Lettuce save Europe from the Greek debt crisis

Ben Brennan

As Europe weighs the pros and cons of breaking Greece’s legs over an ever-compounding series of bad debts, at least one person in the world is doing something practical about the escalating crisis.

Greece has today become the first major economy to default on loans from the International Monetary Fund, and the first country since Zimbabwe in 2001 to fall foul of the banker.

It leaves governments and lenders around the world in a tough situation. Greece doesn’t have any money but there have been a lot of ledgers balanced under the assumption that it might find some.

But while the IMF and Eurozone leaders redouble their efforts to extract blood from stones, one man in England has made more headway with a tongue-in-cheek crowd-funding campaign than an army of fiscally-minded dismal scientists have managed in almost eight years.

Tom Feeney, from York, UK, has had a busy couple of days.

While treasurers big and small come to terms with the fact that their forward estimates are finally going to have to acknowledge that the $300 billion or so poured into Greece will not be coming back in any sort of hurry, Mr Feeney is taking real action.

So far he’s raised nearly half a million Euros (about $720,000AUD) through crowd funding site IndieGoGo, in doing so crashing the site’s servers and annoying a Greek lady who took umbrage at his plans to offer one of her country’s islands to anyone who stumped up the $2.3 billion needed to restart the merry-go-round.

Ever intransigent, the Greek Government has not officially sanctioned the island giveaway and, as such, Mr Feeney has been forced to withdraw the offer and replace it with Ouzo vouchers and light lunches.

According to Mr Feeney, the Greece problem can be solved by salad, both literally and figuratively.

“€1.6bn is what the Greeks need. It might seem like a lot but it's only just over €3 from each European. That's about the same as half a pint in London. Or everyone in the EU just having a Feta and Olive salad for lunch,” he writes.

Mr Feeney is offering a Feta and Olive salad to anyone who donates €6 ($8.66). He’s currently on the hook for about 2400 salads, and Yahoo7 News has not yet confirmed what effect a default would have on sheep, goat and lettuce farmers. It is understood cooler heads have prevailed in the agricultural sector and no major plans are yet hinging on a spike in the demand for Mediterranean cheeses.

He’s also on the hook for more than 3000 bottles of Ouzo, which is more than most Greeks will be buying at the moment thanks to the week-long closure of the country’s banks and ATM withdrawals limited to $86 (€60).

Demonstrators during a rally organised by supporters of the 'Yes' vote for the upcoming referendum in front of the Greek Parliament on June 30, 2015 in Athens. Photo: Getty Images/Milos Bicanski

Mr Feeney insists his campaign is no joke, despite the wry smiles it has brought to many faces since he launched the page two days ago.

I can understand why people might take it as a joke, but crowdfunding can really help because it's just a case of getting on and doing it,” he wrote.

“I was fed up of the Greek crisis going round in circles, while politicians are dithering, this is affecting real people. While all the posturing is going on, then it's easy for the politicians to forget that. I just thought, sod it, I'll have a crack.”

And with that Mr Feeney makes a point that most have overlooked. There are 11 million Greeks who stand to wear the very real consequences of a financial crisis most of the world forgot about years ago.

Mr Feeney’s campaign is doomed to failure, of course. He has little to no chance of raising the hundreds of millions of Euros needed to send the dithering politicians back to square one and with his inevitable failure he will be required to refund the $720,000+ pledged to his campaign so far.

The high hopes of feta vendors will be dashed. Ouzo salesmen will face an enormous write down in their yearly forecasts. Greek islands will go uncoveted and crowdfunding’s true believers will be forced to acknowledge that shuffling numbers from one account to another cannot solve every problem.

With Mr Feeney facing a deadline he can never hope to meet, the search for a solution to the Greek problem looks doomed to continue.

Kickstarter, here we come.

Morning news break – July 1