Media around the world are calling Greece’s election results “historic.” A big day, indeed, for Greece and interesting times for an expat to live here. The possibility of change is exciting but a few concerns about the near future come to mind:
- “Hope is coming” is Syriza’s slogan, but can the new government bring about meaningful change given the intense pressure from the troika to stick to the terms of the loan agreements or adios Greece, from the Eurozone?
- As Syriza has made clear, the crushing austerity program imposed by the troika has caused a humanitarian disaster in Greece that must be addressed. But does Syriza have any concrete plans for how to deal with the intractable structural problems in Greece, e.g.:
- The fact that almost no one in the country actually pays the taxes they are legally required to pay because they don’t trust the government to use them wisely? This lack of trust in government creates a vicious cycle in which everyone cheats on taxes so the government raises them, which causes even more tax cheating… If Syriza has a plan to deal with this fundamental problem of Greek society, I’d love to see it.
- The deeply entrenched problems of almost unbelievably inefficient government bureaucracy. How a country can employ so many people in the public sector who appear to accomplish so little is a real mystery that may take decades to resolve.
- Corruption at many levels of government and society.
- How can Syriza realistically expect to raise the funds needed to pay for the much-needed repairs to the social safety net that they advocate?
- Does the new government have any meaningful leverage in debt negotiations? If the Germans and the troika refuse to consider significant debt relief for Greece, would Syriza resort to the nuclear option of leaving the Eurozone? They say that option is off the table, but without it, they don’t have any leverage to speak of. If it were to come to that, what would be the consequences for the Greek people? Nobody knows really.
I am hopeful that, in fact, “hope is coming.” But I fear that the obstacles that Syriza faces may be overwhelming.
A nice post-election summary from the Guardian of the UK:
“Syriza’s success is an astonishing electoral triumph. In postwar Europe it is highly unusual for a genuinely new electoral force – as opposed to a refit – to move from nowhere to government in the few years that it has taken Syriza. Other insurgent parties – such as France’s Front National, Germany’s Greens or Italy’s Lega Nord – can hardly compare with either the momentum or the achievement, never mind the programme. Such parties may have succeeded in inserting themselves into their national political calculus; none has swept to such a dizzying election win as Syriza managed on Sunday.”