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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Farce Of Greek Sovereign Debt

A very interesting paper by Carmen M. Reinhart & Christoph Trebesch. Of the many points they make, one of the overriding themes is a theme which I have made since the beginning of this blog, namely:

The critical issue is not necessarily the sovereign debt of a country. Instead, the critical issue is the foreign debt of the entire country, not only the foreign debt of the state. What the state (and others) owe domestically is one cup of tea which can be solved domestically. An entirely different cup of tea is what the state (and others) owe cross-border. 

If all of Greece's sovereign debt had been owed domestically (technically, this would have been possible back in 2010 because there were then enough domestic savings to finance the entire sovereign debt), there would have been only little excitement between Paris, Brussels, Frankfurt and Berlin. And if all of it had been owed to banks on Mars, no one in Europe would have cared.

It is the cross-border debt which matters! That is the debt which becomes worthless to the lenders if and when Greece were to fall into the Aegean. It may well be that the state has its household in order and that all the cross-border debt is owed by the private sector. If push comes to shove, i. e. in the case of a 'sudden stop', the private sector's cross-border debt becomes cross-border debt of the state (witness Ireland, witness Spain).

The farce of the Geek sovereign debt is that literally everyone in the world is financing the Greek state --- except the Greeks themselves. The Greeks put their money into Greek banks, into Greek shares and, most of all, into foreign accounts (and under mattrasses). But virtually none of the Greek sovereign debt is held by Greek citizens and only a little of it is held by Greek banks. The Greeks seems to be saying to foreigners: "You finance our bankrupt state, por favor, because we have better things to do with our money!"

Greek bank deposits are now around 130 BEUR. Five years ago, they were 130 BEUR higher. It is still not certain that these bank depositors will not be bailed-in. They should not be bailed-in. They should be kept whole but their deposits should be replaced by bonds of the Hellenic Republic. That way, the Greeks would truly become stakeholders in their own state!

Yanis Varoufakis As Mother Theresa?

Yanis Varoufakis has guilt feelings about being portrayed in the media as a high-flying star who makes money out of his public appearances. Thus, he felt it necessary to make this public denial. And here is my response to his public denial:

"Oh my, Yanis. there is nothing immoral about collecting fees for value delivered. If you delivered no value, you would not get any fees. That system is called ‘market economy’, by the way. A system which has created enourmous wealth for societies over the centuries (after all, you will spend your money somewhere; won’t you? That will substitute for government deficit spending somewhere…).

There is no need for you to put on the Mother-Theresa-hat. On the contrary, you could be a role model for young Greeks by showing them that if you deliver value, you will be compensated in accordance with that delivered value. And if you get rich in the process and if richness bothers you for idiological reasons, just donate your wealth once you have proven that you can accumulate wealth. Warren Buffett can tell you how to do that. But first show that you can accumulate wealth!

The real losers are the ones who say: “I could have made so much money but I didn’t because it would have been immoral”. So, do you want to come across as loser?"

Monday, October 26, 2015

German Border Controls

This past weekend, I could become familiar with the German border controls which had been announced a few weeks ago, and it was an interesting experience.

The major refugee route is from Salzburg to Munich. Train service between Salzburg-Munich had been stopped entirely a few weeks ago and, since last weekend, only 'special trains' resumed service. Thus, it is the Autobahn Salzburg-Munich which most of the refugees focus on.

Before anything else, one has to bear in mind that the Salzburg-Munich stretch is no less than one of the most important North-South connections in Central Europe!

I have driven the Salzburg-Munich stretch hundreds of times in my life. I remember the 1960s and 1970s when there were fully-fledged border controls just a few Km West of Salzburg; on a hill called the Walserberg. Walserberg had become known as the dividing line between modern Germany and backward Austria in the post-war era. The Austrians may have been backward relative to Germany but they were smart enough to recognize business opportunities which the Germans did not see: on the Austrian side of Walserberg, a rather sizeable brothel was established. On April 1, 1998, Walserberg lost much its significance because the Schengen Treaty became operative. The brothel still exists to this day!

About 3 Km before we reached Walserberg, traffic came to a halt; a complete halt at first which then turned into a very slow stop-and-go traffic. My initial thought was that of a big accident but then I remembered the border controls. When we finally approached Walserberg, I looked forward to showing our papers and to moving on more speedily on the German side. However, there were no controls on Walserberg, at the border, that is! And stop-and-go traffic continued.

