The new Greek cabinet; Photo: tovima.gr
After political instability that lasted almost two months, Greece finally has a government. This has somewhat appeased its citizens and its European partners. GRReporter talked with one of the commentators of the big Greek daily, Ta Nea, Takis Theodoropoulos about whether it would manage to deal with the problems and what would be the causes if it failed.
Mr. Theodoropoulos, how do you see the new government?
We had reached a situation in which we did not know whether we would have a government or not. It lasted two months and this means that the political life of the country has reached zero point, if not dropped below it.
To be honest, I expected a more active participation of the parties that support the new cabinet. Their absence seems like fear of sharing the responsibility.
The cabinet can be defined as a government of New Democracy, involving some individuals who do not belong to this party. It involves all members of Kostas Karamanlis’ team from 2009, which dragged us into the catastrophe. On the other hand, I would say that the government involves some serious people, who inspire confidence, such as Minister of Finance Vassilis Rapanos and Minister of Administrative Reform Antonis Manitakis.
The question is whether this government will be able to work. I do not mean only how the parties that support it will manage to agree on the first problem in the relations with our European partners. It is more than certain that there will be such problems. Things are not easy.
The second issue is whether the government will be able to function, since none of the previous ones managed to do it for a simple reason: It is that all of them think of their things and promise different things without taking into account the basic problem of Greece at the moment. And it is that the country has no public administration. When it is absent, no country can function.
As we have seen, however, in the agreement between them, the three parties pledged to make no layoffs in the public sector. If they meet this obligation, they will have to reduce wages in order to achieve the budgetary targets. It is an open secret that the majority of civil servants stop working after a 30 % decrease. Therefore, the public administration once again will not be operating. How do you think the government could handle this situation?
Frankly, I do not know. Antonis Samaras yesterday called for "work, work, work." How many times have we heard those words? And what do they mean, anyway? Work is to walk from one office to another and carry files.
The question is: Are they able to evaluate employees in order to separate the healthy parts of the administration, to support them and to purge the "diseased tissue"? Nothing indicates that they are able to do it. Not intending to be a prophet of bad events but I think that the moment we face this problem, Greece will return in a few months to the position it was in a few days ago. But under bad conditions, because time is passing to our detriment. I can definitely say I am pessimistic and I sincerely hope that the events will refute me.
On the other hand, we have an opposition, which I think is not able to offer a convincing plan for governing. It is only able to reproach the government like we the journalists do. But we are not the opposition, we are only commenting on the events.
Is the promise of renegotiating the terms of the memorandum the parties have made reasonable?
Yes, we could say that it is reasonable. The ambiguity is that they use the term "renegotiation" without explaining what this means. It is assumed that they would initially start with extending the term of the payment of duties. It is also assumed that some circles in Europe accept this to some extent. What will happen after that? What is it they intend to renegotiate?
My position is that unless the problem of public administration is solved, Greece has no argument to negotiate. This is a mistake made from the outset by the first government of George Papandreou. In my opinion, the first mistake for which we are paying now is that when it became clear how deep the crisis was, the government of Papandreou did not draw up a national plan to emerge from it but went to our European partners and said, "tell us what to do." And they told us what to do. I still doubt that we have a plan even today.
Do you expect the protests to intensify if the government decides to further cut wages and raise taxes despite the promise that it would not do so?
I think the only reason that there are no protests is because people are already very tired and hopeless. But the fact is that they will collapse the few standing parts of society.
We know very well that the problem of not only Greece but also across Europe, which is quite pressing here, is the middle class. It is the biggest victim of the crisis. Those who are very wealthy have not been affected and unfortunately, the very poor were poor before that. The middle class is the one that has planned its life in one way and the events developed in the opposite direction. The middle class supported the two major parties in Greece, PASOK and New Democracy, and that is why they broke up. I am not sure how democracy can function without the middle class because we know from history that it has just put it to the fore. The big problem in Europe is focused right here.
We have seen that small reformist parties had no success in the elections. Why can’t they find response in society?