it is termed in international bibliography.
A State declares bankruptcy in case – for any given reason – it cannot meet its short-term obligations. Usually, this event concerns the installments of loans the State has received in the past.
Historically, bankruptcy is not something rare; nor is it something non-manageable. The one known to most (in modern Greek history) is that of 1893, when then-Prime Minister Charilaos Trikoupis uttered the famous words “regretfully, we are bankrupt“. Even Eleftherios Venizelos reached the point of declaring, in 1932, “in the end, we are bankrupt“, due to the accumulation of debts, which became impossible to meet after the Asia Minor Catastrophe and the Great Depression that followed the New York stock market crash (1929).
More recently, it was the Russian government in 1998 and that of Argentina in 2002, which declared their inability to pay their external debts.
What has never happened so far is for a country that belongs to a monetary union (like Greece belongs to the Euro zone) to go bankrupt. It is obvious that the mere possibility of the common European currency to be shaken is a sufficient enough motive for our partners to avoid the bankruptcy of Greece. Apart from the flight of capitals, something like this would shake – probably irrevocably – the existing trust towards the second most powerful currency in the world; and this is something that no political or banking Euro-élite would risk. Of course, this does not seem to deter them from the continuation of blackmail tactics in order to accomplish whatever goals they have in mind.
But, regardless of all that, being prepared in case of a temporary monetary uncertainty, without any hysterics, is never useless.
So, what follows is a brief survival guide in case of bankruptcy. One that, first and foremost, requires humor, ingenuity and coolness:
- Do not keep at home (or any other concealed spot of property) more euros than needed to face primary needs. The chances of losing money to theft (particularly in these circumstances) are objectively more. Wannabe thieves are always one step ahead.
- Of utmost importance for temporary survival is stock in kind. Pasta, pulses, oil, can food and rice, in quantities that can be consumed according to their expiry date based on ordinary consumption are practically more substantial.
- Autonomy in terms of energy can be secured with camping gas or a stove.
- Water services were never discontinued in the Western world: not even during the Occupation, nor during the military junta and neither in times of bankruptcy.
- A well-preserved bike for moving around is not such a bad idea.
- The primary sector of economy will never let you down (besides, it is common knowledge that, under the German Occupation, cities starved – unlike villages). Two orange trees and a couple of animals, if you have the ability to sustain and keep them, can make a difference compare to the neighbor who may just wait in line for the common meals. In this case, I will stress (without any intention to joke) this: go for hens. They eat practically everything and produce high nutritional value food called eggs at a relatively stable and safe rhythm (roosters are to be avoided as, apart from becoming attractive for theft or murder due to bad timing decibels, they do not lay eggs and annoy their flock with their constant urges – which is, obviously, the last thing you need at a time like this). Their meat is a counter-productive form of development, for obvious reasons (unless if you’re lucky enough to happen on a brood hen).
Regardless of the inevitable connotations about the hilariousness of all the above (which should not trouble you in light of the current relatively safe conditions – when there is a salary to collect at the ATM), the general secret to minimizing risk in cases when you have to deal with CDS is dispersion, on two levels:
* Dispersion of reserve of all available means of survival that are at the household’s disposal (money, raw materials, ready-to-use articles, livestock, etc.) in different, safe spots around the house or property.
* Dispersion of other available monetary valuables in different banking products (deposits, bank deposits, bonds, gold, mutual funds, deposit accounts, accounts in foreign currencies). Of course, we are referring to amounts worthy of discussion. You probably shouldn’t worry about the current account your employer uses to deposit your salary and two days before payment you’re left with 12 euros and have to deposit 10 in order to withdraw 20.
Nevertheless, given the current prioritization of needs in Greek society, it seems that 2015 Greeks will stress more over lack of wi-fi than lack of oil. Moreover, with 60% of the population overweight and 25% obese, we are still miles away from starving. So, arm yourselves with humor and patience; this, too, shall pass. Free Atkins for all.
But, above all and regardless of the degree of stress internalization by the prospect of bankruptcy, let’s not forget this simple lesson from political history: no government wants to bear the political and social cost of a bankruptcy and so will, literally, do whatever it takes to avoid its stigma.