GR Political Economy Digest #12

eikonaki Once SYRIZA was elected in power (with the help of ultra-nationalist Independent Greeks), the international media were on an ecstatic frenzy. A historic win for the Left, coupled with the fact that it was achieved by a past underdog under the direction of a very young new leader, Alexis Tsipras, seemed like the perfect story for the media. Today, five days after the Greek parliamentary elections, the tone has turned from almost delirious to extremely worrying. It seems that everyone – including SYRIZA’s supporters – were betting on a softening of the party’s stance, once it came into office. But SYRIZA has shown no intention to tone down its rhetoric and move away from its worrisome programmatic pledges. In fact, SYRIZA has remained adamant in its pre-electoral promises. Although this is a fresh feeling for the Greek society, which is very much used to the U-turns of politicians once they get elected, it is also an evident cause for alarm – due to the nature of Syriza’s promises and intentions.

Greece has to fulfill its running obligations with its international lenders within the next few months, it needs to receive the last chunk of bailout money in order to pay salaries and pensions starting this month, and more than anything, it needs to implement the necessary structural reforms in order to open up the state and market within the country, changing the existing clientelistic political system, combatting the oligarchic structure, and tackling the problems arising from the extensive shadow economy and crony capitalism in place. Yet, what we have seen in the first few days of SYRIZA’s rule is not exactly close to ‘promising’ in bringing substantial change to the country. SYRIZA has pledged to re-hire about 10,000 former workers in the public sector (who have been fired due to its downsizing); it has announced that it would block all further privatizations pertaining to the biggest port in Greece, the Peireus Port, and has assumed a similar stance in regards to the country’s multiple regional airports; it has jeopardized the (unusual!) consentual agreement of all member states of the EU in regards to the sanctions against Russia after further aggressions in Ukraine; and it has stated (via the current Minister of Economics, Yanis Varoufakis) that Greece ‘does not need the last 7 billion euros’ coming from the final loan disbursement.

SYRIZA is playing an extreme form of hardball with the TROIKA and the totality of our European family. As things look now, it either has some extraordinary cards under its sleeves (an agreement with our European counterparts about debt-relief of some sort is quite possible. Straightforward debt-reduction seems highly unlikely.), which it will present in a sugarcoated manner to the Greek people in the upcoming weeks; or it is actually more honest than all of us expect, is prepared to collide with Europe, and ready to gamble the fate of the country within the EU/EZ, even if it does not have enough firepower to fuel a ‘heroic exodus.’

My prediction is that SYRIZA will perform a magnificent ‘kolotoumba’ soon (if it has not already, unofficially, under the table with the other Europeans). It is not a matter of where the party stands normatively in their economics or ideologically in their politics. It is a matter of hardcore realism. And when Varoufakis and Tsipras are faced with the fatal question of “how are we going to pay up for the salaries and pensions of millions of people,” the dilemma of playing hardball or joining the chorus of former Greek leaders who performed eloquent ‘kolotoumbes’ in order to save the country’s economy will (hopefully) disappear.

In any case, here is what you need to read about the Greek political economy today:

  1. Greece and its discontents, by the Charlemagne | The Economist, Jan 31 2015
  2. Greece and the euro’s future: Go ahead, Angela, make my day | The Economist, Jan 31 2015
  3. Europe’s Greek Test, by Paul Krugman | The New York Times, Jan 30 2015
  4. Portugal Won’t Join Greece in Debt Renegotiation |  Capital.gr, Jan 30 2015
  5. Greece awaits EU finance meeting; eurozone deflation deepens (With live updates), by Angela Monaghan | The Guardian, Jan 30 2015
  6. Greece really might leave the euro, by Matt O’ Brien | The Washington Post, Jan 30 2015
  7. Greece’s Political Chimera, by Nikos Konstandaras | The New York Times, Jan 30 2015
  8. Fitch: Greece-Troika Deal Still Possible but Risks Are High | Reuters, Jan 30 2015
  9. Greece looking for common ground with European partners, by Stelios Bouras and Alkman Granitsas | The Wall Street Journal, Jan 29 2015
  10. Greece Steps Back Into Line With European Union Policy on Russia Sanctions, by Andrew Higgins | The New York Times, Jan 29 2015
  11. Global Economy: Greece, EMU and democracy, by Antonio Fatas | Fatasmihov.blogspot.com, Jan 28 2015
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GR Political Economy Digest #11

