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Who's Your Daddy, Greece?

Greek leader and Syriza politician Alexis Tsipiras' stunning new change of attitude in Brussels (PIC: mindfulmum.co.uk)

by Preston Clive

Another day, another grand drama. One day it is powerful Ulysses lulled into beauteous oblivion by the sweet song of the Sirens, and today it is the Greek cabinet drawing up a list of reforms for submission today in Brussels .  .  .  governmental reforms to present to the (now renamed) Troika in order to seal the deal for the financial lifeline that will keep the country floating on the sea of the euro. A very troubled, choppy set of waters, but that is the nature of European currents nowadays.

By far the largest contributor to Greece's previous bailouts is Germany, to the tune of 240 bn euro. It is Germany that constitutes the most severe and unforgiving hurdle for any proposal to leap for the Greeks to get where they need to be. They need to submit a plan that has a hope of showing the ministers in Brussels that Greece is serious about running a tight ship, of reigning in waste and mismanagement, of bringing order to total nonperforming chaos, etc etc yadda yadda. 

Before a single leaf of 8.5 x 11 inch paper was even produced by the Greeks, Germany roared that any increase in spending had better be offset by higher taxes or simple savings elsewhere.

This in an extremely difficult spot that Tsipiras' green Syriza party has found itself in back home. It has gone--in terms of public rhetoric--from talking to the eurozone minsters as though the Greek Political Reality Back Home (with its hatred of austerity and desire to treat as a fait accompli the idea of the bailout program as long DOA) was Europe's Automatic Reality .  .  . to now having to perform an about face and talk to the Greek people with a neutered voice and a need to speak with the larger European Reality having now become (as a fait accompli) their reality.

Tsipiras may be in a rush to declare victory for appearances, but there are rather loud voices--on the left in particular--that ain't buying the proclamation for a single hot minute. The country has gone from one ruled by a fiery new leader who spoke his citizens' minds with eloquence and legitimate unbending passion, to one ruled by a party clobbered by the difficult dose of reality that socked them in the gut at the end of last week. Unable to trumpet throwing austerity in the wastebasket as desired, Tsipiras is finding victory in minor petards which he chooses to hoist.

"The list will include a series of reforms that the Greek government will propose - and I underline that," government spokesman Gabriel Sakellaridis proudly chirped. "Above all, they will be socially just reforms that aim to fight tax evasion, to fight corruption. We aim for this list to be accepted by the partners. This is why there are consultations and discussions with the partners so that there is a mutually beneficial solution."

To which Manolis Glezos, a veteran leftist politician dryly sniffed,

"Renaming the troika as 'institutions', the bailout as an 'agreement' and creditors as 'partners' ... does not change the previous situation," he wrote online in his political blog. "I apologise to the Greek people because I took part in this illusion,"

Ouch. Tsipiras went from hero to zero in no time flat. 

In the end, Tsipiras had little choice but to avoid collapse. Just on Friday alone there was an outflow of capital from Greece's banks to the tune of one billion Euros with no sign that the run on the country's banks is abating. 25 Percent of the populace is out of work. The number of non performing loans is staggering. 

Sources close to the story say that the draft reform proposal sits at about 3 pages and contains, according to The Guardian,

 new policies aimed at improving tax revenue, combating widespread tax evasion among the wealthy, cracking down on the illicit cigarettes and petrol trade, and other campaign pledges from Alexis Tsipras

Insiders close to the Greek internal situation said that clamping down on various aspects of economic crime proceeding unchecked by the government could yield the government somewhere in the ballpark of 7 billion euros.

To get an idea of the heights the rhetoric is soaring to within Greece with gents like Glezos, you can read his blog post here. If you'd like to see it play out within a larger interplay, read here

Reality, not Germany or the Troika, is Greece's daddy, to close the loop here. The hard left is long on critique, but short on specific proposals on what Syriza was supposed to do in Brussels if not make concessions. Short of an actual magic wand to manipulate the minds of opponents, were they supposed to charge full bore into withdrawal from the zone, allow the banks to collapse until outflow controls are invoked, fire up the printing presses, crank out drachma, and see if they could get loans floated from China?

Historically miserable situations rarely have awesome, really really appealing solutions that make you smile and leave you feeling clean and fresh all day long. Recovery from record-setting misery usually requires misery. 

Preston Clive

2/23/2015***