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article imageOp-Ed: Greek negotiations with troika on hold as crisis continues

By Ken Hanly     Dec 10, 2013 in Politics
Athens - Prime Minister Antonis Samaras faces continuing problems negotiating with the Troika (European Commission, International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank) as he attempts to obtain the next portion, approximately $1.5 billion. of a bailout package.
Greece needs the funds to meet its upcoming debt obligations. The troika has cancelled meetings with the Greek government twice. There is disagreement on the gap that Greece needs to fill if it is to meet the surplus targeted by the group.
The Greek government maintains that there will be a gap of $680 million only to be filled a goal that the government claims can be reached purely by structural reforms but the troika predicts the gap to be $2 billion, and believes this will require more cuts.
The troika is also demanding that the government lift remaining employment protections providing a green light for massive layoffs of workers. The three also want the government to lift a ban on auctions of primary residences by banks to recoup losses from unpaid mortgages. Both these measures would make the government even more unpopular than it is. Finally, the group wants to see the government lay off another 15,000 public servants
After six years of austerity together with a recession, Prime Minister Samaras projected a surplus of $1.1 billion for 2013 and projects another $4 billion for next year with a positive growth rate of 0.6 per cent. However, just two days after the figures were announced, the OECD released figures that predict a continuing recession for 2014 in Greece with an estimate of a 0.4 per cent drop in GDP.
The main opposition party SYRIZA claimed the budget was "colonial" as it was imposed by the troika, and also "conditional" since in April 2014 the troika will evaluate its implementation and could impose more measures if they are deemed necessary Opinion polls show the government losing support, with SYRIZA seemingly ahead in the upcoming elections in May of next year.
The Greek Finance Minister Stournaras is to return to Athens from meeting with the Eurogroup tomorrow (Dec. 10). Probably, the group will demand that Greece comply with the demands of the troika even at the expense of further social and political instability or even the eventual downfall of the present Greek government. The present government enjoys only a slim majority in parliament. However, Greeks are tiring of protests that seem to have little effect. Unemployment levels are above 25 per cent. Yet public protests organized by the largest Greek unions last Friday (December 7) only brought out people in the hundreds rather than thousands.
A full troika negotiating team is not expected in Greece until January. The group said in a joint statement: "We expect a full negotiating team to return to Athens in January, after the authorities have made further progress in implementation" . Apparently the Greek government has enough funds available to meet its commitments until the end of January.
The austerity measures have caused a health care crisis. Greek doctors have been on strike for more than a week. The doctors union maintains that some 5,000 patients in Greece die every year for lack of medical insurance. Austerity measures would impact doctors with the eventual outcome being that many will lose their jobs.
Universities are also impacted by the austerity measures with a strike by university administrators in its third month as they protest along with the doctors at being included in a so-called mobility plan that could see them eventually lose their jobs.
Matthaios Tsimitakis a Greek journalist writing in Al Jazeera claims that the austerity measures and recession have created deep divisions in Greek society as the troika imposes undemocratic decisions on the country. The disillusionment with the ruling elite is evident in the rise of the neo-fascist Golden Dawn Party, in spite of brutal attacks such as the killing of an anti-fascist rapper by a mob of Golden Dawn thugs. Such events galvanized the government into action with the arrest of leaders of the party. Yet the party retains its support of 6 to 9 per cent of the vote. Tsimitakis sees this far right movement growing in other parts of Europe: The Le Pen-Wilders alliance is aiming to create the third largest group in the European Parliament, consisting of populist conservative, Eurosceptic, and neo-fascist parties.
While the fiscal discipline demanded by the troika and others may cause social unrest and the rise of radical right parties, it also provides a basis for growth of more radical left parties such as SYRIZA as well. The investors and creditors seem to be pleased enough at what is happening since it has weakened labor, made democracy subservient to capital, and is providing opportunities for future capitalist investment on terms more favorable to capital.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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