ALEKSISThe Greek elections might be over, but both domestic and international eyes will still be fully focused on the country for a while. Today, the newly formed government of SYRIZA and ANEL (i.e. Independent Greeks) announced the new Greek cabinet (more to follow on that in the next few days). The new government is tasked with a tremendous weight. It has proposed to break with the path of austerity and follow a more confrontational stance with our international lenders and European partners. In the upcoming weeks, the government of SYRIZA-ANEL will have to take some monumental decisions about the fate of Greece and the country’s economic orientation. Based on their populist-extremist, anti-austerity, and anti-euro(pean) rhetoric up to now, it seems to be ready to make a huge break with the past. Will they continue to remain as firmly adamant as they have proclaimed in the past three years, or will we start witnessing one ‘kolotoumba’ after the other? Stay tuned for updates…

Here are the hottest articles on the Greek political economy that you need to read today:

  1. Greece debt repayment in full is ‘unrealistic’ says Syriza | BBC News Europe, 27 Jan 2015
  2. Greece and Europe dig in on bailout terms after Syriza victory in Greek election, by Matthew Karnitschnig and Gabriele Steinhauser | The Wall Street Journal, Jan 27 2015
  3. European equity rally halted by Greece and weak corporate figures | Reuters, Jan 27 2015
  4. Greek bonds, stocks drop as leaders to spar on writedown, by Lucy Meakin | Bloomberg BussinessWeek, Jan 27 2015
  5. Greek Elections: Syriza’s Tsipras faces great expectations, by Giorgos Christides | BBC News, Jan 27 2015
  6. ECB, Syriza have broken euro zone’s German spells, by Pierre Briancon | Reuters Blogs, Jan 27 2015
  7. Greek Elections: Why Syriza is ‘playing with fire’ by joining forces with racist Anel, by Gianluca Mezzofiore and Gareth Platt | International Bussiness Times, Jan 27 2015
  8. Europe’s populists hail Syriza win in Greek elections from Left and Right, by Marcus Walker, Jason Douglas and William Horobin | The Wall Street Journal, Jan 27 2015
  9. Syriza’s Alexis Tsipras’s picks new Greek cabinet, by Graeme Wearden | The Guardian, Jan 27 2015
  10. Macro Horizons: Is Greece still the word?, by Allen Mattich and Michael J. Casey | The Wall Street Journal, JanMatthew Karnitsching & Gabriele Steinhauser | The Wall Street Journal, 26 Jan 2015
  11. Greece: Think Flows, Not Stocks, by Paul Krugman | The New York Times, 26 Jan 2015
  12. Greece’s new finance minister learned about tearing down capitalism from working at a video game company, by Tim Fernholz | Quartz, Jan 26 2015
  13. Profile: Greece’s new finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, by Phillip Inman and Katie Allen | The Guardian, Jan 26 2015
  14. Syriza’s win: Greece turns, Europe wobbles | The Economist, Jan 26 2015

Judgement time for Syriza

Yesterday, after a very brief yet polarized pre-election period, the Greek people went to the polls and voted for their new government. Regardless of personal preferences or ideological inclinations, the result was an astounding victory for the Left in Greece. SYRIZA, the Coalition of the Radical Left, officially won the parliamentary elections falling one seat short of outright majority. As many supporters of the party chanted until the early hours of Monday morning: “It’s SYRIZA’s time.”

Many things can been said about the party, its Leader, its programmatic pledges, and the views expressed by a number of its (former and new) MPs. Since 2010, SYRIZA has adopted a highly inflammatory populist rhetoric, and has surged at the top of the “anti-austerity” camp in Greece. It’s elected representatives have criticized excessively – often, using highly derogatory language – both the previously elected Greek governments, and the Troika of lenders responsible for overlooking the bailout packages received by Greece. They have attacked the former parties of the establishment (New Democracy and PASOK), they have pledged to overthrow the existing oligarchic power-structure in place, they have vouched to overturn all of the policies decided by the previous (democratically elected!) governments, and they have insisted over and over again that they would not honor the agreements made between Greece and its international lenders.

