Published on 21 Jun 2015

Greece – five pictures of a troubled country

In a special long-read, Paul Mason offers five pictures of Greece.

A divided population?

As the crunch approaches the atmosphere has changed. For six months the centre right in Greece was prepared to wait and let Alexis Tsipras try – and fail – to secure a letup on austerity. Now the old political establishment has understood he intends to take this to the bitter end: a default on Greece’s June payment to the IMF, with possible dire consequences for the banks as early as Monday night.

The ECB’s life support facility – known as Emergency Lending Assistance (ELA) – is conditional on Greece being “in a programme” agreed with lenders. I understand on Friday it was only the intervention of Mario Draghi, the ECB’s boss, that prevented the termination of ELA.

So on Thursday, amid an accelerating bank run that has seen €5bn withdrawn this week, the opposition took to the streets.

The demo was called on Facebook and fronted by technocratic young professionals for whom Greek membership of the Euro symbolises their aspirations for a cleaner, more modernised economy. But the majority of those attending were from  the political establishment that ran up €320bn debts and then signed up for an EU/IMF austerity deal that destroyed 25 per cent of their economy.

GREECE-POLITICS-ECONOMY-EU-DEMO

When they surged up the steps of the tomb of the unknown soldier, which fronts the Greek parliament, there was not a single uniformed policeman in sight. They chanted for Europe and against Syriza. Their placards denounced the “soviet” aspirations of the far left government. Present were key members of the conservative right, including leadership hopeful Adonis Georgiadis.

The Greek left is suddenly startled. Though the right wing demo was only around 7,000 strong, largely composed of people over 65, and ridiculed by Syriza and its bloggers, for a wider group of voters it has sown anxiety.

The soft left of Greek society – also technocratic, also pro-Euro – voted for Syriza because it promised them to reduce austerity while staying in the Euro; and to attack corruption. It also promised to put the world of tear gas and riot cops and fascist infiltration of the state into the past.

Now, every logical mind in Greece is mulling over the following scenario. If the government can’t reach a deal on Monday, and defaults, and its banks are closed – bringing tens of thousands of enraged conservatives to the streets – what next? Syriza removed the barriers to parliament and demobilised the riot cops. So what if next time, alongside the genteel and the technocrats, there arrives the plebeian base of conservatism, carrying national flags and religious symbols?

The prospect of open conflict between the left and right of Greek society terrifies the young, because their grandparents fought it out with tanks, torture and guerrilla warfare. Though nobody is suggesting it will end that way, it is the unanswered question – can Greek democracy and civil society contain the tensions that will be unleashed this week if Greece defaults?

That may shape the actions of both Alexis Tsipras and the lenders.

Syriza: in the headlights of history?

Syriza in power has been a work in progress. Alexis Tsipras divided up his ministries between three distinct groups of politicians: the pro-Grexit hard left of Syriza, which got the energy ministry; long-standing Syriza lawyers and academics of the post-1968 generation; and no fewer than six independent ministers, with political careers in the left of social democracy (plus three right wing nationalists and a green from his coalition partners).

Members of the SYRIZA youth the political youth of the

But what they’ve found in power is an apparatus that barely functions. The civil service, one ministerial aide told me, ranges from hostility to mere leakage of information to the opposition. The Greek state had become so reliant on informal, clientelist relationships that it has very little in the way of institutional shock absorbers between ministers and micro-operational decision making.

When it comes to the banks, the minister responsible is Deputy Prime Minister Yannis Dragasakis, yet the effective bank regulator is the ECB. That means the government cannot exert influence into the banking sector at times of crisis. Meanwhile the governor of the Greek central bank, Yannis Stournaras, is a former conservative finance minister who opposes Syriza’s policy but can’t be removed.

An anarchy symbol is spray-painted over the logo of Bank of Greece in Athens

There is, both in the party’s rank and file and among the wider population, frustration at Syriza’s slowness in altering the way the state runs.

As a result of this Syriza’s ministers and aides have developed a management style whereby they are in constant execution mode, and constantly reacting to critical events. Technical and operational tasks consume energy that in a functioning democratic state should be used for political decision making, or taking the temperature of society, or just recuperating.

