Greece:What to Do with Missed the Mark Politics of Coalition Partners?

By Con George-Kotzabasis May 3, 2013

The Samaras’ Government, like Atlas on his back, is carrying and attempting to transform and move Greece’s awesome heavy burden of unprecedented economic insolvency, since the ending of the Second-World-War, onto the stage of economic recovery and development. By succeeding in this most difficult enterprise it will also justify the positive, against the negative, economic remedies formulated in the second Memorandum by the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the so called Troika, for the purpose of saving Greece from economic catastrophe, and thus simultaneously enhance the credibility, and indeed, the survival of the EU as an institution of crucial influence and guidance in world affairs.

In this call to national salvation three politically and ideologically disparate parties 0f New Democracy, Pasok, (Panhellenic Socialist Movement) and the Democratic Left (Demar) decided to form a coalition government whose main goal was to keep Greece within the European Union and salvage the country, with the financial help of the latter, from economic bankruptcy that would have devastated the standard of living of the major part of the population and would have brought a proud nation to the status of indigence and economic despair for at least a generation. The two leaders, of Pasok and Demar, Evangelos Venizelos and Fotis Kouvelis, respectively, seeing the prodigious dangers the country was facing, raised their height to these dire circumstances and wisely decided to stand hand in hand with an ideological opponent, that is, the liberal conservative party of New Democracy and its leader Antonis Samaras, for the purpose of saving Greece from this imminent catastrophe. Hence the two leaders of the left put their ideological reputation and the future viability, and, indeed, the existence of their parties at immense risk by their decision to support a government led by Samaras, their erstwhile conservative opponent, and tie themselves and their parties to the fortunes of the latter, that is, whether the Samaras’ government will succeed or not in pulling the country out of the crisis and start the economic development that is so vital in overcoming the terrifying economic difficulties that Greece countenances at the moment.

There are grounds to make one believe that Greece economically and politically might be at a turning point. The Samaras government after succeeding in convincing its European partners, in exceedingly difficult negotiations, to provide the funds Greece needed, to ignite its economy and place the country on the path of development, under less onerous terms of the bailout than the initial ones the Europeans were demanding. This was a great success and a great achievement of the government and demonstrating at the same time its virtuoso skills in the art of negotiations.

The government announced last month that it had beat its budget targets for 2012. Finance Minister Stournaras claimed that the government was close to achieving a primary surplus—the budget surplus before taking into account payments on the debt—this year that would deliver, according to the mutual agreement of the parties, a further package of help from the Euro-zone.  Employment statistics also showed, that within the span of the last two months the number of workers hired exceeded by nearly nine thousand the number of workers dismissed for the first time since the crisis. Furthermore, the recapitalization of the banks was on track and bound to be consummated in the next few weeks and the spigots of liquidity were therefore ready to be opened that would provide the private sector the funds for investment. Last week, the president of the National Bank stated that levels of liquidity are progressively established and 10 billion Euros could flow into the real economy. And already 50% of one thousand of small and large private enterprises announced that they were preparing to start investing within the current year. The internationally renowned telecommunications company Nokia is planning to establish a branch in Athens that would employ hundreds of highly skilled technicians and could become a magnet that would attract other foreign corporate giants to the country and thus by their presence would provide a continuous economic confidence for the country’s future. The Task Force of the European Commission last week issued favourable reports that the Greek economy was about to be re-ignited although it warned the government that small businesses had been dried of funds and their future operations were at risk. Also the credit ratings agency Moody’s estimated that Greece would have a positive rate of growth in 2014, after five years of negative growth.

Thus we see that there are ample encouraging signs that Greece might be at the crucial point of overcoming the crisis. It is most important therefore that the two parties, Pasok and Demar, that support the Samaras government, must first take note of these auspicious indices and that the current measures of the government are putting the country on the axis of economic development, and second, must not jeopardise this favourable situation by rigidly sticking to their parties position on other issues, such as labor relations and on the restructuring of the public sector, which are contrary to the overall current policy of the government and could endanger the economic progress the latter is making in overcoming the crisis.

