By Dimitri Deliolanes
Greece’s prime minister Alexis Tsipras has moved to unblock the negotiations. It may be the last move in the direction of an “honourable compromise”. If the creditors do not seize the opportunity, then Athens will be forced by the facts to carefully consider the possibility of making dramatic choices. A position repeated the other day by the deputy prime minister Yannis Dragasakis.
The first initiative was to strengthen the negotiating team. Alongside finance minister Yanis Varoufakis the economist Tsakalotos Euclid (University of Kent) has been promoted to coordinate the team, while at the head of the group that will deal with the officials of the Brussels Group (formerly the Troika) now stands the economist Giorgos Houliarakis (University of Manchester), who will also direct the council of experts at the Ministry of Finance.
If Varoufakis has been accused of being an ” inconclusive academic”, here are two other professors of the highest order to refute the delusions of neoliberal German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble. They will be at his side, not in his place. And it will no longer be possible to raise the spectre of the ‘rock star’ minister to block negotiations while the Greek government has shown it will not allow Berlin to choose his ministers: “The views expressed by Varoufakis are not personal rather they respect all the guidelines of the government,” government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis said.
The second move is on content. The Greek government continues to vigorously reject the pressure to go back to the previous policy of austerity. But it is examining the possibility of implementing a number of measures that could meet the demands of the borrowers. Specifically, it is looking at the possibility of limiting early retirement, deeper cuts to supplementary pensions and increasing valued added, or sales tax (VAT) on the islands providing luxury tourism, such as Mykonos.
These are not measures that will be easy to implement, even from the technical point of view. Early retirement pensions are now solely provided to mothers with young children, while complementary pensions have already been cut substantially to the point it is really difficult to identify the privileged citizens to “punish”. As for VAT in the islands, it could be boomerang: less tourists, less consumer spending and therefore lower tax revenues for the state. This already happened in the period 2010- 2013. In the end even the previous right-wing government took the heroic decision to lower VAT to the old levels, ignoring the protests of the Troika, and in so doing increased the flow of tourists along with revenue.
Tsipras is making a show of optimism and is pressing at the political level for the Eurogroup meeting on Wednesday to produce concrete results. That is, the EU will pay the last, 7.2 billion euros tranche of the ‘bail out’ money. Otherwise, Greece is unlikely to be able to make its debt repayments [On May 12 Greece to due to pay the IMF 750 million euros].
While all eyes are turned towards the negotiations, in Athens the government continues to legislate. After having increase – contrary to budget forecasts – tax revenues and social security contributions thanks to the rescheduling of debts, the administration is working flat out with new laws.
Yesterday a new law was enacted that reinstates the public broadcaster ERT (brutally closed by the right wing government in 2013), and today a law will increase from October 1 the minimum wage in the private sector from the current 586 to 650 euros.
In debate at committee stage, there’s legislation that will create some order [and crack down on violence] in the Greek football sector, now chaotically lorded over by oligarchs; cameras will be installed, and access controlled, transparency in refereeing, budgets independently verified.
The Syriza Government is trying to do the same with private broadcasters, another oligarchic fiefdom: they have already asked for the payment of taxes due since 2011 and will auction the frequencies for TV channels, which the companies use but never formally paid for.
Translation/edit by Revolting Europe