As for communication this is a party with almost no “outriders” in the mainstream press: their media allies are startup internet news sites, or columnists in the liberal and conservative foreign press.

All these relatively minor dysfunctions will be problematic if a default happens and the banks have to be closed or nationalised.

I watched the British state struggle with a bank collapse in October 2008: 24 hour operations by seasoned civil servants, fuelled by takeaway food; line-open calls to Washington, to the central bank, to individual bank bosses. Drawing on decades of goodwill and personal relationships, built over a decade of receptions and business dinners, Gordon Brown’s civil servants saved or sacrificed the finance system, bank by bank, CEO by CEO.

With the Greek state there is scant capacity to mount such an operation, and no single centre from which it would be launched. Plus there is the implicit resistance of the Greek central bank, which is bound by the rules of the Eurozone to act on behalf of Greece’s lenders, not its people.

I do not doubt that finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has a “Plan B” in the case of a rupture, and a banking crisis. But I doubt the Greek apparatus of government is resilient  enough to manage it.

What crisis will looks like

The British journalist Ambrose Evans Pritchard called the Troika’s coming attack on Greece the economic equivalent of the Iraq War. If so, it will be no joy to be sitting in the bunker. All the dynamics of the situation, rehearsed again and again over the past six months, will get squashed into a few days.

As they look over the edge of the diving board, this is how events might unfold.

On Sunday there’ll be another Greek delegation to Brussels. I have been told by secondary sources that it will offer a plan that retreats slightly from the Greek final offer established two weeks ago, but I have no detail.

However, the ECB has indicated to the Greeks that there will be no more negotiations. The lenders will present a take it or leave it plan, and the best Greece can hope for is that it includes some form of bridging finance or delay.

Syriza’s MPs cannot sell anything more austere than their current offer to their voters. Indeed they are finding it hard to enthuse their own supporters for the deal they have proposed already. On Sunday night there is to be another pro-government demonstration: if it’s small, and the anti-government one planned for Monday is bigger and livelier, that will be a straw in the wind.

21_greece_protest_w

On Monday, if there is no deal, the debt and fiscal policy side of the negotiations could quite easily go to the wire of 30 June and beyond – as long as Syriza does not declare a hard default, but simply asks for more time to pay.

However, it is the banking system that’s the problem. Government sources claim the accelerating withdrawals are being orchestrated by business groups, and even encouraged by the staff and management of banks. However no evidence has been published.

But whatever the cause, the acceleration of the silent bank run last week leaves the Greek banks completely reliant on ELA. Unlike the Brits and USA in 2008 the government cannot intervene to takeover and run banks, or nationalise them, or convert shares into capital, or replace their managements – because that is for the ECB to do, and its local representative, Mr Stournaras, is the former finance minister.

Once ELA is pulled the banks would have to close, or severely limit withdrawals, or be recapitalised.

Then the entire problem of the split sovereignty implicit in the Eurozone will be focused into a single moment. The ECB will order, as in Cyprus, a “bail in” of depositors – that is, savers could lose some of their money. If far left government resists that it will be forced to detach itself from the governance mechanisms of the Eurozone.

So even as it pledges to remain in the single currency, it will be at war with – and partially seceded from – its structures. If the ECB throws in, as threatened, the suspension of the Target 2 payment system for Greece, it will effectively be a Euro member in name only.

Alexis Tsipras

The problem for Alexis Tsipras is: everything is now focused on him. In a poll conducted for his party’s newspaper tonight, a staggering 47 per cent of Greek voters polled said they would vote for him in an election were it to be held now.

Those close to him say he is more determined than ever not to surrender, and that if tomorrow’s attempt at compromise fails he will most likely call an election. He may, in fact, have little choice, as the president of the Greek democracy, Prokopis Pavlopoulous, indicated this week he might resign if there’s a default, triggering an election.

