The deal’s still not done, and the bailout cash remains in limbo, but the coalition finance minister is pledging his Troika troth. But one coalition partner remains firm that it won’t sign off on draconian labor measures beloved of the Men in Black from the North. And the leader of the party currently topping the polls adds a sharp jab. The finance minister fainted, while Prime Minister Antonis Samras sings a choruzs of “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”
The Troika’s ready to send in the clowns er technocrats, preapproved by Berlin and Paris, while bondholders say they ain’t a-takin’ no more haircuts. And extension rumors continue.
There’s really bad news for small business and the self-employed, a higher tax rate and the loss of almost all exemptions [gotta pay those bondholders], long-term jobless are left without healthcare, Fitch blesses bank mergers, while the fainting minister cancels a bankster meet.
A major invesment advisory group warns the loss of Coke may reduce Greece to Third World status [really], more strikes are underway, both Syriza and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn are campaigning in the Big Apple, while the Golden Dawn boss says he’s not a Nazi.
And a Greek television show greets a legislator beaten by a Golden Dawn member with a clown in boxing gloves. Really.
Finance minister swears fealty to Troikarchs
There’s still no done deal, but, by gosh and by golly, Yannis Stournaras is gonna get it done, and just the was the Lords of Money like it.
After all, he’s a man after their own hearts — and, presumably, their help in finding a cushy landing spot after his political careers lies in smoking ruins.
From Agence France-Presse:
Greece will stand by extra reform efforts thrashed out with international creditors, the finance minister said on Thursday, despite resistance to more austerity from within the ruling coalition.
Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said the government was “pressing on” and that the new measures would be introduced in parliament next week.
The deal is required for Greece to meet demands by its EU-IMF creditors and unlock a 31.2 billion euro ($40.5 billion) installment of rescue loans.
“We do not have any more room (for delay),” said Stournaras, who briefly visited hospital earlier in the day and was diagnosed as suffering from fatigue and a viral infection.
He said Prime Minister Antonis Samaras “is certain that all (coalition) lawmakers will give their consent, especially lawmakers of the calibre of Fotis Kouvelis,” referring to a junior coalition leader who opposes deeper labour reform.
Not so fast, Samaras, says coalition partner
The increasingly outspoken head of the smallest player in the three-party coalition has drawn a line in the sand, and he’s not crossing it — at least for now.
It’s the Troikarch’s austerian impositions on the Greek working class that are the stone in his shoe.
Greek Labor Minister Yannis Vroutsis said negotiations with troika were ongoing on Thursday as objections by the Democratic Left, the coalition’s junior partner, to labor reforms proposed by foreign creditors continued to pose an obstacle to a final rubber stamp on the deal. In comments to Parliament’s internal affairs committee – as Kathimerini online reports -, Vroutsis said the three parties in the coalition had done their best to minimize the social impact of the austerity measures and called on lawmakers to await the outcome of a Euro Working Group meeting in Brussels where Greece is topping the agenda.
The executive committee of Democratic Left was to reconvene at 5.30 p.m. on Thursday to discuss the thorny issue of labor reforms once again. Although party officials concede that the new agreement on labor reforms achieved by Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras is ‘’improved’‘, they believe that outstanding issues must still be resolved.
Party spokesman Nikos Tsoukalis said Democratic Left’s stance ‘’represents something different in the political scene and sets out the limits to the negotiation.’‘ Finance minister Yannis Stournaras, for his part, rebuffed reports that the controversial labor reforms would be revoked.
And when the meeting ended, the announcement followed, one certain to upset Samaras.
From A. Papapostolou of Greek Reporter:
The center-left Dimar party, the smallest in the government’s three-party coalition, announced it will vote against the labor reform agreed to with the Troika of creditors; the European Union, the European Central Bank and the IMF. The reforms are part of a package of austerity measures needed to release a new bailout.
“We are asking the Troika to withdraw these proposals,” said party representative, Sakis Papathanasiou, in a TV interview. The government announced it has ended negotiations with the Troika on the austerity program
The standoff puts Antonis Samaras, the Greek prime minister, in a difficult position since his finance minister has publicly rejected any changes before the reforms are put to the Greek parliament. A rejection by Democratic Left could put the programme at risk since centre-left Pasok, the second largest party in the coalition, could face defections without Mr Kouvelis’ support.
“Let’s hope everything will be OK at the end,” said a senior government official.
Number one party weighs in
Number one in current public opinion polls, and the left’s alternative to hacks of Pasok.
Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras delivers his latest rebuke of the the government’s submission to the Troikarchs.