About 3 Km beyond Walserberg, that is on the German side, there is a gas station. They had built up a rather sizeable control operation around that station. However, that was no longer a border control where one could prevent people from entering the country. People can only be prevented from entering the country at the border. Once they are inside Germany, they can be arrested for illegally entering the country. Alternatively, they must be let go.

Essentially, the purpose of that boder control station was to get some semblance of order into the chaotic situation. To register arrivals and to move them on to places where they could stay. A true welcoming exercise and not a rejection exercise.

All told, the new border controls cost me close to 1 hour of delay. Even during the worst traffic times of the 1960s and 1970s, I rarely lost 1 hour crossing the border. Since 1998, I thought of Walserberg as the place where one has to slow down to 80 Km/h (or come to a full stop if one wants to visit the brothel...) but no more than that. And now it seems that we are going back in time.

Fortunately, I no longer have to travel the Salzburg-Munich stretch very often. If I still had to travel it as often as during my active professional time, and if had to sacrifice 1 hour every time I travelled, I am afraid I would rather quickly build up frustration about how the refugee situation is being handled by politicians.

France Will Modernize Greece!

Further to my recent article on the new Structural Reform Support Service (SRSS), which replaced the EU Task Force for Greece (TFGR) earlier this year, we now have the first evidence of the SRSS in action and it looks rather promising.

Here is the Protocol between the Hellenic Republic and the French Republic for a partnership for reforms in the Hellenic Republic. The signatories are no less than the Finance Ministers of both countries and they signed in the presence of the Greek Prime Minister and the French President. So this is more than just another document!

Just like with the TFGR, the SRSS facilitates the availability of the most competent resources in other EU countries to assist Greece. France has been selected to assist Greece with Central Administrative Reform, Tax Reform, Privatization and Public Asset Management. The protocol lists rather detailed goals and objectives. They all sound great!

The goals and objectives which the TFGR had stated after it was formed in late 2011 also sounded great. In fact, in would be interesting to make a point-by-point comparison. Chances are that the goals and objectives are rather identical. Why did the TFGR fail? For one: it never had the full commitment of the Greek leadership behind it; or to use the standard speak: it was never 'owned' by the Greek leadership.

This could now, indeed, be different. First, it is the political leaders of both countries who put their names on the line and certainly the French President will not want to end up as godfather of failure. Secondly, the glory of French Civil Service would suffer a blow if it failed in Greece. Thirdly, and because of that, the French will undoubtedly put pressure on the Greeks to cooperate instead of remaining passive like the TFGR had remained. Finally, and because of these points, PM Tsipras will have quite a bit of ammunition to counter resistance which he may receive from within his party.

But there is also cause for being cautious with one's expectations. 180 years ago, Otto, after having been made King of the Greeks, brought a few thousand top Bavarian civil servants to Greece who were going to show the Greeks how to administer the country, how to collect taxes, etc. Well, the Greeks, instead, showed the Bavarians what 'resistance' means and the Bavarians had to literally flee the country after a few years.

Once again, I find myself in a situation where something new, be it a project or a person, has come up and I am getting excited about positive new developments in Greece and the promise they hold for Greece's future. If Ronald Reagan could observe me from heaven, he would probably say: "Here he goes again!"

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Two Separate Views About Greece's Future

The Greek university professor Eleni Louri-Dendrinou visited the US and collected views from Americans. She seems to have been taken a bit by surprise by the "Views from the other side of the Atlantic" because she felt it necessary to contrast those views with her own at the end of her report.

Views from the other side of the Atlantic
"Look at the cumulative loss of GDP in Greece since 2008, they said. You’ve lost a quarter of your GDP and your debt is still increasing. It is now close to 200% while it was 120% in 2008, they pointed at my diagrams! So your adjustment seems to create more problems than it solves and where does it lead? And the banking sector has such a limited time and resources to get recapitalized until the end of 2015! Such questions full of doubt about Greece’s progress were equally expressed by academics, students, bankers and ‘think-tankers’."

Reaction of Prof. Eleni Louri-Dendrinou
"With political stability in place, this adjustment framework looks quite capable of pushing Greece back into positive growth, especially if a first positive assessment of the program implementation leads to opening up negotiations on debt sustainability and restructuring. A virtuous circle can then start provided there is no hesitation, delay or endless and aimless discussions. If focus, clarity and decisiveness prevail, Greece has the potential to recover within the Eurozone faster than many people in the other side of the Atlantic think possible."