But what would the election be about? Tsipras rode to power on a wave of hope driven by the radicalism of his manifesto, the so-called Thessaloniki Programme. In the course of the negotiations he retreated from that, so in the case of a break with Europe, would Tsipras embrace a programme of Grexit, hard default, internal class struggle and a return to the radical programme? Or would he ask Greeks to endorse the 47-page compromise document its negotiators offered to the EU two weeks ago?

RUSSIA-GREECE-POLITICS-ECONOMY

A further element contributing to Tsipras appeal in January was his assurance that the right’s warnings of chaos were scaremongering. Even if, as Syriza will argue, the chaos has been created by the ECB, it will be hard to use the same argument again.

And which is the Syriza that will stand? Syriza is an acronym for “coalition of the radical left”, and the experience of the past six months have left the three elements of that coalition drawing different conclusions.

The hard left, led by Panayotis Lafazanis – but whose best known spokesperson in the English world is SOAS professor Costas Lapavitsas, feel vindicated in their call for a negotiated exit from the Euro.

The more social democratic wing of Syriza, including the veteran independents Tsipras drafted into his cabinet, might detach towards the hodge-podge of small social democratic splinters.

That would leave Tsipras and the young activists who form the core of his party facing the question: what are you asking us to vote for?

The Troika

Whatever the outcome of Monday, the credibility and reputation of the Eurozone’s mechanism of governance, and of the IMF, are damaged. To understand why, study the final picture: the graph of the lenders predictions versus reality when it comes to what austerity does to GDP.

troika_graph

The bottom of the three lines is reality. The top two lines represent the delusional economics of bodies whose predictive mistakes led to the collapse of Greek output, the rise of fascism, a fall in life expectancy and a 50 per cent spike in male suicides.

These predictions were made when everything the lenders dislike about Greece was known: its highly protected small business culture, its powerful trade unions, the clientelism of the civil service and the corruption of is business elite. What’s more they were made in the face of open scepticism from journalists and economists, including myself.

Having created the Greek collapse, the European Central Bank and IMF – nominally charged with maintaining stability – will be seen by large sections of the European population to collude in the overthrow of an elected government.

The stakes are high because – if Greek capitalism could be reformed to be more modern, less corrupt, more fiscally stable – it would deliver success. It sits on the strategic crossroads of the Western world, and the Chinese want to buy its ports and rebuild its railways for a reason. The Breugel think tank economist Zsolt Davas has outlined Greece’s potential to recover in a detailed blog post.

If Syriza falls, and a pro-IMF technocratic government takes its place – which it will have to because the traditional parties are in disarray – the lenders stand ready to inject all the cash and structural funds and possibly even quantitative easing money they are denying now. They have said this.

At the same time, they are hastening the government’s fall by interpreting its inability to meet short term debt redemptions as a full-blown, Argentina-style hard default. Officials from the IMF, ECB and the EFSF bailout fund spelled out this week that once Greece misses a payment, they themselves will trigger the default, because – a bit like the Europe in 1914, they all have trigger clauses whereby default on one means default on all.

As this plays out the population of Europe will watch closely. Yes a lot of people are sick of the Greek crisis. But they are also fascinated by it, because what’s playing out on this landscape of burnt-umber, urban decay, torrid nightlife, graffiti and Mediterranean passion the basic dilemma of 21st century capitalism: shall it be for the rich or for everybody?

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36 reader comments

  1. AJ says:

    It is hard to take seriously a party which attacks the EZ/ IMF and the ECB for their demand for austerity, when they themselves have done vitually nothing to deal with the well known and pervasive corruption of Greek civic life since coming to power 5 months ago. Instead, all the evidence would suggest that Syriza are just as prone to nepotism and clientalism as the parties that have left Greece desitute.

    1. gastro george says:

      @AJ – maybe you could post some evidence instead of making assertions?

    2. AA says:

      If you were in their shoes, running around to Brussels and Berlin every week, frantically trying to find a solution, would you have had time for anything?

      Plus, for any law that has an effect on the economy, they are bound by their February promise not to proceed to “unilateral actions”. They even had to struggle to get the law for humanitarian crisis relief past the objections of the troika.

