The most positive aspect of “Greece+,” the SYRIZA blueprint presented Monday by leftist opposition leader Alexis Tsipras on the use of grants and cheap loans from the European Union recovery fund, is that it actually exists. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since SYRIZA vowed to bring about social prosperity just by introducing “a single piece of legislation.” This time, the party needed around 11,000 words to give a general outline of their plan for the future. This alone is a boon for Greece. Instead of trading barbs and accusations, the country’s two mainstream parties seem to be offering proposals concerning the country’s future.
It has to be said here that the leftist opposition is engaging in political shadow-boxing by giving the label “neoliberal” to a government which has launched the biggest program of state intervention in the economy since the days of late socialist leader Andreas Papandreou (even if it was forced to do so by the coronavirus pandemic). It also has to be said that Greece+ suffers from all the shortcomings which are typical of a program about the future. After all, the conservative administration’s own blueprint, dubbed “Greece 2.0,” has its own problems.
As a result, SYRIZA’s program is occasionally vague, bordering on the wishful: “The funds from the recovery fund must not be exclusively channeled to imports, as was the case with previous [EU funds], but they must be [used in such a way so as] to increase domestic production,” the document says. Other points are contradictory, including a pledge to “increase employment with steady jobs.” The problem is that, for better or worse, the global economy is marked by constant and increasing fluidity across all stages of production. Nokia used to sell more cell phones than anyone else in the world. Some years later, the company almost disappeared. The increase in employment, which will hopefully come, will not involve jobs for life. This is a fact and politics cannot stand in the way of the sweeping changes brought about by technology. What politics can do however is help people navigate this new landscape with relative safety.
Greece+ contains some interesting proposals, such as support for decentralized electricity generation, although not just for reasons of “supporting energy democracy,” like Tsipras said. Decentralized power production would create a more stable grid and reduce the aesthetic damage caused by big renewable energy (RE) projects. Meanwhile, the experience from “energy communities” over the past five years has to be evaluated because there are many indications that the beneficial provisions have been manipulated by big corporations that use supposed local communities as a front.
In any case, Greece+ marks a step forward. OK, it’s neither full nor perfect. But like all proposed plans, it serves as a platform for debate. A debate that is necessary for the country to move forward.
Published in eKathimerini.com 21.5.2021