greek crisis

The miracle that didn’t happen

The September 20 elections in Greece had generated the hope that perhaps a miracle might take place. No, I am talking about a possible victory by New Democracy—the massive misinformation by the Syriza spin machine and the traditionally impressionable Greek electorate had all but ruled that possibility. But some of us had hoped that if Syriza was given a second chance, Mr. Tsipras might grab the opportunity to correct the mistakes of his first administration.

The first Syriza coalition government from January to August 2015 revealed substantive ignorance and procedural ineptitude throughout its short life. The economic team comprised inexperienced economists-turned-politicians, who ignored the simple arithmetic of the budget and disregarded policies and procedures of the international organizations with which they were negotiating. In the beginning, the Syriza government was given the benefit of the doubt and the European partners and the IMF were willing to make compromises (both in substance and in form, such as changing the name of the “Troika” to “Institutions” and moving the locus of the negotiations from Athens to Brussels) to move the process forward. By the end of April, the Syriza negotiators had become the laughing stock of their counterparts and the process came to an abrupt end on July 12, when Prime Minister Tsipras himself was forced to sign a European Summit Agreement that ushered in the third bailout agreement.

With this as background, my hope was that three elements could materialize after Sunday’s elections. First, the new government would reflect a broad-based coalition regardless of the election outcome. In other words, the expectation was that, in victory, Mr. Tsipras would extend an olive branch and reach out to his willing opponents to impress the need for a government of national unity under the current dramatic circumstances. Second, technocrats with specialized expertise would be appointed to the key economic ministries (under a broad definition) to forge ahead systematically and effectively with the implementation of the commitments under the third, very tough bailout agreement signed in August. Third, perhaps the new government would consider asking parliament for extraordinary legislative powers to move the process forward, much as the US Treasury and Federal Reserve in 2008 sought special dispensation from Congress to bypass normal channels of approval and accountability.

Regrettably, none of these elements materialized in the second Tsipras administration. Some external observers were not opposed to giving Syriza a “second chance”. But a “second chance” typically implies that people learn from their mistakes and are prepared to adjust their behavior or policies accordingly. Not so with Mr. Tsipras. His second government differs little from the first. The miracle that didn’t happen has now paved the way for an accelerated exit of Greece from the Eurozone.

2 Comments

  1. H.Trickler says:

    When I started analyzing the reasons for the Greek disaster I also hoped that a miracle might happen:

    The Greek government really reforming the country in such a broad way that its economy would become competitive.

    Now, many years later, with many Greek citizens in rough waters, we must see that miracles can no longer be expected.

    As you correctly say, the way for an accelerated exit of Greece from the Eurozone is paved.

    I expected the Grexit to happen before the referendum and with the clear cut “no” of the Greek population I thought Tsipras had the chance to go that route.

    Syriza had said (before December 2014) that only with Grexit the country could regain it’s dignity and self determination – that was correct and will be true in future.

    Not that I think that after Grexit there will be easy times, but at least the government, media and population can no longer play the blame game and say that it is somebody else fault.

  2. Yiorgos Anayiotos says:

    Unfortunately, the truth of the matter is that both the Eropean partners and the Greek voters gave the Tsipras government more rope to hung itself. How is it possible that everyone pretends not to regognize it?

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