      Still, they show good signs, as they have opened investigations on past procurement deals in several ministries (incl. Health and Defense), have opened a front against media moguls on the issue of broadcasting licenses and are starting to process cases of tax-evasion, despite having to prioritise scraping up enough funds to keep the state paying everyone. They have finally initiated reforms in important sectors such as education and immigration.

    3. gastro george says:

      If the Troika’s aim is to put in place a pro-IMF technocratic government, this begs a few questions. Firstly, on what democratic basis? Especially as it seems that there is a solid majority opposing further austerity. Secondly, if it were put in place, would the people accept it without much rioting on the streets?

    4. LLX says:

      Oh come on, let’s be fair, Syriza has only been in power five months and they have had to spend every waking minute in negotations with the “troika”, leaving no time to run the country effectively – which is exactly what the “troika” wants, as they blatantly work towards the downfall of an unwanted left-wing government in Europe. Already the lack of attention to domestic matters caused by these endless negotations, which are engineered solely as delaying tactics by Merkel and her cronies, has brought a further 1 billion shortfall in revenues. And I say all this as a Greek who did not even vote for Syriza!

      1. Maria Marques says:

        Simple and true. They painted the scenary and they are pressing hard on other south countries. I’m not greek.

    5. Antonis says:

      It’s a bit harsh to ask from a newly elected goverment, with the burden of the negotiations and a default on its neck, to change in just 5 months a deeply rooted, 40 years old state of political party led corruption, don’t you think?

      But just for the sake of argument, care to share some examples (and not ALL the evidence) of the nepotism and clientelism that you mention?

    6. George P says:

      Funny you say that!!! do you have a clue of what has been going on in Greece for the past couple of decades or are you repeating what you’ve being reading over the last few months. The Greek government is doing what any serious government in the world would have done, looking after the interests of its citizens, all of them!!!

  2. Robert Bonfiglio says:

    Congratulations Paul Mason on a great article. Just throw Deutche Bank’s 57 Trillion worth of derivatives sitting on the sideline and this drama becomes a real test of the future of Europe.

  3. Lynne McDonald says:

    I’m sorry Mr Mason, but living here in Crete I find your ‘explanation to be scaremongering and misleading! Kindly step away from the mass media conclusions and come talk to the people!

    There is no lessening of support for Tsipras at the moment, the’run’ omn the banks was a dribbling event, forced forward by media predictions, fuelled by ‘leaked’ news. Without this, there would not have been an issue…as it is, the ATMs all work, the banks are open and there is the same amount of credit card facilities as there has always been – banks charge extortionate rates of commission which is why few of us in small businesses can afford to use them ( same as UK!)

    the only desperate result in all the negative media attention has been and continues to be on the tourist – thanks a lot! For a country that relies mainly on its’ tourist industry, the damage that you and the other scandalmongers are doing is criminal.

    1. LLX says:

      Sorry, Lynne, I too live in Crete and have to agree wholeheartedly with Paul Mason’s article.
      It is not he who is scaremongering and causing people to empty their bank accounts, it’s the threats of capital controls and a Cypriot-style bail-in received on an almost daily basis from our so-called partners that are to blame.
      As for leaks, most of them come via Brussels, but even Varoufakis used the tactic in the hope that a full-blown bank run would frighten our creditors (didn’t work!).
      And one “negative” article putting tourists off? No, don’t think so because if that was the case nobody would set foot in Greece if they ever read the http://www.gov.uk site for tourists!!!

    2. LLX says:

      Further to my earlier post, just read this in today’s Kathimerini newspaper and thought you might be interested:

      “However despite the warnings (UK Daily Express alerted readers ATMs could be switched off), tourists’ appetite for island holidays in the country appears only slightly dented, with advance demand for package tours still robust.”

      So, no worries then about “negative media attention” putting the tourists off.

