We’ve got election news, a manufacturing crisis, a power grid on the verge of failure, a health system in collapse, a surge in anti-immigrant violence, and a story about Greeks themselves immigrating.
Syriza launches frontal assault
With elections two weeks away, the Greek political scene is heating up, with Syriza on the attack.
Today was the day the Left coalition officially unveiled its platform, and the coverage has been heavy.
From Greek Reporter’s Emmanouela Seiradaki:
Presenting his party’s economic program on Friday, Alexis Tsipras head of Greece’s Radical Left Coalition, said he would pursue to cancel the bailout terms, which have included brutal spending cuts and high taxes and have been blamed for the country’s extended recession.
“The first act of a government of the left, as soon as the new Parliament is sworn in, will be a cancellation of the bailout and its implementation laws,” Tsipras stated.”Let people know that in Greece there is still a democracy.” Alexis Tsipras said the bailout agreement is a failure that will force Greece to leave the Euro, despite EU leaders insisting that Greece must stick to its commitments or the money will stop coming in. According to Tsipras the bailout agreement “is a mechanism of definitive bankruptcy and pushing the country to a voluntary withdrawal from the eurozone… There is no more or less bad memorandum, you either apply it, or you cancel it. … We will cancel it.”
Tsipras said that if he wins enough votes to form a leftwing government, he will seek a Europe-wide deal to drastically reduce the debt payments, or seek a debt moratorium. He also said that he will cancel the law to cut the minimum wage by 22% and bring it back to 751 euros.
Tsipras also said that he would keep strategic companies like the companies that provide electricity, water, and telecommunications under state control and freeze wage and pension cuts demanded by lenders if he won June 17 elections. He also said he intends to create measures to help overborrowed Greek households and cut valued added tax (VAT), especially on basic food items like milk and bread. While Mr. Tsipras has repeatedly stated that “Our goal isn’t to blackmail or to terrorize, our goal is to shake them,” it is certain that both the EU and the IMF officials will feel terrorized with his latest statements.
More from Ekathemerini:
Tsipras promised that a SYRIZA-led government would reduce the size of the cabinet, the number of consultants employed by the government and the “golden boys” hired to manage public enterprises and organizations.
However, most focus will fall on what Tsipras termed SYRIZA’s “national reconstruction plan” and the economic policies that entails.
“Immediately after cancelling the memorandum, the government will repudiate the odious terms and will ask for the renegotiation of the loan agreement,” he said.
“We will push for a new restructuring with the aim of reducing our debt or a moratorium and suspension of interest payments until the economy stabilizes and shows sign of recovery,” he said. “The debt servicing must be linked to the Greek economy’s growth rate.”
Tsipras said that a prospective SYRIZA government would also immediately repeal a 22 percent reduction of the minimum wage, raising it to 751 euros per month again, and extend unemployment benefit to two years, rather than one. It would also repeal recent labor market reforms that allow employers to negotiate individual deals with their employees if a collective contract has expired.
Republicans New Democracy has a silver bullet
The GOP [Greek Ologarchic Party] launched an offensive of it’s own, and the cornerstone of its platform is one long familiar here in the U.S., where it’s only succeeded in making the rich richer while destroying public institutions and the working class.
From A. Papapostolou of Greek Reporter:
Greece’s conservatives on Thursday promised voters tax relief if they win a crucial general election, insisting that existing austerity measures can be made fairer, despite growing concern over the country’s future in the euro.
The debt-strapped country will hold its second election in six weeks on June 17. It was called after the center-right New Democracy party won a May 6 poll but was unable to form a coalition government.
The conservatives are roughly level with the leftwing anti-bailout Syriza party in recent opinion polls.
“Our pledge is jobs, jobs, jobs. … No new taxes and no new cross-the-board cuts. The era of taxing incomes that do not exist is over,” conservative leader Antonis Samaras told a meeting of business officials in Athens, presenting New Democracy’s economic program.
Another party heard from
No a big one, but the story shows that the only serious questions are coming from the farther ends of the political spectrum.
