Archive for January 2012
It was May, 15 of 2011 when Plaza del Sol in Madrid was occupied by indignados, Spaniards of all ages and backgrounds that took the streets of Madrid in protest for the government’s policies of austerity, the high unemployment especially in the young population, a youth that did not see any prospects and future ahead.
The story has it that one night in Plaza del Sol the crowd chanted “Be quiet, you will wake up the Greeks”. In spite of the fact that later on the truth in that story was questioned, it sparked reaction in Athens, it was played in the news and a lot was written about it in blogs and social media. This spark was enough to form the movement of the Greek indignant, ‘Aganaktismenoi‘. It was May, 25 when at first few hundreds gathered outside the Greek Parliament, at Syntagma square.
The Greek movement had completely different characteristics than the Spanish indignados or the recent Occupy Wall Street movement, which was inspired by the occupation and fighting spirit of Syntagma. The Greek movement directed its indignation towards the Greek political elite that had ruled the country since democracy was restored in Greece in 1974. The Greek society felt let down and betrayed by the people who ruled the country particularly in the last decades, the people who based their political careers and ascension to ministerial positions on clientelism, abusing the state and its finances as a means of transaction and corruption. Equally, for over a year the people of Greece were berated and ridiculed by European, primarily, and global media something that hurt the pride of an, in fact, hard-working and modestly remunerated nation, the vast majority of which had not benefited by political favours and the clientelism discrimination of certain in the public sector.
I have to admit that until recently I was puzzled by troika’s calm, to the extent to be considered indifferent, approach and response to the runaway unemployment in Greece.
Greece’s partners, and new creditors, set foot in the country back in May 2010 with the intention, we were told, to bring order to the public finances and bring them back to a righteous and sustainable path that would allow the country to pay off its obligations.
The combination of the program’s austerity nature, the Greek government’s hesitation and the public sector’s inability to respond to the challenge led to fiscal targets being missed. In every single such occasion, the troika did not recognise the impact of the deep recession, refused to accept error in their projections and adjust the program, constantly adding pressure on the Greek government to meet the targets that provided they are short-term could not be done through acceleration of reforms, that usually need a longer horizon to bear fruit, but monotonously looking on the revenue side with increased taxation or one-off solidarity and emergency ‘contributions’ just to make the numbers look good and please the program’s financial contributors.