      To read full article: http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite1_1_22/06/2015_551361

  4. Francisco says:

    There seems to be some surprise and perplexity concerning the Wednesday protest of the Greek pro-troika and oligarchy sectors of the population. I would say that this kind of shady, ideologically confused, anti-popular/pro-oligarchy protest was very predictable and its not Greek “particularity” in anyway.
    These kind of former corrupt government parties protests happen wherever and whenever “radical left” governments (or just governments that want to rule for the people and not the oligarchs) come to power and start to, at least threaten, the position of certain privileged sectors of society. This has been very common phenomenon in latin-america, but not only, e.g. Thailand (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013%E2%80%9314_Thai_political_crisis).
    This happened in Chile in 1973 where, before the bloody coup that overthrow the democratically elected Allende government, there was a series of upper middle class protesters banging pots and pans against the leftist government. There were even strikes called against the government by the bosses!
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presidency_of_Salvador_Allende#Crisis
    This happened in Venezuela in 2002-2003, where upper middle class people came out to the streets to demand and prepare a military overthrow of a democratically elected government (in this case there was a coup attempt but it fortunately failed). Than they staged a several months long boss strike (lockout) to overthrow the government, fortunately it also failed.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2002_Venezuelan_coup_d'%C3%A9tat_attempt
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venezuelan_general_strike_of_2002%E2%80%9303
    This happened in Bolivia after Morales was elected, there was even for a period a separatist movement (the richest regions) that wanted to break away from Bolivia.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_unrest_in_Bolivia
    The list could go on and on… In Brazil there were also protests against the recently democratically elected president, some of the protesters even asked explicitly for a military dictatorship!
    http://www.otempo.com.br/cidades/manifesta%C3%A7%C3%A3o-pede-impeachment-de-dilma-e-interven%C3%A7%C3%A3o-militar-1.941028
    As the crisis goes on on the European south and periphery these countries societies, economies and thus its politics tend to get closer to the latin-american scenario. My guess is that in Greece this movement is for the moment rather feeble …. But rest assured, if Syriza does move against the oligarchy or really challenges the IMF/EU, than there will a big clash. In Greece like in all other places before, the oligarchs, imperialists and their minions will do all they can to sabotage the Greek people´s struggle from the shackles of oppression and efforts for a better life.

    1. hemeantwell says:

      Good job of bringing out the Latin American comparisons, something brought to mind by the idiot in the picture holding the protest against Stalinism. I’d add Nicaragua to your list, where the Sandinistas were voted out because retaining them would have led to more years of US attacks. I worry that the Troika is setting up the same situation.

  5. John Kerr says:

    ‘Having created the Greek collapse, the European Central Bank and IMF – nominally charged with maintaining stability – will be seen by large sections of the European population to collude in the overthrow of an elected government.’

    Compelling reading – Greece in 2015 sounds like Chile in 1973, minus the tanks and guns – for now.

    What I love about this reporting is the analysis of political economy, not mere economics, and the geo-political dimension that is, for the most part, absent from mainstream media.

  6. Nikos says:

    A bleak picture, and sadly accurate. The answer to your closing question is contained in the rest of your article: We shall be for the rich. Revolutions do not happen in the West no more, and the only alternative is business as usual (a euphimism for “whatever it takes”). Tsipras has proven to be an excellent negotiator with an impossible task. Impossible within the bounds of “business as usual” logic, that is. And that’s all we got, because revolutions do not happen any more…

  7. Mike says:

    In the latest polls SYRIZA is 28% ahead of the pro-austerity New Democracy. So what do you think the right can do? If they force him for elections, he will come back even stronger…

  8. Matt Dubuque says:

    Paul, this fine article omits a likely court challenge seeking injunctive relief against any ELA cutoff as a violation of the EU charter. That seems like likey to succeed.

  9. Marian Liptak says:

    Mr. Mason, your article is most accurate, most fascinating, most predictable visionary ever I have read about Greece. You are so right that your work position in this world must be at highest advisory level for any European present Goverments. Yours truly M.L.

  10. Yanni says:

    oh boy…Sunday night and forgot to withdraw my €8,65 savings from my account…do you believe I ll lose them tomorrow??? For 5 years we (the people) accepted everything for a better future, do you understant what no more means??? SAVE US NO MORE our flags strips stand for the syllabus of the greek “freedom or death” be sure it will be freedom.

  11. julien says:

    The Greek collapse was 30years in the making. previous gdp figures were illusory and based on borrowing. Without reform
    greece will never make it in the Euro.

