Nikos Konstandaras NIKOS KONSTANDARAS

Time to end this uncertainty

COMMENT

From the start of the crisis, we all needed to know where and when this would end, so that we could learn how much our incomes would be reduced, how much our taxes raised, and how much property values would fall. We still don’t know. We cannot figure out the cost of the past years and of the latest agreement with our creditors in Brussels on Tuesday. From Greek pensioners, wage earners, unemployed and business people to potential foreign investors, we are still waiting to learn where we are and how we will move on from here.

After the last Eurogroup meeting we expect that Greece will receive the next tranche of its loan and will be able to meet its commitments in July. From there on, though, there are too many variables for us to know how much our lives will be affected. We all expect the worst from the omnibus law passed last Sunday by the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks government; what is more important is that, either way, we just don’t know.

Adding to uncertainty is the fact that the protagonists of our political, economic and social scene have not said their last word. Regarding our creditors, the International Monetary Fund and Germany are embroiled in a battle over whether to reduce Greece’s debt – the outcome of which will, to a great extent, determine when the crisis will end. At the same time, the troika insists on “corrections” to measures that were just passed in Parliament, leaving us to wonder whether the disagreement is big enough to derail the loan agreement.

The government, too, remains a question mark. Will it be able to carry out commitments and implement measures with which it disagreed vociferously? Perhaps Independent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos’s favorite tactic shows what we can expect. After he and his party voted to raise VAT on the islands, a couple of days later, while visiting the island of Syros, he slammed the measure as “criminal” and “unconstitutional.” We understand government officials’ need to bluster their way out of tight spots but this does not help us understand whether measures will be implemented and what their impact will be. (And we have seen where such tactics lead.)

The unions, too, can be expected to stage more protests against changes to the pension and labor regimes and to privatization plans. The courts could change things by ruling against government decisions. And how much money can the state expect to raise from higher taxes in a climate of continuing recession? Only implementation of the bailout agreement can put an end to the lack of confidence which pushed people to withdraw their savings from banks and put a freeze on business activity. Also, the large percentage of nonperforming loans and arrears in payments to social security funds and the tax office will remain a huge problem until the air clears and banks can start functioning again.

The Greeks have paid a very high price over the past few years. It is time for those who decide our fate to understand that this endless uncertainty must end.

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