Already beset by much criticism for making big money delivering lectures at Harvard on the Greek economic crisis he helped create, former Prime Minister George Papandreou is now facing more complaints that he’s doing the same at fellow Ivy League school Columbia, in New York.
The school announced last month that it was proud to have Papandreou, who will be paid $30,000 for seven speeches, come aboard and called Greece a “living laboratory” for key global public policy challenges.
Papandreou, who led Greece from October 2009 through November 2011 when he resigned in the face of relentless protests, strikes and riots against austerity measures he imposed on the orders of international lenders, is teaching a course on the European financial crisis on Bailouts and Ballots: The New Challenges to Democracy and the Case of Europe.
FoxNews reported not everyone was happy about it and said that bringing in the man who led Greece when its economy tanked – and then went begging for bailouts — had some critics second-guessing the Manhattan school. Well before taking office, Papandreou, whose father and grandfather were also prime ministers, was also a top leader of the PASOK Socialist party whose policies of hiring hundreds of thousands of needless workers in return for votes helped create the country’s $460 billion deficit.
“It’s good that students get to know firsthand knowledge of someone who was in the situation,” Matthew Melchiorre, an expert on European economic affairs at the Competitive Enterprise Institute told FoxNews. “But they’ve also got to take into account that his party has been responsible for the growth in government excess that has been a problem since 1981. The unsustainable promises his party made to the Greek people have now come home to roost. He’s been intimately involved in creating all of the problems that Greece now has today,’ he added.
For Columbia, Papandreou is more a trophy than a tutor, said Desmond Lachman, a resident fellow at American Enterprise Institute, who said that Papandreou is better qualified to teach what not to do. “I have no idea what he (Papandreou) is going to be teaching,” said Lachman. “But one thing he shouldn’t be teaching is how to run an economy. He might want to teach them how to run an economy into the ground.”
Papandreou’s biggest mistake, Lachman said, was failing to recognize that Greece’s mammoth debt was unsustainable. Instead of exiting the European Union and getting the nation’s fiscal house in order, Papandreou continued the same policies until Greece’s debt bomb became the entire EU’s problem, he said. At that point, Papandreou gave in to EU demands for the austerity measures that now make him extremely unpopular.
Papandreou’s defenders say he is uniquely qualified to discuss fiscal and political challenges in Greece and Europe. Vassilis Papadimitriou, an adviser to Papandreou from his Athens office, told FoxNews.com that Papandreou introduced many reforms during his two-year tenure, including combating patronage and the lack of transparency in Greece’s financial affairs.
“It is important to remember that when Mr. Papandreou became Prime Minister in 2009, he discovered that Greece had a real deficit of 15.4 percent of gross domestic product and not 6.4 percent as the previous government had claimed,” Papadimitriou wrote.
“True, the austerity measures that Papandreou was forced to introduce in order to bring down the deficit did not make him popular. Cutting salaries and pensions will never make a politician popular. Today’s coalition government in Greece, led by Mr. Samaras, is following exactly the same program as the one introduced by Papandreou.”