Return of Troika to Athens to Consummate Negotiations with Greek Government a Compulsion

By Con George-Kotzabasis November 19, 2014

The Greek Opposition and the media in general by demonizing The Memorandum with its austere measures that has been imposed upon Greece by the Troika, i.e., the European Commission, the ECB, and the IMF, as a condition for the flow of funds from the latter to the Greek Treasury for the purpose of saving the country from insolvency and gradually placing it on a trajectory of economic recovery, has made it impossible for anyone to reasonably argue, or even to imply, that this necessary austerity, after a mindless profligate spending by previous governments that sunk Greece into an unfathomable debt and debarred it from the financial markets and threw it into an unprecedented spin of economic crisis since the ending of World War II, would generate beneficent results and would pull the country eventually out of its economic crisis.

History has repeatedly shown that countries in critical situations, almost like a law of nature, give rise to extraordinary men/women of stupendous wisdom, mettle, and will power that saved their nations from destruction. Themistocles at the battle of Salamis that saved Greece from Xerxes’ despotism and his barbarian myrmidons, Lincoln in the American Civil War, and Churchill in World War II, are outstanding examples. Likewise in contemporary Greece from the ashes of its economic holocaust, a phoenix, in the figure of Antonis Samaras, had risen to salvage the country from its tragic economic mess. In the short space of two years the Samaras government accomplished an unprecedented feat, that no other government in the world was ever able to consummate, i.e., to draw the country from the edge of a precipitous calamity and place it by gradual firm steps on the solid ground of inchoate economic recovery. This was achieved by a series of structural reforms that made the country more competitive, and by painful cuts in the budget that generated for the first time a primary surplus in the current year, after many years of budget deficits that was the embedded malaise of the policies of previous governments and were the major cause that pushed Greece into bankruptcy. Also, for the first time after forgetting, but not forgiving, many years of negative growth, the country’s GDP in 2014 has increased by 0.7%, and unemployment has decreased from 28% to 25.9%, in the same year, and is estimated to decrease to 25% by the end of 2014.

It is because of these achievements of the Samaras government, that I believe that the TROIKA will be compelled to back down from its severe and apparently unyielding demands, in its impending negotiations with the Greek government in a few days, and will render a positive review of the policies implemented by the latter as stipulated in the Memorandum, which is the sine qua non of Greece’s exit from the strictures of the Memorandum by the end of 2014. It is inconceivable that the TROIKA will persevere with its hard position and put in jeopardy these successes of the Samaras government, that after all, emanated from its own austerity measures that were contained in its own directives as designated in the Memorandum. The TROIKA cannot be so foolish as to throw  a spanner in its own works! Hence, the nonsensical fear, that has been so gloomily and frivolously fanned by the Greek media that the TROIKA will continue its hard-line toward the government and place in predicament, and waste, all the sacrifices Greeks had made to turn their country into a modern economy and fecund with prosperity, will dissipate with the softening and compulsion of the TROIKA to withdraw its hard stand.

I rest on my oars: your turn now.

          

In the Thunderous Sky of Greece a Thunderbolt of Creative Destruction is about to Strike the Country

Greece, after its forced exile, four years ago, from the international financial markets, has returned, this week, back to them with aplomb to reap the confidence of the markets of its future economic development. In 2010, Greece, by numerous prominent economists and analysts and top economic journals, such as the Economist, was sentenced to death for its economic maladies that had brought the country into bankruptcy. This dire and calamitous situation however was overturned by the advent of Antonis Samaras as prime minister in June 2012, who, by selecting a constellation of bright stars as ministers, was able to accomplish by his strong and sagacious leadership, in the short space of two years, this reversal of misfortune that had engulfed the country as a result of the ill-fated fiscal policies of past governments. This achievement is unprecedented, as no country in the world was able to transform itself from the brink of economic ruin to economic recovery in such a short time. In the annals of economic history this illustrious outcome will be registered as the economic miracle of Greece.

The following paper was written on April 2012 and is republished for the readers of this blog.

By Con George-Kotzabasis December, 2012

The most respectable German newspaper Handelsblatt, proclaimed Antonis Samaras as the greatest European politician for the year 2012. At the same time the illustrious former Foreign Minister of Germany Hans-Dietrich Genscher, also praised Samaras in glowing terms as the politician, who after admitting his own mistakes and the disastrous economic policies of Greece that brought the latter to the brink of insolvency, brought the country with remarkable celerity and unsurpassable decisiveness on the right course that would rekindle the economy and lead the country toward economic development. Goldman Sachs is predicting that in the next 10 years Greek GDP will increase by 30%. The rating agency Moody’s increased the financial status of Greece by six points.

”Things grow at the right time, i.e. the right moment and the right perseverance. ‘For’, as [the German poet] Holderlin said, ‘the mindful God abhors untimely growth’ “

Martin Heidegger

 

History has shown that at critical moments, in countries of advanced and high culture, men of stupendous ability, imagination, foresight, and fortitude, sprang, like phoenixes from the ashes, to salvage their countries from mortal threats. Themistocles at the battle of Salamis that saved Greece from the barbarian Persian invasion, is one example, the other is Charles Martel, who at the battle of Poitiers stopped the barbarian Muslim invasion from conquering Europe. In our modern contemporaneous times, Greece, on the verge of being devoured and crashed by the ‘hungry fangs’ of default and economic poverty, is just as promptly to be saved by a modern-day Periclean statesman, Antonis Samaras.

