Monday, July 05, 2010

IMF/EU/ECB - Resistance is anything but futile

One of the worst aspects of the current economic crisis here in Greece is the way it has sucked the hope out of so many people's lives. The current austerity measures offer nothing in the way of hope for the millions of Greeks on lower incomes whose backs are already up against the wall. This sense of dispair limited to any one group or region but rather has spread like some infectious disease throughout the social spectrum.

Talking to friends the conversation always seems to find its way round to the financial mess the country finds itself in. Everyone I know is worried about the future since the massive economic dislocation we are all going through seems to offer nothing but years of poverty and deprivation, negating decades of hard won progress.

For the young the sense of a future deferred, cancelled, even is strongest. What do they have to look forward to? Unemployment, low wage dead end jobs, a life spent living with their parents? After so many years of study and struggle they are coming to the realisation that much of what they were working towards has disappeared and nothing is being offered to take its place.

Prime minister Giorgos Papandreou may talk about the light at the end of the tunnel but few believe his words as they are the same broken promises that the Greek political class have been manking for years. The same wooden language expressing ideas that no one listens to anymore (not helped by the fact that Papandreou is a monumentally awful public speaker).

The fact is that that the recently elected PASOK party has absolutely no popular mandate for the changes they are making to pension schemes and wages since none of the recent measures were in their pre-election manifesto. Papandreou insists that his party had no idea of the size of the deficit they were inheriting on taking power last year (a contention vehermently dened by the head of the Bank of Greece who says that the head of the opposition knew of the massive overshot in public spending figures). Yet it is a measure of the collapse in public trust in the present political system that few are willing to believe him.

Lacking a mandate the leadership of the PASOK party has resorted to fear and intimidation both within and outside parliament to push through legisaltion demanded by the IMF/EU/EB troika. Any MP refusing to follow the party line faces immediate dismissal form the party whilst outside parliament the presence of riot police has become a permanent fixture of demonstrations of any size.

However, this is just the beginning, the real battles lie ahead of us in September when Greek politics traditionally revive after the lethargy of a long, hot summer. Also the effects of the first wave of cuts in wages, rising unemployment and the fall in income from tourism are likely to combine to form a perfect poltical storm. In the face of such massive unrest it is hard to see how Papadreou is going to maintain party discipline amongst PASOK backbenchers already deeply upset about the route the party is taking. Likewise the party base is unhappy with being identified with such wildly unpopular policies.

In addition there is every likelyhood that the Greece will fail to find enough revenue to fulfill Troika (IMF/EU/ECB) targets and will be forced to borrow even more to pay the bills. Already a second rise in VAT has been imposed on an economy struggling to become competitive, a clear indication that government measures to increase revenue are not proving as effective as Papandreou promised.

With a spiralling debt, massive drop in economic activity and steadily rising unemployment how long is it before Athens is forced to renegotiates its debt load?

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