Saturday, 6 March 2010

ND votes against the Greek austerity plan

Prime Minister George Papandreou has finally realised the gravity of Greece’s macroeconomic situation, at least as regards the public debt. The latest round of tax cuts and revenue raises is a good further addition, and possibly the only serious, quantifiable measures announced to date. My own doubts about the government’s Stability and Growth Agreement targets have been fully verified by Greece’s European partners, and have to some extent now been addressed in the short term, but I must warn that few of these measures are permanent, and that there are still too many open questions regarding the public debt and the general issue of macroeconomic competitiveness.

This present post is dedicated to New Democracy, the main opposition party under Antonis Samaras. By voting against the austerity package voted yesterday in Parliament, ND is doing a disservice to the Greek economy, and to Greek society.

We have before us an austerity plan which was developed with the agreement of the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission. No, it is not perfect. However, it is the first serious attempt by the government to solve the situation, and reassure Greece’s international partners and the markets.

Instead of voting against it, ND should have voted for it. We are not living in a utopian society. Yes, there are other possibilities for debt reduction, but frankly, there is little time to address them, and the present plan is better than no plan at all, particularly since it has the blessing of Greece’s main institutional partners.

Beyond this, there is an equal lack of clarity or detail in ND’s "plan" (really just a list of policy announcements), which does not provide for a means-tested debt reduction, and in many ways is equally regressive for lower-income segments of the population.

In a time of national crisis, the opposition should function as a loyal opposition. This, ND has not done, all protestations of innocence to the contrary. It will gain few political benefits from its vote, since most citizens correctly blame it for most of the situation the country is currently in. By adopting to score political points in a time of crisis, all ND proves is that Greece is ungovernable: it will face the same tactics when it is the party in power (much as it has faced them in the past).

I believe that most citizens can now see the political machinations of PASOK and ND for the sham that they are. Successive governments led by these two parties have bankrupted the country and destroyed the moral fabric of society by fostering a culture of nepotism, corruption and hapless inefficiency. Let’s hope that in the future, one of these parties becomes a party governing in the real interests of the country, or that an alternative party can be founded which does.

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