SYRIZA celebrates one year in power. SYRIZA finds itself confronted with almost the whole of Greek professionals who are on the streets and highways to protest the upcoming hikes in social security contributions and the pensions reform.
The farmers lead the protests followed by lawyers, doctors and engineers. Also winemakers have joined the crowd of No-sayers, but policemen as well. The anti-government protests are supported by the main stream media that “speak of groups of professionals claiming their rights.” Of course, during the protests in 2010-2013 the pro-government media were seeing in anti-austerity protesters some ‘weirdos’ who did not want to accept the “Memoranda” -i.e. the loan agreements – and the cuts in salaries and pensions. But that’s another long story, or an ever lasting Greek story of corruption and intermingling.
After a week of farmers’ protests, on Sunday Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras dared openly say what all Greeks have been known for decades: that lots of EU Agricultural Funds were not spent in agricultural development but in huge 4×4 jeeps, villas and other extravaganza. Tsipras criticized the unionists.
Yet, he invited farmers and new professionals to a dialogue with the government and promised “tax-relief” for newly established professionals. But the farmers demand “a dialogue to start on zero basis” -and this is not possible.
A friend told me yesterday: you know who got the EU Agricultural Funds? “The Russian whores ‘imported’ to entertain the Greeks on the country-side, the Athens Stock Exchange, the car industry and the casinos.”
Of course, not all farmers are like that. There are rich farmers with good connections to politics and funds, and there are poor farmers who struggle to make a living.
I don’t know if my friend is 100% right but he is certainly not 100% wrong. the point is that the Greek debt and the country’s dependence from the creditors are a reality that no government can pass by.
I have been closely monitoring the crisis since spring 2010 and the point is that whenever a measure is planned that is always at least one trade union or a group of professionals that vehemently opposite it. Nobody wants to put his hand in the pocket and pay his share for all the years they were looting the money that governments were eager to borrow and spend around.
Opposition parties know that very well and exploit it not out of opposition to the IMF or the creditors but out of pure ideological reasons. One has just to watch a panel discussion on TV where austerity measures are on the agenda. One government representative says “A”, all opposition parties representatives say “B”. But not one brings specific solutions on how to solve the economic problems -whether the pensions reform, the lean public sector, the taxation, the Value Added Tax – . It’s opposition of the sake of opposition.
SYRIZA did a lot of things wrong since it was elected to govern the country on January 25th 2015. The most important mistake was the absolutely wrong strategy with the creditors, the attempt to convince the creditors that the “euro governance had to change radically.” It turned out, that the Eurogroup-men in black were in absolutely no mood to change anything. They just wanted their money back, or even better to get rid of Greece.
Blame Varoufakis for doing so, blame Tsipras for allowing him to do so, blame the lack of know-how and the lack of governing experience. the ‘strategy’ backfired in the worst way, with closed banks, capital controls and a new loan agreement of 80+ billion euro.
One year later and having won two elections and one referendum SYRIZA tries to …grow up. It seems that it has learned one or two things from the errors of 2015, it looks as if it tries to “break with the past of corruption and intermingling and petty interests” – so said Tsipras on Sunday.
SYRIZA probably needs time. It’s only that the Greeks, stripped of their incomes and assets after 6 years of real and effective economic crisis, have no time to wait and see and drink tea.
It’s only that the Greeks – at least 1:3 live in extreme poverty and are tied of having to live on charity and soup kitchens meals.
It’s only that there are Greeks – exact numbers are not known – who can hardly afford to pay taxes and taxes in advance and high social security contributions that will swallow up to 80% of their income. Especially, the young professionals who have started a business in the last years of the economic crisis.
Had things in terms of austerity be different, if SYRIZA had not won the elections in 2015? The answer , I’m afraid is “No”. Because the debt is so huge that no government can escape the creditors’ programs and demands, unless it goes its own way: Tell the Eurozone to go F***! But that’s something that very few people seem to want.
In a recent Sunday lunch with cousins and uncles and aunts, aged between 25 and 85, they all agreed that there is no “cure for this country due to decades of corruption, nepotism and petty interest and politicians who look after their own profit and what we Greeks call “the permanent disease of national disunity.”
“Can’t we go to EU and tell them that there are Greeks who cannot make a living?” 78-year-old auntie asked. Her son replied “They don’t care. And there is no way out for us, even if we change mentality, something that is not going to happen anyway.”
Another uncle, 85, wondered why the people won’t rise. “Heads have to roll,” he said but auntie told him that “this will not solve the problem. The debt will remain.”
What was also interesting was that they blamed all politicians without exception for the wretched condition of the country and thus since 1920.
Sad, isn’t it?