Watching Antonis Samaras’ speech at the Thessaloniki International Exhibition, the only word I could think of to describe his performance was “unreal.”
The entire speech sounded like an election campaign speech: lots of criticism, lots of promises, no real plan for the immediate future.
Some statements were simply absurd. Here’s one example:
Όταν ματαίωσε και τα μέτρα που είχε προγραμματίσει η προηγούμενη κυβέρνηση. Όταν συνέχισε να μοιράζει «παροχές»! Κι όλα αυτά στοίχησαν στον Προϋπολογισμό της χρονιάς εκείνης σχεδόν 10 δισεκατομμύρια! Τα 10 από τα 36 δισεκατομμύρια έλλειμμα του 2009 ήταν δημιούργημα του τελευταίου τρίμηνου!
Mr. Samaras claims that EUR 10 bln of the EUR 36 bln final deficit in 2009 was due to cancelled actions that the ND government “had planned,” and due to hand-outs. This statement ignores the fact that much of ND’s campaign promises in 2009 were based on cuts, which had not been implemented, let alone planned. They were campaign promises. It also ignores the fact that in the 6 years Prime Minister Karamanlis was in power, Greece’s deficit increased by at least EUR 143 bln. This is exclusively the responsibility of the ND government, of which Antonis Samaras was a minister.
Here’s another example:
Όμως, η ελληνική φύση δεν δίνει μόνο προϊόντα. Έχει και μοναδικές ομορφιές. Ο Τουρισμός είναι ήδη ένας από τους δύο «πρωταθλητές» μας. Αλλά μπορούμε πολύ περισσότερα....
Που είναι οι μαρίνες που έπρεπε να είχαμε εδώ και χρόνια; Που είναι τα θαλάσσια και υποθαλάσσια πάρκα; Που είναι τα οργανωμένα σκάφη που θα μπορούσαν να οργώνουν κατά χιλιάδες τις θάλασσές μας και να προσφέρουν μοναδικές υπηρεσίες σε προσιτές τιμές σε εκατοντάδες χιλιάδες επισκέπτες; Που είναι τα θεματικά πάρκα; Που είναι οι σύγχρονες ψηφιακές υποδομές στα Μουσεία μας, που θα μπορούσαν να αναδείξουν την Ελλάδα σε μοναδικό διεθνή προορισμό, για εκατοντάδες χιλιάδες μαθητές ή φοιτητές, απ’ όλο τον κόσμο, συνδυάζοντας μια μοναδική πολιτιστική εμπειρία με αναψυχή;
Mr. Samaras is asking where are the marinas, the marine parks, etc. He asks this of George Papandreou, but he should have been asking Constantinos Karamanlis, who was sitting in the front row of the exhibition hall. Karamanlis not only did very little for tourism, but his Minister of Tourism, Aris Spiliotopoulos, left a shambles at the Ministry of Tourism, including questionable procurement on yacht rentals and hotel suites and unpaid bills at World Travel Market. EOT’s unpaid bills for international advertising campaigns numbered in the millions, and a major problem for Greece both in the past, and today. The fact that after this abysmal performance, Mr. Aris Spiliotopoulos is now ND’s shadow minister of Education says a lot.
Με την Εφεδρεία που προτείνουμε εμείς, μαζί με το πλήρες πάγωμα προσλήψεων για μια τριετία (με εξαίρεση υπέρ-επείγουσες ανάγκες σε Άμυνα, Παιδεία και Υγεία), μπορεί να μειωθεί σε τρία χρόνια το προσωπικό του δημοσίου κατά 150 χιλιάδες! Με καθαρό όφελος για το κράτος περίπου 2 δισεκατομμύρια το χρόνο. Και χωρίς απολύσεις…
Mr. Samaras also spoke about the “labour reserve” and reducing headcount in the civil service. He promised to freeze recruitment for one year, leading to a total reduction of 150,000 staff in three years. Is he not aware that both options are currently being implemented? The only difference is that his labour reserve is for three years, while PASOK’s is for one year. Overall, I prefer one year and departure, rather than three years and yet more money spent on “training.” Greece’s public service ills are not going to be solved through training, without a far more comprehensive framework. The latter has not been explored in any serious depth by either party.
Θα ελέγξουμε αναδρομικά την περιουσιακή κατάσταση όσων κατέλαβαν δημόσιες θέσεις, υπουργικούς θώκους κλπ., από τη Μεταπολίτευση μέχρι σήμερα. Το έχω υποσχεθεί και θα το κάνω! Για να έλθουν στην επιφάνεια όλες οι περιπτώσεις «περίεργου» πλουτισμού. Και θα θεσπίσουμε μέτρα για να μην επαναληφθεί ποτέ πια. Αυτός ο νόμος της σιωπής, αυτή η «ομερτά» για το «πολιτικό χρήμα», θα σπάσει!
There was at least one entertaining promise: ND will conduct a forensic audit on all public servants and ministers from 1974 onwards. “The “omerta” of “political cash” will break!” promised Mr. Samaras. I sincerely look forwards to this. I suggest that first on the list should be the financing of “Politiki Anoixi” (Political Spring), Mr. Samaras’ party, founded in 1992. They should also check the financing of ND by Siemens and Intracom. They should open up once again the structured bond scandals, Vatopedi, and the scandalous allocation of EU and OPAP funds during the Karamanlis years. This will be highly instructive. It has as many chances of occurring as I have of becoming President of the United States.
And yet, I think of what might have been. I think of the political impact Mr. Samaras would have created had he come to Thessaloniki and said the following few words:
“My fellow citizens, I come to you not with more impossible promises which you have heard before, not with more excuses for past failures, nor with unachievable dreams for the future.
I come instead with an offer: that we will put our differences behind us and join in a government of national unity with Mr. Papandreou and PASOK for a period of 2 years until the original term of PASOK is over in October 2013.
During the next two years, we will implement the following policies:
a. We will achieve a primary surplus by the beginning of 2013. 2012 will be the last year of a primary deficit, which we target at 3.5-4% of GDP.
b. We will implement the Mid-term Fiscal Adjustment Programme and our promises to our European creditors to the best of our ability. This will cause undeniable economic pain, but we have no other choice, absent a real default.
c. We will lay the groundwork for a competitive tax environment as far as is possible given the economic crisis. We will pursue tax evasion with far more effective and direct measures, both within Greece but also outside it, so that the financial crimes which have occurred for far too long will be prosecuted and resolved.
As a condition for participation, we ask that the cabinet be restructured to include the following six major Ministries, three of which should be given to representatives we select:
· Ministry for Investment and Privatisation separate from the Ministry of Finance
· Ministry of Energy separate from the Ministry of Environment
· Ministry of Shipping separate from the Ministry of Development
We call Mr. Papandreou to join us in an emergency planning session to achieve these goals by the end of September, leading to a Government of National Unity on October 1st. We suggest that both PASOK and we appoint the best people we have at our disposal to these positions.
My fellow citizens, we, the political class of Greece, have failed you. Whether on the right or on the left, great crimes have been committed in the name of political power and economic benefit. The results should be clear to everyone today.
But if we are to survive, we must put the past behind us. We must fulfil the promises we have made, and save Greece from bankruptcy. The following two years will be full of hardship, but with the grace of God, the help of our diaspora and our European friends, and the hard work Greeks are known for, we will prevail.”
© Philip Ammerman, 2011