Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Who is the enemy here?

This article from the Ekathimerini is one of the more depressing pieces I have read about Greece. Essentially, it says that all the groundwork for necessary changes which would turn Greece around has already been done. It is now only a question of whether the government will follow-through and that, in turn, depends on whether the government is prepared to take on the interest groups, large or small. The author is not sure that this will happen because:

"Those who are against all change have played their cards well. Contractors, unionists, vested interest groups and cartels are seeking to benefit from the anti-bailout tsunami. They hope that if the country ends up outside the euro area, they will be able to survive in the new environment dominated by gangs, oligarchs and a state-dependent model unbound from European controls".

Do I understand this correctly? It is not the Troika, the European powers that be or other sinister external forces? Instead, it is the Greek interest groups, large or small, which have it in their hands to permit a better future for Greece (or not)? They would have in it in their power to assure that Greece remains in the hands of "gangs and oligarchs"?

The fact alone that a respectable author would not rule out such a scenario is discouraging. The fact that he seems quite worried that the "gangs and oligarchs" might prevail is absolutely depressing, particularly when we are not talking about Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union but, instead, about a pluralistic democracy and a member state of the EU!


  1. Dear Mr. Kastner,

    It is true that there are some interests in Greece, that since the beginning were in favour of the return to the drachma. A good part of the left for ideological reasons. Some greek businessmen too (some heavily indebted that hope to pay their debt in drachmas or not at all and others would like the idea of producing in drachmas and being paid in euros). This was quite evident in the press too. The part of the press which belongs to editors/tv channel magnates who have interests in the drachma, was fiercely against the memorandum and is daily fighting against it. At the same way, part of the press which editors were in favour of the euro (such as Mr. Alafouzos, who owns Kathimerini and Skai tv), are making the opposite fight.

    It is not inconceivable either, that some unionists may want the drachma in order to retain their priviledges. But they are not in principle against the euro, not the majority of the lower rank unionists.

    Both parties, do their propaganda. But, it is oversimplification to claim that such a propaganda can take roots into the population without some valid cause.

    There are 1.200.000 of people jobless, others have cut their electricity supply, 50% of Athens flats didn't have central heating last year, thousands of people returned their car plates because they can't pay the circulation tax of their vehicles, the church is feeding daily thousands of people.

    THIS is the true power of those were since the start advocating in favour of return to the drachma.

    As for the rest:

    1) Thinking that Greece, with the problematic administration and corrupt parties it has, could slash the deficit from 15,4% to 3% in 3 years, is unrealistic and someone has responsibility for that.

    2) The troika, wherever it wanted, insisted on some things to be made, on others it let the goverment make mistakes.

    3) Those who have been hit, are those who were the weakest. The troika didn't seem to mind either about that, as a matter of fact, they seem to want more of the same.

    But, when you have many people in the private sector having lost 50% of their net income in 2 years, while the prices still go up (inflation this month is 1,2%), trying to find who is the "innocent" in this program, becomes an exercize in accademic futility, which mainly interests, those who don't have economic problem (like Mr. Papahelas).


  2. >

    The reality is this: SYRIZA up to 2 years ago was a political joke. Nobody was really minding about them. Golden Dawn was inexistent politically. SOMETHING really bad has happened to make these skyrocket. Now, one may say this is one's fault, this is anothers. For the people being hit, it is of little matter. They see the goverment+troika imposing the policy and the Europeans imposing the adjustment period. For them, they are all responsible for the situation and even worse, the political saviors, are also the political responsible for the greek economics. For me too, they are ALL responsible.

    When you give a surgeon 1 hour to perform a surgery that normally requires 3 hours, he will start cutting like a butcher. It doesn't matter if at some point you say "get another 1 hour", he has already butchered.

