Finance minister Yanis Varoufakis: Greece's shaven-headed 'Dr Doom'

Greece's newly appointed finance minister Yanis Varoufakis (right) is greeted as he walks along a street in Athens on Jan 27, 2015. The 53-year-old economist has written several books and worked as a consultant for computer game compan
Greece's newly appointed finance minister Yanis Varoufakis (right) is greeted as he walks along a street in Athens on Jan 27, 2015. The 53-year-old economist has written several books and worked as a consultant for computer game company Valve, the maker of the popular Half-Life games. -- PHOTO: AFP

ATHENS (AFP) - Yanis Varoufakis, handed the potentially explosive role of finance minister in Greece's new anti-austerity government, is known as "Dr Doom" over his stance on the country's deep economic woes.

Varoufakis believes the shattered country can never begin to recover until its massive international rescue package is completely renegotiated.

Varoufakis, a shaven-headed 53-year-old economist who has taught at universities in England, Australia, Greece and the United States among other countries, is already a frequent interviewee around the world and highly active on social media.

Though a first-time minister, not to mention a rookie parliamentarian, he will spearhead the bailout renegotiation talks with Greece's European Union partners and the International Monetary Fund that already promise to produce sparks.

"It is time to speak the truth about the unsustainability of the major denial with which Europe treated the bankruptcy in its midst," Varoufakis said in a pre-election interview with Britain's Channel 4 television.

Varoufakis, who has the build of a rugby player, spent his early academic career in England, at the universities of Essex, East Anglia and at Cambridge.

CALL OF GREECE

"My break from Britain occurred in 1987 on the night of Mrs (Margaret) Thatcher's third election victory. It was too much to bear," he writes in his extensive English-language blog.

Varoufakis moved to the University of Sydney, living in Australia from 1988 to 2000. He retains Greek and Australian citizenship.

The call of Greece proved too strong eventually, and despite having a daughter from a relationship in Australia, he returned to teach at the University of Athens.

Varoufakis was one of the first to warn of the risk that Greece could default on its massive debts, which have now swelled to more than €315 billion (S$480 billion).

The approach earned him the nickname "Dr Doom".

When Greece was pummelled by the euro zone crisis from 2008 onwards, "everything I had worked to create at the university collapsed", he recalls.

Like many Greeks in all walks of life, he was also forced to take a substantial salary cut.

Just three years ago he took a post at the University of Texas in Austin.

He has written several books, including The Global Minotaur: America, Europe And The Future Of The Global Economy.

Although not a member of Syriza, the party of new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Varoufakis was invited to work closely with the left-wingers.

But he also found time to work as a consultant for computer game company Valve, the maker of the popular Half-Life games.

Gabe Newell, the chief executive of Valve, explained he wanted to work with Varoufakis on "linking economies in two virtual environments (creating a shared currency)", the Washington Post reported.

For Greece's new finance minister, the games are over and it is now time to see if the Syriza government can really challenge the prevailing economic policies in Europe.