From Athens News:
Pressure takes its toll on finance minister
It’s gotten so intense that bodies are dropping.
From Keep Talking Greece:
Greek Finance Minister Yiannis Stournaras was rushed to hospital on Thursday morning after he suddenly fell uneasy. According to Greek media, doctors diagnosed ‘overworking’ and a virus infection. Stournaras did not stay in the hospital. Doctors advised him to take a day off.
A discussion in the parliament scheduled for today has been postponed.
Meanwhile, the prime minister slogs on
He’s puttin’ on a happy face, and hoping folks buy it.
From Al Yunaniya:
Antonis Samaras argued: “The negotiation continues, I will not back down… I know very well what is at stake today for the country. For three months now, every day, we are changing the image of Greece. And we are negotiating under the most difficult circumstances to get the country out of the recession.
We already have changed many original proposals by troika on labour and other issues as well. And he negotiation continues. The only criterion for me is Greece and its future. I will not back down on this responsibility. And I do not want to think what would happen if I do not keep my hands firmly on the wheel. I look only forward, seeking the greatest possible unity. Greece will be saved by those of us who will dare.”
Sources say the Prime Minister said that the final deadline for agreement amongst political parties should be reached by Thursday.
Send in the technocrats, German- and French-approved
Them what’s got the gold make the rules, and the latest shot called by the folks to the North and West is a task force of the World’s Finest Technocrats™ summoned to invade the country and instruct Greeks in The Rules™.
International experts and consultants supported by France and Germany could be brought in to help the Greek government, sources said Thursday.
Those two European allies are prepared to help Athens “regain the confidence of investors,” a high-ranking source told ANSA.
Meetings have been ongoing this week to find a solution to Greece’s debt woes and clear the way for billions more in euro aid.
Bondholders scoff at another haircut
One of the top eurobanksters proposed another haircut for those folks holding Greek bonds, a proposals greeted with some relief in Greece.
One only problem.
The folks who hold the bonds aren’t having it.
European authorities have not contacted the International Institute of Finance about plans to let Greece buy back its bonds at current market prices to reduce it debt level, IIF Managing Director Charles Dallara said during a press briefing Wednesday, says mninews.
According to the report, the IIF, which helped negotiate the private sector involvement in Greece’s restructuring, would not be in favor of such a deal, Dallara said.
European Central Bank Executive Board member Joerg Asmussen recently floated the idea of the Greek government using borrowed funds to buy back its own sovereign debt from financial markets at current depressed prices in order to reduce its debt ratio.
“At the moment it looks like Greece’s debt level will rise to well above the target of 120 percent of GDP by 2020,” Asmussen said. “Thus, one has to consider elements that could make it possible to achieve that goal. One possibility would be buying back debt.”
“The best use of any additional available Eurozone-related funds to cover that [financing] gap would be to help take down the interest charges of Greek debt, not use the funds for market based buy backs which after all do not address the heart of the problem today,” Dallara said.
Meanwhile, the extension rumors continue to circulate
Here’s one of the latest resuscitation efforts, following Tuesday’s on again/off again delerium.
We suspect there’ll be some sort of extension — if Samaras can muster the votes to get the austerity package passed.
More money for Greece. The finance ministers of the eurozone are said to be ready to approve a new loan of between EUR 16 billion and EUR 20 billion.
German newspaper Handelsblatt says that high-placed sources think the eurozone’s second EUR 130 billion bailout package for Athens is not enough.
This comes amid unconfirmed speculation that Greece will also be given more time to hit its budget deficit targets, till 2016 and not 2014.
Yesterday in parliament Greek finance minister Yannis Stournaras said his country had been granted an extension but IMF sources later said it had not.
Another gruesome bit of news for Greeks
There’s a new flat tax for that will mean a lot of grief for the self-employed and small businesses, already reeling from the impacts of the crash and reduced demands for their services and goods.
Not only does the measure raise taxes for the lowest-paid, but it also strips away most of their deductions.
A flat tax rate of 28% is set to apply in Greece to all those who are self-employed and to enterprises. The new tax bill, as daily Kathimerini unveiled today, includes radical changes in the taxation of salary workers, pensioners, the self-employed and companies. However, the changes will apply from next year and not retrospectively for 2012 incomes.
The system, which will soon be presented to Parliament’s Finance Committee, will abolish most tax exemptions, set a ceiling on exempted expenditures related to healthcare and consider all benefits as revenues from salary services. The same bill will determine the rates for the taxation of interest rates from all kinds of securities such as share transfers.