The right-wing anti-bailout Independent Greeks party will not take part in a power-sharing coalition after the upcoming elections unless the next government agrees to scrap the EU-IMF memorandum, its leader Panos Kammenos said Friday.
Speaking to Skai television on Friday, Kammenos urged voters to punish Greece’s mainstream parties, PASOK and New Democracy, for backing the austerity measures mandated by the country’s foreign lenders which he denounced as a “crooked act.”
“Those who betrayed Greece must disappear from politics,” said Kammenos, a former New Democracy deputy who left the party to form his own, picking up more than 10 percent of the vote in the May 6 election.
Recent polls show that the party’s power is on the wane. The last survey to be published by Kathimerini before the June 17 elections found that support for Independent Greeks is down to 5.5 percent.
Latest Greek polls, still conflicted
Three new polls out, one showing Syriza with a strong lead, the other two putting New Democracy in front.
A new poll published on Friday shows the Radical Left Coalition (Syriza) on its highest performance yet and a full six points ahead of its main opponent.
The Public Issue/Kathimerini poll, published on Friday, shows Syriza on 31.5 percent and New Democracy on 25.5 percent.
Pasok came in third at 13.5 percent, with the remaining parties achieving less than ten percent: Democratic Left is on 7.5 percent, Independent Greeks 5.5 on percent, Communist Party (KKE) on 5.5 percent, and Golden Dawn 4.5 on percent.
Two more polls appeared on Friday, when a moratorium on their publication comes into force at midnight.
By contrast, pollsters Rass (for Ta Nea) and Kapa (for Eleftheros Typos) out New Democracy ahead by between 2.3 and 2.5 points.
Greece drops on competitiveness index
The International Institute for Management Development has just released its latest World Competitiveness Yearbook, and Greece doesn’t fare well.
The institute’s a wold-leading business school based in Lausanne, Switzerland, and their competitiveness index is widely cited.
But two things first. First, the index measures “how well countries manage their economic and human resources to increase their prosperity.” Second, the first two places at the top are occupied by Hong Kong and the U.S., bastions of neoliberalism.
In other words, it’s all about the benjamins [American slang for the $100 bill, which bears the portrait of Benjamin Franklin].
From Areti Kotseli of Greek Reporter:
The results of this year’s study were published by the Federation of Industries of Northern Greece (SBEE), putting Greece at the 58th ranking, the second to last. Last year, Greece was at 56th place, showing that growth indicators dropped significantly within the last 12 months. Back in 2010, the respective position was the 46th.
According to IMD data, the degradation was rather expected due to the ongoing financial crisis. Greece is only ahead of Venezuela (59th), which has been receiving the same ranking since 2004.
The full list is here [PDF].
Greek energy grid on brink of collapse
The problem, of course, is austerity and the shortage of cash.
From Athens News:
The Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE) told Reuters on Friday it was calling an emergency meeting next week to avert a collapse of the country’s electricity and natural gas system.
“RAE is taking crisis initiatives throughout next week to avert the collapse of the natural gas and electricity system,” the regulator’s chief Nikos Vasilakos said.
RAE took the decision after receiving a letter from the Public Gas Corporation (Depa), which threatened to cut supplies to electricity producers if they failed to settle their arrears with the company.
Ealier, the chief of the Public Power Corporation (DEI) said that the country may suffer power cuts later this year unless the troika allows an emergency cash injection into electricity producers to allow them to buy fuel,.
A yawning gap of more than 300m euros in the accounts of state-run Electricity Market Operator (LAGIE), which acts as a clearing house for power transactions, is causing the system to clog up. If unchecked, that may halt operations at independent power producers, DEI CEO Arthouros Zervos told Reuters in an interview.
Medical collapse laves cancer patients without drugs
The collapse of government support has reached a crisis point, and the latest development is, quite literally, sickening.
From Keep Talking Greece:
Cancer-patients supporting NGOs, and pharmacists report of serious shortages of the expensive drugs against cancer due to a) public spending cuts b) reluctance of pharmacists to stock out of fear they won’t be paid by the insurance funds c) reluctance of pharmacists to give prescription medicine on credit due to state outstanding debts and d) financial inability on the side of patients to push 1,500-2,000 euro over the pharmacy counter and request to be redeemed by the insurance fund.