In the early 1980’s, with the advent of Andreas Papandreou’s socialist government to power, which proved to be the destructive force that brought Greece to its present catastrophe, that immediately started implementing the serial economic crime of a policy of deficits, the country entered the vicious circle of government spending without economic development. By the early 90’s it was glaringly clear that the debt of the country was reaching astronomical heights that would lead it to the precipice of default and bankruptcy. In 1994, Constantinos Mitsotakis, the former prime minister of Greece, in a prophetic speech in Parliament, predicted that the economically crass and thoughtless policies of Pasok would send Greece as a mendicant to the International Monetary Fund to spare it from pauperism. Andreas Papandreou himself was shocked when at a sober moment glanced at the unfathomable debt that the country was in, as a result of his dirigisme economic policies. It was in his presence when his minister of finance Kostas Simitis remarked, in an accusatory and pungent phrase, that this was “the revenge of the economy.”

The false prosperity that had engulfed Greece turned a sizable part of its population to indulge in the charms and seductions of dolce vita at the expense of government largesse. A whole generation of Greeks had been spoiled and became kaloperasakides (the easy life of prodigally good-timers) under the perpetual munificence of the State. In such a social situation the New Democracy party, though imbued with the precepts of The Austrian School of economics versus Keynesianism, and realising, as its leader Constantinos Mitsotakis did, that the country was approaching in a rapid pace the edge of insolvency, had its hands politically manacled and could not implement decisively and with celerity, and with the necessary degree required, policies of economic restraint that would have prevented the transformation of Greece into a mendicant status, since there did not exist even a small constituency on the political landscape of Greece that would contemplate, least of all accept, policies of austerity. The Greeks had been ‘pathologically’ conditioned to the ‘benefits’ accruing from big government, introduced by Andreas Papandreou, and any attempt to small government by any party in power or any opposition propagating  such an idea, could neither hold or win government. Who would give up the ‘free tans’ in sunny Greece that so profusely and generously the State was providing? And who would give up the cushy and loafing jobs in the public sector that the party boys and girls of Pasok and New Democracy were enjoying and relishing? This is the point from which the economic tragedy of Greece had started and would continue to its tragic end.

Thirty years of frivolous public spending brought debt-to-GDP ratio of 120%. Since October 2009 when the son of Andreas Papandreou, George, became prime minister and implemented measures of severe austerity as directed from Brussels in the first memorandum, debt reached 168% of GDP. With the continued recession of the country for the fifth year, Greece lost 16%–18% of its GDP since 2009.

From early 2010 the Opposition leader, Antonis Samaras, few months after his election as leader of the New Democracy party, was warning the Papandreou government of the danger that the austerity measures without economic recovery would lead the country into recession. But his was a lone voice in the wilderness. And for his bold and insightful decision to oppose and vote against the first memorandum replete with the leaden heaviness of austerity that would sink the Greek economy as it did, he was vehemently reprimanded both from within and outside the country. The Economist magazine severely criticised him for his stand against the memorandum but only to lament its critique two years later and concede that Samaras was right. Likewise, Chancellor Merkel and many European ministers with whom Samaras had quarrelled and pointed out to them that austerity measures without rekindling the economy would not resolve Greece’s problem but would make it more abstruse and harder to crack. It took two years for the top brains of Europe to realize that the austerity pills that they were forcing into Greece’s mouth to remedy its ills would have the effect of poisoning its body. (In two years of the severe austerity of the Memorandum, as we indicated above, Greece increased its debt to GDP by a great amount and lost a substantial part of its Gross Domestic Product as enterprises closed and unemployment ravaged the country.) And in turn, like The Economist, admitting that Samaras had won the argument, as all Europeans now are calling for economic recovery and development, supplemented by austerity measures that are necessary, as the way to restore a country’s economic strength.

The May 6 Elections of Greece Crucial for the Future of the Country

The impending election that has been called by the interim government of Lucas Papademos for May 6 is of momentous significance for the future course of the country. Greeks will be called to be partisans of the hard climb to the peak of Mt Olympus from where the sun of hope will rise once again over Greece or be partisans to a free fall in a long twilight of despair. The first is the thunderous call of the New Democracy Party under the Gulliverian and imaginative political leadership of Antonis Samaras, and the second is the deathlike mute call of a congeries of small parties from the left and the right led by Lilliputian politicians. These politically ‘pigmy’ parties, among which is the Communist Party, have no policies of rescuing Greece from its woes, except policies that would lead to the exiting from the European Union and return to the drachma that would lead in turn to the absolute poverty of the country, deliberately drop the curtain on all hope on Greece as their sole aim is to sordidly profit politically by their investment in hopelessness.

The socialist party, Pasok, the main opponent of New Democracy, although on the side of hope, even under the new leadership of Evangelos Venizelos, is totally discredited, as it has been the party that led Greece to its present catastrophe by a bout of unbelievable and unprecedented economic and political mistakes, that Venizelos himself was involved in and responsible, during the last two years that was in government. Moreover, the latest decision of the High Court of Greece to apprehend and charge a former luminary of Pasok and right-hand man of Andreas Papandreou, the founding father of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, Akes Tsohatzopoulos, his wife and daughter, and some of his relatives, with bribery and corruption and with being the receiver and beneficiary of millions of dollars as paid commissions, during his tenure as minister of defence, from German and Russian companies to which he had authorized major assignments and projects of his department, has indelibly marked Pasok as venally corrupt;  particularly when its present leader Venizelos, at the initial investigations of Tsohatzopoulos, with the stentorian voice of the lawyer, that he is, was defending and exculpating from any knave dealings, and with the usual catch-all alibi of the typical politician,  that the “accusation against Tsohatzopoulos was politically motivated.” Hence, inconceivable political incompetence and culpability, and unfathomable corruption on the part of Pasok, will be two major themes that will dominate the elections and which will ineluctably lead to new lows in the polls for the socialists.