In total, the government is expecting an additional 2.5 to 3 billion euros to come into the state coffers in the next couple of years from taxes. For salary workers and pensioners, tax brackets will remain the same for 2013 incomes: The eight brackets will stay, along with the 5,000-euro per year tax-free ceiling. However, the tax-free bonus for families with children will be abolished, entailing additional tax for most households.
Most social benefits will be considered as additions to salaries and pensions and be taxed likewise; up until today they had been exempt from tax. Although the self-employed will be taxed at a flat 28% rate, just like companies, some of them could enter the salary workers’ brackets provided a number of conditions are fulfilled.
Health system vanishes for jobless
One more result of the austerian regime, the stripping of the public health system, leaving those most in need helpless in a time of crisis.
From Liz Alderman of the New York Times:
About half of Greece’s 1.2 million long-term unemployed lack health insurance, a number that is expected to rise sharply in a country with an unemployment rate of 25 percent and a moribund economy, said Savas Robolis, director of the Labor Institute of the General Confederation of Greek Workers. A new $17.5 billion austerity package of budget cuts and tax increases, agreed upon Wednesday with Greece’s international lenders, will make matters only worse, most economists say.
The changes are forcing increasing numbers of people to seek help outside the traditional health care system.
The development is new for Greeks — and perhaps for Europe, too. “We are moving to the same situation that the United States has been in, where when you lose your job and you are uninsured, you aren’t covered,” Dr. Syrigos said.
The change is particularly striking in cancer care, with its lengthy and expensive treatments. When cancer is diagnosed among the uninsured, “the system simply ignores them,” Dr. Kostas Syrigos [chief of oncology at Sotiria General Hospital in central Athens] said. He said, “They can’t access chemotherapy, surgery or even simple drugs.”
The health care system itself is increasingly dysfunctional, and may worsen if the government slashes an additional $2 billion in health spending, which it has proposed as part of a new austerity plan aimed to lock down more financing. With the state coffers drained, supplies have gotten so low that some patients have been forced to bring their own supplies, like stents and syringes, for treatments.
Fitch banks on bank mergers
One again, the solution to a crisis caused by the recklessness of “too big to fail” banks is seen as taking smaller failed banks and merging them into institutions that are designed to be TBTF.
Ain’t it wunnerful?
Yep. Or at least so says one of the top two ratings agencies.
Fitch Ratings views the renewed consolidating initiatives involving the four major Greek banks, National Bank of Greece (NBG), Eurobank Ergasias SA (Eurobank), Alpha Bank and Piraeus Bank as a positive step towards the restructuring of Greece’s banking sector and the banks? ratings over the medium term, says the These moves should help create a smaller number of more efficient and viable institutions that will be better placed to cope with the country’s sovereign crisis and weak economic prospects, says the rating agency in a statement.
However, it adds that the medium-term benefits could be negated if sizeable present risks, which are all interlinked, are not addressed that are currently constraining Greek banks’ ratings. The most significant of these are i) the resolution of Greece’s sovereign crisis; ii) the recapitalisation of banks; iii) the restoration of depositors’ confidence; and iv) the reduction of banks’ dependence on extraordinary liquidity from central banks.
The consolidation of Greek banks into larger institutions should enable them to attain synergies, particularly on the cost side from branch and staff optimisation and reduction in central service and IT platforms. While these processes will entail initial one-off restructuring costs, Fitch gives credit to banks’ ability to reduce expenses as they have done in the past two years. Moreover, larger Greek banks may reap funding costs benefits in the short-term as competition for deposits may ease as the number of institutions competing will be reduced. These cost synergies should help banks to absorb continued high loan impairment charges from asset quality deterioration.
Finance minister cancels meet with banks
We presume it’s because he’s way too busy with the Men in Black, and fainting.
The crucial meeting between the finance minister and the heads of Greek banks, that will examine the terms and the timetable of the recapitalization process of the local credit system, has been postponed to Monday.
Minister Yannis Stournaras and the leadership of the Hellenic Bank Association will also discuss the imposition of an extraordinary levy on lenders so as to cover the 550 million euros of the dividend of the state support that banks have received through the issue of preferred shares, pending for 2012.
The process for the capital strengthening of sustainable banks, as Kathimerini online reports, will have to be completed by the end of April of 2013, so that the capital adequacy indices (Core Tier I) of banks reach the threshold of 9% of their assets.
Greece went better with Coke
MSCI Inc., a company specializing in evaluating markets for investors, says that, for Greece, things went better with Coke, and the company’s Grexit will have a huge impact on the national economy — setting the stage for a descent into Third World [aka “emerging market”] status.