In crisis-ridden Greece, it is no wonder that they turned themselves from a fringe party in the margins of Greek politics to the official opposition party in the parliamentary elections of 2012, to coming first in the European Elections of 2014, and eventually forming a government after yesterday’s elections. By strategically capitalizing on the anger and desperation of the Greek people, they have managed to propel themselves at the forefront of the political scene. In order to do so, they have followed a smart tactic of excessive promise-making and pledges that are not only unfeasible (given the current financial situation of Greece), but also deeply destructive of any prospect of recovery from the country’s current state. Playing favorites with the unions, embracing a statist approach in decision-making, and proposing a host of anti-liberal and anti-reformist economic and social measures, SYRIZA does not seem to grasp the fundamental issues at the crux of the Greek downfall, and does not offer a viable progressive-reformist plan to move forward.

SYRIZA has promised many things. Most of all, however, it has promised new ‘hope’ to the people of Greece. Even its main pre-election slogan was “Hope is coming.” It has elevated tremendously the expectations of the domestic population, but it has also managed to put itself in the center of international debates about austerity and economic growth – especially within Europe.

All eyes are on Tsipras and his party now. There is no scapegoating this time around, nobody else to blame. It is them, now, that will have to take the difficult decisions about the country. It is them that will have to meet face-to-face with the Troika of lenders, with foreign Ministers of Finance, and with the person they have demonized the most in the past 3 years: Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor. They will now become the new government – albeit with the help of the ultra-nationalist, anti-liberal, far-right party ANEL (Independent Greeks). In a sense, maybe this is the most appropriate of all setups: both SYRIZA and ANEL have championed an anti-austerity, anti-memorandum, and even anti-European rhetoric. They have both starkly opposed any and every attempt to reform Greece in the past few years, and have made no concessions whatsoever. Now, they are both in power, together.

I am not very optimistic about what tomorrow brings for Greece. Especially after SYRIZA reaching out to ANEL for a coalition government, rather than any of the other two center-left parties (PASOK, the old party of the establishment; and To Potami, a new party created early 2014 by a former journalist). One could say that this was to be expected, and I fully agree. But I was also hoping for a better ‘kolotoumba’ (i.e. somersault, in Greek) than this.

We will witness, of course, many ‘kolotoumbes’ in the upcoming months, especially as they pertain to the programmatic promises of SYRIZA about the economy and our existing agreements with Troika. Let’s hope that they happen soon. And once they do, let’s hope that they are enough to keep this country afloat.

GR Political Economy Digest #10

Ilias Makris (Kathimerini, 24 Jan 2015)
Ilias Makris (Kathimerini, 24 Jan 2015)

Only one day left before the Greek elections. With Syriza leading the polls, and New Democracy trailing far behind (Syriza is ahead with at least 4-5%, based on the most recent polls), a scenario in which Syriza can form a government without depending on any other party is all the more plausible. Regardless of the electoral result, the economic consequences of these unnecessary snap elections for Greece and its people are going to be felt for many years to come. Dire times are ahead, and only a few people seem to fully realize the upcoming repercussions.

A vast majority of Greeks expects Syriza and its leader, Alexis Tsipras, to perform an eloquent somersault (‘kolotoumba’ in Greek) in the next few days, or weeks, going back on the programmatic promises of ‘tearing to pieces the Memoranda’ and playing hard-ball with the Troika of lenders. They expect Tsipras to agree on a new MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) – even if Syriza will not actually call it like that – which they hope will be more lenient than the existing agreement with our lenders. Even if such a somersault does occur, however, and given that the Troika requests can be met somehow, Syriza offers no persuasive guarantees of continuing much needed structural reforms, of opening up a relatively closed economy prone to crony capitalism, and of fighting the existing clientelistic and oligarchic structures. On the contrary, it seems ready to implement a host of anti-liberal and statist measures on the tradition of the two former parties of the status quo, PASOK and ND (PASOK began this tradition in the 1980s, and ND quickly followed in order to ensure its electoral competitiveness).

