Tagged austerity

On Sunday, October 4th, Portugal had national elections. Seventeen parties entered the fight. Following the social crisis outcry, expectations and predictions reflected the general sentiment that the Socialists would be the next winners. How can we explain, then, that the voters rewarded the parties (PSD and CDS) that had made their lives so miserable with austerity measures?

In a bid to boost morale and ease the financial squeeze on Greek citizens, banks reopened on Monday, 20 July, after being closed for 3 weeks. Though banks are fully operational, withdrawals will still be capped at €60 per day, but now with the possibility to withdraw a whole week’s worth in one go. Restrictions on overseas payments remain in place. Also, trading on the Athens Stock Exchange is still frozen, along with clearing services and cash settlements for Greek securities.

On 18 March 2015 the European Central Bank inaugurated its new, glittering headquarters building in Frankfurt, at a cost of €1.3 billion. Taking issue with this significant expense at a time of austerity policies around Europe, and the fact that the original budget for the building had been set at €500 million, a Member of the European Parliament submitted a question to the ECB President, who responded acknowledging significant deviations from the original budget. What would the institutions formerly known as Troika have said if any of these countries had inaugurated premises of such standards recently? Well, in fact this is exactly what has happened.

Chaos has always been a scenario for Greece, ever since the bailout. The mix was there: a bankrupt country, crippling unemployment, violent riots, weekly strikes, neo-Nazis in parliament, a rapid decline in living standards that turned into a humanitarian emergency. Outside Greece, in public analysis and private conversations, the possibility of the destabilisation of democracy came up every now and then, some kind of coup that would send the country to the extreme left or right. For those who indulged in these cassandric predictions the rise of leftist Syriza was a vindication: surely this is a rogue party, self-positioned on the Radical Left, with communist roots, and a populist rhetoric? Discussion of the Greek problem has always involved a degree of fear-mongering, which is useful in the manipulation of public opinion, but rather redundant in adding any nuance to our understanding of a foreign context. A useful key-phrase, if one truly wishes to understand Greece in crisis, is “structural reforms”.

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