Whoever watched the prime minister’s speech during the parliamentary budget debate yesterday got the impression that the suffering of the Greek people is ending, that we are getting rid of bailout memorandums for good, and that generally the government has done a wonderful job.
For all that has occurred in the country, the only ones with no responsibility are Mr. Tsipras and his ministers, who have done the best possible, while those guilty for the ills of the last years are the opposition parties, which destroyed the country.
Unfortunately for the prime minister, we all live in this battered country. We all experience, pay for, and suffer the consequences of his policies as well. Those consequences are well known to the unemployed, pensioners, workers, professionals, and those struggling to keep their businesses alive.
Citizens understand very well, as they demonstrate in opinion polls, that the bailout memorandums and austerity measures are not about to end. The prime minister may maintain that the budget for the first time in years did not include new austerity measures, but reality belies him.
The budget includes 1.2 billion euros in new taxes, new cuts in social welfare stipends, including the EKAS payment for poor pensioners, increased insurance contributions, and the abolition of a series of favourable tax measures that had until now survived. Of course, there are also measures previously passed by parliament that will cut both pensions and the level of tax-free income.
Of course, we do not face the nightmare of 2015, after Mr. Tsipras’ about face and his complete alignment with the demands of the country’s creditors. But the situation is a far cry from the success story that the government is trying to propagate. Naturally, after eight years of economic crisis we are not where we started.
Uncertainty and insecurity remain among citizens and in the entire economy. The first inklings of economic growth are beginning to appear. Over-taxation has brought workers and professionals to their knees. Banks remain trapped with non-performing loans. Investments that Syriza finally decided to push forward remain trapped by bureaucracy and ideological fixations.
Seeing the situation through rose-coloured glasses may suit politicians and Mr. Tsipras’ electoral plans, but it is a far cry from the reality that citizens are experiencing.
However many delusions the government may cultivate, citizens know that the road to freedom from creditors’ supervision and to the end of the crisis will be long and hard.