The fundamental issues of the Greek economy must remain at the center of public discourse.
Nothing but silence has come in the wake of an article by Bank of Greece Governor Yannis Stournaras titled “We need to return to a primary budget surplus,” in Kathimerini’s Sunday edition.
Even SYRIZA has refrained from complaining that the central banker is towing the creditors’ line. Only the newspaper Estia expressed its surprise, with a title stating that Stournaras is urging the country to return to the age of the memorandums – as if it ever left it.
The first explanation for this silence is that Stournaras isn’t saying anything new, just summarizing the current situation. After all, we know that “fiscal sustainability should also be assessed in terms of annual gross financing needs over a horizon extending to the year 2060, namely with regard to the established benchmarks of 15% of GDP in the medium term and 20% of GDP in the long term.”
SYRIZA, which agreed to these terms, knows it, as does the ruling New Democracy, which condemned them at the time. Of course, we are not accustomed to this kind of thing from the leftist party, which has a tendency when in the opposition of condemning policies which it passed or agreed to when in government.
The second explanation for this silence is, therefore, that much more compelling and it has to do with how central bankers communicate. For many years, it had been their habit to publish an annual report that always began with the “significant prospects” of the economy, followed by the “ifs”: If competitiveness improves, if radical reforms are carried out, if the balance of payments does this or that. This allows the government to celebrate the “significant prospects” and the opposition to rage about the measures entailed by the “ifs.”
Beyond the standard announcements issued by political parties, however, these reports went largely unnoticed. They barely registered in the media, which did not even write much about the reports from the International Monetary Fund, not even the one in August 2009 which spoke openly of economic imbalances that would inevitably lead to bankruptcy.
Maybe it’s a good sign that Stournaras’ piece was not met with the usual from the parties: self-gratification from the government and accusations from the opposition.
On the other hand, though, the fundamental issues of the Greek economy must remain at the center of public discourse. And this is not only because we are still beholden to our creditors, but because we are nowhere near solving the problems that put us in this position in the first place.
Published in eKathimerini.com 15.2.2022