The coalition partners must become fully aware that their political viability is tied up not with the sacred ideological position these parties hold on a variety of issues, contra the neo-liberal position of New Democracy, and pushing these toward their consummation, at this critical juncture whose primary goal is the salvation of the country, is a most imprudent diversion from the main goal. On the contrary, their political future is tied up with the success of the Samaras government in pulling the country out of the crisis. The electorate will not remember them and will not elect them for being pure to their ideological position but for their pragmatic support of a neo-liberal government that saved Greece from economic oblivion and mass poverty. In the event the Samaras administration fails in this complex immensely difficult and great task would likewise totally discredit and everlastingly condemn and cast to political oblivion both Pasok and Demar for their support of this failed government, no matter how favorable the former have been on other minor issues, in comparison to the major issue, that are dear to the hearts of the many. Their responsibility to the country and to themselves therefore lies in their pragmatic assessment of the policies of the government beyond ideology as to whether they are better placed to extricate the country from the crisis.

It is for this reason that in this process of the Renaissance of Greece, under the wise and strong leadership of Antonis Samaras, the cohesion of these partners in the salvation of the country is of unaccountable importance. Thus for Pasok and Demar not to miss the mark is to realize that the failure or success, in this uniquely historical venture of saving Greece, will determine their political viability in the future and not their ideological hues on secondary issues.

I rest on my oars:your turn now

What is Needed for a Recycling Mechanism to Start?

A reply to Professor Varoufakis on his proposal of a recycling mechanism from countries with surpluses in his talk to the OECD.

By Con George-Kotzabasis

The working of a recycling mechanism from countries that are in surplus would primarily need the physical stature of Professor Varoufakis, that is, lean efficient competitive economies with no wastage baggage and lean governmental apparatuses. Most economies, however, of southern Europe are in a state of pathological obesity in both regards and thus are being unfavourable turfs for surplus countries to plough their money into them. For the wheels of the recycling mechanism to start therefore, it would be necessary to fundamentally restructure the economies and governments in the former case, on the ethos of a competitive market economy, and on the latter, by removing the destructive policies of government intervention and excessive regulation in the sphere of private enterprise.  Only countries free from the deleterious effects of un-competitiveness and government dirigisme and replete with entrepreneurial dynamism acting within a private enterprise system can be favoured to be the recipients of the manna of the recycling mechanism.

The above argument is reinforced by the two historical examples in Professor Varoufakis’ presentation where he shows that the Americans at the end of the Second World War recycled the major part of their surplus to Germany and Japan, the two countries that were renowned for their economic efficiency and technological feats and operating within the private enterprise system, and the second, when China and the oil producing countries of the Arab peninsula recycled their surpluses to America on the basis of the same principle, that is, of economic prowess and competitiveness. In neither case were these surpluses recycled to “Africanized” economies. Likewise, why European countries, such as Germany, that are in surplus, should recycle the latter to the economically sclerotic countries of the south unless the latter engaged in a radical restructuring of their economies that initially would be followed with a lot of pain as Greece presently shows with the radical changes that are taking place in its economy under the robust and imaginative Samaras government? It is easy to talk about the misanthropy of the elites but what about the misanthropy of those politicians of the left, such as Andreas Papandreou, who for years created a false prosperity for their peoples without telling them of the heavy price and suffering they would have to pay for it and the great crisis that they would be engulfed in?

Can Professor Varoufakis envisage that the great foundational changes that are required, so the recycling river of funds will inundate those countries that are at the bottom pit, can occur without pain? Is the Heracletian profound maxim that out of “great discord rises the greatest harmony” to be negated by the votaries of the “dismal science”?

Guest (Xenos) says,

Incorrect, in every way and on every level.

Per capita, Greece received more than any other country from the Mashall Plan and other forms of financial assistance from the USA. Germany andJapan received the most because (a) they were the largest countries lined up to receive funds, and (b) because they had been decimated by the war. It had nothing to do with your homespun nonsense about “Africanised countries” — whatever you think those might be.

Your speech is nothing more than empty rhetoric and has no relation to historical reality or economic analysis.

Kotzabasis says,

Greece was a special case due to the civil war and the threat of a communist take-over and the fact that America replaced Britain as the plenipotentiary of Greece and its protector from communism. And it goes without saying that part of the reason why funds flowed to Germany and Japan was their devastation. But the major reason was that the Americans wanted to create a locomotive of economic development in these two regions and that is why they chose Germany and Japan renowned for their past economic prowess. Professor Varoufakis himself in his presentation makes it quite explicit that China invested its surplus in the United States precisely because of the latter’s high competitiveness (M.E).

