Original post entitled, “My Big Fat Greek Funeral: SYRIZA, 3. bailout and capital controls” appeared on Keep Talking Greece.
I am speechless. Not since yesterday or last week. I have been speechless since July 13th when the Greek left-wing coalition government agreed to burden the country and the people with a new loan, the third bailout for Greece since 2010 together with the strictest austerity program ever. I have been speechless ever since and for more than a week I thought I cannot blog anymore. I took me time to swallow and absorb the shock. And still. I am unable to deal with it.
I am unable to comprehend how a left-wing government ended up signing the worst austerity program ever. For the simple reason that if a left-wing government signs such an agreement, what should I expect from a right-wing or a neo-liberal government to do? Raid my apartment, steal my kitchen pans, my pottery cats collection and my underwear? When the left-wing government signs such an agreement, we can say that the political system in Greece is over. And there is no alternative.
First, we blamed the creditors for wanting to crack down SYRIZA in order to avoid creating other examples of the same kind within the eurozone. Then we blamed again the creditors and specifically German finance minister Schaeuble and his Grexit plan: 5 years bailouts, 5 years temporary Grexit, before Greece could return to the markets. That was original tone by Schaeuble in 2011. Then we blamed the disagreement between the IMF and Germany in terms of “Greek debt relief”. And finally we blamed the ‘dilettantism of the Greek government” that sent to Eurogroup its economic team to explain to Greece’s creditors, how the Eurozone should be changed. It took Varoufakis & Co two months to understand that creditors are not in the mood to listen to some economic theories and revolutionary manifestos but that they simply wanted their money back. All our blames were right and wrong at the same time because the game was f;ixed’ form the very beginning.
When the Greek team started to work on its proposals, it was too late. Schaeuble was determined to kick Greece out of the euro and furthermore to ‘help it’ bridge the Grexit time with a loan of some 50 billion euros. Either way, with or without euro, with or without drachma, with or without Schaeuble or SYRIZA, the result is the same: a third bailout of 50-84 billion euro and another bailout program. There is no hope for this country, for the people – at least, for some of them.
I really don’t care, if Varoufakis wears tasteless shirts and why he wanted to ‘hack’ taxpayers’ numbers while sitting with his team of skilled hackers and childhood friends. Varoufakis is not my cup of tea. He never was. But while our Greek life is falling apart day by day, I have to read Varoufakis’ interview Nr 2034 explaining his game theory and his academic hypothesis, hi smother’s story and his cousins pain. Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a dam. Frankly, my dear, I’m fed up.
I am also fed up to listen to opposition lawmakers complaining about the Parliament Speaker and claiming “Zoi Konstantopoulou is torturing MPs with her pedantism.” I honestly don’t give a dam. Frankly, my dear, I’m fed up to see ‘tortured’ MPs earning €5,000+ per month and enjoy tax-free, while the rest of us is literally bleeding: financially, psychologically, physically and morally.
Neither do I care whether SYRIZA is falling apart, whether the Prime Minister wants early elections in September in order to secure a clear majority in Parliament so that he can pass the austerity bills that lead to nowhere.
I am deaf to government ministers and party officials and opposition lawmakers debating on whether Varoufakis should be indict for high or for low treason.
I just don’t care. It doesn’t affect my life, not even a tiny little bit. I give neither a a whole dam nor half of it for this so-called Greek political agenda after July 13th.
What do I care about is to watch my country and the people falling into pieces. I see our Greek lives suffering another ‘internal devaluation’ minute by minute, day by day, week by week. When the 3. bailout deal will be sealed by 15 or 20 August I will be also able to say “I see our Greek lives suffering another ‘internal devaluation’ minute by minute, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year.”
The 40% internal devaluation settled in Greece since 2010, experiences a new peak even though the 3. bailout has not been signed yet. The Capital Controls imposed on June 29th in order to save the banks from draining, have ruined the lives of many Greeks. Friends of mine who have been working for more than two decades in private companies, were “sent to enforced holiday” together with the banks: their full time job turned into 1 or maximum 2 days work per week. That is 4 or 8 work days per month. In relation, their also salary plunged by end of July. Many employees in the private sector saw their working hours and already low salaries been reduced. How can these people get along without income? Nobody cares and nobody talks about. Neither national nor international media talk about it. We whisper these hazardous circumstances among ourselves. In quiet. Because we are ashamed. And we wonder endlessly.