  12. Alex says:

    “Having created the Greek collapse, the European Central Bank and IMF … ”

    If you want to be taken seriously you should stop writing sentences like those. It is an insult to everyone’s intelligence. Greek is responsible for its debt build up and nobody else should be blame for its collapse. It was Made in Greece by Greeks. It is not the first time in its history and wont be the last sadly.

    1. allotrios says:

      i bet “Alex” is greek and has lot to lose if Syriza stays in govenrment.

  13. Cos67 says:

    There are so many good points in this article
    that are NEVER mentioned in the MSM that
    many people will find them hard to believe.

    I don’t know much about the ministries, but
    it can be assumed they’re a quagmire. So, Syriza
    looks ineffective in changing the bureaucracy. I
    law in Education that they did change has actually
    caused widespread chaos, and if it remains will
    lead to nothing short of anarchy. Doesn’t look good.

    I can believe that the ministries will block the application
    of any bright ideas from Syriza.

    However, the people still want Syriza to fight and they’re
    realising that the Euro dream might be slipping away. It’s odd to
    see a country which has almost universally treasonous
    media, tv and print. But, that’s Greece. and an openly
    hostile “central” bank.

    Also, the Troika, and the EU groups are indeed
    just trying to Greece back in its dungeon, so that
    its misery is not seen by anybody, despite the
    thousands of migrants flooding the islands.

    Thanks for shining some light on this historic injustice.

  14. VN Gelis says:

    In WW2 Greek quislings chanted ‘Hold Firn Rommel’ now they chant ‘Hold Firm Junquer’. Plus ca change.
    If the ECB is going to default on IMF on 30th June all well and good. If bankruptcy occurs all well and good. If Drachma returns all well and good. But it ain’t that simple. Bloodsucking banking vultures won’t jeopardise the EZ project for a couple of billion.
    The most logical outcome will be a continuation of 20th Feb agreement.
    Syriza isn’t anti EU and neither does the EU seek a Grexit…

  15. constance blackwell says:

    thank you – the story of the upper class corruption -just one story – they decided to charge extra taxes for a swimming pool –
    there evidently were more or less 6 people who paid extra taxes – a helicopter flew over head and found 36 =
    What one wonders however is to what extent do the rich really feel national responsibility – what struck me while lecturing – on philosophy was how many come from families that had had to come to Greece after WW2 and of course zilliaos after WW1

    There is no doubt austerity does not bring economic growth – equally one can not have the government the source of everyone’s income – when i was there – the printing houses were doing very well – all the text books were free – the middle class were very literate
    and many newspapers – it rather reminded me of Brazil in this way alone – that the government not only was run so the rich would be able to get richer but they also supplied good education for the middle class -thus usually government stayed in power-
    that paul mason implies that the whole economy needs serious reorganization i have no doubt – it is a country where there it great talent – they deserve have a better deal – but from where?

  16. kathleen says:

    Bravo to Paul Mason, my go-to-source for everything regarding the Greek crisis, the anti-austerity movement, and democracy in Europe. Outstanding journalism.

    1. LLX says:

      Well said, Kathleen! Living in Greece means I read anything and everything regarding the crisis and Paul Mason seems to be the ONLY journalist who really understands what is going on here and to what extent ordinary people are suffering.

  17. King Kong says:

    This Syriza should not be allowed to win one thing. That is to say that the conditions of bailing out should be close to the ones promised by Greece’s previous government. Otherwise, the leftist parties in Europe will follow. Therefore, there will be more troubles ahead. As such, the troika should not concede a single thing. Let this Syriza fails. This is cancer. Cut it now or cut a bigger tissue later.

    Furthermore, as Tsipras has signed a gas deal with Russia recently, Syriza will not concede too much. Therefore, the troika should have a hard heart to cut lose this Greece from the Eurozone.

    When there was no gas deal with Russia, this Tsipras was firm on pension cut. Then, how can Greece make a compromise this time? Don’t expect that. On the other hand, will the Troika surrender on Monday? The chance is small. It is because that Merkel has already said that the deal has to be reached before Monday. Otherwise, a decision cannot be made on Monday. With all of these, it is unlikely that an agreement will be made on Monday. Therefore, it is very likely that Greece will default at the end of this month.