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Professor Congratulates New Greek Finance Minister for Digging his Own Grave

By Con George-Kotzabasis June 28, 2012

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”  Winston Churchill

Professor Varoufakis the above quote illustrates the substantial personal difference between you and Yannis Stournaras, the newly appointed Minister of Finance, on the issue whether Greece has better than a chance under this new government to pull itself, by creative technocratic and Gulliverian efforts, out of the crisis. It saddens me to see you with your Kazantzakian character to distort the truth about the Samaras government that somehow is a continuation of the “ancien regime” when in truth the majority of its members, both from the political and technocratic stables are new and were chosen on meritocratic grounds for their intellectual and technocratic ‘sprints’ and were never associated  even in the loosest terms with the major economic policies of either Pasok or New Democracy that had brought Greece to the “edge of the abyss.” To say further that Stournaras should not expect any support from this purportedly coterie of the ancien regime and he was chosen only for the purpose of carrying the major burden of a more than probable failure and to become the scapegoat for it is a most ungracious, and , indeed, malicious statement that could ever come out from the illustrious portals of Academe.

It seems to me that your absolute pessimistic views about events in Europe and Greece cancel you from the vocation of a reformist actively and optimistically engaged in the transformation of a bad situation. It is optimists that win wars and not pessimists! Also it appears to me, that your ‘undying’ wish for the disintegration of the Eurozone is directly related to your Modest Proposal so in the event of Europe’s collapse you can say that it happened because the European elites refused to adopt your all perfect remedy. Thus your disparagement of all politicians and technocrats both inside Greece and in Europe such as Papademos, Samaras, Mario Monti, Mario Draghi, and Jean-Claude Trichet, to mention few. In your planetary immodesty  to consider yourself the Sun and all the others as satellites that must reflect the wisdom of your Modest Proposal, is haughtiness of the highest degree. And it is not uncommon, that arrogance emanating from an “aggressively” Narcissistic nature defeats even the strongest of characters. Alas, do you think that at the end you will avoid the fate of Narcissus? Lastly, in your Open Letter to your “friend and colleague” Yannis Stournaras, you congratulate him for his appointment to the Ministry of Finance. My question is why congratulating someone who, according to you, by accepting the appointment he will be digging his own grave?

Fallibility of Technocrats No Reason to Debunk them

By Con George-Kotzabasis

“We work in the dark—we do what we can—we give what we have.” Henry James

Science has been built on a “mountain” of errors. No correct policy has arisen—like Athena out of Zeus’s head—from an immaculate conception but from a compilation of corrected mistakes. The task of a wise, imaginative, and intrepid technocrat is not to despair before mistakes, like Professor Yanis Varoufakis, and be pessimistic about the future, but to overcome them. This is the task and challenge of both Mario Monti and Lucas Papademos, whom both professor Varoufakis disparages, as well as, in the case of Greece, of the statesman, Antonis Samaras. But obviously, it is not the task that can be consummated by Professor Varoufakis. Although one must admit that in his Modest Proposal, (MP) with Jonathan Swift’s title, co-authored with Stuart Holland, surprisingly, he takes a positive and optimistic view how to resolve the European crisis. Regrettably, however, economically and politically the MP was found to be flawed and it was demolished by Andreas Koutras’s sharp and acute critique.

Antonis Samaras Will Save Greece from Frightening Catastrophe

By Con George-Kotzabasis May 17, 2012

Professor Varoufakis I don’t share your conclusion that the next election will be as “inconclusive” as the previous one. Already there are signs, and my strong belief is, that Syriza, the radical left party, will be a big loser on June 17 and its fickle flip-flop and slipping, as adumbrated by some recent statements of its chameleon leader Alexis Tsipras, from its original position of denouncing the Memorandum–by which it boosted its electoral results–and by replacing it with its gradual revision, that essentially is no different from the position of New Democracy (ND) and Pasok, will clearly expose it to the electorate as being blatantly inconsistent and fraudulent and therefore no longer trust it as a serious-minded party that could get Greece off  the hook, especially when its political dilettantism, thoughtless and dangerous policies would push Greece out of the Eurozone. Also to consider, as you do, that New Democracy’s and Pasok’s anti-austerity stand is “rhetoric,” is to be a fugitive from reality, especially in the case of Samaras who was the only politician both in Greece and Europe from early on May 2010, to denounce austerity measures as barren without rekindling the economy and led ND not to vote in Parliament the first Memorandum which embodied these infelicitous measures.

