Monday, June 18, 2012

Mr. Samaras - learn from SYRIZA!

I recently wrote why I thought that one could vote for Alexis Tsipras but that one should not. I felt that one could vote for him because many of his soundbites were very good soundbites. I thought that one should not vote for him because he has the wrong recipe for the Greek economy.

When a populist is demonized by establishment forces, one generally makes the mistake that one demonizes ALL of him. Put differently, if an idea was first mentioned by Alexis Tsipras, it has to be a bad one because of coming from him. Populists wouldn't get as many votes as Mr. Tsipras did (and so quickly!) if they didn't have good ideas, too. The establishment forces in Greece are well advised to take on Mr. Tsipras' good ideas. His best ideas are his soundbites about a new and modern Greece, and Mr. Samaras should copy some of them. His worst idea is how to achieve such a new and modern Greece and no one should copy that!

The key soundbite is that Greece needs a National Plan for Reconstruction and Growth. The key mistake is to think of such a plan as a misunderstood version of the Marshall Plan where foreigners would dump more money on Greece in the hope that Greece will spend the money wisely. The Marshall Plan was not help per se; it was help for self-help. Greece needs help for self-help. If self-help is demonstrated, help will come quickly!

One often gets immersed in pro/con-argumentations while forgetting what one's original idea was. As I reviewed the evolution of my thinking over the last couple of years, I noted that two of my principal themes had been the following: first, stop using Greece's balance sheet (and tax payers' money) to bail out banks and call that "help for Greece"; and, secondly, develop a long-term industrial development plan for Greece.

In addition to the many articles which I have written, I have also made the attempt on several occasions to write to policy makers. I will list below the letters which I had written to Greek policy makers last year. Some of their content has meanwhile been superseded but I still stand behind the gist of them.

June 17, 2011 - Letter to Finance Minister George Papakonstaninou
The general idea of this letter was to come up with a plan which holds the promise of developing Greece into a value-generating economy and to use that plan as the "bargaining tool" to "call the bluff" of EU-elites where they argue they are helping Greece while actually helping the banks.

June 23, 2011 - Letter to Mr. Antonis Samaras 
A short version of the previous letter to Mr. Papakonstantinou

June 26, 2011 - Letter to Mr. Antonis Samaras
Basically advising him that he should act as a statesman and not as a populist.

July 24, 2011 - Letter to Prime Minister George Papandreou
Basically the same theme as in my previous letter to Mr. Papakonstantinou

August 22, 2011 - Letter to Prime Minister George Papandreou
Warning Mr. Papandreou that the people seem to "have had it" and if he didn't drop a "positive bombshell soon", he and his government would find out that they had had it, too.

September 25, 2011 - Letter to Prime Minister George Papandreou
Reminding Mr. Papandreou that HE was the one who had to come across like calling the shots; not the Troika!

November 2, 2011 - After Cannes
Realizing (sadly) that Mr. Papandreou was more the "son of the father" than a Mrs. Thatcher.

So, by and large, I have been making a similar case as some of the "radicals" are making today: don't allow yourselves to be driven but, instead, drive the show! There is only one little point which today's radicals refuse to understand, namely:

When you want to drive the show, you have to bring something to the party. A nuke is never the right present for a party. To use the words of the Godfather: you have to bring something to the party where the others cannot refuse to go along with you. And what could that "something" be? You are right --- 

A Long-Term Industrial Economic Development Plan which aims at developing Greece into a modern, competitive and value-generating economy (and thereby creating the framework where the younger generation wants to stay in Greece instead of leaving it!).


  1. Mr. Kastner,

    First, you can't teach an old dog new tricks. And Mr. Samaras is an old dog, typical of the "old guard" of politicians that ruined Greece in the last 30 years.

    Second, Mr. Tsipras' strength isn't his ideology. It's a) his offer to "liberate" the people from the "troika yoke" , b) to rule without having corruption on his back, c) his offering refuge to voters, mainly from the center-left, that want to punish the responsibles of the bankruptcy (PASOK and ND).

    Mr. Samaras can't beat that. Even the people who voted yesterday Mr. Samaras, didn't vote for him in their majority, but voted simply against Mr. Tsipras. Mr. Samaras' only hope as politician, to avoid following the fate of Papandreou, is to surpass himself and reform Greece despite political cost or special group interests that have ties with his party. To do that, Mr. Samaras' must use non politicians as ministers, so that they won't be afraid of political cost.

    This way, even when Greece leaves the euro, Mr. Samaras will have earned his post in history, because no matter what the currency, Greece needs reforms.

    The question is how much time will Mr. Samaras endure, before Mr. Tsipras' opposition and people's insofference, brings him down.

    I heard Mr. Merkel today saying that there is no room for any change in the greek plan. In this case, in September probably Mr. Tsipras will be PM and Mr. Samaras will pass in greek history as the most short-lived PM ever.

    But Mr. Merkel has her own domestic audience to entertain, i figure she will allow some loosening of the noose. Then the clock with start ticking. It's a matter of time before the people get fed up and follow Tsipras. Already, there are far too many those who aren't afraid of Tsipras anymore. Since you know Kazantzakis, you will also know the engraving he wished to be put on his grave. "I hope nothing, i fear nothing, i am free".

    It is a matter of time, unless they see a tangible improvement of their prospect, before the majority of Greeks say that and Mr. Tsipras will be their leader, as sad as this may be. No matter if Mr. Samaras or Mrs. Merkel will be ready or not. And there is nothing Mr. Samaras will be able to do to compete with the "new hope". You can't fight hope with just fear forever.


  2. "Realizing (sadly) that Mr. Papandreou was more the "son of the father" than a Mrs. Thatcher."

    Hahaha! Thank you for the good laugh! Papandreou a Mrs. Thatcher. Hahaha! I don't know Mr. Kastner why you have this peculiar interest in Greece, but, really, it was obvious for any objective observer since well, the time his father put him in PASOK, that he was little more than "son of the father". If his surname wasn't Papandreou, nobody would have ever voted him. He was voted exactly because the name was evoking sentiments to the socialist crowd, that was hoping for a revival of his late father.

    His father basically destroyed the economy, but had political charisma into reading political situations, acting swiftly and effectively. I can tell you one thing. If his father was at his place in 2009, he would have denied to that "masterplan" that predicted to reduce the deficit from 15,4% to 3% in 3 years, while in recession already. He would have done, what Tsipras tries today (that's why Tsipras does it). He would have said "give me something that is realistic or i default here and now whilst my debt is still 120% and towards private lenders instead of the state sector". And i have no doubt that even if he had to default, he would have found a way to sell it to the people as the best option. (which is again, what Tsipras thinks he could do).


  3. Mr. Samaras' "best hope" is the following: He successfully manages to renegotiate the memorandum, satisfying the hopes of a part of his voters and maybe others that have left his party. Manage to somehow apply the new program in a half-decent way, for enough time, for Greece to be included in the "new EU" that should be forming at some point and take advantage of a EU-wide solution (like, yet another haircut, of the official sector this time - OSI - which will include ECB bonds and central banks bonds), eurobond and inflation in Germany or inflation EU-wide.

    IMHO, in order for all of this to happen, Mr. Samaras must first train his praying skills, because, the chances are higher that something in there will go wrong.