I would truly love to share Louri-Dendrinou's view but I also have to remember Goethe's verse "I hear the message well but lack Faith's constant trust". Not that I consider her assessment wrong. On the contrary, it all sounds very logical. It's the soft facts which have made me doubt of late. Not only a society's willingness to change but also, and foremost, its ability to change. Five years of adjustment don't really spread much confidence that willingness and ability are very high. One would literally have to feel the winds of change by now and I, for one, don't feel much in this area.

I remember reading some time ago the catching phrase "For Tsipras to succeed he needs no less than turn into a capitalist". Well, I don't think he needs to become a capitalist Wall-Street-style but certainly a believer in the workings of a market economy with private economic agents. Put the word 'social' in front of it and you have the 'social market economy' of Ludwig Erhard. Perhaps it's due to my insufficient Greek language capability but I never hear anything about markets, competition, private investors, profitability, etc. from members of the current government. Instead, I hear much about the distribution of the fruits of a market economy.

Regarding the views of the Americans, I had to chuckle a bit. They seem to have read very well everything Anglo-Saxon economists have published in recent years. Nevertheless, I will let it stand there because, otherwise, this article would get to long...

Monday, October 19, 2015

SRSS - The New "EU Task Force For Greece"

The history of the EU Task Force for Greece (TFGR) is a rather sad story, in my opinion. When established in October 2011, its lofty objective was stated to be "a resource at the disposal of the Greek authorities as they seek to build a modern and prosperous Greece: a Greece characterized by economic opportunity and social equity, and served by an efficient administration with a strong public service ethos." What a wonderful objective!

I had always likened the Greece/TFGR relationship to a large corporation which gets into serious financial trouble due to complete mismanagement and organizational/structural chaos. Before the corporation goes out of business, it is offered virtually unlimited support from various consulting firms in order to facilitate a complete restructuring and a return to successful operations. And I would have thought that the management and the owners of that corporation would jump of joy and immediately draw on all the resources offered to them.

I never got the impression that Greece jumped of joy and immediately drew on all the resources offered by the TFGR. Instead, I got the impression that Greek authorities viewed the TFGR as a necessary evil to be accepted as part of the bail-out. And the Greek public may have even viewed it as an occupation force (fittingly with a German by the name of Horst Reichenbach at its helm...).

The regular progress reports of the TFGR read like success stories. They reported on all the wonderful things which had been accomplished and the so many more wonderful things which still required accomplishing. If there is one major accomplishment which comes to my mind about the TFGR, it is the fact that they helped Greece to significantly improve the utilization of EU structural funds available to Greece.

SYRIZA never displayed any great sympathy for the TFGR. Shortly after they came to power, there was talk about 'Athens protesting againsts the TFGR'; about 'Athens giving the TFGR the cold shoulder', and, finally, about 'dismantling the TFGR'. The absorption rate of EU structural funds which the TFGR had admirably increased to 88% by the end of 2014, declined quickly after SYRIZA assumed power and available funds remained unused. The TFGR was clearly a bad term in the eyes of SYRIZA leaders just like the term 'Troika' was. So once the 'Troika' was successfully renamed into 'Institutions', something had to be done about renaming the TFGR.

The term "EU Task Force for Greece" made it sound like Greece was the only country which needed help from the EU in getting its act together, which understandably hurt Greek pride. Thus, instead of having a country-specific task force, a supra-national task force was required which would be available to all countries and which would not single out any specific country for its problems. EU experts are geniuses at solving such challenges.

As the TFGR expired on June 30, 2015, as new Structural Reform Support Service (SRSS) was set up in July. Its mission? "The SRSS will offer technical assistance to the Member States in order to facilitate their administrative and structural reforms". No more lofty talk about building a modern and prosperous Greece: a Greece characterized by economic opportunity and social equity, and served by an efficient administration with a strong public service ethos.

The objectives are further detailed as follows: "Technical assistance will be offered to help Member States absorb and use EU funds effectively. It will also offer support, in the areas of revenue management and public finance, improvement of business environment, assistance with employment, social inclusion and public health. It will also play a supporting role in development of efficient, modern, service-oriented public administrations and public procurement practices."

I wish the SRSS better luck than the TFGR has had. Above all, I wish the Greek leadership to understand that such a project, be it called TFGR or SRSS, is an exceptional opportunity for the country and not an occupation force!