The multinational giant announced earlier this month that it was pulling its European operations from Greece and relocating Coca-Cola Hellenic to Switzerland, while pulling its stock off the Greek market and transferring it to London.
From Greek Reporter:
Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Co. SA (EEEK)’s decision to leave its home equity market in Athens for London increases the chance that Greece will be demoted to an emerging market next year, MSCI Inc. (MSCI) said.
The index provider put Greece’s stock market under review for downgrade from developed status on June 20 and will make a final decision as part of its annual reclassification in June next year. The MSCI Greece Index (MXGR) consists of just two companies, with the world’s second-largest Coca-Cola bottler accounting for 75 percent by weight.
Market size “is the main driver for us to make that proposal, but on top of that, one needs to admit that there are still some operational issues that have been present since the inclusion of MSCI Greece in developed markets back in 2001,” Sebastian Lieblich, global head of index management at MSCI in Geneva, said in a phone interview yesterday. Coca-Cola’s exit is “a very important development, and this is something we’d need to assess how investors see this move.”
Coca-Cola HBC’s departure will shave off about two-thirds of the increase in Greece’s market size since the end of June. The country’s largest company by market value is fleeing the epicenter of the euro-area sovereign-debt crisis, saying it wants a more stable economic and regulatory environment. The company will be based in Switzerland and will trade on the London Stock Exchange.
Special needs teachers protest in Athens
Their pupils can’t get to school because there’s no money left for buses.
Teachers at schools in Athens for children with special needs on Thursday set up mock classrooms in downtown Korai Square – complete with tables, chairs and arts-and-crafts equipment – in protest at cuts to their transportation budgets.
Parents and teachers of children with special needs say that some 80 percent of the students at Attica’s 35 schools have been unable to attend classes since the start of the school year due to a shortage of buses.
Health minister says doctor action illegal
Doctors working for the National Health System (ESY) have no right to protest by launching go-slow action, nor are they entitled to payment for the duration of such protests, the Health Ministry said on Thursday.
ESY doctors have been staging rolling work stoppages since early September -– bringing many of the cash-strapped country’s public hospitals and medical centers to breaking point -– in protest at unpaid arrears from emergency duties, which they say have built up for over five months.
However, the Health Ministry said in a statement that they are not entitled to salaries or other benefits while they are involved in industrial action, adding they will also miss out on being granted points in the promotion system for that period as well.
The ministry’s statement comes following a report from the state’s Legal Council that was presented to Minister Andreas Lykourentzos, who said that the ruling “ensures the legal operation and public interest of the National Health System’s units.”
The ruling prompted an immediate reaction from the president of the Federation of Greek Hospital Doctors’ Unions, Dimitris Varnavas, who said that the federation will be taking legal action to refute the ruling. He said the council’s finding is in violation of European Union legislation and called on other experts to examine the legality of the ruling.
Strikes have become the order of the day
Keep Talking Greece reported on Wednesday’s actions:
No day passes without interests groups taking to the streets to protest austerity measures that will get worst once the additional austerity package of 13.5 billion euro will be through the Parliament.
Policemen, firefighters and coast guards gathered outside the Finance Ministry today demanding no further cuts in their wages and “not to be used for the suppression of other unions’ struggles”. The uniformed said further that since 2009 they have suffered income losses of 28-45% depending on working years and ranks.
They had the chance to hand ministry officials a paper with their demands, but the answer they received was “confused”, as the union chairman declared after the meeting.
Nearby at Korai Square parents of children with disabilities had set up a class room to make their point: that their children cannot attend school due to lack of funding for the pupils transportation.
Syriza opens up a Big Apple branch
The leftist coalition currently scoring at the toip in public opinion polls is making a patch to the diaspora.
The Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) now operates an office in New York city, where it hopes to begin wooing the Diaspora over its “unique” political platform. In its support, approximately 40 professors, academics, business executives, artists and others met and held a discussion a couple of nights ago about the Greek economic crisis as well as SYRIZA’s role in opposing austerity measures ordered by international creditors.
More from Nicky Mariam Onti of Greek Reporter USA:
Nearly 40 teachers, academics, business executives, artists and others met in New York to form a branch of Greece’s major opposition party, the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA.) They talked about Greece’s crushing economic crisis and the party’s role in opposing austerity measures ordered by international lenders in return for bailout loans.
Anastasia Romanou, Associate Research Scientist at NASA GISS, Peter Bratsis, Professor of Political Theory at the University of Salford in England and Dimitris Papanikolaou,University Lecturer in Modern Greek Studies at the University of Oxford are members of the Initiative Committee who organized the event.
