Troika’s Athens Demand: More Axe, And More Tax

Troika’s Athens demand: More axe, and more tax (The Slog, July 29, 2012):


Evangelo Venizelos more Friar Tuck than Robin Hood

But Privatisation demands may produce stalemate today

I’ve been getting some irate emails from Greek Sloggers of late – especially those who earn a living suplying goods to the Athens Government. Their bitch is simple: while the new Coalition is very happy to suck up to the Troika, monies it owes to its own citizens can go hang. As one correspondent remarked last Thursday, “It’s easy to balance the books if you don’t pay any bills”.

The day before, the Troikanauts came to town with a very clear message: no more backsliding, or no more money. But it all depends on how you define ‘backsliding’. If a Vesuvius of debt just erupted and you’re on the side of the mountain, chances are you’ll backslide. In fact, the reality is, you’ll perish.

Prior to the meeting, the key Greek Party leaders –  Antonis Samaras, Fotis Kouvelis and Evangelos Venizelos – had pledged to stand firm on ‘no further cuts, and no further taxes’. At the meeting, the Coalition presented further spending, pension and salary cuts, with an update on the progress of tax collection following the recent elections. Together they totalled just under €13bn

The Slog can reveal that the tax situation is dire. It is 20% won’t pay, and 80% can’t pay. The savings are impressive, but the Athens regime is miles off target. (As any government faced with this mad Troika fantasy Herculean task would be). However, in the context of an economy at close to standstill, Coalition leaders put their case for no further attacks on the populace.

The Troika reply was a curt “More axe and more tax, or no further money”.

The Coalition response was immediate capitulation. All three leaders are now reportedly ready to to satisfy international lenders by lining up further austerity ideas when the two sides meet again today.

Greece is currently ‘surviving’ on a bailout of  €140bn in loans, but release of the last instalment (around €36 bn) is being withheld. Today will be a telling debate between Troika and Coalition: until the government makes more cuts and institutes major privatisations, no more money will arrive.

The Athens government will do anything to keep control of its State assets. So we might, at long last, be at an impasse.

Greek media reported that the government may end universal healthcare, and go ahead with a proposal to cap health care subsidies at €1,600 per annum. The idea is something of a sick farce, given that the Health Service is already not paying its pharmacy bills, and so ordinary Greeks are running out of essential medication. But I understand that, once again, the Coalition is turning a blind eye to the €65bn annual tax evasion practised by those in the elite of Greek business. There will also be no salary cuts for tax collectors, military personnel, and the Judiciary. Just fancy that.

What we have here – and the consistency is depressing – is a ruthlessly hypocritical Troika of face-saving maniacs raping a corrupt and illegally privileged governmental class. The outcome of this obscene sexual union cannot be anything other than taxpayers in the other 16 Eurozone countries subsidising and minimising the losses made by bondholders – while ordinary Greeks pay for the excesses of embezzlers and tax criminals in their own elite. Add to this the glaring reality of any kind of recovery being ruled out by austerity, and you can see why, for once, the Greek Left and the european bond markets agree: this charade of consensual scorched earth will blight Greece, and doom the eurozone.

“The Troika men came to Greece as doctors, and prescribed the medicine they said would save the Greek economy and people,” Yannis Panagopoulos, the head of the GSEE union, remarked bitterly. But from the start, most of us knew that the Troika consisted entirely of Harold Shipman* clones.

*For Greek, US and other foreign readers, Dr Harold Shipman was a British NHS physician eventually unmasked as one of the most prolific serial killers in recorded history, with over 250 murders being positively ascribed to him. Ironically, he had achieved the status of being a ‘preferred supplier’ to the UK’s State Health Service.

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