Observing the country’s leftist-led government ahead of the second bailout review by its international lenders leaves us with more questions than answers.
Greece is still lagging in the implementation of its commitments. In certain sectors, such as labor and education reform, the responsible ministers have made decisions that go completely against the spirit, as well as the essence, of the bailout review.
Similar problems have arisen in the area of privatizations and they are coming from ministers with substantial political leverage and close ties to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. Surprisingly, these officials are given a free rein.
Meanwhile, Tsipras has once again intensified calls for debt relief, aiming for a decision on the issue by the end of the year. The Greek premier is eyeing some sort of alliance with the leaders of other nations in Southeastern Europe, including President Francois Hollande of France, in a bid to bolster Greece’s bid vis-a-vis Germany.
Tsipras is well aware, of course, that any delay in wrapping up the bailout review will kill any hopes for an economic upturn. State debt to suppliers and taxpayers will pile up further. The country will enter an even more vicious cycle. Banks will become more unstable, tax revenues will be further off target and the real economy will continue to suffer losses.
It’s hard to be sure what is going through the mind of officials at Maximos Mansion.
According to one of the scenarios, officials are confident that Athens will conclude the review and receive the next funding tranches while doing as little as possible. Perhaps the government is toughening its position toward lenders so that it can better sell to the public the painful compromises that will follow.
A second scenario has it that the administration has simply lost the plot. The PM is unable to coordinate, let alone keep dissident ministers in check.
According to a third scenario, Tsipras, knowing that he will not be able to get any substantial concessions on debt relief, and in the face of negative opinion polls, is becoming more vocal, all in a bid to lead the country to snap elections before the spring and before things become too difficult for his administration.
Finally, there is a fourth scenario (which seems more plausible in light of the experience of the past two years): Tsipras is taking a step-by-step approach without any specific plan, simply following his gut feeling – and then taking it from there.