Today, one day before the elections, things look quite gloomy and extremely volatile, to say the least. Tomorrow, we will be one step closer to ending this grandiose string of speculations. Will we also be closer to a Greek knockout? Let’s hope not.

Without further ado, here are the hottest articles on the Greek political economy in the past 24 hours:

  1. Greece goes to the polls and Europe holds its breath, by Harris Mylonas and Akis Georgakellos | The Washington Post (Monkey Cage), Jan 24 2015
  2. Greece: Austerity, Relief or Exit?, by Marcus Walker | The Wall Street Journal, Jan 23 2015
  3. After an anxiety-filled campaign, Greek voters consider a turn to the Left, by Suzanne Daley and Dimitris Bounias | The New York Times, Jan 23 2015
  4. Syriza’s rise fueled by professors-turned-politicians, by Charles Forelle | The Wall Street Journal, Jan 23 2015
  5. The last stand of Greece’s ruling elite, by Nathalie Savaricas | The Independent, Jan 23 2015
  6. Greece to need another bailout extension – euro zone official, by Robit Emmott | Reuters UK, Jan 23 2015
  7. Greece’s hope and change moment, by Yiannis Baboulias | Foreign Policy, Jan 23 2015
  8. HuffPost Exclusive: Greece pre-election poll | Huffington Post, Jan 23 2015
  9. Inside Syriza: Why young Greek are voting for the left, by Matthew Cassel | Al Jazeera America, Jan 23 2015
  10. As Greece prepares to vote, a new age of Eurozone tension begins, by Times / Fortune Editors | Fortune, Jan 23 2015
  11. Greece’s solidarity movement: ‘it’s a whole new model – and it’s working’, by Jon Henley | The Guardian, Jan 23 2015
  12. Greece’s Syriza could face schism after likely election triumph, by Damien Sharkov | Newsweek, Jan 24 2015
  13. Greek shares surge, by Alexis Barley | Wall Street Observer, Jan 24 2015
 Photo: Ilias Makris (Kathimerini)

GR Political Economy Digest #9

makris20012015_foto
Sketch by Ilias Makris (Kathimerini, 20 Jan 2015)

 

You can find the hottest articles of the day, starting from the best and building down, below:

  1. How Greece and Germany brought Europe’s long-simmering crisis back to a boil, by Marcus Walker & Marianna Kakaounaki | The Wall Street Journal, Jan 22 2015
  2. Let Greece profit from German history, by Jeffrey Sachs | The Guardian, Jan 21 2015
  3. Greece in limbo: Post-election 2015 scenarios, by Filippa Chatzistavrou & Sofia Michalaki | European Policy Institutes Network, Jan 21 2015
  4. Revenge of disaffected Europe risks crisis sparked in Greece, by Maria Petrakis, Donal Griffin, Ben Sills and Thomas Penny | Bloomberg News, Jan 22 2015
  5. Germany’s debt forgiveness of 1953 – The wrong precedent! | Observing Greece, Jan 22 2015
  6. Syriza is now a mainstream party and there is little for Europe to fear in its electoral success, by Theofanis Exadaktylos | LSE EUROPP Blog, Jan 21 2015
  7. 5 Things to look for in Eurozone QE, by Brian Blackstone | The Wall Street Journal, Jan 21 2015
  8. ‘For five years Greece has been like a patient slowly bleeding’, by Helena Smith | The Guardian, Jan 21 2015
  9. Still no exit for Greece, by Kemal Dervis | The Brookings Institution, Jan 21 2015
  10. National Bank of Greece is an asymmetric risk, by The Enlightened Investor | Alpha Seeking, Jan 21 2015
  11. Greece polls: Papandreou and Venizelos locked in political battle, by Peter Spiegel | Financial Times, Jan 21 2015
  12. Landmark election in Greece, by Yannis Papadimitriou | Deutsche Welle, Jan 21 2015

 

