OPINION

Their budget is not our budget

The public took about as much interest in the budget that was voted through Parliament early on Sunday morning as the deputies did. Even the country’s main party leaders settled for repeating what they said a few weeks ago when main opposition SYRIZA had filed a censure motion against the two-party coalition. They knew that oratory, however fiery, would not influence the distribution of yeas and nays nor their performance in the opinion polls.

There is no doubt that Greeks love a good show. But this is also a society where a TV show featuring a passionate populist or a strict imposer of serious lessons is likely to generate more politics than a debate in Parliament, unfortunately.

The government should not believe that the budget’s ratification means acceptance of its economic and social content by all of the deputies who voted for the bill, many with a very lackluster “yes.” It should also be wary about believing that its scenario for success and happiness, which it so passionately continues to champion, will mean automatic popular acceptance. However lyrical the government waxes about a primary surplus and more money for the poor as of next year, the people continue to feel trapped in a dismal drama.

This is not a fleeting emotion or one stirred up by outside factors. The average citizen is interested only in the economics of day-to-day life and not in the beautiful prospects of the macroeconomy. The average citizen has every reason to believe that they are nowhere near the utopia the government sees in the distance. They compare this optimistic budget to the math of their day-to-day frustrations, to the exhausting question of whether they can afford to pay their bills and buy food.

The average citizen is struggling more than ever because of the deconstructive power of the healthcare system’s reform. They see their children coming back from school frozen to the bone because there is no central heating. Worse still, they have to suffer the shame of knowing that a fellow human died as a result of inhaling fumes from a makeshift brazier. Even though it is December and the cold is biting, many cannot afford to pay for heating oil. They know they can’t borrow from family and friends, because their accounts are running dry as well, whatever the troika may think. They have debts that keep nipping at their heels and the home that they always took for granted as their final refuge is at risk of being taken away from them.

Put simply, the ratification of the 2014 budget did not only fail to make people happy. It even failed to erase from their minds the smallest problems they will face. Even if the average Joe wants to believe in the promise of a primary surplus, he simply cannot.