Jamie Galbraith v odličnem nedavnem komentarju v The American prospect glede ‘pogajanj’ med Grčijo in njenimi kreditorji ugotavlja, da pogajalske institucije in ključne države kljub temu, da se stalno glasno pritožujejo, da Grčija ni naredila in noče narediti nobenega napredka, od Grkov pravzaprav sploh ne pričakujejo in tudi ne želijo resničnih reform. Njihov načrt je zgolj povečati davke, zmanjšati pokojnine, privatizirati ključno infrastrukturo in otoke in zmanjšati delavske pravice na minimum. To niso reforme. To je oportunistična oplenitev države.
V luči dejstva, da je zategovanje pasu Grčiji v zadnjih petih letih in pol samo poglobilo padec BDP (in da torej načrt kreditorjev ni deloval), je nova grška vlada pripravila konkretne reformne predloge, ki bi povečali kompetitivnost grškega gospodarstva in postopoma pomagali Grčiji ven iz brezna. Vendar kreditorjev te seveda ne zanimajo (kot očitno tudi ne naših ključnih kimavčkov). Še več, šefi trojke finančnih ministrov na predzadnjem zasedanju sploh niso seznanili s svojimi predlogi za Grčijo, medtem ko Grki finančnim ministrom predhodno niso smeli podati svojih predlogov. Vse skupaj torej zelo smrdi po velikem kriminalnem nategu.
…current usage of the word “reform” has its origins in the middle period of the Soviet Union, notably under Khrushchev, when modernizing academics sought to introduce elements of decentralization and market process into a sclerotic planning system. In those years when the American struggle was for rights and some young Europeans still dreamed of revolution, “reform” was not much used in the West. Today, in an odd twist of convergence, it has become the watchword of the ruling class.
The word, reform, has now become central to the tug of war between Greece and its creditors. New debt relief might be possible—but only if the Greeks agree to “reforms.” But what reforms and to what end? The press has generally tossed around the word, reform, in the Greek context, as if there were broad agreement on its meaning.
The specific reforms demanded by Greece’s creditors today are a peculiar blend. They aim to reduce the state; in this sense they are “market-oriented”. Yet they are the furthest thing from promoting decentralization and diversity. On the contrary they work to destroy local institutions and to impose a single policy model across Europe, with Greece not at the trailing edge but actually in the vanguard. In this other sense the proposals are totalitarian—though the philosophical father is Friedrich von Hayek the political forebear, to put a crude point on it, is Stalin.
Modern Europe’s version of market Stalinism, so far as it affects Greece, has three main prongs. The first concerns pensions, the second labor markets, and the third privatizations. Then there is an overarching question of taxes, austerity and debt sustainability, to which we can come back later.
With respect to pensions, the creditors demand that about one percent of GDP be cut this year from pension payments, in a country where almost half of pensions deliver sums below the poverty line. The specific demand would cut about 120 euros from pensions at the level of 350 euros or less per month. The government replies that while the pension system requires reform—the present early retirement age is unsustainable—that reform can only be done gradually and alongside the introduction of an effective unemployment insurance scheme.
On labor markets, the creditors have already imposed the near-complete elimination of collective bargaining and reduction of minimum wages. The government points out that the effect is to informalize the labor market, so that labor is not registered and pension contributions are not paid, which in turn undermines the pension system. The Greek proposal is to design a new collective bargaining system that meets the standards of the International Labor Organization.
As for privatization, the creditors have demanded the sale of airports, seaports, and electric utilities, among other assets, and that all this be done quickly. Here the Greek objection is not to private or foreign management of certain assets but rather against letting them go for cheap, or without conditions, or without retaining an equity stake. Thus in the ongoing privatization of the port of Piraeus to the Chinese firm Cosco, the government has insisted on an investment plan and on labor rights. (Completing the post-modern turn of language, here a left government in a capitalist country imposes union rights on a multinational corporation from a communist country.)
Turning to taxes, the creditors have demanded a hefty increase in the value-added tax (VAT)—which already has a top rate of 23 percent. Among other things, the burden would fall on medicines (and therefore on the elderly) and on the special rates enjoyed by the Greek islands (about 10 percent of the country by population), where tourism is centered and where costs are higher in any event. The government points out that tax increases on tourism hurt competitiveness, and that the overall effect of the increased tax burden will be to reduce activity, worsening the debt problem. What is needed, instead, is tax enforcement; reducing VAT evasion could, quite readily, permit rates to be lowered.
What is missing from the creditors’ demands is, well, reform. Cuts in pensions and VAT increases are not reform; they add nothing to economic activity or to competitiveness. Fire-sale privatization can lead to predatory private monopolies as anyone living in Latin America or Texas knows.
Vir: Jamie Galbraith, The American prospect