By Christos P. Panayiotides
In January of 2015, during the general election campaign, the slogan used by the current Prime Minister of Greece, which spread to every corner of the country, was “Hope is Coming – Greece is Forging Ahead” – Europe is Changing”.
The electorate reasonably assumed, at the time, that the leader of the “Coalition of the Radical Left” (abbreviated, in Greek, as SYRIZA) and his party had studied the economic problems of Greece, drawn up a comprehensive plan for tackling these problems, and had the competence to implement it. At that stage, Mr, Tsipras had not provided details of his plan but – in no uncertain terms – was assuring the electorate that, on his election, “austerity” would become an unpleasant experience of the past. As many would remember, on the night of his election, Mr Tsipras was triumphantly declaring that “hope has arrived”.
Six months later, at the end of a “tough negotiation process”, the Prime Minister of Greece managed to achieve the impossible:
- To enlarge the “black hole” of Greece from €2 billion to €8 billion
- To alienate Greece from all its friends and allies
- To demolish every trace of hope and prospect. He has managed to drive Greece into bankruptcy – yes, bankruptcy – but also to mockery and ridicule.
Whether the Greek government is willing to admit it or not, our incompetence to manage our economic affairs has been demonstrated in a manner that cannot be challenged, has led the country into the mess we find ourselves in, and is causing national embarrassment.
The lack of the necessary funds to maintain national security exposes the country to serious risks. The fact that pensioners (who have lost the physical and mental ability to generate wealth) are forced daily to stand in long queues to collect a fraction of their miserable pension is a tragedy. Those who have the courage to spell out these truths are not “traitors” or “alarmists”, as those responsible for this mess appear to suggest.
What are the counter-arguments? Could one argue that SYRIZA, after many months of fierce bargaining, was, in fact, successful in renaming the “Troika” to the “Institutions”?
Could it be that, once we show our teeth to our partners, they will be grabbed by fear and they will back down? Is there a possibility that, if they drive us crazy, we could cause them irreparable damage? Unfortunately, in the course of the last six months, all these techniques have been tried, and failed. Neither the markets nor the euro have collapsed. The only thing we managed to achieve was to enlarge the size of the “black hole” from €2 to €8 billion!
This Sunday, the Greek people are called upon to speak up. A “no” vote will lead the country out of the euro and out of the European Community. The risk of dragging Cyprus along is visible. Let us not cultivate illusions. This is the bare truth. We have been advised, in no uncertain terms, by all the (democratically elected, I hasten to add) leaders of the European Union that this is the case. At the end of the day, they are the ones who decide, simply because they (legitimately and democratically) represent the vast majority of the European citizens.
With a “yes” vote we will be stating our commitment to the vision of a united Europe, we will be demonstrating our understanding of the need to follow the rules of the game and we will be declaring our willingness to respect the will of the vast majority of the European people, as expressed by their democratically elected governments.
Having confirmed our adherence to these principles, we should then request the amortisation of part of the Greek debt, through the implementation of investment programmes that will aim at bringing about the necessary (but so elusive) economic development.
It is certain that if the Greek government could set aside its adherence to dogma, our partners will respond positively to such a request. To date, Mr Tsipras’ behaviour and that of his associates suggests (in terms of their intentions) quite the opposite.
Christos Panayiotides is a Certified Public Accountant. This article was published, in Greek, in daily Alithia on July 4, 2015, the eve of the Greek Referendum.