Greece: Hope vs. Tough Reality: 1 – 5. The last 69 days of Greece as we know it
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The plane has a car in its back and it is flying up in the sky. Alexis Tsipras, the driver of the car, discusses with his ministers, also passengers, asking them if they are ready… then he pulls the trigger and the back of the plane opens… the car exits and starts its free fall… the European leaders start warning him on the radio… “it was not right for you to jump, at least open the parachute now so as to land safely”… Tsipras & his cabinet do not blink, they maintain their direction without changing course. Europeans and some passengers from the back of the car become anxious “open the bloody parachute, save the car!”. This seems to annoy some of his ministers who try to destroy the parachute’s mechanism, accusing the Europeans and the voices in the back of the car as “enemies who want us to be doomed”… at a certain point the car cannot avoid the crash anymore… “Open the parachute, so as to land with the minimum possible damages” Europeans and more voices from the back are screaming now… Yanis Varoufakis, the famous minister of economy, shows them what “cool” means and replies by singing the old hit of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers… “Yeah, I’m free… free falling”…
The original visualization of this scene exists in the new “Fast and Furious 7” movie, its trailer can be watched here. In the above mentioned metaphor, the plane is Europe, the parachute is the new program of reforms which secures the financing of Greek Democracy’s debts and landing to earth without opening it means the chaos that bankruptcy will bring to Greece.
“Vadim / Becali / Cernea coalition” and… “Your eyes tell me one thing, but your heart tells me something else”
“Syriza”, considered a radical left party, created a coalition with the “Independent Greeks”, considered a radical right party, in a partnership that would be something like “Tudor Vadim, Gigi Becali and Remus Cernea together.
They promised that they will:
- Stop austerity and grow the economy, voting one law that would cancel all the previous laws “enforced by the foreigners who blackmail us”
- Bring the salaries back
- Convince Europe to change course and themselves to become the leaders of the new European “peaceful revolution of the people”
- Fight the “humanitarian crisis that exists in Greece”
- Cut incorrect public spending
- Create jobs
- Resolve the issues of illegal emigrants and the order in the cities, without the necessity for the Police to be aggressive
- Create a foreign policy that “will include Russia and other powers in the picture, not only USA and Germany that are traditional allies”.
- (Hundreds of other promises were also held, most of them contradicting one the other)
Looks like an old Greek singer, Poly Panou, back in the 60s had a different opinion when she was singing “Your eyes tell me one thing, but your heart tells me something else”.
No reforms… no money. No money… no honey for the banks
Unfortunately for the ruling coalition, the Europeans did not really understand their approach. After the “honeymoon” period, when everyone found “cute” their unconventional behavior, one by one, every European official told Greece that if it wants more loans, it has to implement the reforms it has promised and change the country so as to become competitive again.
Without loans for the last 8 months, the country is struggling to cover its obligations to foreign debtors, while paying salaries and pensions to public servants. In the same time the real economy is almost frozen, as the State simply does not pay its debts to its providers. Meanwhile the Greek banks are reported to have lost 62 (sixty two) billion Euros of deposits in the last six months, as Bloomberg says . (This is the equivalent of almost 80% of all deposits in Romania).
The banks depend on Emergency Liquidity Assistance provided by European Central Bank and they do not provide loans (rarely may they offer a bank guarantee to a big company that needs to import goods). Each Wednesday Greeks hear the new limit of help approved by ECB. In total, bank’s funding from the ECB and the Greek Central Bank reached 107,2 billion Euros in March, equivalent to 58% of Greece’s Gross Domestic Product.
In March the Greek State is said to have taken over the EU subsidies for farmers, the deposits of pension funds and any other liquidity available so as to find resources and pay pensions and salaries. In April it passed a bill forcing the local authorities to deposit their savings in the Central Bank, being accused that it wants to use these sums so as to pay obligations abroad. But this does not seem enough. The deputy minister of Finance Dimitris Mardas confessed on 22.04 that “we still need 400 million Euro so as to cover our expenses by the end of April” . After 2 hours „he found the missing amount”.
The challenge lays ahead though, in May and June.
Implementing Communism in a modern European country
All the above do not represent problems for the Greek government. They happen “because the Europeans wish to struggle us and force us to surrender, while they prepare a movement so as to overthrow our government”, as a Syriza European MEP claims to Spanish press.
The contradicting declarations of Syriza members continue, ignoring the fact that now they are ministers, not just the opposition. They are clear only in one thing: The implementation of Communism in Greece:
- A minister has installed in the back of his office the portrait of Aris Velouhiotis , the commander in chief of Greek communists during the Civil War, 1945 – 1949. Meanwhile another minister welcomed a mission from Venezuela, including Hugo Chavez’ daughter!