    This is something that both the representative of greek industrialists and of greek commerce association have understood, when they came repeatedely in the open to say that "the cutting of salaries isn't a requirement of them, they have more serious problems that are hurdle to their doing businees". Because they understand social turmoil. If the country falls into chaos or bloodshed, it will be of little profit to a greek businessman, if previously he had the troika impose another 10% of the wages. Whose responsibility will be then? Who has the right to risk civil war? The goverment? The troika? Mrs Merkel? Will it be Mr Schauble crying over the greek ruins or will he say "we were extremely generous with Greece, but look, they are so crazy that they fell in civil war!"

    The population, especially the lower and medium class, have shown remarkable patience and gave the Mr. Papandreou goverment big initial support to make changes. But i think, the whole plan ended in a blunder and all the parts involved in it are to blame. Then, the propaganda of the "drachma lobby" certainly becomes more appealing.

    Greece is ranked no.1 this year in OECD's list of reforming states. Even countries with much more efficient administration couldn't do the combination of wild internal devaluation and structural reforms that Greece was asked to, in a collapsing economy.

    Personally i was against the plan as was signed by Mr. Papandreou and i voted for a pro-memorandum (and euro)party, the Dimiourgia Xana. BUT, whoever doesn't see the signs, is risking of becoming the next Marie Antoinnette. What Mr. Papahelas says, is no different than a group of greek collaborators of the germans in WWII, who were thriving out of the black market and were saying the legendary "Hold on, Rommel, a bit more!". Their wish though, didn't find support in the vast population, that was starving. Today, the "drachma lobby" is gaining power, because good part of the population feels that it has nothing else to loose by following Mr. Tsipras and try the drachma road too.

    When i was a boy, i was playing football in a road with land below. Today it has asphalt,but no kid plays anymore. They are all infront of playstations, getting angry and shouting, instead of laughing. I have also played football with balls made of newspapers kept in place with rubber band. And i was more happy than the children of today. At the end, social unity of the country is more important than anything, be it a euro or a higher income. My family was devastated in the civil war.

    Today Citibank forecasted 10% recession for Greece in 2013. We will have lost about 30% GDP in 3 years. How much longer can social unity last? Whose fault will it be? Not the troika's, not the EU's, not the goverment's, not Mr. Papahelas', not mine. Let's assume it will be all fault of the "drachma lobby". Will it REALLY matter anymore?


  3. The goverment had also promiced before the elections to spare from a 12% reduction, the wages of the "special public servant categories": policement, army, doctors, diplomats, judges.

    The biggest expenditure of which, concerns policement and army staff. This has earned New Democracy plenty of votes from policement and army.

    Now, the troika has demanded that such cuts will be made. If these cuts are done on higher ranks, where they earn 2000-4000 euros, it won't be a problem. But if they also do 12% cut in low ranks, where they get 850 euros, it can become more than just a political problem.

    The goverment had excempted these categories from treating them the same as all other public servants, exactly out of fear of the police and army.

    When you have outside your parliament 200.000 people, with these intentions:



    And chanting "Thieves, the hanging is coming" or "the people don't forget, the traitors get hanged" , it is politically prudent to have that thin line of policemen happy enough, to withstand the pressure (and molotov bombs) of the crowd. If they are not so willing to stop them, you are in trouble and so is the Constitution. Even more, when surveys show that a good part of policemen, voted for Golden Dawn and for the first time a party of "retired army officers" partecipated in the elections. Retired army officers can be harmless enough. Angry, active ,army officers, can be a completely other thing.


  4. I'm really sick and tired of listening to 'reforms' in general and without specifics. This is a mixture of the ideologically blind, the trend followers and those with vested interests. Everybody wants reforms. But these are different reforms rom anyone else. It's much noise without saying anything. Or rather 'you will learn after the elections what reforms I had in mind'

    1. Well, if you want to know specifics about the reforms which are deemed necessary, I suggest you study things like the Troika-memoranda (beginning with the first one of May 2010), the 1st report of the EU Task Force and various publications by the OECD, IMF, etc. I list a selection below.


  5. I'm not talking about what the troika wants. I'm referring to people for instance advocating renegotiation on the 'bad aspects' without specifying what they think the bad aspects are.