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IMF and eurozone officials in public clash over Greek debt

Troika infighting leaves Greek bailout shrouded in uncertainty.

Ongoing deadlock between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union over Greek debt targets erupted into an unusually public exchange on Monday night as IMF chief Christine Lagarde and Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker sparred at a press conference.

Juncker – Luxembourg’s prime minister – announced that Greece would be given an extra two years to reach its “sustainable” debt target, extending the previously agreed deadline from 2020 to 2022. The Telegraph's Bruno Waterfield and Louise Armitstead report the conversation:

“The target, as far as the time-frame is concerned, has been postponed to 2022”, he declared.

“I’m not joking”, he added.

A visibly agitated Lagarde insisted that the IMF was staunchly committed previous agreements. Waterfield and Armitstead add:

“In our view the appropriate target is 120 per cent by 2020”, Lagarde insisted.

“We clearly have different views”, she said.

Without consensus over the baseline year, no Greek debt relief plan can be drawn up.

With Greece’s skyscraping debt projected to reach as high as 190 per cent of GDP next year, reaching the IMF’s “sustainable” target of 120 per cent is certainly a big ask. As Athens scrambles to meet its bailout requirements, doubts have arisen over whether it can get its books sufficiently in order.

Senior IMF officials previously revealed that – without assistance – Greek debt would only slide to 150 per cent by 2020. European Commision predictions were slightly lower - 140 per cent by 2020.

Meanwhile, a previously agreed target for the Greek government to reach a primary surplus of 4.5 per cent of GDP in 2014 was reportedly extended by two years to 2016 on Monday, in the hope of giving the stricken economy vital room to lift itself out of the deep recessionary quagmire it finds itself in.

According to a preliminary report compiled by the troika – the IMF, the European Central Bank and the European Commission – the two year extension would require a further €32.6bn (£26bn) worth of funding, on top of the €31.5 (£25.2) already pledged. However, German officials have quickly moved to deny any extension of the bailout payments. A German finance official told The Guardian:

€32bn is not being looked at... The programme ends in 2014.

Despite the possible extension, the final decision over when the current aid tranche will be unlocked has yet to be made. At the very earliest, Eurozone finance ministers will meet to hammer out the details of the bailout on November 20, according to a Eurogroup announcement made on Monday. French finance minister Pierre Moscovici told Reuters on Tuesday:

Our objective is to reach an agreement in principle on November 20 so that we can … proceed to the disbursement of funds by the end of this month.

Greece had hoped to receive the funds on Monday, the day after it passed its 2013 austerity budget. The delay has dashed Greek hopes of receiving the funds it so desperately needs to meet €5bn (£4bn) worth of bond repayments due on Friday, which would plunge the country into bankruptcy.

With the bailout funds yet to flow, Athens scrambled to sell €4.06bn (£3.2bn) in one-month and three-month treasury bills on Tuesday morning, well over its initial €3.12 (£2.5) target. Expected funds from further treasury bill auctions will give Greece more than enough funds to stay afloat come Friday.

Alex Ward is a London-based freelance journalist who has previously worked for the Times & the Press Association. Twitter: @alexward3000

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This Ada Lovelace Day, let’s celebrate women in tech while confronting its sexist culture

In an industry where men hold most of the jobs and write most of the code, celebrating women's contributions on one day a year isn't enough. 

Ada Lovelace wrote the world’s first computer program. In the 1840s Charles Babbage, now known as the “father of the computer”, designed (though never built) the “Analytical Engine”, a machine which could accurately and reproducibly calculate the answers to maths problems. While translating an article by an Italian mathematician about the machine, Lovelace included a written algorithm for which would allow the engine to calculate a sequence of Bernoulli numbers.

Around 170 years later, Whitney Wolfe, one of the founders of dating app Tinder, was allegedly forced to resign from the company. According to a lawsuit she later filed against the app and its parent company, she had her co-founder title removed because, the male founders argued, it would look “slutty”, and because “Facebook and Snapchat don’t have girl founders. It just makes it look like Tinder was some accident". (They settled out of court.)

Today, 13 October, is Ada Lovelace day – an international celebration of inspirational women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It’s lucky we have this day of remembrance, because, as Wolfe’s story demonstrates, we also spend a lot of time forgetting and sidelining women in tech. In the wash of pale male founders of the tech giants that rule the industry,we don't often think about the women that shaped its foundations: Judith Estrin, one of the designers of TCP/IP, for example, or Radia Perlman, inventor of the spanning-tree protocol. Both inventions sound complicated, and they are – they’re some of the vital building blocks that allow the internet to function. 

And yet David Streitfield, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, someow felt it accurate to write in 2012: “Men invented the internet. And not just any men. Men with pocket protectors. Men who idolised Mr Spock and cried when Steve Jobs died.”

