Antonis Samaras of New Democracy was given a mandate to form a government yesterday, and after inconclusive consultations with several parties, handed it back to the President of Greece. The responsibility today goes to Alexis Tsipras of SYRIZA, raising the spectre of yet another failure to form a government, and the instability that this brings.
In this case, my opinion is that Samaras acted correctly. It is eminently clear that neither SYRIZA nor the smaller parties have an actionable programme capable of working within the constraints of Greece’s economic situation or the Troika’s conditionality. The costs of trying to keep them in a governing coalition would have created such tension that coalition failure would have been inevitable.
The responsibility now goes to SYRIZA to translate its pre-election platform into a workable governing coalition. To this end, both New Democracy and PASOK have indicated that they will given conditional support, and PASOK has apparently volunteered to enter a governing coalition. Smaller parties, such as Democratic Left and Independent Greeks, have been preening themselves to join. In the meantime, the message has also passed that “SYRIZA won the elections”, although in terms of popular vote they remain the second party.
With this in mind, I checked the SYRIZA website to see if anything had changed in its economic policy platform. It’s worth looking at some of these points to see how they stand up to reality.
A free translation follows of some points. This is necessarily selective, and no doubt I will be condemned for making a partial translation. There are several policy points which are positive: necessarily, I will focus on those which I find necessary to comment on given the limited time I have available for this post.
We commit, with the daily support and activation of the people, to cancel the Memorandums, the loan agreements, the monitoring mission from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, and to interrupt the catastrophic course which destroys society and has pillaged the country.
They tell us that there aren’t enough resources for a political change like the one we need. This is not true. In Greece, everyone who works produces over EUR 200 billion. This is enjoyed by the few. Resources can be found with a fundamental change of the tax system, and the taxation, as needed, of large incomes and accumulated wealth, and with the reduction of expenditure which does not serve the people’s interests.
· Change the tax system with an important increase of rates on large incomes, to 75% on incomes over EUR 500,000 per year
· The tax rate of large companies should be increase to at least the average in the Eurozone
· To implement a rate on financial transactions, and a special tax on long-term and offensive consumption
· To end the special tax asylums on powerful interests, such as the shipping sector and the Church
· To inventory the accumulated wealth, either in Greece or outside, and adequate taxation of large fortunes above EUR 1 million
· To end banking and commercial confidentiality, so that there is transparency in transactions and to battle against tax evasion and income evasion
· To ban all transactions by off shore companies
· To transform and modernise the tax and auditing services of state
Additional resources can be found by the effective utilisation of every European euro, not based only on absorption, but on the multiplication effect of utility. With demanding the return of the German occupation loan and reparations for the victims of the Occupation (referring to World War II). With a review of all military expenditure and ending all expenditure which is no necessary for the defence of the country, starting with NATO expenditure.
It is relatively easy to promise social justice using “Other People’s Money”, yet the experience of equivalent organisations and cases the world over shows that corruption, mismanagement, misspent funds and wishful thinking are not the sole preserve of the “evil right”. I note that SYRIZA is definitely not alone in having leaders unprepared for public office by real economy experience, or by taking extraordinary liberties with OPM.