- The Government passed a bill with which it reverts all the important changes of the Education Law voted in 2011, while it dismantles the schools of excellency, “excellence is a warped ambition” the minister said.. Lately it is reported that this decision will be reconsidered.
- Greece faces huge problems of illegal emigrants who try to enter the EU through its borders, the same problems that Italy is facing. The previous governments were trying to patrol the borders and imprison the illegal emigrants. This one did the opposite: The minister in charge opened the prison, called them “refugees” and brought them with buses in the center of Athens. “But what do they do here, as they don’t have home, job or food?” she was asked, replying “I don’t know, they disappear”.
- In the same time it releases a terrorist with serious health problems, putting him under “home custody” (without having bought security bracelets yet). This person has killed almost 2 dozens of people, including American citizens. This is why the United States announced that they consider this law an “Unfriendly Act” by the Greek government. Greece replied by advising the Americans to resolve the problems the Islamic State has created…
- During April Greece welcomed Alexei Miller, Gazprom’s boss, to discuss about the new “Turkish Pipe” (that the government announced that it will call “Greek pipe when it passes in Greek territory). He discussed with the minister Panayotis Lafazanis, the leader of the “tough leftists who prefer drachma than to obey to western debtors”. Mr. Lafazanis has studied in Soviet Union and he was really happy meeting with Mr. Miller, even if Mr. Miller explained that Greece cannot expect any advance payments for the new gas pipe, at least not before 2019 – 2020.
- While the cash strapped government searches cash in all possible destinations (reportedly asked even… Iran if they wish to buy Greek bonds), it has 500 million Euro so as to revamp 35 years’ old planes (while there are some reports that the planes are over 50 years old), for which even Lockheed Martin considers a bad deal.
Not even Cyprus…
The Greek government is sure that it will find money during the following weeks and the agreement with Troika (now called „Institutions”) will be signed. It was also sure that it will form a „common front of the countries in South Europe against Germany and the rich North”, but not even Cyprus did not accept to stand next to this idea.
Apart from theories etc., the Greek government remains in the same point it was 3 months ago:
- – „You have to reform and take painful measures so as to secure the country’s prosperity”
- – „We don’t consider this a solution, we want dialogue”
- – „Ok, we discuss but until you vote and implement measures, you get no money”
To this approach „Syriza” and „Independent Greeks” either respond by threatening the Europeans and the IMF, or by complaining that „Greeks voted for a new government and a new program. You have to respect their wish”. Adding the continuous changing of opinions and statements, the situation becomes worse every day.
The last 69 days of Greece as we know it
The car of Greece keeps on falling towards earth. The Prime Minister Alexi Tsipras keeps on insisting that he will not step back. Money is already scarce. Europeans will not pay without reforms, it would be the end of Europe as we know it. „Then what?”
The most probable scenario is the negative one. Greece will run out of money some time by the end of June at latest. Without a solution until then, the Europeans will have to declare the process as unsuccessful and the ECB will probably have to stop the funding through ELA. Then all the visionaries who believed that „we will change the world, without changing ourselves first” will realize the mistake that will mark their lives for the decades to come.
Still, Greeks always narrate about „the good God of Greece, who saves the country in the last second from all sorts of problems during the last 3.000 years” (this theory exists even in ancient Greek theater, with the appearance of„Deus ex machina” who resolves the problem”). Would it be the case now as well, we should expect the Prime Minister Alexi Tsipras, the most credible person of this government in people’s eyes, to finally reach an agreement with „the Institutions” and pitch it to his voters, through a successful communication approach. This would risk his government’s unity though, as Mr. Lafazanis, Mr. Kammenos (president of „Independent Greeks”) etc. seem to prefer a dramatic return to drachma, than „obey to the foreigners”.
In the following 69 days Greece will choose its course for the years to come. Is the Greek government going to break up with the “Institutions” and risk bankruptcy instead? Is it going to issue an “online currency, only for virtual transfers of taxes towards the State”, which is rumored, hoping for the best? Is it going to delay furthermore or escape by choosing anticipated elections? Or is it going to accept the tough reality and return to its European path?
No matter what decision Mr. Tsipras and his team will take, Greece will never be the same after it. And unless the “Good God of Greece” appears again, what follows Mr. Tsipras’ decision does not seem to be bright for Greece, its citizens and not only…
PS. “Why do you present the score as 1 – 5 instead of 0 – 5?” you may ask. Because the Europeans still prefer Greece to wake up and agree with them than falling into darkness and they are ready to support such a decision.