Now, as I read in the papers, they have done just that! An unbelievable accomplishment! Or is it perhaps not?
First a comment regarding the integrity of election promises and actions taken after being elected. In an ideal world, parties would do when in power exactly what they promised during the elections. From that standpoint, the coalition parties cheated their voters.
However: in unusual times of national emergencies, responsible parties may understand what needs to be done but they may also understand that they will never be elected to do it if they are honest about their intentions during the election campaign. The logic would be: promise voters whatever they want to hear just so that you get elected and, once in power, you can do whatever is responsible and best for the country.
As I said, in unusual times of national emergencies, such actions may be justified. I believe Greece was/is in a situation where such an action was justified (particularly when considering the alternatives).
Will these decisions solve Greece’s problems? They will certainly solve the problem of the next weeks and months. Some may say “What’s the big deal? All they did was to agree to do what they should have done months ago!” True. But what they really did was to agree on something which was totally unimaginable only one month ago; something which will increase the hardship on large parts of Greek society; something whose outcome is definitely uncertain; etc. Against the latter background, it is an accomplishment where the Troika has no choice but to reward it with continued funding.
The major weakness of all of this is the same as it has been since the start of the crisis. If I were a Greek, I would not have the feeling that the government agreed on measures which they always wanted to implement and where they are convinced that they will improve the economic condition of Greece. Instead, I would be convinced that the only reason they did it was because they were with their backs against the wall and had no choice but to comply with those “neoliberal foreign creditors”.
Alexis Tsipras can look forward to some wonderful months where he can stir such feelings and emotions among the Greeks!
Did the government have a choice? At this time, no. Does the government have a choice going forward? Yes, it still does!
The importance of meeting financial targets is highly overrated. We have now seen about 8 quarters since the first rescue package of May 2010, as well as 8 quarterly reviews. Greece has not been in compliance ever. And still, Greece is still in business.
Financial targets should ideally be complied with but the much more important aspect is that financial targets should always be agreed to. Once you have agreed to them, you have gained time to take care of those things which are really important. And if you successfully take care of those things, no one will worry so much about the fact that you have – once again – missed the financial targets.
So, here you have it: to agree on these austerity measures was the right thing to do provided that this is understood as having gained time to work on the really important issues. How much time was gained? I would guess not much more than two more quarterly reviews; perhaps three. And how should the government use that time?
Well, if I were a “regular Greek” (i. e. someone who does not have special insights into economic affairs), I would say the following today: “I have no idea what our government plans to do to turn this country around and to make our lives better again, other than making foreign creditors happy. I don’t give a damn about making foreign creditors happy. Instead, I would like to make my family happy and see that my children have a future in this country!”
If the government does not use the limited time now available to take those measures which really promise a better future for Greeks and, equally importantly!, if it does not succeed in communicating this covincingly to the Greek population, they will not succeed (even if what they do were, objectively, the right thing to do).
The graveyards of the world are full of people who were right!
The parks of the world are full of statues of people who were perceived as having done the right things!