Ever since the first memorandum, the following question has been on my mind: How can a country which, allegedly, has a lousy public administration, how can this country successfully implement reforms which implementation would require an excellent public administration? When I read about all the 'actions', be the prior or pending or implemented actions, which are now being passed via the democratic instrument of omnibus bills, I am simply baffled how Greece alone could implement those reforms, much less implement a controlling of the implementation.

On New Year's Eve 2012, I wrote an article titled "Make 2013 'The year of the EU Task Force for Greece'"! On New Year's Eve 2013, I asked "Was 2013 'The year of the EU Task for Greece'"? I felt very disappointed then. 

I think there has been an atmospheric change since then. Back then, the memoranda called for many actions but no one was really surprised when the reviews revealed that only a small portion of those actions had been implemented. This time around, it seems that the Institutions have run out of patience and mean business. Just like the Greeks are tired about new measures all the time, the Institutions seem to be tired about uncompleted new measures all the time. 

So finally the moment of truth seems to have come: Greece will finally have to show whether it wants to change and can. Or does not want to and/or cannot.

Delayed Land Register (Cadastre) A "National Shame"?

In my previous article, I voiced optimism that cadastral registration in Greece was well under way. This was based on an experience my wife is having with the inheritance of some fields in the Kavala region.

The Ekathimerini today published an article titled "Typically Greek, delayed land register is never-ending epic" which kills any optimism one might have on the subject. To kick it off in the right spirits, the authors state that, 5 years ago, Greece and Albania were the only two European countries lacking a computerized register of land ownership and usage. And now Greece is the only one, they say. Speaking of adding insult to injury...

The authors call the issue "a microcosm of everything that remains to be fixed in the country - bureaucracy, political patronage, competing layers of government, legal complexity, fiscal uncertainty, vested interests, cheating, tax evasion and opaque relations between the two biggest landowners - the state and the church". That sort of wraps it up nicely, doesn't it?

In a hilarious example of things having been turned upside down, the authors report that Greece even boasts a union of illegal house owners on Crete which allegedly represents some 45.000 illegal home owners on the island. The union, of course, wants to have these homes legalized. And free of charge, of course.

Former Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou explains why the process of computerizing land registry is so slow (allegedly it started off back in 1995): "Clearly, if you're an illegal owner in Greece, you don't want this cadastre project ever to be finished."

This clearly is an issue where a foreigner will never understand why things are done in a certain way in Greece but I am sure that there are very convincing explanations as to why things are done that way in Greece. Nevertheless, a foreigner is likely to feel that legal certainty about property rights and land usage are key ingredients of a state of law. As the article states:

"Experts from European Union and International Monetary Fund identified the lack of legal certainty about property rights and land usage as a major barrier to investment, proper taxation and economic development." That sort of wraps it up nicely, doesn't it?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Cadastral Registration Under Way In Greece!

I have written before about the project of cadastral registration which is allegedly under way. Like with so many reform intentions in Greece, I have begun to make it a habit to say: "I believe it when I see it!"

Well, I am beginning to believe that cadastral registration may indeed be under way!

My wife's father, a farmer, had owned several small pieces of land in the region near Kavala. Not really of any significant material value, according to my wife. When her father died about 17 years ago, he had left no testament. My wife told her brother and sister that, whatever there was, they could have it. She even put something in writing to that effect, she recalls.

Thus, in the absence of a testament, the land would have legally gone to my wife, her mother and her brother and sister, in equal amounts according to Greek law, I am told, and my wife thought that her share had been passed on to the others. A few years later, my wife's mother died as well and she did not leave a testament, either. Thus, the land should have moved in equal one-thirds to my wife, her brother and sister. Again, my wife told them they could have it. And that, she thought, was the end of it.

No, it wasn't the end. Instead, it came back to life a few weeks ago, 17 years after my wife's father had died. In the course of compiling the registry, it turned out that my wife had never formally accepted her inheritance. Not having accepted it, she could not pass it on to her brother and sister, either.

A bureaucratic nightmare came as a result. On one hand, my wife's relatives near Kavala had to compile all sorts of papers to document what the properties were, who had owned them and who the legal heirs had been. Picture this: here we are talking about 7 or 8 small fields where there had never been any formal definition of borders, etc.

But now to my wife, a citizen of Austria for 35 years who had left Greece almost 50 years ago and who had never worked or earned income in Greece. She was told by her relatives to go to the tax office to get a number called "kleidarithmos", and then all hell broke loose.