In this critical economic and political setting that the country is in and the looming threat of the breaking of social cohesion, Samaras is asking the Greek people to give New Democracy the “auto-dynamism,” by a majority of votes in the elections, so he can have his hands untied to govern the country with decisiveness and clear uncompromised policies that would put Greece on the trajectory of economic recovery and development. He argues cogently, that in the present political situation of Greece when consensus about the necessary economic policies among parties of how to regenerate the economy of the country is absent, a coalition government–which is the designated position of Pasok and according to the polls at this moment the desire of a majority of the electorate–will be politically impracticable, and more importantly, would not drag out the country from its peril but would further engulf it into profounder depths; as one could not govern effectively a country in a crisis and gradually bring it out of it  by being compelled to make compromises to one’s political partners, but only by a well-defined plan and decisive and prompt action to implement it without compromises, by a leader who has a strong mandate from the electorate.

Samaras believes, and reasonably hopes with the confidence of a statesman, that during the electoral period and closer to election date, there will be a dramatic shift of voters toward polarized positions, once the crucial issues of the country are spelled out clearly and without lies to the people by New Democracy and by foreshadowing the practical economic policies backed by real numbers that would put Greece on the track of economic recovery, there is a great chance that the majority of Greeks will give New Democracy a strong mandate to govern on its own for the benefit of all Greeks and for the salvation of the country.

Samaras contended long ago, that only through a clear strong authorization given to him by a majority of the people he would be able to radically change Greece. For real economic development entails not only good policies and incentives but a transformation in the views and customs of people toward such development. He puts great emphasis on the value of human capital and entrepreneurship as the prerequisites for the economic recovery of the country. That is why he has promised to re-legitimize private enterprise and effort that for many years now has been delegitimized in the country by communist-led unions, to whom profit has been, as always, the devil-incarnate of the capitalist free market.

The present high unemployment of more than 20% Samaras contends, will not be reduced by mere lower labour costs which already have been decreased by 15% in the private sector while the tax burden on the latter has increased by 50% and energy costs by 450%. Even if Greeks worked for free no one would hire them with such high taxes and energy costs. Samaras in his Zappeio III speech few days ago declared that he would cut corporate tax to a flat rate of 15%, sharply cut pay-roll tax, lower personal income-tax to 32% maximum, and reduce taxes substantially on fuel and tourism. This would make harder rampant tax evasion and would unleash the creativity of the private sector and hence commence the gradual reduction in unemployment. He also announced, that he would increase the lowest pensions to 700 euros per month–that were reduced drastically by the second Memorandum under the austerity measures–and would increase the endowment of families with many children which would not only correct an injustice inflicted upon these two weak sections of society but would also have favourable economic consequence as they  would increase consumer demand, which is so important in rekindling the economy, as both recipients of this government assistance spend their money in consumer goods. He would do these two things without increasing public expenditure and hence worsening the deficit, but by cutting government wastage that is so massive and profligate in the State’s spending. Further, he will provide incentives to private enterprise in areas where Greece has almost unchallengeable comparative advantage, i.e., in the merchant marine sector, ship building, and tourism; and in the production and merchandise of olive oil and other agricultural goods by the local producers themselves, not by foreign ones as is the case presently, whose development in all the above sectors will vitally affect the resurgence of the economy. He also proposes to provide incentives to entrepreneurs to exploit the rich mineral resources of the country and to give priority to find and tap the vast natural gas deposits under the Aegean Sea, by declaring the Greek AOZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) that could transform the export dynamic of Greece. He intends further, to reverse the present dryness of liquidity in the country by proffering amnesty from any legal penalties to those who withdrew their cash holdings from Greek banks during the height of the crisis and deposited them overseas once they bring them back to the country; and also by immediately paying back the 6.5 billion euros that the government owes to domestic enterprises; these two measures would increase the liquidity of the banks and hence their ability to provide loans to the private sector, especially to small businesses, that are the backbone of the country’s economy. Moreover, the re-capitalization of the banks, Samaras argues, will enable them to borrow funds at low interest rates from the European Central Bank, that were set up by it last December, which would be used to put Greece on the track of recovery and economic development.

It is by this method of supply-side economics, as that wunderkind Alders Borg the Swedish Finance Minister illustrated for his own country that Greece’s economy will rise again. The necessary austerity measures stipulated in the new Memorandum that Greece has to implement must be accompanied by the rejuvenated “animal spirits” of private enterprise. Samaras, consistently has been saying for the last two years that “we need a recovery to jump-start the economy,” and in conditions of recession austerity measures cannot stimulate the economy but on the contrary sink it deeper into stagnation.

The vision and plan of Samaras is to plant radical changes on the whole landscape of Greece. In his Zappeio speech he adumbrates constitutional changes that would separate the three branches of government the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary and thus prevent a member of parliament from being a minister, which has been in the past a malignant link of political corruption and has bestowed ‘asylum’ to members of parliament for their malfeasances. He pledges to bring changes to educational institutions that would reclaim the proud heritage of Greece that tragically has been eroded by the cultural relativists of a left coterie of pseudo-intellectuals and led to the disconnection of many young Greeks from their great cultural origins. He also promises to take drastic measures against illegal migrants, whom he calls “unarmed invaders” of Greece that under the soft immigration policies of Pasok they have occupied the main centres of cities, and remove them to provincial hostels until their eventual expulsion.  Another important commitment of Samaras is to transform the bon vivant ethos of many Greeks, which up till now its tab has been picked up by the government, into a creatively productive one. On the new green tree planted by New Democracy, the singing cicadas will be replaced by fecund working bees. As Samaras is fully aware that sustainable economic development cannot be accomplished without transformative changes in the thinking and the mores of the people, especially of the younger generation.

