Sunday, May 09, 2010
Will Greek government be able to implement austerity package?
The streets of Thessaloniki are full of kids carrying bunches of flowers to take home since today is Mother's day here in Greece. It's strange to be strolling with my daughter along streets that just a few days ago looked like scenes out of a war movie with phalanxes of riot police charging protesters and the air heavy with the stench of tear gas and burning plastic.
Yet the calmness is deceptive and belays the fact that people here are extremely angry over the latest developments concerning the IMF-EU brokered bailout deal, and despite the concerted efforts of the country's media and especially the main TV stations not convinced that the massive cuts in incomes and public spending are the inevitable price Greece will have to pay to stop the slide into bankcruptcy. In a poll carried out by VPRC 55% of those asked said that they supported the idea of renegotiating the terms of the debt repayment whilst nearly a third wanted a stop on payments altogether. Similarly, the May 4th poll carried out by Public Issue on behalf of the Greek newspaper, Kathimerini on Sunday found that 66% of Greeks were against the measures. (it should be noted that opinion polls carried out for the Vima and Naytemporiki papers found exactly the opposite figures).
Once again despite what Prime minister Giorgos Papadreou may declare to fellow EU leaders at meetings in Brussels there is absoluely no popular support for the current measues and that the tactic of bypassing constititional and legal objections as part of their imposition is simply fanning the flames of disdent. Reform by diktat is not going to win over many hearts or minds here in Greece and is rapidly dismantling what little consensus exists within the country.
There is also the growing fear that even if the measures announced are enforced there is no guarantee that the sacrifices will bear any kind of fruit. If the rest of the world thinks that the Greek people are simply going to may down and play dead in order that Wall Street/The City/ Franfkfurt can sleep easier at night is in for a terrible shock. The month long wave of riots and revolt that struck Greece in December 2008 following the death of 15 year old Alexander Grigoropoulos was the work of Greece's youth to alarge extent. Current dissatisfaction with the political and economic system covers a much wider segment of the population and is likely to be even more bitter as millions slide into poverty and despair.
One only has to see the example of IMF intervention in Argentina to see the likely social effects of an austerity package which may last for a decade and may nothing but the chance of better macroeconomic statistics at the cost of untold human misery.