My wife was registered with the tax office and she has had a Greek tax number ever since we rented an apartment in Thessaloniki and bought a car 6 years ago. She had never filed a Greek tax return because we couldn't have dreamed of reasons why she should file one: we typically spend only 3-4 months a year in Greece and my wife has no income to declare, neither in Austria nor in Greece.

Well, in the eyes of the tax office, that immediately made my wife a most suspicious invidual and potential tax cheater. From their standpoint, she was a Greek living in Greece and hiding a lot of income and wealth abroad, and the time had come for the authorities to go after all that income and wealth to tax it. My wife who has a mind for many good things but no mind at all for bureaucratic procedures was near nervous breakdown after the first grilling.

A tax consultant then helped us out. There were 6 forms which had to be filled out for the Greek tax office and 3 forms which will have to be filled out by Austrian authorities. The point of all of them is to establish that my wife is a resident and tax payer of Austria even though she doesn't pay any taxes in Austria for lack of income. Under the double taxation treaty between Greece and Austria, it is then assured that my wife won't have to pay taxes on income in Greece which income she does not even have in Austria. Make sense?

When all is said and done, my wife will be in a position to assume official ownership of her inheritance and then she will be able to pass on to her brother and sister that inheritance.

At the end of this exercise, she will not own property in Greece which she never knew that she owned and she will not pay taxes on income in Greece which income she doesn't have in Greece, in Austria or anywhere else.

But the good news is: the fields which her father had owned will finally be fully and 100% correctly registered in the Greek cadastry. And the tax consultant tells us that my wife will have to, from now on, make an annual statement to Greek tax authorities about her tax situation. Any more questions?

PS: I am now waiting for the Greek tax authorities to find out that I, too, spend 3-4 months in Greece and that I, too, am technically subject to Greek tax laws. Well, what's another 9 forms, anyway!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Debt Service Capped At 15% Of GDP?

The Eurogroup is now talking quite openly about debt relief for Greece. Its Chairman Jeroen Dijsselbloem allegedly said that debt relief for Greece should be accomplished by capping its debt servicing costs at 15% of GDP annually.

Greece's GDP is currently around 180 BEUR and 15% of that would be 27 BEUR. So the above described debt relief would mean limiting Greece's annual debt servicing costs to 27 BEUR?

Someone isn't thinking so well here. Greece's debt servicing cost (i. e. interest expense) was 5,7 BEUR or about 3% of GDP in 2014, and that turned out to be more than Greece could handle out of its own resources. Where the heck is Greece going to get 27 BEUR from?

I suppose the term 'debt servicing costs' needs to be clarified. Normally, debt servicing costs are understood to be interest expense. The repayment of any maturing principal would be 'repayment costs' or 'refinancing costs'. Either way, there is no way that Greece can come up with 15% of its GDP to pay interest or principal or both. There must be a confusion there.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Yanis Varoufakis Sees Potential Game Changers For Greece (positive ones!)

In this article in ProjectSyndicate, Yanis Varoufakis makes some very powerful statements. First, he describes the recent election as "the costliest minor government reshuffle in Greece's history." Well, Varoufakis has a point there, for sure!

Varoufakis then goes on to deride the latest Agreement which he predicts will fail: "The new Tsipras administration knows this. Tsipras understands that his government is skating on the thin ice of a fiscal program that cannot succeed and a reform agenda that his ministers loathe. While voters wisely prefer that he and his cabinet, rather than the conservative opposition, implement a program that an overwhelming majority of Greeks detest, the reality of the austerity agenda will test public patience."

None of this would be considered as newsworthy because Varoufakis has been making these points all along. But now he comes with a new twist to his predictions for Greece's future:

"This leaves Tsipras with only his second line of defense: the “parallel” program. The idea here is to demonstrate to the electorate that the government can combine capitulation to the troika with its own agenda of reforms, comprising efficiency gains and an assault on the oligarchy that may liberate funds for the purpose of lessening austerity’s impact on weaker Greeks. This is a worthy project. If the government can pull it off, it is a potential game changer. 

To succeed, however, the government will have to slay two dragons at once: The incompetence of Greece’s public administration and the inexhaustible resourcefulness of an oligarchy that knows how to defend itself – including by forging strong alliances with the troika."

Did I read this correctly? Varoufakis now says that there could be potential game changers? That the current government could indeed succeed? 

The two measures which Varoufakis considers as potential game changers are: make the public sector efficient and slay the dragon a.k.a. Greek oligarchy. Well, that sounds simple enough! And I am sure if the government really wanted to do that, it would get quite a bit of support from abroad. And every Greek would benefit from it.