Perhaps we forget about tech's founding women because the needle has swung so far into the other direction. A huge proportion – perhaps even 90 per cent - of the world’s code is written by men. At Google, women fill 17 per cent of technical roles. At Facebook, 15 per cent. Over 90 per cent of the code respositories on Github, an online service used throughout the industry, are owned by men. Yet it's also hard to believe that this erasure of women's role in tech is completely accidental. As Elissa Shevinsky writes in the introduction to a collection of essays on gender in tech, Lean Out: “This myth of the nerdy male founder has been perpetuated by men who found this story favourable."

Does it matter? It’s hard to believe that it doesn’t. Our society is increasingly defined and delineated by code and the things it builds. Small slip-ups, like the lack of a period tracker on the original Apple Watch, or fitness trackers too big for some women’s wrists, gesture to the fact that these technologies are built by male-dominated teams, for a male audience.

In Lean Out, one essay written by a Twitter-based “start-up dinosaur” (don’t ask) explains how dangerous it is to allow one small segment of society to built the future for the rest of us:

If you let someone else build tomorrow, tomorrow will belong to someone else. They will build a better tomorrow for everyone like them… For tomorrow to be for everyone, everyone needs to be the one [sic] that build it.

So where did all the women go? How did we get from a rash of female inventors to a situation where the major female presence at an Apple iPhone launch is a model’s face projected onto a screen and photoshopped into a smile by a male demonstrator? 

Photo: Apple.

The toxic culture of many tech workplaces could be a cause or an effect of the lack of women in the industry, but it certainly can’t make make it easy to stay. Behaviours range from the ignorant - Martha Lane-Fox, founder of, often asked “what happens if you get pregnant?” at investors' meetings - to the much more sinister. An essay in Lean Out by Katy Levinson details her experiences of sexual harassment while working in tech: 

I have had interviewers attempt to solicit sexual favors from me mid-interview and discuss in significant detail precisely what they would like to do. All of these things have happened either in Silicon Valley working in tech, in an educational institution to get me there, or in a technical internship.

Others featured in the book joined in with the low-level sexism and racism  of their male colleagues in order to "fit in" and deflect negative attention. Erica Joy writes that while working in IT at the University of Alaska as the only woman (and only black person) on her team, she laughed at colleagues' "terribly racist and sexist jokes" and "co-opted their negative attitudes”. 

The casual culture and allegedly meritocratic hierarchies of tech companies may actually be encouraging this discriminatory atmosphere. HR and the strict reporting procedures of large corporates at least give those suffering from discrimination a place to go. A casual office environment can discourage reporting or calling out prejudiced humour or remarks. Brook Shelley, a woman who transitioned while working in tech, notes: "No one wants to be the office mother". So instead, you join in and hope for the best. 

And, of course, there's no reason why people working in tech would have fewer issues with discrimination than those in other industries. A childhood spent as a "nerd" can also spawn its own brand of misogyny - Katherine Cross writes in Lean Out that “to many of these men [working in these fields] is all too easy to subconciously confound women who say ‘this is sexist’ with the young girls who said… ‘You’re gross and a creep and I’ll never date you'". During GamerGate, Anita Sarkeesian was often called a "prom queen" by trolls. 

When I spoke to Alexa Clay, entrepreneur and co-author of the Misfit Economy, she confirmed that there's a strange, low-lurking sexism in the start-up economy: “They have all very open and free, but underneath it there's still something really patriarchal.” Start-ups, after all, are a culture which celebrates risk-taking, something which women are societally discouraged from doing. As Clay says, 

“Men are allowed to fail in tech. You have these young guys who these old guys adopt and mentor. If his app doesn’t work, the mentor just shrugs it off. I would not be able ot get away with that, and I think women and minorities aren't allowed to take the same amount of risks, particularly in these communities. If you fail, no one's saying that's fine.

The conclusion of Lean Out, and of women in tech I have spoken to, isn’t that more women, over time, will enter these industries and seamlessly integrate – it’s that tech culture needs to change, or its lack of diversity will become even more severe. Shevinsky writes:

The reason why we don't have more women in tech is not because of a lack of STEM education. It's because too many high profile and influential individuals and subcultures within the tech industry have ignored or outright mistreated women applicants and employees. To be succinct—the problem isn't women, it's tech culture.

Software engineer Kate Heddleston has a wonderful and chilling metaphor about the way we treat women in STEM. Women are, she writes, the “canary in the coal mine”. If one dies, surely you should take that as a sign that the mine is uninhabitable – that there’s something toxic in the air. “Instead, the industry is looking at the canary, wondering why it can’t breathe, saying ‘Lean in, canary, lean in!’. When one canary dies they get a new one because getting more canaries is how you fix the lack of canaries, right? Except the problem is that there isn't enough oxygen in the coal mine, not that there are too few canaries.” We need more women in STEM, and, I’d argue, in tech in particular, but we need to make sure the air is breatheable first. 

Barbara Speed is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman and a staff writer at CityMetric.