OPINION

A Sisyphean task

The most likely outcome of the government’s ongoing negotiations with the troika is that Greek Parliament will vote through all the proposed measures and that the budget which was drafted without the prior approval of the international lenders will be amended to meet their demands. These include reforms adding the unbearable burden of an additional 2.5-3 billion euros’ worth of measures on a population that is exhausted from austerity and an economy that had been bled dry. They include a hike in the value-added tax on medicines, books, the press, tourism services, rural parts of the country and islands, no pensions before the age of 62 and the abolition of a recently approved scheme for overdue debts to the state to be paid in 100 installments.

The troika, in short, is forcing the Greek coalition government to stand before the citizens of this country and tell them that all the sacrifices they have made over the past four years have failed to yield the desired results, that they have fallen short and that more cutbacks will be required despite the fact that there can be no guarantees that the end is anywhere in sight.

Unfortunately, the core of these measures are outlined in the midterm fiscal program and the memorandum, two agreements that were ratified by the country’s MPs but were not studied by the ministers signing them; not at the time and not now either. And again, yet another Greek government is being called upon to lead another tax raid, basically to switch off the light at the end of the tunnel. It is as if four-and-a-half years have not passed since that day when then PM George Papandreou announced in an address to the nation that Greece would be signing a memorandum of understanding with the EU, ECB and IMF.

More than the material cost of the stringent austerity Greece has had to pursue, the greatest toll on the people has been on their morale as they have seen the promise of a decent and viable future dashed. The bailout program is seen by Greeks more like an endless Sisyphean task and it now comes to threaten the country’s social cohesion by distorting the meaning of terms such as “reforms” and “acquis communautaire” to stir violent reactions.

In Cyprus, the bail-in brought back memories of the 1974 invasion. This is how collective conscience works, by drawing correlations that can be extremely powerful. In this context, how can a lengthening of the Sisyphean martyrdom and the annulment of future prospects be perceived? What kind of collective conscience will be formed? It is as though our lenders/partners are pushing the so-called Greek, but actually European problem, into a vicious cycle, transforming it into a black hole.