A Sisyphean task

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY NIKOS XYDAKIS

The most likely out­come of the gov­ern­ment’s on­go­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions with the troika is that Greek Par­lia­ment will vote through all the pro­posed mea­sures and that the bud­get which was drafted with­out the prior ap­proval of the in­ter­na­tional lenders will be amended to meet their de­mands. Th­ese in­clude re­forms adding the un­bear­able bur­den of an ad­di­tional 2.5-3 bil­lion euros’ worth of mea­sures on a pop­u­la­tion that is ex­hausted from aus­ter­ity and an econ­omy that had been bled dry. They in­clude a hike in the value-added tax on medicines, books, the press, tourism ser­vices, ru­ral parts of the coun­try and is­lands, no pen­sions be­fore the age of 62 and the abo­li­tion of a re­cently ap­proved scheme for over­due debts to the state to be paid in 100 in­stall­ments. The troika, in short, is forc­ing the Greek coali­tion gov­ern­ment to stand be­fore the cit­i­zens of this coun­try and tell them that all the sac­ri­fices they have made over the past four years have failed to yield the de­sired re­sults, that they have fallen short and that more cut­backs will be re­quired de­spite the fact that there can be no guar­an­tees that the end is any­where in sight. Un­for­tu­nately, the core of th­ese mea­sures are out­lined in the midterm fis­cal pro­gram and the mem­o­ran­dum, two agree­ments that were rat­i­fied by the coun­try’s MPs but were not stud­ied by the minis- ters sign­ing them; not at the time and not now ei­ther. And again, yet another Greek gov­ern­ment is be­ing called upon to lead another tax raid, ba­si­cally to switch off the light at the end of the tun­nel. It is as if four-and-a-half years have not passed since that day when then PM George Pa­pan­dreou an­nounced in an ad­dress to the na­tion that Greece would be sign­ing a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing with the EU, ECB and IMF. More than the ma­te­rial cost of the strin­gent aus­ter­ity Greece has had to pur­sue, the great­est toll on the peo­ple has been on their morale as they have seen the prom­ise of a de­cent and vi­able fu­ture dashed. The bailout pro­gram is seen by Greeks more like an end­less Sisyphean task and it now comes to threaten the coun­try’s so­cial co­he­sion by dis­tort­ing the mean­ing of terms such as “re­forms” and “ac­quis com­mu­nau­taire” to stir vi­o­lent re­ac­tions. In Cyprus, the bail-in brought back mem­o­ries of the 1974 in­va­sion. This is how col­lec­tive conscience works, by draw­ing cor­re­la­tions that can be ex­tremely pow­er­ful. In this con­text, how can a length­en­ing of the Sisyphean mar­tyr­dom and the an­nul­ment of fu­ture prospects be per­ceived? What kind of col­lec­tive conscience will be formed? It is as though our lenders/part­ners are push­ing the so­called Greek, but ac­tu­ally Euro­pean prob­lem, into a vi­cious cy­cle, trans­form­ing it into a black hole.

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