I hadn't realized that everything was going to be so simple but if Varoufakis says so, it must be right.

Greece's True Plan B

Much publicity has been given to Yanis Varoufakis' Plan B of last July even though that wasn't really a Plan B. All it was was a mechanism to create a pseudo Euro liquidity during a time when the ECB and EU would have cut off their funding. It was not a plan to return to the Drachma even through a return to the Drachma would have been its likely consequence.

The true Plan B was quite different from Varoufakis' 'creative Euro-printing'. It was titled "A program of social and national rescue of Greece" and it was prepared by Costas Lapavitsas and Heiner Flassbeck. It consists of 37 pages text and another 10 pages of appendices and references.

This true Plan B is worth reading because I would not rule out the possiblity that it may be used at some point in the future. Certainly if Greece fails with the current program, a return to the Drachma will become a very likely alternative and once that happens, the above Plan B will be one course of action to be considered.

Plan B starts with a premise which is most important but, nevertheless, wrong. Plan B argues that, after Greece has stopped servicing its entire foreign debt, at least 10 BEUR will no longer be necessary for debt service and can be used for other purposes (such as alleviating austerity). Regrettably, there will not be 10 BEUR+ freed because Greece's entire debt service was only half of that in 2014; to be exact: 'only' 5,7 BEUR. And some of that 5,7 BEUR was due to domestic creditors which would continue to be paid under Plan B.

More than half of the 5,7 BEUR was paid to the IMF on its very expensive loans and to the remaining private creditors. If Greece renegotiated rates with the IMF and found a way to prepay the private debt, the same result as conceived in Plan B would be achieved without breaking so much glass.

The key section of Plan B is titled "Confrontational exit from the EMU" which outlines 29 different measures to be taken. When reading those measures, one gets a bit cold sweat on one's back because some of them are really adventurous, to say the least. However, one is well adivsed to study this Plan B because, by and large, things are likely to unfold that way (or quite similar to it) if and when Greece were to give the Euro the shaft.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

SYRIZA's Amazing Track Record In One Graph!

The below numbers allegedly come from the 2016 Draft Budget. They speak for themselves as a record of the performance of the first SYRIZA-led government.

Some of the most important statistics are not even included in this table (e. g. non-performing loans, past-due taxes, state arrears, deposit flight, etc.).

It seems quite obvious from the above that Greeks will have to pay for quite some time for the SYRIZA-experiment. Greek voters seem to have thought at the last election that the best qualified people to clean out an unnecessary mess are the ones who caused it in the first place. Or they thought that everyone else would be even worse.

Either way, seldom have so few done so much damage to so many!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Alexis Tsipras Promises More Of The Same!

I still have not gotten over the poor performance which PM Tsipras pulled off at the Clinton Global Initiative. The first SYRIZA/ANEL government had been criticized for acting like inexperienced amateurs without being prepared for anything. Somehow, the impression had meanwhile come across that they - particularly Tsipras himself - had learned a lot during this experience and that they were now ready to move the country towards greener pastures.

Well, if Tsipras' performance at the CGI serves as an example, that's a dream!

No one expects the 41-year old Tsipras to come across as the most competent Prime Minister in the world. For all intents and purposes, it is sufficient if he can act as a leader; if he can mobilize the spirits of the citizens; if he can project a better future to his compatriots. That Tsipras does better than many other political leaders.

However, ever since Alexander the Great, the key ingredient for success, be it as a general or as an entrepreneur, has been defined as: "Surround yourself with good people!" Tsipras is not expected to know how to make a sales pitch for foreign investments in his county in front of an American audience, particularly in English. But Tsipras IS expected to surround himself with professionals, with advisors who can orchestrate events like that in a manner so that Tsipras only has to fulfill his role as the 'Chief Salesman', as the 'Chief Representative' of Greece.

That obviously has not happened in the case of the CGI. And I remember reading analyses that Tsipras has not included in his new government the sort of competent 'movers & shakers' who might really turn Greece around. If the new government is nothing but 'more of the same', Greece won't remain the same very long.

In short, I am not expecting any new sense of urgency to reform Greece for the benefit of Greece (instead of the creditors). On the contrary, I am afraid Tsipras will act in the future as he acted during the CGI interview: strong and convincing deep voice when it comes to general statements; twisting and squirming when it comes to specifics and obviously hoping that someone will come to his rescue.