The head of the Cancer Sufferers Volunteer Organization, Zoi Grammatoglou, told Skai radio that there have been cases of patients cancelling their chemotherapy because they could not afford to continue the treatment.
Due to the high outstanding debts of the newly established National Organisation for Health-care Provision (EOPPY), pharmacists refuse to provide prescription medicine to insurers on credit. With fatal impact especially to chronic-ill patients whether with cancer or not.
Also microbiologists refuse to perform laboratory tests on insurance fund credit.
This is the truest face of austerity, that of the serial killer.
The banksters of Northern Europe are murdering people to extract every last euro from Greece.
Another racism warning, already proving true
We’ve written lots about the historical pattern of hatred of “outsiders” arising from economic crisis. Rather than blame the real culprits responsible for the economic disaster, a small segment of the population fixes on those who look and act differently.
In Germany after 1929, poor Eastern European Jewish immigrants were the targets, which these days Middle Eastern and African Muslims are the prey of choice — though Eastern Europeans again appear in their sights.
Greece’s financial crisis is exacerbating racial violence according to a report by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
It is sounding the alarm over attacks on immigrants for whom the country has long been a gateway into Europe.
Giorgos Tsarbopoulos, head of UNHCR Greece, said: “The economic situation’s created a climate where slogans and xenophobic rhetoric and easy solutions that are not solutions of course of ‘kick them out, let’s take the law into our own hands’ can more easily be propagated in a population which faces problems regarding security and public order.”
Sword-armed bigots runs an immigrant through
Coming on the heels of the UNHCR, brutal attacks in Greece underscores the urgency.
Two assaults with a total of at least three victims came within the space of 20 minutes in Athens last night. All of the targets were Eastern Europeans. Two other attacks earlier in the week resulted in injuries to Asians.
From Keep Talking Greece:
Eyewitness describe the incredible attack that took place on Thursday night at Neos Kosmos district of southern Athens.
The first victim was an Albanian man who was penetrated with a …sword by attackers on motorcycles outside the elementary school of the area.
“We heard the groans of the man” eyewitnesses told news portal Newsit. “He was just being hit, he was still standing on his feet. The blade had penetrated the man from the back to the chest. The poor guy was in a state of shock. He collapsed within minutes.”
They spoke of “2-3 people on motorcycles” that immediately left after the attack.
The victim is hospitalized in critical condition.
The man from Albania has been living in the area with his family and is icons painter. He has been in Greece since 17 years.
It is not clear whether the attackers had been lurking for their victim.
Twenty minutes later after the attack and some three kilometers away, two migrants from Poland were attacked with knives. They are also hospitalized but were not able to testify to the police yet.
Last Tuesday, a man from Bangladesh was stabbed by an attacker who was holding a knife inside the Athens Metro in Omonia Square. The attacker managed to flee.
On Monday, a man from Pakistan collapsed at the platform of the Urban Train Agios Nikolaos station after he was stabbed.
Greeks emmigrate to Bulgaria
While Eastern Europeans are under attack in Greece, some Greeks are seeking refuge from the economic chaos by heading east.
Petrich, Bulgaria profits from the Greek crisis, German ARD TV says in a special coverage. The small Bulgarian town of Petrich is located close to the border to Greece.
The severe crisis in Greece brings benefits to the small town. More and more Greek citizens and companies escape the chaos in their motherland and settle in the more stable neighbouring country to the North. This opens many new jobs.
“The Greeks do not want to come to Bulgaria, specifically, but rather want to escape from Greece and go anywhere else,” says Dionisos Papadatos, who moved to Petrich few months ago due to the unemployment in Greece.
Bulgaria attracts the Greek companies with its relatively low taxes, the rate of the salaries and mostly with its stable economic system. These are enough reasons for many Greeks to decide to move to Bulgaria.
If the Bulgarian economy spirals out of control, will attacks on Greek immigrants follow?
If history offers any precedent, the answers may be yes.