Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras wore his Spring 2015 costume again and started acting like the leftist messiah who would change Greece and Europe. So, he started attacking the European Union institutions and the International Monetary Fund. You can almost hear him say, “Go back, Mr. Schaeuble,” like he used to shout in the election campaign that brought him to power in January 2015.
The new act of his play of defiance was to give the Christmas bonus to low-income pensioners and reduce VAT on certain islands without consulting with creditors. After his pertinent ministers failed to close the second review of the bailout program on December 5, he went suddenly on television announcing the measures with the aplomb of the strong leader who after excelling in governing he gives an extra bonus to “his people.” More importantly, he stressed that he didn’t ask for creditors’ permission to do that because we are a proud and independent administration and managed our budget.
It was a wrong move in many ways. It was like telling creditors that we don’t honor the agreement that we signed to get the loans that keep the country afloat. After Greece received the last loan sub-tranche, the biggest part of the funds should go to companies and individuals that the State owes to in order to give a much-needed shot of liquidity to the Greek market. That didn’t happen.
It was also wrong because the bonus went to low-income pensioners. How about a bonus to the one million registered unemployed who have no income at all? How about a bonus to those who are not registered in OAED and have no income? How about a bonus to the homeless? Or to the young people who work for pittance pay in a labor market that the government has done absolutely nothing to monitor?
Tsipars’ move had the reek of a bribe. Pensioners and Aegean islanders are a big pool of potential voters, should Greece go to early elections. Yet, the prime minister lied even to those who got the benefits. He told them that this was the “13th pension” like he had promised. It was a lie because the 13th pension in the good old days was a full pension given as Christmas bonus. What the government gave those people was a one-off bonus that was less that half of the 13th pension. As for the islanders, reduced VAT is only for 2017, something that he cleverly omitted.
At the same time he reassured constituents that creditors will not react to his generous measures and that the second review will close on time.
Of course creditors reacted. But not because they are the heartless villains who want to see old Greek ladies with less money in their purses like Tsipras tries to portray them. The lenders’ reaction pushes back the bailout program evaluation. Yet, on Wednesday the government spokesman reassured the Greek people that the evaluation will be completed by December 2016. The same evening Tsipras promised that the evaluation will close at the end of January.
Greek people are already used to Tsipras’ false promises, shameless lying and shrewd tactics. The prime minister was expecting that creditors would react the way they did to freeze the debt relief measures. Now he can blame Germany and the IMF again as the true enemies of the Greek people. As if Schaeuble will put the money from the Greek pension cuts in his pocket.
At the same time, Tsipras will pose again as the brave leader who will stand tall between the enemies and the Greek people.