  18. Nico says:

    While I agree with most (but not all) of your article – it would provide a more accurate picture if it were more balanced. You rightly point out that Greece’s capitalism needs to be reformed, and its ‘client links’ with government brought under control, however you do not highlight the ‘client status’ of todays public sector workers with their absurdly generous pension schemes that the Syriza government is holding out for and which, hopefully, will be a firm red line for the Troika.

    We are talking about early pensions (age 50, 52, 55 etc) which people are today scrabbling to take advantage of because they sense the end is nigh (NB these pensions are higher than the average pensions today’s 80year olds get) and Syriza has hitherto been only willing to consider phasing them out over the next 5 years or so. Why? Is it perhaps so they can get a second mandate in 4 years time?

    Clearly the GDP projections were entirely wrong, however the GDP drop in Greece was much worse than that of Portugal, Ireland, Cyprus etc. Why? Those economies implemented the measures they were supposed to implement and at the same time significantly increased their exports. Here the ND government bears a lot of responsibility for not embracing any real policies but for apologising for the harshness of any measures because they were imposed from abroad while at the same time not implementing many of them.

    But also Syriza, in opposition, bears enormous responsibility because it was threatening any foreign company that saw fit to invest in Greece (especially via the privatisation program) with a reversal (asset confiscation) when it came to power. Given the rise in Syriza’s popularity over this period, investors had no reason to take a risk. Indeed I know of several projects that were cancelled or put on hold and several existing companies that moved their operations to neighbouring countries (Many service the Greek market from Bulgaria)

    So here we are today – new proposals from Syriza while it tries to reach an agreement, and having put the economy back into recession (2 years lost?) – mostly based on tax rises and very few based any cuts in public spending.

    It remains to be seen whether the severely depleted private sector will have sufficient faith in this government to invest. I for one do not see how this anti business party which believes only in BIG Government and considers profit to be an exploitation of the masses will manage – with or without any agreement.

    PS the main part of your article I don’t agree with is the implication that the civil service is “hostile” because of links with previous governments. I would say that the personal interests of the civil servants are much more strongly represented by this government and therefore any hostility towards Syriza’s policies are because any responsible civil servant can see the consequences.

  19. wolf says:

    “But the majority of those attending were from the political establishment that ran up €320bn debts and then signed up for an EU/IMF austerity deal …”

    What complete utter nonsense … the author obviously has a problem understanding democracy and putting 2+2 together. The reason why a democratically elected government is in power is always because of a majority. Whoever was in power was elected BY THE PEOPLE!

  20. JJ says:

    If the protesters would be required to show that they were current on the taxes it would solve two problems

  21. Jon says:

    The Trioka have destroyed the Greek economy. GDP has plummeted ,unemployment soared . The future of the country , it’s youth, are leaving in droves. The EU has sat on its hands while leaving Greece to deal with tens of thousands of migrants fleeing Syria ,Iraq etc. failure by the EU to accept that the Greeks would need 300 more years of austerity to repay the debt without a restructuring of the interest rates and time scale has created economic uncertainty that has brought all investment to a stop.
    Austerity is not working!
    Varoufakis has forgotten more about economics than half the finance ministers ever knew. It embarrasses them , and so they are being irrational bullies.

  22. Rob says:

    ”the plebeian base”

    Remarkable choice of language from a ”left wing” journalist.

    1. David says:

      ”the plebeian base”
      Remarkable choice of language from a ”left wing” journalist.

      Why a remarkable choice?

      Why ‘left wing’?

  23. michael says:

    If anybody thinks thats it, All done and Dusted, they are a few Drachms short of a Full Euro, This is not the beginning of the End, Its not, Its not even the End of the Beginning, Its Just the End, Anybody who wants to remain in this Cesspit needs there heads tested, With the Vast sums we give to these Scroungers can anyone tell me One thing we, The British have Gained, Apart from the Gutless French Not Protecting there Borders, And then Blaming Us..

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