Sunday, 17 June 2012

Greece: a vote, but with what options?

If I’d been in Greece today, with the elections taking place…I don’t know what I’d have done.

I’d have probably tried to leave.

Harsh austerity measures are crippling the Greek economy. But without a bailout, it is hard to see where Greece will find the money to be able to implement an alternative. So the Greeks are faced with a choice between New Democracy – and austerity measures which everyone and their mother has acknowledged are not working – and Syriza, and with it the risk of an end to bailout money. Pasok, clearly, is no longer seen as an option by most.

Of course; Syriza does not want an end to the bailout; it wants to renogociate terms. But calling Germany’s bluff is dangerous politics which, understandably, many Greeks are scared of.

Furthermore, although I support much of Syriza’s policy program; from raising the minimum wage and decreasing VAT to an agreement with Switzerland to tax Greek citizens who put their savings there (seriously…why don’t we ALL do this?!); the party still lacks a coherent program for increasing the productivity of the Greek economy.

And if their attempt to call the German’s bluff fails, and they lose the bailout, they will have a major problem. Or alternatively; assuming they do not manage to renogociate terms, they will have to cave to Germany. Which will put Greece back where it started; with crippling austerity measures.

So if I were Greek and my whole running away plan failed, I would have voted for Syriza; but with very little real hope or optimism.

Greece needs reforms, not austerity. It needs a bailout. At the moment, as least, it needs to stay in the Euro; the immediate results of leaving are pretty unthinkable. Furthermore, this all would still only be the beginning; we all know the need for wider reform – probably involving greater integration – of the single currency; but there is still no agreed upon plan for this.

This is what Greece needs but not what they had a chance to vote for. Partly because of both the risks of voting for Syriza, alongside their lack of deeper reforms to grow the economy. And partly because the Greeks don’t get to vote for the German government; still advocating austerity, still trying to impose it.

Today a nation that is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis was given a vote; but they weren’t given any really good options to vote for.

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