A happy New Year to all with health and strength of purpose! We hope you have the patience for problems, and the commitment to find solutions. Despite of the smog of the crisis that has covered Athens what we need most today is to have our eyes open.
The problematic Christmas that just passed showed that societal deposits of optimism have emptied. Only the Prime Minister and his government live alone in a state of “triumph” and “success.”
The Prime Minister’s headquarters in Maximou Mansion is trying to create an artificial climate of technical euphoria using the dispersal of bailout tranches and the rating upgrade by Standard & Poor’s. Of course we will all understand if society sees this as a glass half full or glass half empty proposition in the first 100 days of 2013 where much will be determined. If the government can push beyond their 100 day deadline then they may win more time. If not we will be looking at going to elections about Easter time.
One of the problems is that German economic paper Handelsblatt has declared the politician of the year as Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. But this is exactly the problem because Samaras was really very good for “Europe” but not for Greece. Despite that the country is still looking for the “politician of the year” for Greece. Let’s not be confused. Europe and Greece at this historic phase do not always have common real interests.
Firstly, the voting in of austerity measures does not automatically mean they achieve the aims they seek to achieve. The government can exercise its political timing with the series of measures they vote as laws, but the real implementation in the community shows how ineffective they are. We have already seen that car registration tax revenues have been derailed. And many thousands of registration licenses and license plates have been returned.
Tax revenues are further affected by the equalization of motor and heating fuel taxes so now most people are burning wood even in Athens. Even the rise in Value Added Tax (VAT) on restaurants has just meant more businesses closing. The additional weight that people are being called on to shoulder in 2013 will only make it more socially acceptable to owe the state sector.
Secondly, the unfathomable depth of the banking “black hole” doesn’t leave much optimism that the billions in recapitalization will end up in lending to the real market. At the end of 2012 the total loans in the red have surpassed the estimates of Black Rock and there is nothing that appears to ameliorate the explosion of bad private sector loans on the books of Greek banks. Therefore, without banking credit entrepreneurs can’t get on with things, especially small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). And that also leads to doubt as to how much EU structural funds can be absorbed and utilized.
Thirdly, the government is aiming for “The Wealth of Nations” with direct investments but has no strategy to achieve that. The Prime Minister takes trips here and there hoping something will occur. Strategically attracting investments means clarifying what you will give and where, so that basic geopolitical balances will be respected. To that end we don’t selloff but we try to calculate the geopolitical value added as an exchange for what we want. We share out investments to the largest players so they all think they have the best share. That is what political acumen is. Additionally we impose that nothing is done under the table so there are no middlemen around talking about bribes or payoffs.
With the fact that there are no “revenues, liquidity, investments” the climate of technical euphoria is just another bubble which won’t survive until March.
Is there light from anywhere?
Greek society has been financially brought to its knees and the reasons that the accumulated rage haven’t broke out are to a large extent because:
• The strength of the Greek family unit
• The voluntary effort of society through different institutions, organizations, and associations, etc.
• Local government institutions like supermarkets for the poor and centers for the homeless
• Large programs for corporate social responsibility
• The Orthodox Church through a massive charitable effort, in every neighborhood throughout the nation and with the voluntary participation of thousands of simple people.
From the political parties that support the government and from the opposition positive surprises are not possible. So if society looks for light it can only find it in its better self. It has to reject indifference and it must extend a hand of voluntary care so that this grows systemically and turns into a social movement that grows. It can do so without party political colors, ambitions, or labels. It must happen without the evils of a welfare state that in the past served the clientist political system and to a lesser extent those who were in need.
Whatever this government – and the two preceding ones before it – have done, they won’t destroy our humanity. Society is turning its back on the political system and instead people are supporting their colleagues, their neighborhood, their friends, voluntary organizations, and the food handouts at their local parish. This is the practical way people show they disbelieve the political system and the government can’t even understand it.
While the government asks for fair mindedness from citizens to pay their debts and taxes, society has found better ways to show fair mindedness and charitableness can be expressed differently.
If there is hope, we owe it those that look after those that have so little. We all have to adopt the notion of “our good selves” for a society that we want to strengthen. We must do it because it’s more effective means of dealing with immediate needs as well as because it’s the way to create the preconditions for a well-rounded political proposal for the protection of Greek citizens, their rights and welfare. This proposal must also cover the proper working of the political system and institutions as well as contain a positive vision of how Greece should look like in the next decade.
This comprehensive political proposal will not emerge from one day to the next because it requires the contribution of many at various levels. We need to all take part and become a force for the change we want in Greece.
Good ideas already exist as well as good people that help, support, create and subsidize solid values. The historic bet is whether in 2013 we make a good start so that in future larger steps forward are possible.
PS. I hope the fact that in poll larger sections of people want new political parties is not wrongly understood. New parties cannot have leaders those who failed in the recent or much longer past. New things in politics can only be provided by new faces.