Photo: Ilias Makris / Kathimerini

GR Political Economy Digest #8

image_crisis

  1. Greece’s accounting problem, by Jacob Soll | The New York Times, Jan 20 2015
  2. Still no Exit for Greece, by Kemal Dervis | Project Syndicate, Jan 20 2015
  3. Greek current account deficit widens in November | Kathimerini, Jan 20 2015
  4. Samaras adrift as Syriza lead widens before Greek vote, by Nikos Chrysoloras & Paul Tugwell | Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Jan 20 2015
  5. Greek stocks up | Wall Street Observer, Jan 20 2015
  6. Moscovici: EU prepared for all scenarios after Greek vote | EurActiv, Jan 20 2015
  7. Greece cannot rebound without debt cut, says Syriza economist | Kathimerini, Jan 20 2015
  8. As elections approach, Greece teeters on austerity question [Interview with George Papandreou] | NPR, Jan 19 2015
  9. Greece’s Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras is ‘like Harry Potter’, by Nick Squires | The Telegraph, Jan 19 2015
  10. Young, gifted and Greek: Generation G – the world’s biggest brain drain, by Helena Smith | The Guardian, Jan 19 2015
  11. The real social challenge is kickstarting growth, by Georgios Pagoulatos | Social Europe, Jan 19 2015
  12. Can Europe really withstand a Greek exit?, by Desmond Lachman | The Hill, Jan 19 2015
  13. IMF’s Lagarde plays down debt conference for Greece at Dublin gathering | Euronews, Jan 19 2015
  14. Would forgiving Greece’s debt really be that bad?, by Holly Ellyatt |CNBC, Jan 19 2015

Photo: stories-unbelievable

Pre-Election Digest #3: Top Greek Articles to Read Before You Vote [In Greek]

  1. Εμείς στο παραβάν, της Αγγελικής Σπανού | Μεταρρύθμιση, Ιαν 20 2015
  2. Η γλώσσα των εκλογών, του Αναστάσιου Βογιατζή | Athens Voice, Ιαν 20 2015
  3. Tι δεν είπε ο κ. Τσίπρας στην επιστολή του, των Γεώργιου κ. Μπήτρου, Σπύρου Παρασκευόπουλου, Αναστάσιου Αβραντίνη | Η Καθημερινή, Ιαν 20 2015
  4. “Generation G”: 200.000 νέοι Έλληνες εγκατέλειψαν τη χώρα λόγω κρίσης | LiFo, Ιαν 20 2015
  5. “Ελπίζω στους Podemos και στον ΣΥΡΙΖΑ” [Συνέντευξη του Νόαμ Τσόμσκυ], του Θάνου Δημάδη | Protagon.gr, Ιαν 20 2015
  6. Περί του εκλέγειν άνευ κηδεμόνος, του Παντελή Μπουκαλά | Η Καθημερινή, Ιαν 20 2015
  7. Ο κόσμος ψηφίζει αυτόν που μισεί λιγότερο, από τον Θανάση Μαυρίδη | Capital.gr, Ιαν 20 2015
  8. Τα ραχηλιάρικα δεν είναι πετσετάκια, του Θανάση Χειμωνά | Athens Voice, Ιαν 20 2015
  9. Tι να ψηφίσεις στις εκλογές – 2015, του Θοδωρή Γεωργακόπουλου | georgakopoulos.org, Ιαν 20 2015
  10. Σαμαράς: “Τέτοια ώρα είναι το καλύτερο σέξ!” | LiFo, Ιαν 19 2015
  11. Βόμβα από υποψήφιο του ΣΥΡΙΖΑ: Αν χρειαστεί θα πάμε σε δημοψήφισμα, παύση πληρωμών και δραχμή | iefimerida.gr, Ιαν 19 2015
  12. Προοδευτική Διακυβέρνηση και Δημοκρατικές Μεταρρυθμίσεις, του Φίλιππου Σαχινίδη | Protagon.gr, Ιαν 19 2015
  13. Άποψη: Εκλογικά Διλήμματα, των Δημήτρη Βαγιανού, Νίκου Βεττά, Κώστα Μεγήρ | Η Καθημερινή, Ιαν 18 2015
  14. Πώς να ψηφίσεις, της Λώρης Κέζα | Το Βήμα, Ιαν 18 2015

