The video of my comment in Press TV’s News in Brief program on the conclusion of the 2nd review of the Greek Adjustment Program and its inability to solve the Greek crisis.
The transcript of the comment is the following:
Comment in Press TV News in Brief program on the conclusion of the 2nd review of the Greek Adjustment Program and its inability to solve the Greek crisis
The technical agreement (SLA) between the troika of Greece’s lenders (IMF-EU-ECB) – because a political agreement has to follow as well – is a sham. The whole bunch of declarations by the the IMF and the EU and the SYRIZA government are pretentious and not telling the truth. The Greek economy is in shambles. It is in a terrible condition with recession reigning for the seventh consecutive year. The Adjustment Program imposed upon the country by the EU and the IMF has aggravated this situation. Each review of this program and the additional austerity measures that are being taken within this program in order to bring it back in its own tracks aggravate further the recession of the Greek economy and the poverty of the great majority of the Greek people. In these conditions a dirty game is being played between the major partners of these agreements. The EU wants to impose these agreements upon Greece but it requires the tacit agreement of the IMF (that is by the US). The US, on the other hand, fear that they throw a lot of money in the desperate Greek case and also the new Trump administration has taken a more tough line towards the EU. This was the reason for which the negotiations for this second review took too long. That is the IMF created problems. The junior partner of this deal, that is the Greek government of SYRIZA, has capitulated completely. It gives whatever the foreign lenders require so long as the new austerity measures required are not to be applied during this and the next year. But to be applied by 2019, that is after the expiration of the SYRIZA government. This means that the new government would bear the costs and the burden of the new austerity measures. In total the new agreement does not solve the Greek crisis but it aggravates it as it puts another 3.5 to 4 bn euros austerity cuts upon a very weak economy. So, the problems lay ahead.
Following is the transcript of my intervention in today’s News in Press TV (that was marred by connection problems):
PRESS TV NEWS item:
Greece says it cannot comply with labor reforms demanded by the IMF as a condition for a third bailout.
Greek Labor Minister George Katrougalos said his government considers the IMF’s demand as a ban on the right of workers to negotiate wages and conditions on a collective basis. Katrougalos noted that a breakdown with the IMF on the issue could jeopardize its financing of the 96-billion dollar bailout and could undermine overall confidence in the deal. The labor Minister said however that Greece can no longer tolerate the deterioration of its workers’ state. Talks are set to be held on Wednesday between Greece and an EU-IMF mission over the country’s bailout future.
This whole affair is a masquerade. It is a cheat game between IMF, EU and the SYRIZA government. The sad thing is that Greece and its people are paying the cost of this masquerade.
Let us decipher this cheat game.
The IMF, which primarily expresses the geopolitical and economic interests of the US, pressurizes
- the EU for a new Greek debt haircut. This is vehemently rejected by the EU (and Germany in particular)
- Greece for even more austerity and anti-popular reforms. Part of this new package is the more barbaric deregulation of labour relations (whose previous waves of deregulation have contributed to a dramatic increase in unemployment and an equally dramatic decrease in wages).
The IMF blackmails the other two that, unless its conditions are being met, it won’t participate in the third bailout and austerity programme for Greece that the SYRIZA government signed.
The EU wants a strict implementation of the austerity programme without a debt haircut. It considers only the case of an insubstantial debt reprofilling and that after the forthcoming German elections. It does not object in principle to more barbaric labour relations deregulation. But, on the other hand, it is more sensitive than the IMF to the possible disastrous political repercussions of such a move. Especially, it worries that such a bold move might rekindle social resistance – that is dormant after SYRIZA’s betrayal of the anti-austerity movement – and lead to uncontrolled political changes.
Finally, the terribly incompetent and untrustworthy SYRIZA government is the underdog in this cheat game. It simply tries to save its skin and cling as long as possible in power (given its already very low popularity). It might accept another wave of labour relations deregulation if it goes together with even an insubstantial debt reprofilling (that they think that they can ‘sell’ to the Greek public). Their problem is that they have no real power (either economic or in the form of popular support) to press their own objectives. So they are simply trying to find room to play between the positions of the two other big players. On top of that the SYRIZA government and particularly its Minister of Labour are habitual liars. A recent example of this is their public declarations that pensions will not be cut at the very same time that they literally ‘massacre’ them. So the minister’s supposedly intransigent declaration against the IMF’s demands does not hold much water.
Published in COUNTERPUNCH
September 15, 2016
Interview on the popular upheaval against the SYRIZA pension reform plans for the Iranian Press TV
The SYRIZA government negotiations with the EU are futile.
There is no room for a course supporting popular and national interests within the EU
During the recent months the entire Greek society follows the thriller of the negotiations of the SYRIZA-ANELL coalition with the EU. The SYRIZA-ANELL coalition is striving for a essentially a relaxation of the troika (EU – IMF – ECB) Economic Adjustment Programme for Greece. It has already reneged on its electoral promises for a completely different course and has already accepted more than 85% of this disastrous programme (according to G.Varoufakis’ declarations). What the SYRIZA-ANELL coalition is trying to achieve is a mitigation of the troika austerity (lower primary surpluses, no cuts in pensions, milder taxation etc.), facilitation of debt servicing (through an extension and financial trickery) and development aid. This aim does not rectify the devastating impact of the troika programme nor charts a different perspective for the people and the country. The intransigent attitude of the lenders shows that even these cosmetic changes are not acceptable. They demand direct and violent new measures that would worsen Greece’s economic depression. It should be noted that the previous New Democracy-PASOK government had already accepted these measures through the infamous mail Hardouvelis (its last Finance minister who in his spare (from ‘saving the country’) time endeavoured in exporting his deposits abroad). The humiliating troika demands are supported by the majority of the domestic elite that, as recent studies show, has profiteered from the austerity programme. But for the vast majority of the Greek working people this road is a dead end. Even a milder Economic Adjustment Programme leads to a prolonged impoverishment of the working people and the further denigration of the country to a servant of the EU rulers. The only way for a pro-popular course for the country passes through the painful but promising confrontation and disengagement from the EU (and not simply from the EMU).
Professor of Political Economy
University of Macedonia