Greece. Bleak future.
The Future is a projection of the present, a continuation of the present, however altered to some, or to a considerable degree, by developments, events and advents of sorts. Bleak present foretells bleak future, unless . . .
Present time Greece is in a precarious position. How did it get there?
In 2008 Greece was entering r e c e s s i o n, GDP contracted by 0.3%. Did the Greeks know it? No. They were being assured that their economy was “armored” and was not affected by the recession already apparent elsewhere.
In 2009 with a recession of 3.2% the Greeks, uninformed as usual, went about happily spending money which to a considerable extent was borrowed. They bought more than half a million vehicles and nearly 120.000 properties. Note: Data from the Taxation authority, invisible transactions from the “invisible” economy were in addition to the above.
Did the Greeks know about the IMF warning that the country was heading to Bankruptcy? No. Did they know that Jean Claude Junker had written to the Greek Government that the situation was getting out of hand and that it should immediately act to avoid bankruptcy? No. On November 7th the INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE had a front page presentation of the fact that the Greek Economy was heading for the rocks, but the Greek Government was humming lullabies to its people, to put them to sleep.
When ND won the election in 2004, the minister for the National Economy touted the unreliability of what eventually became known as the “Greek Statistics” thus informing the EU that the Greeks were unreliable. Then, five years later George Papandreou boldly spread the word that he heads a corrupt, unreliable, country and blamed it all on the previous Government. Plainly, Greek politicians do not understand that when they “bad mouth” each other they “bad mouth” their country, their people.
The partners of Greece in the Eurozone want to help the country face its very dangerous situation (imminent bankruptcy) and they ask in return that Greece tackles the cause of its problem. The Greek Government agrees, signs an accord to this effect and then does not materialize it. It signs a second accord, again ignoring its commitment. Then a third. To leave absolutely no doubt that Greece is irresponsible Papandreou announces, five days after signing the third agreement, that he will hold a referendum three months later to ask the Greeks IF they want to stay in the Eurozone or not! By then its partners know beyond any doubt that the Greeks are totally u n r e l i a b l e and demand that the new treaty be signed by the new Prime Minister, the Governor of the Bank of Greece and the heads of the two parties, PASOK and ND which support the new, service Government. Papandreou signs but Samaras refuses on the ground that he has given a vote of confidence to the service Government and that should be enough. The Eurozone powers know better than rely on a Greek politician. They demand his signature. He again refuses because, to him, it is a matter of National Dignity. Greece, however, has no longer any dignity in the eyes of its partners who give a ultimatum: sign or no money. They were not bluffing. Greece is 2% of the Eurozone Economy and because it has inspired nothing but incredulity to its partners they have prepared a plan for life without Greece in the Eurozone. Samaras then signs a letter he wrote to the powers that be which was tantamount to signing the letter they had wanted him to sign. He, thus, could claim that he did not give in to pressure. Games in other words, but then the Greek politicians play games with the country they supposedly serve and with each other. To them impressions is the name of the game. Give the right impressions to the people and they “buy” you and your rhetoric. They “sell” themselves like brands and the Greeks buy them.
The Greeks seem to have a “social contract” with their politicians. We let you do what you want, so long as you do not discomfort us.
In the year 2009 of those Greeks whose income could not be “invisible” and had filed a declaration of income, as it is called in Greece, 70% claimed to have an income below 12000 Euros, yet half of them owned a car. More than 2.3 million claimed they were pensioners (Pension funds provide pensions to a far lower number of people) and only 40% owned a home, when it is an established fact that more than 80% of Greeks own a home. 10% claimed they were living in rented homes, which, by extension means that 50% of the Greeks were homeless!
Incredible facts delineating an unwelcome reality. Tax evasion is a National endeavor which all Governments choose to ignore, not to discomfort the people. The so called “black” (invisible) economy is estimated at over 35%. If it was visible, taxed, the country would not have to borrow to provide a false economic euphoria to the people, but it was easier, preferable, to borrow than tell the people the truth, do what a Government should do to curtail tax evasion, do what other Governments do. People are not to be discomforted, not supposed to know, only to be duped with false claims like : money is available : Is it any wonder how the country reached the edge of the cliff?
Is it any wonder why the politicians continue their games even now?
The Greeks will keep on voting for them because they are what they are, unless a new political force appears, a new political party perhaps. One that will tell them what was wrong, how the country deteriorated to being a third world country in a first world team of countries and treat the Greeks with respect, keep them informed, whatever the political cost, and help them gain some self respect, their only defense to the sweet song of present day politicians. If the Greeks see a different political climate being created and a new genre of politicians giving them a sense of direction, a sense of purpose, they are likely to resent the false euphoria and shallow claims of present day poiliticos. What are the chances of this happening? Slim. The political establishment has already shown its determination to stay in control, overshadowing the service Government and indeed the Prime Minister, whom they want to fail, so the Greeks do not compare him to them and see clearly their appallingly low quality as individuals and politicians. That Greece may, subsequently, loose its membership of the Eurozone is of no consequence to them. They will explain to the Nation why they had nothing to do with it and the Nation will bite. In such an event they will be unrestrained to continue their games, unless the Greeks are already out of their slumber. The coming elections will show.
What will save Greece from its politicians is the enforcement of article 26 of the Constitution. Accordingly, Parliament will legislate and control and Government, the Executive branch of the Powers, will exercise the Government function, supervised by Parliament. If this becomes reality, as it should, then Government would be composed by non parliamentarians, ideally knowledgeable people who can function with no regard to political cost. Such people would not, to a very large extent, succumb to pressures from members of parliament seeking favors of sorts for their voters, because they would not be interested in forming a support base, since they would be appointed, not elected. By the same token members of Parliament would know that they will never become Ministers, unless they give up their membership of Parliament and so they would not seek electoral support for any reason other than their performance in Parliament. Their voters, knowing that they can not do any favors for them, will not be asking them for such and would expect them to be only good parliamentarians. In other words the nature of Greek Politics would change. Politicians would be voted for their accomplishments, not the favors they can do for their voters. Members of Parliament would be voted for their performance in Parliament, not for doing favors to their voters, Ministers would be able to resist pressures because they would be assessed for their performance, their work for the country and, which is more, they would be knowledgeable, experienced, since they would be offered the honor to serve on the basis of their credentials for the job. Present time Ministers are professional politicos, little do they know about anything other than political games. They are out of contact with business, with economic, with social, activity. They know little, if anything, about real life and, indeed, about the issues they handle. This is why they are incompetent, to a large extent and give lip service to the benefit of the country.
Of course for such a radical change to take place a new breed of politicians is required and so far there is no sign of such people in the horizon, which means that tomorrow will be an extension of today. Bleak present, bleak future, for Greece.