It was supposedly with a heavy heart that PM Alexis Tsipras was forced by creditors to accept a 3.5 percent primary surplus which everyone believed would suffocate the economy.
Yet, for the past three years the luminaries of the government have not only met the target – they exceeded it considerably.
Last year the primary surplus was 4.4 percent, and if one factors in the handouts it approaches five percent.
This was no error in planning and projections. It was a conscious political choice. It is neo-liberalism, which SYRIZA denounces, in practice. They over-tax, cut public investment and public works expenditures, fail to pay arrears, and delay issuing pensions, all in order to appear to creditors as good students.
The government has shaped an artificial reality in order to boast of its achievement even as the economy totters.
Greece’s largest company, the Public Power Corporation, is collapsing. Grand investments are announced but never go forward. Unemployment is declining thanks to part-time employment and 500 euro monthly salaries. Public investment is even lower than in disastrous 2015.
All this is supposedly happening because the government wants to help the poor and lower income brackets. The only thing it is doing, however, is leading more and more people to desperation. Debts to insurance funds and the tax bureau are accumulating so that the government can appear charitable by distributing paltry benefits.
With such policies the country cannot move forward and the economy cannot recover.
The fact is that the primary surpluses are prospering even as the economy is straggling.
Public services are collapsing, the social state is shrinking, and the paradise that Mr. Tsipras promises does not persuade even those who would like to find comfort in a fairy tale.
It is perfectly clear that Greece needs a different policy mix which respects the country’s commitments but will also invest in growth, investment, education, and not rely only on a policy of benefits.
Greece can and deserves to be more than a land of impoverished citizens with no future.