Others, plagued by long term unemployment and no perspective to get a job or even a pension, felt obliged to sell their home. That’s not possible under capital controls. The selling amount will remain in the bank and it may even fall victim to “deposits haircut” by the end of the year. Another friend who needs to sell her second flat – an inheritance – so that she has money to live, cannot sell it either. Ten years ago, the flat was worth 130,000 euro. Now, if she finds a buyer she will have to sell it for 45,000-50,000 euro. She is trying to sell it for the last 1.5 year. Not a single buyer came around the corner.
With the new Value Added Tax hikes, the amount we need to spend for our weekly basic groceries now extra 15-20 euro. “Just 15 euro?” one may ask. Yes. That’s a huge amount, if you don’t have it and you have kids to feed and bills to pay. The 50-euro banknote that will go for groceries will be missed at the end of the month. Bills will remain unpaid, the extra for a health emergency, for example, will simply be not there. It’s either eat or die.
In hospitals and public health care the situation is getting from worse to worst. Shortage of doctors, of nurses, of administration personnel, of material. You need a portion of fluid iron? Average waiting time is 3 days. The same for special creams, for this and that. You need some cotton? “Oh, not so much, please, a tiny piece,” the nurse tells you politely. Sometimes, the drugs or creams never come, you get the prescription upon exiting the hospital.
In the night shift a nurse is in charge for 40-50 patients, even in the public hospital they proudly call “the biggest in Greece, in the whole Balkans, indeed.” Neither this nor the previous governments managed to raise the working hours of civil servants.
Patients that need night care need to hire a private nurse. They charge €8.5 per hour, €55 for six and a half hours, and one nice green 100-euro banknote on Saturdays. Union rights as before the crisis. Is this the competitiveness the Troika has been talking about? They work at fixed shifts and by the clock: 11:00 pm to 5:40 am, for example. A 24-hours care will cost you more than 200 euro, the overtime they charge is without receipt. One day, the doctor sends you home, half fixed, half broken and totally broke. Then you will need to consult another doctor and get skilled caretakers at home, all paid by your own pocket. Or lay down and die.
A pair of low-pensioners next door with a bed-ridden and dementia-sick wife have been going in and out the hospitals for the last 5 months. The woman needs 24/7 care but they cannot afford neither a caretaker or even better a care home for the elderly. Their last savings were spent on private nurses when the woman was hospitalized. The man was in shock and awe when he heard that they both will have 20-euro less because of the rises in health care contributions. The man was in such a shock that he forgot to go pick their pensions on Friday. And on Monday.
And then I read about the Financial Crimes Units (SDOE) that have caught in flagranti tourism businesses with fake cash registers in Mykonos and Santorini. Cash registers that have not been registered to the tax office. The customer gets his receipt, but the businessman pockets the money without giving the state the V.A.T. or taxes. The Finance Ministry got alarmed from this new phenomenon of tax evasion by the evergreen smart “Greeks”. But “personnel shortage” hinders a raid to all fake cash registers… One of the fake cash registers was located in Mykonos, two in Santorini, two of the richest islands of Greece. In fact: in the richest regions of the debt-ridden country with impoverished families and ruined economy.
And then, I get this damned feeling that I live in another planet in a far away universe. And I want to stay there forever. In a bubble. Away from this Greece, where half of its population starves and is in dire need and the other half, the ‘clever Greeks’ keep cheating and evading taxes and enjoy a real life of fake registration and exorbitant per hour charge, away from austerity agreements, Troika’s demands and the hateful “Mnimonia” (memoranda) as they take advantage of the shortages of the public system.
*** The title is a proposal by Thomais Papaioannou, Correspondent of ERT & RIK in Paris. I had run out of ideas when I finished this post…