Controlling the pressure

Fear, anxiety and uncertainty are starting to surface in everybody’s eyes. No one believes anything anymore and no one trusts anyone. The people of Greece seem to have reconciled themselves to a great degree with the fact that the cutbacks and sacrifices they are experiencing are necessary, but they need to know when it will all end, when Greece will crawl out of the hole that it finds itself in. Unfortunately, no one can answer this question with any degree of certainty. One example of how little people know is the fact that at some point in February, the markets, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union will realize that Greece is a long way away from its fiscal targets for 2010. Will the markets turn a blind eye? Will our lenders recognize the huge efforts already made, or will they impose a fresh round of measures and cutbacks in the public sector? Furthermore, how much more pressure can the ruling PASOK party, the government and, more importantly, society take? There are no easy answers and, to make matters worse, we still have no idea about how the global crisis will affect Europe in early 2011. The Greek government chose a course of treatment for the economy that is much like shock therapy, meaning that it tried to squeeze as many changes as possible into a short period of time. If this strategy is successful, the government will have a strong card to play when it has to deal with its European peers and market forces in the case that debt restructuring is offered as a solution. If, however, the strategy fails, the shock therapy may turn into that extra bit of force that breaks the valve on the pressure cooker that is Greek society. Amid all this uncertainty, there is one constant: Prime Minister George Papandreou and two or three of his ministers are acting like they have set their sights on one single goal and couldn’t care less for anything else. But someone needs to step up and tell the people what exactly is changing and why, someone other than the ministers who are directly involved in the process. Otherwise, the stereotype of the IMF and the EU as hegemonic forces, of a handful of ministers working as collaborators and another handful working in the resistance, will become entrenched, and this will merely increase the heat in the pressure cooker.

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