Samaras is “framed in the prodigality of nature,” to quote Shakespeare. He is endowed charismatically both with a high intellect and remarkable moral strength along with the will and determination—all the stuff out of which statesmen are made–to change all things in Greece. But whether this lightning bolt of creative destruction will strike Greece or not depends on the strong mandate that he needs from the people. If Greeks do not fail, at this critical juncture, from fulfilling their historical duty to render to New Democracy a majority of seats in Parliament, then Antonis Samaras, in turn, will consummate the cultural, political, and economic Renaissance of Greece.

Hic Rhodus hic Salta

Statesmen Lead their People from Darkness to Enlightenment

I’m republishing this short piece that was written on May 10, 2012, for the readers of this blog.

What actually decides is our character   Jose Ortega y Gasset

By Con George-Kotzabasis May 10, 2012

Surprisingly, you are profoundly pessimistic, not to say nihilistic, about Antonis Samaras, who is the greatest politician appearing on the political firmament of Greece since Eleftherios Venizelos. Samaras is “framed in the prodigality of nature,” to quote Shakespeare, endowed with that rare combination of high intellect, imagination, stupendous moral strength, and economic insight, which he proved by his prediction of the disastrous policy of austerity, encapsulated in the first European Memorandum as a remedy to Greece’s dire economic peril, without economic resurgence.

Statesmen are not responsible for the ignorance and political immaturity of their people. They try to lead even in a vacuum of understanding among their people about the real dangers their country is facing. The tragedy of Samaras was that his clear and sagacious policies were not able to overcome and trump the ignorance of a large part of the electorate about the real dangers that were threatening Greece, especially in a state of akyvernisia (Lack of government).

As a physicist you must know the fate of Galileo and how difficult it is to nullify ignorance. And your quote of Christopher Hitchens in your blog gives me the sense that you are aware of this difficulty. To wish therefore for Samaras removal, seems to me not only unjust but also politically immoral. And to hope that the leader of Syriza, AlexisTsipras, a staunch votary of Hugo Chavez, that he will change his inveterate leftist populist position of anti-Europe led by Germany, is to indulge in wishful thinking.

In moments of a great crisis, statesmen have the obligation and responsibility to lead their people from darkness to enlightenment and imbue them with indispensable hope about their immediate future, so they can overcome the crisis. Samaras is doing just this.  

Marxistoid Economists Consider Politically Bankrupt Left as Solution of Greek Crisis

Fair is foul, and foul is fair, /Hover through the fog and filthy air (Witches of Macbeth chanting their cursing ditty)

By Con George-Kotzabasis— July 04, 2013

In their article published in the New York Times  on June 23, under the title “Only the Left Can Save Greece”, the two politically ‘pinkish’ economists teaching at the University of Texas at Austin, James Galbraith (the son of the famous John Galbraith) and Yannis Varoufakis, argue that neither America nor Europe should fear an ascension to power of the Left wing party of Syriza in Greece on the contrary, they should applaud it, as a government of the left would reverse the defective policies of the European Union that have been so destructive to the Greek polity and to its people as well as to many other European countries.

The two economists were shocked at the closure of the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT) and denounced the Samaras government for its authoritarian and undemocratic action, of depriving Greeks of a public service of information and entertainment that was invaluable to them. The government however closed the public broadcaster temporarily and planned to replace this cesspool of administrative corruption, opacity, and cronyism, for which each Greek household had to pay a levy of 50 Euros per year, with a new public broadcaster not run by the government but by personnel chosen on meritocratic criteria and professionalism that would upgrade the service provided to Greek viewers and at a cheaper price.  Galbraith and Varoufakis, in their support of this corrupt and inefficiently run public entity  and demand of its reopening, found a kindred political ally in the leader of the Marxist party of Syriza, Alexis Tsipras, who had committed himself to re-open with all its personnel intact if he became prime minister. Tsipras’ crocodile tears for the public broadcaster, which in the recent past had condemned as being the mouthpiece of the extreme right, exposed his blatant political opportunism in this U-turn from hate to love for ERT. But they found him also to be an invaluable ally to their economic proposals of how to lift Greece out of the crisis. .

Galbraith’s and Varoufakis’ solution to the crisis springs from the growing of a hundred blooming flowers in the luxuriantly prodigal Keynesian garden. Their package of Keynesian remedies consist of “a kind of European equivalent of America’s post-crisis Troubled Asset Relief program; an investment and job program; and a European initiative to meet the social and human crisis by  strengthening  unemployment insurance, basic pensions, deposit insurance, and the expansion of core public institutions like education and health.” Notice, that all of these remedies are to be financed by  government and taxes from private enterprises. How then government can finance all these things when its coffers are empty and depend on European loans to pay for primal services such as schools, hospitals, and public servants, and when private enterprise has no incentive to function or remain in an unstructured economy that has been for many years inimical to it? And the two economists do not make  a pip about the necessity of private foreign and domestic investments that are the only economically sustainable and viable investments that can initiate growth and economic development that are the sine qua non that will pull Greece out of the crisis. And that these investments can only be made under the incentive  of structural economic reforms that are favorable to private enterprise, and strict fiscal policies that perforce can only be accomplished by hard measures which are inevitably painful to the general populace.