Syriza’s not the only party mobilizing in the Empire State
Golden Dawn’s arrived, too, and lots of folks aren’t happy with a neo-fascist outfit setting up shop.
From the New York Daily News:
Queens elected officials and liberal groups are mobilizing against a neo-Nazi group based in Greece that is rumored to be trying to gain a toe-hold in Astoria.
A Stop Golden Dawn coalition was formed this month after posters for and against the anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic group began appearing on the neighborhood’s streets.
“I’m angry that Golden Dawn thinks that Astoria is an appropriate community to disseminate their message of hate,” said Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria), who recently vowed to fight the group along with Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and other elected officials.
“Golden Dawn does not represent the sentiments of the people of Astoria,” she said.
About 250 people attended a Stop Golden Dawn meeting earlier this month after members of the group were photographed at the Federation of Hellenic Societies of Greater New York in Astoria.
We’re not Nazis, says Golden Dawn Fuhrer
That whole “Heil fellow well met” shtick? Don’t take it seriously, he says.
In an interview with Skai television aired late on Wednesday, the leader of the ultra-rightwing Golden Dawn repeatedly denied that his party espouses a Nazi ideology and insisted that he and his lawmakers have been ostracized in Parliament and by the media.
Despite the abundant use of Nazi symbols and references on his party’s website and in its campaigning, Michaloliakos insisted that Golden Dawn is not a Nazi organization but a “nationalist” one. He also refused to admit that his party deploys groups of uniformed storm troopers to raze market stalls run by immigrants despite video evidence of such raids.
Michaloliakos also took issue with Parliament, complaining that the immunity of three Golden Dawn MPs linked to street market raids and other assaults, was granted virtually immediately while similar action has been taken very rarely in the case of lawmakers from other parties.
The Golden Dawn leader also claimed that his party, despite rising in the polls following its election to Parliament in June, has been ostracized by the media at large, but maintained that this would only serve to further boost its ratings due to the growing disillusionment of the public with the media .
Just because we call immigrants “subhumans” and give what Germans called the “Hitler salute” and used to sport a swastika on our magazine doesn’t mnean we’re series, right?
Reject Golden Dawn, say German Greeks
And believeus, Germans know from Nazis!
In a dramatic open letter, the Greek community of Germany called on Greek citizens to reject the ultra-right Golden Dawn and expressed shock at the rise of racist violence that has been linked to members and supporters of the organization.
Referring to the large-scale attacks by German neo-Nazis against immigrants in Rostock in 1992, the authors of the letter said: “It hurts us to see similar incidents occurring in Greece.
“We cannot believe that in a country where fascism left behind hundreds of thousands of victims and deep wounds, criminals have been elected to Parliament and their party is given airtime on television channels, dealt with in a cowardly way and grossly underestimated.”
In a related development, Benjamin Abtan, president of the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement, reportedly sent an open letter to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, asking him to remove Golden Dawn MP Eleni Zaroulia from the Greek delegation to the Council of Europe’s Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination.
Zaroulia, who is the wife of Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos, recently referred to migrants as “subhumans” who are “carrying all kinds of diseases,” while speaking in Greece’s Parliament.
And then there’s idiocy, just plain idiocy
Consider the case of a Greek television show that’s asked a member of parliament to appear, a woman who’d been beaten on live television by a Golden Dawn thug.
So how do they greet her?
With a clown, wearing boxing gloves.
From Keep Talking Greece:
Greek Communist party MP Liana Kanelli is been invited to a live program on Thursday morning. During a commercials break, she exits the live studio. The moment she opens the door, she gets confronted with two boxing gloves and a jumping jack wrapped up with the Greek flag. A cameraman is filming the ‘farce’, supposedly to be a ‘comic moment with the victim of a Golden Dawn assault’.
The clown with the boxing gloves and the Greek flag is presenter a low-level ‘satire’ program at private skai television.
The clown had apparently tried to reconstruct in what he thought a funny way, the scene when a Golden Dawn MP had punched Kanelli on a live program last June.
In a state of shock Kanelli refuses to go back to the studio. The live program broadcasts commercials for whole 12 minutes. When the break is over the magazine presenter explains to tv-viewers what had happened and apologizes for the incident.
After a while, Kanelli is back on the live-studio and is breaking down in tears. She condemns any act of violence even if in the form of bad joke or farce.
The presenter/host, who officially apologizes to Kanelli to the incident, urges her to turn a blind eye to the whole tasteless incident arguing “Look at it under this perspective: they are men, darling!”
Ah, yes. Boys will be boys.
Wonder how they greet rape victims on the show?