A significant chapter of modern Greek history ends on Monday with the country’s exit from the bailout programs that began in April 2010 and left an indelible mark on society, the economy and the political landscape.
Within this eight-year period of harsh austerity, Greece’s gross domestic product shrank by 25 percent, incomes were slashed and hundreds of thousands of people were left jobless.
The government has sought to present the bailout exit as a sign that Greece has returned to normal, but the narrative has been downplayed by the fact that the country will remain under the strict surveillance of its creditors in the post-bailout era.
Its insistence on a clean break from the bailout has also been dismissed by opposition parties, with New Democracy officials reiterating last week that “there is no clean exit” and the measures the government has committed to in the post-bailout era are tantamount to a fourth bailout.
ND also points out that the omens for the economy are not good, given that Greece will no longer have the safety net afforded by the rescue loans and will be closely monitored by international markets ready to pounce and fiercely punish any deviation from the path of reforms – such as the government’s hint that it may try to suspend pension cuts on January 1, 2019.
Moreover, the enhanced surveillance by the institutions – including the International Monetary Fund – means that any deviation from the country’s agreed fiscal path will lead to a suspension of debt relief measures.
To make matters worse, the government’s plans to issue two more bonds before the end of the bailout were dashed by the high interest rates on international financial markets sparked by the Italian and Turkish crises – confirming just how vulnerable Greece is to market turmoil despite the debt relief deal it has struck with its creditors.
So for all the government talk of a new era dawning, the reality is that Greece still has many rivers to cross before it returns to normal. Given this outlook, conservatives underscore that the sooner elections are held, the smaller the repercussions for the economy will be.
As long as this government remains in office, ND officials insist, there will be more uncertainty, while the chances of an “accident” will increase.