Since neither the political color nor the gray matter of Galbraith and Varoufakis were able to convince serious politicians and economists in the Euro zone, or Greece, of the correctness of their Keynesian mirage as a solvent to the European and Greek crisis, they found in the fiasco leadership of Syriza, of Tsipras, the intellectual salvation of their by now withered flowers of their Keynesian remedy. (This speaks volumes about the value of their proposals in that they found their support and cerebral salvation in the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the Greek left.) Tsipras bereft of any tenable economic policies, and rationalizing this vacuity in policy making by populist rhetorical denunciations of the policies of the Samaras government, eagerly embraced the policies of Galbraith and Varoufakis, which ideologically are cognate to his own as a ne plus ultra government interventionist himself, thus giving to his own policies some sort of academic prestige from this ‘south of the border’ economists that he is unable to get from more serious experts in the profession. (But beggars cannot choose.)

Indeed, the policies of Tsipras have their source in a variegated coterie of Marxists getting their inspiration from the flashing pan of Marxism, as the rising sun of the latter has long ago disappeared from the astral constellation of the universe, never to rise again. Tsipras, as a true believer of the great man, Karl Marx, attended the Marxist organised Subversive Festival of Zagreb in Croatia last March, which was likewise attended by both Galbraith and Varoufakis. Indeed, the former announced with pride his attendance of the Festival, in a lecture he gave to socialists in the German Parliament last week, where the gladiators of the great imperator Karl Marx had gathered together from all over the world and rushed into the arena of the Amphitheatre of Zagreb, with nets in one hand and swords in the other, to fight and slay the wild animals of capitalism, which their predecessors in the socialist camp, even better armed with technological weapons, had failed to slay. Moreover, Tsipras was an aficionado of Chavez and had visited Venezuela last year with the hope of getting financial help  from its president with an implied commitment of making Greece a protectorate of Venezuela, if not the European Venezuela. And yet Galbraith and Varoufakis in their political naiveté write in their article in the New York Times that the Americans have nothing to fear from a Syriza government.

Galbraith and Varoufakis, like the witches of Macbeth cursing the Samaras’ government as foul, undemocratic and authoritarian, slavishly implementing the dictates of the European Union, and as economically incompetent, are predicting its downfall while stirring the pot of their quackish remedies which nobody will ‘buy’ other than Tsipras. Meanwhile, Samaras wisely, assiduously, and decisively is transforming Greece within the short span of one year by an unprecedented series of structural reforms that are increasing competition–Greece is in the 22 position internationally for the first time–reducing the bureaucracy, especially its inefficient part that was an obstacle to investments, and planning to make it more efficient on meritocratic standards, changing the economic milieu by making it friendly to business and investments, and leashing the arbitrary and ruinous power of unions which for many years had prevented foreign investments in the country. Moreover by his virtuoso performance in the negotiations with the European Union and the IMF, Samaras  has blunted some of the austerity measures that have been a major factor in obstructing the re-igniting of the economy and artfully polishing these measures that will put Greece on the track of development. He was able to convince the leaders of the EU to provide Greece with extra funds for employment programs that will materialize by the beginning of 2014, more resources from the European Bank of Investments so they can be ploughed into small and medium sized businesses. He has started building Autobahns that have created 25,000 new jobs and he has enticed the economically hard thinking Chinese government to invest 350,000 million Euros in the port of Piraeus thus making it the entrepot of commerce between south-east Asia and Europe. ( The European Council announced that the port of Piraeus will be named as the capital port of Europe for 2015.) Also the Chinese are interested in making more investments in the infrastructure of the country, especially in its railway network by which they will transport their goods into Europe. But the most important and greatest achievement of the Samaras’ government up to this moment has been the building, through Greece, of the conduit by the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) that will convey natural gas from Azerbaijan to the heart of Europe. TAP will invest the huge amount of 1.5 billion in Greece and will generate 12,000 jobs by 2014 in the country. This, according to one authority in the energy industry, has been the personal accomplishment of Samaras who in his visit of Azerbaijan and meeting with the Prime Minister of the country three weeks ago, convinced the latter that it would be more efficient and economically cheaper to build the conduit through Greece instead of through Bulgaria and Romania, a project which the international consortium backing it was favorable to win, and lost it only, with the intervention of Samaras. Furthermore, this enormous investment, behind which one of its investors is the global gigantic company BHPBilliton, engenders confidence to other investors that Greece is about to pull itself out of the crisis, and hence, encourages and attracts more investments into the country and thus will increase employment which is one of the major challenges of the government.

The government under the statesmanship of Samaras is determined to pull Greece out of the crisis and not to squander the sacrifices Greeks had to make for the economic, political, and cultural Renaissance of the country. The great, fair achievements of the Samaras government, in an unprecedented short span of time, are depicted and cursed as foul by the two Marxistoid economists, James Galbraith and Yannis Varoufakis. Ignominy, loss of intellectual honor, is of no concern to them.

I rest on my oars:Your turn now 

In the Thunderous Sky of Greece a Lightning Bolt of Creative Destruction is about to Strike the Country

The most respectable German newspaper Handelsblatt, proclaimed Antonis Samaras as the greatest European politician for the year 2012. At the same time the illustrious former Foreign Minister of Germany Hans-Dietrich Genscher, also praised Samaras in glowing terms as the politician, who after admitting his own mistakes and the disastrous economic policies of Greece that brought the latter to the brink of insolvency, brought the country with remarkable celerity and unsurpassable decisiveness on the right course that would rekindle the economy and lead the country toward economic development. Goldman Sachs is predicting that in the next 10 years Greek GDP will increase by 30%. The credit ratings agency Moody’s increased the financial status of Greece by six points.

It’s for this reason that I’m republishing the following essay which was written on April 27, 2012, for the readers of this blog. 

