Less than two years ago, Greece was handed over to its creditors, the European bankers who promised to “voluntary ” remove its debt if the country abided by their rules. This decision, Greek politicians and creditors said, would return the country back to fiscal sanity. Instead, it became a financial inquisition that resulted in greater evils.
Today, life remains the same for politicians and creditors. They are still rich and enjoy power while the so-called debt relief program and drastic austerity measures only ensured a transition towards European ownership of the once free nation.
The median household income has fallen around 40% in Greece since the crisis there started, a figure unmatched in the world in peacetime. “The country has spent five years making sacrifices, and now it needs Europe to respond to this call,” said Greek’s Prime Minister Andonis Samaras, while talking before European correspondents.
Samaras knows that Greek people are fed up. Recent polls point to a downward spiral of pro-European forces – New Democracy and PASOK – while the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn experiences a significant rise in popularity together with the radical left SYRIZA.
Greece is now begging. It asks Europe to make a gesture arguing that “government stability is guaranteed.” Samaras syncopated uttered this phrase, which is reminiscent of the presidents who support the football coach a week before firing him.
Before the stage fright that is evident in the atmosphere of Greek politics, one thing is certain: there will be “restructuring”, an economic euphemism in vogue to define so-called debt relief in Greece.
For supporters of Greece’s adhesion to Europe, the country has come a long way to the presidency of the EU in a single year and a half after threatening to create an existential crisis of the euro zone. The country is now presented as a recovering alcoholic with a fiscal surplus who is destined to have others decide about its future.
European partners do not want Greece to remove the throttle cuts and reforms. But Samaras does not hide that it urgently needs the help of the EU, and Greece begins to breathe a vitiated air, which can complicate governance after the elections in May.
The government clings to the risk that threatens the oasis of tranquility in the swimming policy and the European economy in the early weeks of the year – so the restructuring is as ambitious as possible. Until that point, always in private, there are members of the Executive who refuse to deny a new round of measures that may include austerity, voluntarily or not.
“We hope that the elections will be positive for the pro-European forces, but clearly there are voices that are reacting against extreme austerity. The government’s goal is successful completion of the rescue program, that will start out on the market second half of this year and that will show that this country is as normal as others, ” said Samaras.
“When you start to see falling unemployment, extremism will also fall,” he said. But does anyone think that such a thing is going to happen anytime soon? The government predicts growth of just 0.6% this year, and a stabilized labor market. But with official unemployment rates of 27%, even higher than Spain, it is hard to see how stability, political or otherwise, will be seen in the short or mid term.
Against the stark reality, the government boasts of change in market sentiment – whatever that means. As in other deeply indebted nations such as the United States, the stock market is artificially kept at record highs while the country enjoys equally artificial lower risk premiums. Furthermore, those who believe that recovery is on the way, are now rubbing their hands in preparation for new debt to take advantage of the outbreak of trust. “The most difficult days have passed for Greece,” boasts Samaras.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Greece remains under a state of simmering disintegration. GDP has fallen 25 % since the start of the crisis while 60 % of young people have no work. Poverty rates and tax exclusion is unparalleled in Europe with banks being absorbed by the largest financial entities in a process known as stress tests.
But the fact that perhaps continues to amaze people inside and outside Greece, is the continuous acute case of chronic epidemic of tax evasion conducted by the elite, which is still the norm. While the elite continues to evade their tax obligations, European bankers and Greek politicians stop at nothing to suggest higher taxes for the rest of the population as a way to shrink the gap.
Although European bankers would want everyone to believe that austerity helped avoid bankruptcy in Greece, the measures applied by Brussels actually exacerbated the problem. “Tourism is in record numbers,” says prime minister Samaras, an economist graduated from Harvard University, the man who handed Greece over to the bankers.
Luis R. Miranda is the Founder and Editor of The Real Agenda. His 16 years of experience in Journalism include television, radio, print and Internet news. Luis obtained his Journalism degree from Universidad Latina de Costa Rica, where he graduated in Mass Media Communication in 1998. He also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcasting from Montclair State University in New Jersey. Among his most distinguished interviews are: Costa Rican President Jose Maria Figueres and James Hansen from NASA Space Goddard Institute. Read more about Luis.