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Tag Archives: Greek Parliament

Let us imagine for a moment that there is another Greece, where everything works as it should. Or that chaos, corruption and lack of planning are limited to reasonable levels instead of where they are now. These days, with mounting police violence, starving people and the economy collapsing everyday, I can’t help thinking that the average African dictator would feel right at home in Greece.

But let us suppose that it is not so.

Suddenly, while everyday life is progressing more or less normally and the elections are coming up, police vans appear in the streets to pick up illegal immigrants, corrupt politicians are arrested, the German war reparations issue is put forward officially, potholes in the streets are covered up, legislation for families in serious debt is being drafted in the Parliament…

Former ministers are making candid speeches on TV about the hard decisions they were forced to take and about the price they paid for them…

Even if everything was well and fine, even if Greece was not a country (like many others today, I have to admit) where our intelligence and our dignity are being tried each and every day, even then there would be a certain feeling of annoyance.

We would realize this charade for what it is. Or this show, that is being put on for luring in the votes, one more time. But this is NOT Greece in the happy haze of 2004. People are not annoyed. They are a pot simmering with anger, which has been building up for the past two years.

And the police vans release suspects not two blocks away from where they were picked up. Politicians and those who owe millions to the Greek state are being arrested solely for the benefit of big headlines. The files containing the very valid and just case of Greece against Nazi war crimes, including a forced “loan” which was never repaid, were lost and left to gather dust for at least 20 years. Favourable legislation for households in great debt is being planned only because our prisons are filled to the brim and there is little room for poor sods who owe a few thousand to the banks. Either because they could not deal with their expenses or because they were simply too careless with their credit card.

And one of the so-called saviours of our country, our former Minister of Finance, even though he is being mauled (for a change) by a reporter about his actions leading to the troika memorandum, still has the gall to protest about not being able to have a cup of coffee with his wife in public.

Instead of being ashamed to show his face among people who can no longer afford to have a coffee, or even to eat, because of his destructive austerity measures. Instead of sitting before a court in order to explain what was the reasoning behind accepting loans at exorbitant interest rates which will be impossible to pay off.

The proof to that can be plainly seen in the breakdown of our latest loan instalment.  The entire total of 3.3 billion Euros which the Greek state received was deposited into accounts to the benefit of our creditors. Not only did we not keep one cent from this “aid”, but we actually had to pay 46 million Euros as… commission to the banks.

Total: -46.000.000 Euros. The state bleeds money, our creditors profit and the show goes on.

The repayment of our new loan commences next year. Supposing that our economy has not collapsed by then, we will simply be unable to cover our loan payments, even if we somehow manage to reach a primary surplus within a year.

At that point, total bankruptcy, which our governments are supposedly doing everything they can to avoid, will be inevitable. Greece will be forced to hand over its assets to its creditors for a fraction of their real value and it will be doomed to perpetual national and financial servitude. The first colony on European soil in modern history.

We have had just about enough of this act. We can no longer tolerate a state where nothing ever moves towards the right direction, except during pre-election times. And even then, just for show.

We have watched this play before. Many times. The ending is always bad and progressively getting worse. But now we are prepared. Behind their hastily assembled stage scenery their plans for the immediate future are obvious.

We know why taxation bills were delayed this year. Because when Greek taxpayers (those that cannot evade taxes by depositing money abroad or in off-shore companies) will be asked to pay taxes which they cannot possibly afford, the government will claim that it has a “fresh mandate”, that “there is no alternative” and that “they are sorry, but…”

We know about the taxes that will be imposed right after the elections. We know about the new measures that are being prepared for June. We know that you are raising steel walls around the Parliament, which no longer represents the Greek people. We know that the troika aims to lower our wages to levels on par with Bulgaria. While we pay EU level prices for all basic goods.

What we also also aware of is that this “solution” which you are trying to sell for the past two years will lead nowhere. That is not just our opinion, it’s not just common sense, it has also been verified by distinguished economists from all around the world, including Nobel prize winner, Joseph Stiglitz.

For two years, our government has been engaged in a misinformation campaign, armed with fake dilemmas, such as: “Euro or drachma” and “Memorandum or bankruptcy”. In truth, they are attempting to hide the real problem, which is simply that the two-party system continues to rule even after bringing Greece to the very edge of ruin. Euro, drachma, dollar or ruble be damned. With this kind of leadership Greece is going nowhere.

The true dilemma is “mindset change or ruin”. For all of us, Greek or not.

Intermission #10

It’s the disease of the age
It’s the disease that we crave
Alone at the end of the rave
We catch the last bus home

Corporate America wakes
Coffee republic and cakes
We open the latch on the gate
Of the hole that we call our home

Protect me from what I want…
Protect me protect me

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And on the tenth day after the Greek Parliament voted for the new memorandum, the second “bailout” plan for Greece was approved by the Eurogroup. And today by the Bundestag. And there was much rejoicing.

Hold on a second. Why all this joy and relief by the foreign and domestic press alike? Why are those who voted for the new memorandum –the prerequisite for the new bailout plan- patting themselves on the back? Because they claim that bankruptcy was averted? Do we have any idea what they approved? Do those who approved the plan know the “specifics”?