By Con George-Kotzabasis April 27, 2012

History has shown that at critical moments, in countries of advanced and high culture, men of stupendous ability, imagination, foresight, and fortitude, sprang, like phoenixes from the ashes, to salvage their countries from mortal threats. Themistocles at the battle of Salamis that saved Greece from the barbarian Persian invasion, is one example, the other is Charles Martel, who at the battle of Poitiers stopped the barbarian Muslim invasion from conquering Europe. In our modern contemporaneous times, Greece, on the verge of being devoured and crashed by the ‘hungry fangs’ of default and economic poverty, is just as promptly to be saved by a modern-day Periclean statesman, Antonis Samaras.

In the early 1980’s, with the advent of Andreas Papandreou’s socialist government in power, which proved to be the destructive force that brought Greece to its present catastrophe, that immediately started implementing the serial economic crime of a policy of deficits, the country entered the vicious circle of government spending without economic development. By the early 90’s it was glaringly clear that the debt of the country was reaching astronomical heights that would lead it to the precipice of default and bankruptcy. In 1994, Constantinos Mitsotakis, the former prime minister of Greece, in a prophetic speech in Parliament, predicted that the economically crass and thoughtless policies of Pasok would send Greece as a mendicant to the International Monetary Fund to spare it from pauperism. Andreas Papandreou himself was shocked when at a sober moment glanced at the unfathomable debt that the country was in, as a result of his dirigisme economic policies. It was in his presence when his minister of finance Kostas Simitis remarked, in an accusatory and pungent phrase, that this was “the revenge of the economy.”

The false prosperity that had engulfed Greece turned a sizable part of its population to indulge in the charms and seductions of dolce vita at the expense of government largesse. A whole generation of Greeks had been spoiled and became kaloperasakides (the easy life of prodigally good-timers) under the perpetual munificence of the State. In such a social situation the New Democracy party, though imbued with the precepts of The Austrian School of economics versus Keynesianism, and realising, as its leader Constantinos Mitsotakis did, that the country was approaching in a rapid pace the edge of insolvency, had its hands politically manacled and could not implement decisively and with celerity, and with the necessary degree required, policies of economic restraint that would have prevented the transformation of Greece into a mendicant status, since there did not exist even a small constituency on the political landscape of Greece that would contemplate, least of all accept, policies of austerity. The Greeks had been ‘pathologically’ conditioned to the ‘benefits’ accruing from big government, introduced by Andreas Papandreou, and any attempt to small government by any party in power or any opposition propagating  such an idea, could neither hold or win government. Who would give up the ‘free tans’ in sunny Greece that so profusely and generously the State was providing? And who would give up the cushy and loafing jobs in the public sector that the party boys and girls of Pasok and New Democracy were enjoying and relishing? This is the point from which the economic tragedy of Greece had started and would continue to its tragic end.

Thirty years of frivolous public spending brought debt-to-GDP ratio of 120%. Since October 2009 when the son of Andreas Papandreou, George, became prime minister and implemented measures of severe austerity as directed from Brussels in the first memorandum, debt reached 168% of GDP. With the continued recession of the country for the fifth year, Greece lost 16%–18% of its GDP since 2009.

From early 2010 the Opposition leader, Antonis Samaras, few months after his election as leader of the New Democracy party, was warning the Papandreou government of the danger that the austerity measures without economic recovery would lead the country into recession. But his was a lone voice in the wilderness. And for his bold and insightful decision to oppose and vote against the first memorandum replete with the leaden heaviness of austerity that would sink the Greek economy as it did, he was vehemently reprimanded both from within and outside the country. The Economist magazine severely criticised him for his stand against the memorandum but only to lament its critique two years later and concede that Samaras was right. Likewise, Chancellor Merkel and many European ministers with whom Samaras had quarrelled and pointed out to them that austerity measures without rekindling the economy would not resolve Greece’s problem but would make it more abstruse and harder to crack. It took two years for the top brains of Europe to realize that the austerity pills that they were forcing into Greece’s mouth to remedy its ills would have the effect of poisoning its body. (In two years of the severe austerity of the Memorandum, as we indicated above, Greece increased its debt to GDP by a great amount and lost a substantial part of its Gross Domestic Product as enterprises closed and unemployment ravaged the country.) And in turn, like The Economist, admitting that Samaras had won the argument, as all Europeans now are calling for economic recovery and development, supplemented by austerity measures that are necessary, as the way to restore a country’s economic strength.

The May 6 Elections of Greece Crucial for the Future of the Country

The impending election that has been called by the interim government of Lucas Papademos for May 6 is of momentous significance for the future course of the country. Greeks will be called to be partisans of the hard climb to the peak of Mt Olympus from where the sun of hope will rise once again over Greece or be partisans to a free fall in a long twilight of despair. The first is the thunderous call of the New Democracy Party under the Gulliverian and imaginative political leadership of Antonis Samaras, and the second is the deathlike mute call of a congeries of small parties from the left and the right led by Lilliputian politicians. These politically ‘pigmy’ parties, among which is the Communist Party, have no policies of rescuing Greece from its woes, except policies that would lead to the exiting from the European Union and return to the drachma that would lead in turn to the absolute poverty of the country, deliberately drop the curtain on all hope on Greece as their sole aim is to sordidly profit politically by their investment in hopelessness.

