Cyprus Mail
CM Regular ColumnistOpinion

Greece: a government of reckless demagogues

By Loucas Chharalambous

FIFTEEN days after its formation, I think the only safe conclusion you could make about the new Greek government is that it is yet another government of irresponsible populists – and that is being kind.

It is a government which I doubt knows what it wants or is in a position to understand the significance and possible consequences of its behaviour. It is questionable whether this government, as a whole, has a single policy that it implements or whether each member acts as he or she wishes, making promises and mouthing slogans.

The prime minister, Alexis Tsipras, during his visit to Cyprus, appeared level-headed and moderate to such an extent that some wondered if this was the same person who until a few weeks earlier could have won the Nobel prize for demagoguery (assuming it existed). Watching his antics after he left Cyprus made you wondered what had happened to the good sense he displayed while he was here.

In their efforts to achieve the objective they are pursuing – the termination of the bailout agreement – Tsipras and his finance minister Yianis Varoufakis, keep repeating a seemingly logical argument: for five years the country had been implementing, under the Memorandum, an austerity programme that not only failed to produce results but also caused Greeks untold misery.

This argument contains a big lie: the Memorandum, in reality was not fully implemented but was half-implemented. It consisted of two aspects: the first involved the austerity measures of spending cuts and higher taxes while the second focused on structural changes, privatisations etc.

The second aspect was implemented only to a small extent and with great delays because the government did not possess the political will to clash with powerful interest groups and unions.

Government restricted measures to spending cuts and taxes, thus penalising pensioners and other vulnerable groups. The privatisations which were a very important part of the adjustment programme proceeded at such a slow pace that it made the lenders believe that the Greeks were taking them for a ride.

We should take a look at what the new government has proposed. The only substantive proposal it has made was by Varoufakis who came up with the idea of exchanging the bonds that lenders currently hold with a different type of bond that would be repaid in accordance with the country’s rate of growth.

This is a joke. What it means is that Greece will carry on borrowing money, on the promise that it would return it when it would be able to do so. This is not a serious way to do business.

Nobody in this world – apart from your parents – would agree to lend you money on the promise that you would pay it back when you are able to do so. A government that wants to be taken seriously cannot make such ludicrous proposals.

We witnessed impressive example of political irresponsibility, from the other constituent part of the Tsipras coalition government. The leader of the junior coalition partner, Independent Greeks, Panos Kammenos is the defence minister who visited Cyprus on Wednesday bringing with him the slogans of a bygone era.

Having assured us that “Greece is here” and that “Cyprus is not far” he dropped his bombshell proposal – he suggested we purchase fighter planes which could be stationed at the airports of Rhodes or Crete.

Ignoring the sheer stupidity of this proposal, it would be interesting for the Greek defence minister to inform us if he knows how much a fighter jet actually costs. Perhaps he had not heard that Cyprus is also bankrupt, like Greece.

We do not know how Kammenos’ Cypriot counterpart responded to this. I doubt he had guts to tell Kammenos to refrain from uttering such nonsense when he visited.

That a man of such poor intellect could be the defence minister of Greece, reinforces the view I wrote at the beginning of this article – that Tsipras’ government is a government of reckless demagogues who are unlikely to be aware of the consequences their words and deeds could have on their country.

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