I seriously doubt it. Just a few short weeks ago, both former and active Ministers and MPs admitted that they had in fact NOT read the first memorandum, even though they approved it! Now we know for a fact that this new agreement was a badly translated rendition of an already shady original.

Full of omissions and vague wordings, especially concerning the definition of “mandatory law” which governs the enforcement of the agreement’s terms, this loan agreement is practically begging to be abused.

Because, in essence, the memorandum is exactly that: a loan agreement.

Let us suppose now that the Greek MPs were common people who wished to sign a mortgage agreement in order to pay off their debts. Would anyone in their right mind sign a paper with empty spaces where numbers were supposed to be and with vague phrasings, easily twisted by greedy bankers looking to steal their home?

If they were just a tiny bit practical, wouldn’t they ask questions?  Wouldn’t they read the agreement more thoroughly?

And yet 199 of 300 MPs agreed to mortgage our home on these uncertain and unrealistic terms, conceding the right to any of our creditors to make claims against Greece before the courts of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

Ignorance, negligence, and the intention to deceive the Greek people are evident from the statements of all those who approved the new memorandum. One of them stands out above the rest, however, and comes from the very architect of political unaccountability in Greece.

Evangelos Venizelos, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, stated, “…we are pleased to inform the Greek people that we have just lifted 100 billion Euros off their back, more than 50% of our GNP.”

The grand deception lies in the lifting of the “100 billion”. Quite simply, 63 billion of this total is in Greek hands, mostly owned by banks of Greece and Cyprus. These banks will require “direct hair implantation” by the Greek state right after the PSI haircut, if they are to avoid collapse.

The cost of bank bailout is estimated at 30-40 billion Euros, which will be drawn, unsurprisingly from the 130 billion which we just borrowed. The largest part of the remaining 100 billion will be used to pay off our previous loans and interests.

Mr. Venizelos further stated that “our country has been granted a new opportunity, one which we must grasp, primarily on the level of financial and social psychology.” This was probably the only speck of truth in his entire statement, if “primarily” is replaced with “solely”, since there is no other benefit to be found.

The only purpose of this agreement is to reassure the Greek people, give time to our EU partners to prepare for the all but inevitable formal declaration of bankruptcy of Greece and, of course, add even more debt on our backs.

Theoretically, the goal of our debt reaching 120% of our GNP by 2020 is achievable. About as achievable as the development of FTL propulsion technology by Greece by the same date, given the monumental inadequacy of our current administration.

And that’s because all estimates claiming that such a thing is possible, blissfully disregard the fact that the recession in Greece is not slowing, but increasing at the rate of an avalanche. 60000 businesses are expected to shut down in 2012, according to a National Confederation of Hellenic Commerce report. Unemployment is skyrocketing, with an estimated 1 million unemployed people in Greece and growing, and the internal market is grinding to a halt.

The GNP of Greece is state-dependent to an excessive degree, a sad but undeniable fact. As public funding and expenditure is limited, the GNP will inevitably shrink. The Greek public sector must be restructured and businesses must find ways to support themselves without the help of the state, but such a change would take time. The repercussions of an abrupt change cannot be ignored for the sake of ill-conceived bailout plans.

Unfortunately, estimates putting the Greek debt close to 160% of its GNP by 2020 (or even higher) are probably much more realistic.

The greatest problem of Greece, however, is neither the new memorandum, nor the troika, nor Angela Merkel and her ilk. The greatest problem of this country is us Greeks. As long as we continue to support or tolerate our corrupt political system, no amount of rescuing, either honest or guided by ulterior motives, is going to save us.

An excellent example of this corruption is the recent ruling of the Greek Council of State, claiming that the first memorandum was not in violation of our Constitution. Among other outrageous claims, the Greek Council of State deemed that the agreement was not in fact an international treaty.

So an agreement, originally drafted in English, between the Greek state, 14 other countries, the KfW development bank, and two international organizations is NOT an international treaty.

I did not include the IMF along with the other two organizations (ECB and EC), as it has not signed the initial agreement and furthermore has recently expressed doubts about the new one. Members of the IMF are expressing concerns about OUR rights. Not our government, but members of an international organization are opposing a revision of the Greek Constitution.

A revision which, after all, benefits them.

The image of a starving dog comes to mind. One that looks so pathetic, that even the dog catcher is reluctant to euthanize it. Even if that is exactly what he does for a living.

And that’s because Greece is not seen as a “mutt”, it is not (usually considered) a third-world country. It is not even Argentina which, even when it was very prosperous, was still part of Latin America, seen as “lesser” part of the world by unscrupulous “civilized” Westerners. And thus considered “fair game” for the rich and powerful.

Deep inside, every international banker, economist, politician knows that Greece is the cradle of Western civilization, the birthplace of art, democracy and science. Even Mrs. Merkel’s name (Angela Dorothea), is Greek. But neither she, nor anyone else can truly respect us, when we do not respect ourselves.

When we do nothing to stop these power-mongering puppets we call politicians from driving our country to ruin.

Our EU partners and international creditors can only pity us, just a bit, before putting us out of our misery. Or into it.

Intermission #5