 

“Generation G”: 200.000 νέοι Έλληνες εγκατέλειψαν τη χώρα λόγω κρίσης Πηγή: www.lifo.gr

 

GR Political Economy Digest #7

  1. IMF’s Lagarde warns of consequences to Greek debt restructuring | Reuters, Jan 19 2015
  2. Toward the Eurozone’s Defining Moment (Finally) | EconoMonitor, Jan 19 2015
  3. Greece is counting the cost of a possible EU exit: Heading for a stalemate or a bright new dawn? | Irish Examiner, Jan 19 2015
  4. ECB QE Needs to Include Greek Debt Writedown: Gallo | Bloomberg TV, Jan 19 2015
  5. Hopes, fears for the future ahead of Greek poll | Deutsche Welle, Jan 19 2015
  6. The Greek Election Explained | The Wall Street Journal, Jan 19 2015
  7. ECB Holds Key to Greek Developments | Kathimerini, Jan 19 2015
  8. Greek bond yields rise after Fitch cuts outlook on new crisis fears | The Economic Times, Jan 19 2015
  9. SYRIZA says it is ready to rule Greece and Europe ‘should not be afraid’ | Euronews, Jan 19 2015
  10. Greece will remain in the Euro for now | Centre for European Reform, Jan 16 2015

 

GR Political Economy Digest #6

  1. Tsipras asks for ‘greater acquiescence’ among parties | AMNA.gr, 18 Jan 2015
  2. A new idea steals across Europe – should Greece’s debt be forgiven? | The Guardian, 18 Jan 2015
  3. Greek Election Looms With Samaras Racing to Catch Syriza | Bloomberg, 18 Jan 2015
  4. Greece’s Syriza Leads in Polls as General Election Looms | The Wall Street Journal, 18 Jan 2015
  5. Sapin conciliatory on post election talks with Greece | The Financial Times, 18 Jan 2015
  6. Vox pop: ‘Greece has to change course’ | The Guardian, 18 Jan 2015
  7. On The Possibility of a Greek Exit and the SNB’s Surprise Move | Investing.com, 18 Jan 2015
  8. Greek elections: Syriza’s young radicals plot a political earthquake for Europe | The Guardian, 17 Jan 2015

Pre-Election Digest #2: Top Greek Articles to Read Before You Vote [In Greek]

  1. Αναζητώντας το Δημοσιονομικό ΚΤΕΟ, της Αντιγόνης Λυμπεράκη | Η Καθημερινή, 18 Ιαν 2015
  2. Πως η Γερμανία είναι ο μεγάλος ευνοημένος της Ευρωζώνης, του Παύλου Ελευθεριάδη | tvxs.gr, 18 Ιαν 2015
  3. Ένα μνημόνιο επειγόντως!, του Τάσου Τέλλογλου | Protagon.gr, 18 Ιαν 2015
  4. Ο καρδιοπαθής και ο παχύσαρκος, του Στάθη Ν. Καλύβα | Η Καθημερινή, 18 Ιαν 2015
  5. Παπανδρέου υπέρ δημοψηφίσματος – διαπραγματευτικού όπλου για Ελληνικό σχέδιο, της Ειρήνης Κωστάκη | VouliWatch.gr, 18 Iαν 2015
  6. Μπροστά στην κάλπη, του Γιώργου Παγουλάτου | Η Καθημερινή, 18 Ιαν 2015
  7. Οι Ελληνικές εκλογές αφορμή για αλλαγές στην Ευρώπη, του Γ. Αγγέλη | Capital.gr, 18 Ιαν 2015
  8. Τα “δυο συν ένα” σενάρια μετά τις εκλογές, του Κωστή Π. Παπαδιόχου | H Καθημερινή, 18 Iαν 2015
  9. Η ώρα του Μουντζούρη, του Σακελλάρη Σκουμπουρδή | Athens Voice, 16 Ιαν 2015
  10. Η παγίδα Τσίπρα και που οδηγεί, του Αθανάσιου Χ. Παπανδρόπουλου | European Business Review, 14 Ιαν 2015