Can of worms

Overcoming the financial crisis is of vital importance but it’s far from a done deal. If it were a technocratic matter, things would be simple. But behind the numbers, there are the people we need more than a well-planned stabilization program. The key to success is political: securing social consensus. If the cuts trigger a wave of strikes and social unrest, the whole project will go up in smoke. The strike at Piraeus port has set a precedent but the key test is the farmers’ blockades. The political stake is far greater than the economic cost of a deal with the farmers. In fact, this is about the government’s ability to map a (legal) path out of the crisis. It is true that farmers face serious problems. However, if the government yields to the usual give-and-take, it will annul the entire Stability Program. Should it make the slightest concession to them, PASOK will then lack the legitimacy to demand sacrifices of other social groups. Farmers would hate to leave empty-handed, but if they manage to get something out of the government they will set an example for other groups. These will then use their own pressure to avoid harmful settlements. Tax officials are already warming up for action. A show of strength is not enough. It will yield results only if the government has the public on its side, that is, if voters are convinced that the administration is able to guarantee a solution to the financial crisis. But the government is not there yet. Voters must be convinced that the burden will be evenly shared out. If the low-income earners end up footing the bill once again, there will be no social consensus. Despite government reassurances, little has been done on a practical level. PASOK has announced no measure on offshore companies, for example. If the government cannot find wealth made on the underground economy, it will have to do so indirectly using the so-called «tekmirion,» an assessment of income based on expenses. Officials turn down such proposals as unrealistic. But everything else has failed. What is needed is political will.