The socialist party, Pasok, the main opponent of New Democracy, although on the side of hope, even under the new leadership of Evangelos Venizelos, is totally discredited, as it has been the party that led Greece to its present catastrophe by a bout of unbelievable and unprecedented economic and political mistakes, that Venizelos himself was involved in and responsible, during the last two years that was in government. Moreover, the latest decision of the High Court of Greece to apprehend and charge a former luminary of Pasok and right-hand man of Andreas Papandreou, the founding father of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement, Akes Tsohatzopoulos, his wife and daughter, and some of his relatives, with bribery and corruption and with being the receiver and beneficiary of millions of dollars as paid commissions, during his tenure as minister of defence, from German and Russian companies to which he had authorized major assignments and projects of his department, has indelibly marked Pasok as venally corrupt;  particularly when its present leader Venizelos, at the initial investigations of Tsohatzopoulos, with the stentorian voice of the lawyer, that he is, was defending and exculpating from any knave dealings, and with the usual catch-all alibi of the typical politician,  that the “accusation against Tsohatzopoulos was politically motivated.” Hence, inconceivable political incompetence and culpability, and unfathomable corruption on the part of Pasok, will be two major themes that will dominate the elections and which will ineluctably lead to new lows in the polls for the socialists.

In this critical economic and political setting that the country is in and the looming threat of the breaking of social cohesion, Samaras is asking the Greek people to give New Democracy the “auto-dynamism,” by a majority of votes in the elections, so he can have his hands untied to govern the country with decisiveness and clear uncompromised policies that would put Greece on the trajectory of economic recovery and development. He argues cogently, that in the present political situation of Greece when consensus about the necessary economic policies among parties of how to regenerate the economy of the country is absent, a coalition government–which is the designated position of Pasok and according to the polls at this moment the desire of a majority of the electorate–will be politically impracticable, and more importantly, would not drag out the country from its peril but would further engulf it into profounder depths; as one could not govern effectively a country in a crisis and gradually bring it out of it  by being compelled to make compromises to one’s political partners, but only by a well-defined plan and decisive and prompt action to implement it without compromises, by a leader who has a strong mandate from the electorate.

Samaras believes, and reasonably hopes with the confidence of a statesman, that during the electoral period and closer to election date, there will be a dramatic shift of voters toward polarized positions, once the crucial issues of the country are spelled out clearly and without lies to the people by New Democracy and by foreshadowing the practical economic policies backed by real numbers that would put Greece on the track of economic recovery, there is a great chance that the majority of Greeks will give New Democracy a strong mandate to govern on its own for the benefit of all Greeks and for the salvation of the country.

Samaras contended long ago, that only through a clear strong authorization given to him by a majority of the people he would be able to radically change Greece. For real economic development entails not only good policies and incentives but a transformation in the views and customs of people toward such development. He puts great emphasis on the value of human capital and entrepreneurship as the prerequisites for the economic recovery of the country. That is why he has promised to re-legitimize private enterprise and effort that for many years now has been delegitimized in the country by communist-led unions, to whom profit has been, as always, the devil-incarnate of the capitalist free market.

The present high unemployment of more than 20% Samaras contends, will not be reduced by mere lower labour costs which already have been decreased by 15% in the private sector while the tax burden on the latter has increased by 50% and energy costs by 450%. Even if Greeks worked for free no one would hire them with such high taxes and energy costs. Samaras in his Zappeio III speech few days ago declared that he would cut corporate tax to a flat rate of 15%, sharply cut pay-roll tax, lower personal income-tax to 32% maximum, and reduce taxes substantially on fuel and tourism. This would make harder rampant tax evasion and would unleash the creativity of the private sector and hence commence the gradual reduction in unemployment. He also announced, that he would increase the lowest pensions to 700 euros per month–that were reduced drastically by the second Memorandum under the austerity measures–and would increase the endowment of families with many children which would not only correct an injustice inflicted upon these two weak sections of society but would also have favourable economic consequence as they  would increase consumer demand, which is so important in rekindling the economy, as both recipients of this government assistance spend their money in consumer goods. He would do these two things without increasing public expenditure and hence worsening the deficit, but by cutting government wastage that is so massive and profligate in the State’s spending. Further, he will provide incentives to private enterprise in areas where Greece has almost unchallengeable comparative advantage, i.e., in the merchant marine sector, ship building, and tourism; and in the production and merchandise of olive oil and other agricultural goods by the local producers themselves, not by foreign ones as is the case presently, whose development in all the above sectors will vitally affect the resurgence of the economy. He also proposes to provide incentives to entrepreneurs to exploit the rich mineral resources of the country and to give priority to find and tap the vast natural gas deposits under the Aegean Sea, by declaring the Greek AOZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) that could transform the export dynamic of Greece. He intends further, to reverse the present dryness of liquidity in the country by proffering amnesty from any legal penalties to those who withdrew their cash holdings from Greek banks during the height of the crisis and deposited them overseas once they bring them back to the country; and also by immediately paying back the 6.5 billion euros that the government owes to domestic enterprises; these two measures would increase the liquidity of the banks and hence their ability to provide loans to the private sector, especially to small businesses, that are the backbone of the country’s economy. Moreover, the re-capitalization of the banks, Samaras argues, will enable them to borrow funds at low interest rates from the European Central Bank, that were set up by it last December, which would be used to put Greece on the track of recovery and economic development.

It is by this method of supply-side economics, as that wunderkind Alders Borg the Swedish Finance Minister illustrated for his own country that Greece’s economy will rise again. The necessary austerity measures stipulated in the new Memorandum that Greece has to implement must be accompanied by the rejuvenated “animal spirits” of private enterprise. Samaras, consistently has been saying for the last two years that “we need a recovery to jump-start the economy,” and in conditions of recession austerity measures cannot stimulate the economy but on the contrary sink it deeper into stagnation.