Syriza could not have been taken seriously by anyone with a serious disposition in politics, and Varoufakis, who so egregiously supported it prior to the May 6 election, should have known better. All of its leaders, breast-fed by Stalin, Trotsky, and Mao, are habituated and stuck to the nostrums of communism that have been built on sand and have been washed away by the sea long ago. The socialist Pasok, with its preposterous economic policies and political ‘sins’of the past and deep-rooted corruption, has lost all credibility among the populace, and therefore is unable by itself   to get the country out of the crisis. All the other parties with their ‘certified insanity’, and I would include in this group Syriza, are Napoleons locked up in mental institutions.

Ergo, my choice is the much maligned Antonis Samaras who since his incumbency as leader of New Democracy two-and-a-half years ago has demonstrated magnificent qualities of leadership in political and economic insight, in resiliency and swiftness of approach to the critical issues—an example of this was the rejection of the first Memorandum and the forced acceptance of the second in circumstances when Greece was at the edge of the abyss and had to be saved–in his unflappable determination to convince the European leaders that austerity without growth would fail, and in his brilliant success in persuading them of the correctness of his argument and thus opening  the second Memorandum to the necessary modifications that would include growth. Samaras is gifted with high intelligence and a strong character without the big ego  that considers le tout c’est moi, to paraphrase Louis XIV, that often negates the strength of character, and he is the only  Greek leader who has better than a chance to pull Greece out of the crisis.

Professor Proposes Silent Axis between France and Greece Contra Germany

By Con George-Kotzabasis May 10, 2012

It’s interesting that you don’t mention one word about your one night stand with your inamorata Tsipras, the Radical Left leader of Syriza. But it’s obvious that Hollande replaced the latter in your gyrating amours, after the politically and economically inane and embarrassing post-election statements of Tsipras. And it won’t be long before you will be disappointed with President Hollande too with his dealings with Germany and you will be looking for a still more exotic paramour.

You are mired in the past when you still consider that the European leaders continue to push the austerity programme for the southern European countries as the sole measure of getting them out of the economic crisis. In the new economic orchestration of Europe the ‘soloist’ austerity no longer jingles. All the major European leaders, Jose Barroso, Olli Rehn, Chancellor Merkel, Wolfgang Schauble, the top technocrats, Christine Lagarde, Mario Draghi, and Mario Monti, are talking now about economic recovery and growth without which austerity cannot succeed. Thus they have all taken their cue from Antonis Samaras who was the only statesman that sounded this syndrome of austerity and growth two years ago and had quarrelled with Merkel and Sarkozi, for which he had been severely criticised and disparaged by politicians and the media, such as The Economist. All of them however admitted subsequently that Samaras was right. Hence there is already a sounding axis between Greece and the whole of Europe due to the intercession of Antonis Samaras. Moreover, Samaras warned the European leaders that the policies of the first Memorandum would change the political configuration of the country, as they would both give rise to the forces of the extreme left as well as lead to the break-up of social cohesion which in turn would make the country un-governable. These warnings were tragically verified in the elections of May 6. And I pose the question, why Professor Varoufakis you lack the nobility and courage to give credit where credit is due, to Samaras?

You seem to be obsessed with your toy The Modest Proposal that would drag Europe out of its crisis, and not finding any other children to play with it, you have turned into a surly and cantankerous little boy. Since, as its sire along with Stuart Holland, you flagged it more than a year ago you have made so many ‘bastard’ revisions to it, that it has become difficult to identify the ‘true father’. But one thing is for sure, that in your vainglorious pursuit to persuade governments and bankers to adopt it, you will miserably fail. Your Modest Proposal was always a flying kite that would inevitably take its nosedive.

