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While Greek Prime Minister and New Democracy Conservative leader Antonis Samaras is touting a looming recovery from a crushing economic crisis – what he calls a “success story” – evidence abounds that the country’s ruling elite, business executives and politicians are prospering from everyone else’s misery.

Even worse, the governing parties, including Samaras’ coalition partner, the fading PASOK Socialists, have colluded with private interests and taken advantage of European Union monies and used 240 billion euros ($306 billion) in bailouts from international lenders to strengthen themselves while ignoring the poor and unemployed and ruthlessly imposing harsh austerity measures.

In a piece in Foreign Affairs, published by the Council on Foreign Relations, Oxford University Associate Professor of Law Pavlos Eleftheriadis charges that oligarchs run Greece – that it’s not a real democracy – and still run the show.

That’s thanks to ownership of media and collaboration with politicians, primarily New Democracy and PASOK, who hired hundreds of thousands of needless workers for generations in return for votes and hand out lucrative government contracts and ads.

He said the government has hit workers, pensioners and the poor with big pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions and worker firings that have created deep poverty and worsened inequality while failing to implement reforms demanded by the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB.)

Indeed, he says, the Axis of Politicians-Business-Wealthy Elite have used the Troika the same way they used the country, as kind of a private ATM to gain riches, evade taxes and further their own interests while the economy collapsed around them.

“By bailing out Greece without demanding fundamental reforms, the European Central Bank, the European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund have only strengthened the status quo.

Even worse, the Troika has lined the pockets of the very forces that brought about the economic collapse in the first place,” Eleftheriadis wrote.

Greece was brought to ruin by the people who had the power, who still do, and who continue to drive it toward oblivion, he indicated, despite the government’s highly-spun figures that the sale of a 4-billion euro bond – at 4.95 percent interest – and a primary surplus (which doesn’t include interest on debt, the cost of running cities and towns and state enterprises, social security and some military expenditures) shows a recovery is coming.


“The recent comeback masks deep structural problems. To tidy its books, Athens levied crippling taxes on the middle class and made sharp cuts to government salaries, pensions, and health-care coverage. While ordinary citizens suffered under the weight of austerity, the government stalled on meaningful reforms: the Greek economy remains one of the least open in Europe and consequently one of the least competitive. It is also one of the most unequal,” he said.

How did it get this way? He put it simply: “Greece has failed to address such problems because the country’s elites have a vested interest in keeping things as they are. Since the early 1990s, a handful of wealthy families – an oligarchy in all but name – has dominated Greek politics.

“These elites have preserved their positions through control of the media and through old-fashioned favoritism, sharing the spoils of power with the country’s politicians.”

Greek legislators he said – mostly professionals who benefit from a lack of competition and guaranteed profit margins they set (excluding regular bribes) have have held on to power by rewarding a small number of professional associations and public-sector unions that support the status quo.

“The fundamental problem facing Greece is not economic growth but political inequality. To the benefit of a favored few, cumbersome regulations and dysfunctional institutions remain largely unchanged, even as the country’s infrastructure crumbles, poverty increases, and corruption persists,” he added.

“Greek society also faces new dangers. Overall unemployment stands at 27 percent, and youth unemployment exceeds 50 percent, providing an ideal recruiting ground for extremist groups on both the left and the right. Meanwhile, the oligarchs are still profiting at the expense of the country – and the rest of Europe,” he added.


While New Democracy and PASOK share the blame for wild overspending and runaway patronage, Eleftheriadis says it was the political cowardice of former Premier and previous New Democracy leader Costas Karamanlis that really let the economic crisis erupt.

In 2003, just before Karamanlis took power, Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio stood at roughly 97 percent. At the end of his tenure, the figure had ballooned to nearly 130 percent although Karamanlis had campaigned as a reformer, promising to shrink the civil service, open up the economy, and clean up politics.

But Eleftheriadis said that once in office, however, he bowed to special interests. Over the course of his five years in power, Karamanlis appointed an estimated 150,000 new civil servants, pushing the total number of public-sector employees past one million people, or 21 percent of the active work force.

Behind the scenes though it’s the unspoken deal between politicians, the rich and business executives – with the implicit support of union leaders who benefit while protesting austerity – that has ruined Greece, he said, what he called The Misrule Of The Few.

A handful of business owners run private TV stations at a loss, using them to further their interests with the state, he said.

“They keep the stations afloat ‘primarily to exercise political and economic influence’ – to ensure, in other words, that they continue to profit from the government,” he said.

Attempts to counter them fail, he said, because they control the government, the Parliament, and all the institutions that matter, including the judiciary and lawyers who benefit from laws designed to benefit them while ignoring the rest of society.

“Just as the oligarchs and their political allies use the media to avoid public scrutiny, so they rely on government regulations to retain control of the state,” he wrote, and to gain favorable publicity from reporters on the take and to quash any would-be negative coverage and scandals that come and go with few being prosecuted.

In other words: This is Greece.





The post How the Oligarchs Ruined Greece But Positioned Themselves
 For Profits appeared first on The National Herald.

Source: The National Herald
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