The vision and plan of Samaras is to plant radical changes on the whole landscape of Greece. In his Zappeio speech he adumbrates constitutional changes that would separate the three branches of government the executive, the legislative, and the judiciary and thus prevent a member of parliament from being a minister, which has been in the past a malignant link of political corruption and has bestowed ‘asylum’ to members of parliament for their malfeasances. He pledges to bring changes to educational institutions that would reclaim the proud heritage of Greece that tragically has been eroded by the cultural relativists of a left coterie of pseudo-intellectuals and led to the disconnection of many young Greeks from their great cultural origins. He also promises to take drastic measures against illegal migrants, whom he calls “unarmed invaders” of Greece that under the soft immigration policies of Pasok they have occupied the main centres of cities, and remove them to provincial hostels until their eventual expulsion.  Another important commitment of Samaras is to transform the bon vivant ethos of many Greeks, which up till now its tab has been picked up by the government, into a creatively productive one. On the new green tree planted by New Democracy, the singing cicadas will be replaced by fecund working bees. As Samaras is fully aware that sustainable economic development cannot be accomplished without transformative changes in the thinking and the mores of the people, especially of the younger generation.

Samaras is “framed in the prodigality of nature,” to quote Shakespeare. He is endowed charismatically both with a high intellect and remarkable moral strength along with the will and determination—all the stuff out of which statesmen are made–to change all things in Greece. But whether this lightning bolt of creative destruction will strike Greece or not depends on the strong mandate that he needs from the people. If Greeks do not fail, at this critical juncture, from fulfilling their historical duty to render to New Democracy a majority of seats in Parliament, then Antonis Samaras, in turn, will consummate the cultural political and economic Renaissance of Greece.

Hic Rhodus hic Salta

Antonis Samaras the Phoenix of the Greek Renaissance

By Con George-Kotzabasis March 13, 2012

With the advent of the Pasok socialist government in Greece with its profligacy of over spending against its revenue for nearly thirty years, and the enforced imitation of conservative governments to do the same, due to the spoliation of the populace by this lavish over spending, so they too would have a chance to be elected, the present crisis, which is the result of those economically irresponsible policies, has given rise to a Greek Statesman of Periclean dimensions, Antonis Samaras. Only under his politically and morally strong and sagacious leadership will the phoenix of the ‘Renaissance’ of Greece will rise from its present economic ‘ashes.’

A Response to Professor Varoufakis’s Thesis that the Greek Crisis is not Home-made

By Con George-Kotzabasis

Professor Varoufakis, we have crossed swords before several times on your website but no blood was spilt. Your thesis delivered with panache was highly interesting, provocative, fascinating, and alluring, but from a negative point of view. Like an exotically seductive woman flaunting dissolutely her charms but refuses to be seduced. You likewise refuse to see or acknowledge that your proposition is made-up from a selectivity of facts and by leaving other facts out you let down your guard as these neglected facts will release the Aeolian winds to demolish your argument in one wind gust. The fact is that  there are many countries within  Europe that are not in crisis, such as Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Luxemburg, Austria, and Finland, not to mention others. My question therefore is why the European and global crisis did not also embroil these countries in it as well, as it did with Greece and other southern European countries? Why the general predatory capitalist practices of the dominant countries of the Eurozone affected only some countries of the EU and not others?

The reality is that government dirigisme and its ill-fated profligacy of over spending on borrowed funds was the cause of the crisis that engulfed those countries of the south, and especially Greece, within the whirlpool of sovereign debt. The virus of the malaise did not have exogenous origins, as you wrongly suggest, but originated from the mal-practices of socialist governments and followed inevitably by conservative ones—how else could they have a chance to be elected in government?—with their fatal predilection for big government, and Greece was the example par excellence.

But as we all know a crisis is a developmental process and during its course the remedies applied to it particularly when they are wrong can exacerbate it instead of curing it. And as you correctly point out austerity without economic growth, especially in conditions of continued recession, is a recipe of disaster, as the statesman Antonis Samaras also pointed out two years ago. But it is a grave mistake to confuse the cause with the remedy and to build one’s case on the wrongness of the cures, as encapsulated in some of the policies of the two Memoranda imposed by the European lenders upon Greece, as the cause of the crisis in Greece.

In my judgement therefore your thesis that the crisis in Greece has exogenous origins and not endogenous ones is totally wrong and highly misleading. You are peddling shoddy goods wrapt-up in the dignified robes of academe hoping to make an easy but intellectually disrespectful sale. And the strength of your argument can be measured by the kind of opponents you have had in your debates up till now. None of them were real opponents and all of them were fellow travellers sailing with the compass of your ideological position. I remember when you met a real opponent to your thesis you banned him from your website, and I was rather surprised at the time that with your Kazantzakian character you would have debarred someone expressing opposing views to your own. But it is easy to be right when you hear only your own voice.

Also, your recycling theory from countries with surpluses to countries with deficits is in my opinion fundamentally flawed. What prudent investor would invest on a seat in the Titanic? Most of these countries that have incurred those bottomless deficits were and are economically uncompetitive and this was the primal reason why they were embroiled in this abysmal “balance of payments crisis,” as the eminent financial commentator Martin Woolf argues.

The crisis is profoundly complex to be fixed by tailor-made academic economic nostrums as your Modest Proposal suggests. It will be resolved by the method of science, i.e., by trial and error, and that is why, moreover, will not be without pain for the majority of people, after the grave and fatal errors committed by their past governments. The Schumpetarian principle of “creative destruction” will be the pivotal characteristic in this process of economic restructuring, and statesmen of the calibre of Antonis Samaras will play a decisive role toward its resolution.