Radical Left Experiments its Policies Using Greeks as Guinea Pigs

The jarring interests of reason and piety [read ideology] Edward Gibbon

By Con George-Kotzabasis

The radical left party of Syriza, led by its green horn, tongue in cheek, know-all adventurist leader Alexis Tsipras, armed with the omniscient Marxist ideology and holding with devotional piety the rosary of communism in both hands, is experimenting its policies using Greeks as guinea pigs. Against all reason and hope, it persists and is determined, if after June 17 it comes to be the new government, one-sidedly to denounce and repudiate the European Memorandum without risking the country’s exit from the Eurozone. Unable to see through the nebulous clouds of their ideology, the materialist Marxists cannot see the reality as embodied in the clear expressions of all European leaders, representing to a high degree the wishes of their constituents respectively, and high technocrats, that such denunciation of the Memorandum would immediately lead to the cessation of all financial help to the stricken country and to the latter’s inevitable return to the drachma and absolute poverty with catastrophic results to the standard of living of the majority of the population. This economic and social break-down of the country would spark a social war of all against all that would crack the foundations of democracy and on whose ruins would be built a fascist state, either of the left or of the right.

Moreover, their hopefulness that the European Union is bluffing and would not dare to turn the financial tap off as such a move would lead to the mutual destruction of Greece and Europe, is a Fata Morgana in view of the fact that all these leaders and technocrats have put their credibility and reputation on the line in regard to the exit, not to mention the other obvious fact that all the Wall Streets, and banks of the world, and evaluative institutions, such as Standard and Poor’s, and Moodies are showing on their financial electronic screens the great possibility of a Greek exit and are making preparations for it. To consider, as Syriza does, that all these political, technocrat, and financial actors are engaging and participating in a grand bluff against Greece, in regard to its exit from Europe, is to be a fugitive from one’s senses; and to ventilate such an idea among the Greek populace, is a gigantic falsehood.

The economic programme of Syriza as presented by its leader Tsipras on May 31, promises a horn of plenty to Greeks with the government’s coffers empty. It promises higher wages, higher pensions, and an extension of unemployment allowances from one to two years, an expansion in the employment of public servants, and full employment in a dateless future, without however indicating where it will find the funds to implement the above measures. Nor does it compute their costs, according to an admission of a prominent economist of Syriza itself. This is unprecedented in the history of electoral campaigns, as pointed out by Antonis Samaras, the leader of New Democracy, when a political party presents its economic policies to the electorate and admitting at the same time that they have not been costed.

This is a populist bag of gifts that only a Santa Claus could deliver to longing and credulous children. Syriza claims falsely that the expenses of these outlays for the above measures will be covered by taxing enterprises, ship-owners, and people on higher incomes, without however specifying the height of these incomes, and by imposing a levy on seven-hundred-thousand households with a net of 2,000 euros. In the present dire recession that the country is in and where enterprises can hardly show even modicum profits in their balance sheets, and where people with higher incomes have been inflicted by a cut of 50% in their salaries(Professor Yanis Varoufakis who teaches economics at Athens University and whose salary was cut by 50%, fled Greece and went to the United States), the claim of Syriza that it will have the funds from these sources to implement its promises, is a swindle of gargantuan magnitude of the Greek people. Moreover, this impossibility of funding its measures from these sources leads to the suspicion, as again pointed out by Samaras, that Syriza has a hidden agenda to impose taxes on ordinary people’s bank deposits and on private property.

Furthermore, Syriza pledges to reverse all previous commitments to privatization and go back to state ownership of all companies that were going to be privatized, and hence continue the increase of bureaucratization, thus bringing back to life all the deadly worms that in the past gnawed and eroded the economic foundations of the country that brought it to its present calamitous state. Also in its foreign policy it commits itself to exit from NATO and seek a new alliance in South America, with such countries like Venezuela and Nicaragua, which, with mathematical precision would lead to the ‘Cubanization’ of Greece as well as leave the country geopolitically defenceless. But this is not surprising since many of Syriza’s higher echelons are strong votaries of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and Hugo Chavez; birds of a feather flock together.

Syriza’s economic and political manifesto is a draft of dangerous irresponsibility and naivety, doctrinal dogmatism and blindness, and swashbuckling political adventurism at its best. With its policies, the fate of Greece’s future generations will be played on the green tables of a casino with Alexis Tsipras playing high stakes poker–which, according to a latest interview he gave on American television, he loves–with other people’s money, and all he has to lose is Greece’s future.