It is early October and Greek people seem to be reliving the days of early February. It is as if the past eight months never happened in Greek politics. Greeks went through an election and a referendum and one gets the impression that the government that was elected in January is back with the only difference being a game of musical chairs in the cabinet. The only new faces were party MPs who were rewarded with ministerial positions for their hard work. All the prime minister’s “yes men.”
It has been obvious that in the seven months of the SYRIZA-ANEL coalition very little governing was done. The great promises were never fulfilled, the hated austerity is still here, only harsher; unemployment, tax evasion, clientelism, corruption have been untouched, the ills that were supposedly caused by evil lenders and the memoranda are still present in Greek society.
The often used excuse that the previous government was too busy with negotiating the bailout and left everything else to luck is like a third-grade student telling the teacher that he didn’t do his math homework because he also had language homework to do. And yet, the Greek prime minister used this excuse to defend the practically non-existent governing of the past seven months.
So, the new government is, in essence, the same people who showed in the past that their political ideology doesn’t allow them to do the task at hand. The task at hand is to bring economic growth so that Greece recovers from the crisis. Yet, that requires a strong private sector and a stable, investment-friendly environment. Alexis Tsipras failed abysmally in presenting the picture of a stable, politically and economically, country to invest in when addressing a group of investors last week in New York. He kept repeating that “we will try” to create a stable environment for investors. It was obvious that he didn’t believe in any of that capitalist stuff he was mumbling in bad english. He was talking to the investors but in reality he was addressing his voters in Greece, winking at them, reminding them that he is their bright, leftist hope.
Unfortunately, words such as private business, profit, investment, finance, are words that are anathema to the leftist ears of the new, same-as-the-old-one cabinet. Even though they voted for a bailout program that requires privatizations, less state spending and a leaner, more efficient public sector, they keep repeating indirectly that they are against that kind of thing. Instead, they want to repeat the failed statism model of the past 40 years that eventually brought the country to its knees. They believe that the more they tax the private sector, the more fair they are to the “working class,” “the people.”
On Tuesday, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos admitted that the task at hand may not be achieved. He admitted that “not all battles can be won,” using as an example parents who cannot tame their wild teenage kids.
The first plenary in the Greek Parliament was a tragic sight. The prime minister kept repeating unconvincingly that “we will do this,” “we will do that,” and he used so many clichés, it was a wonder how he refrained from bursting into laughter.
House newcomer Vassilis Leventis, chief of the Centrists Union, commented later that he could hardly keep himself awake during the prime minister’s speech, adding that 90 percent of what Tsipras said were the same things Antonis Samaras was saying when he was prime minister.
Greek society is going through a political deja vu. The January government is back to try to solve all of Greece’s problems with clever political slogans and a lot of leftist rhetoric. And a lot of wishful thinking.
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