The lights in the boardroom of SYRIZA’s party offices on Koumoundourou Square have not gone out recently. There, on the third floor, is the "headquarters" of the economic team of the radical left and all those who determine its economic policy. The key figure in this process is the economist Yiannis Dragasakis, aged 65, who is also the sole party representative with government experience. The man, who was one of the leading figures in the Communist Party until 1991 and had participated in Synaspismos left coalition since its inception, was elected a member of the Coalition of the Left and Progress in the elections in June 1989. So, Yiannis Dragasakis participated in the government of Xenophon Zolotas as Deputy Minister of Economy.
People who know him describe him as "rigid and inflexible in terms of socialist perspective," but also as tactically flexible because he brings "the realism of everyday life."
Another definition, "grounded in reality," is related to his education. Yiannis Dragasakis studied political science and economics at Greek and foreign universities, he worked as a researcher and adviser in different companies, was a member of the mission of the Greek Parliament in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
It was he, who put limits to the various statements by SYRIZA’s members after the elections on 6 May, saying, "We are not talking about unilateral actions (regarding the cancellation of the bailout agreement – author’s note). On the contrary, we recognize that we are structurally dependent on the European Union. So, we are talking about renegotiating everything, unless we are forced to take unilateral actions."
However, the members of SYRIZA’s "economic quartet" failed to avoid the differences in their speeches, namely Yiannis Dragasakis as well as the economists Yiannis Statakis, Yiannis Milios and Euklidis Tsakalotos. There were differences among them, but not of a political and strategic nature, as they all agree that the Memorandum should be replaced with a national plan for the recovery of Greece. Their differences were related to the methods and measures a leftist government should adopt on a "transient changes level," as the party headquarters indicated.
When the professor of political economy at the University of Crete Yiannis Statakis began appearing in television debates and talking about fiscal stability and public expenditure, which "do not require major changes," he was subject to left criticism from SYRIZA and not only. He was accused of being "formal" and of using common terminology. He does not seem irritated by these definitions and acknowledges that his positions are due to "uncontrollable pragmatism." Yiannis Statakis has a long academic career, during which he was a researcher at New York University and Harvard.
On the other hand, the person in charge of the economic policy of SYRIZA and professor of political economy at the Polytechnic School in Athens Yiannis Milios was more inclined to oppose. He had said before the election on 6 May, "The turnover of a large number of companies, say several thousands of the largest companies in the country, could be taxed at rate of 1%. It would bring more than 1 billion euro into the state treasury." As the party indicates, Yiannis Milios has always argued in favour of the need for "alternative thinking" and he is one of those willing to "go beyond the realism of the present moment." In October 1982, he was the co-founder of the quarterly magazine for politics and economics with the name "These," which he manages even today. In one of his most recent articles, he analyzed the contribution of the Cultural Revolution in China to the communist movement and Marxism.
Professor at the Economic University of Athens, Euklidis Tsakalotos, aged 51, is of the same opinion. He graduated from Oxford University and taught at the University of Kent. Elected a deputy in the elections in May, he pleaded for a European solution to the debt crisis in Greece and for the need of pursuing a policy of social solidarity.
At the time of drawing up the plan proposed by SYRIZA, Gabriel Sakelaridis, who is a coordinator of the party department for economic policy, presented the generation of those aged 30. He was the man familiar with all written proposals on the economy made by party's representatives and with their research. He also played the role of a "mobile library" of economic data in proving the positions. He graduated from the Economic University of Athens, got an MA from New York and is now a doctoral student in economics at the University of Athens.
The "open eye" on international economic issues,who informed about everything that was happening in other countries, was Yiannis Evstatopoulos. He is an economist and researcher at the Institute for Employment at the trade union of private sector employees.
Friends of the drachma
There are economists in SYRIZA who have repeatedly expressed the view that Greece should leave the euro area. One of the most vocal among them is Yiannis Tolios who is a member of the left wing in SYRIZA. He and Panagiotis Lafazanis have been dealing with economic issues at a party level for years now although they studied mathematics. They also participated in drawing up the economic programme of the party that Alexis Tsipras presented on 1 June, but played no role in its finishing.