Of the middle class, of support to the poorer segments – and of the future
by Antonis D. Papagiannidis
Mercurial, blunt-spoken, loose-cannon Opposition politician Pavlos Polakis, engaging in infighting within SYRIZA – the radical party that ruled Greece over four tumultuous years of economic struggle and near-clash with the Euro area – recently pontificated over the deeper causes of his party losing the 2019 election that brought Nea Dimokratia right/centre-right of Kyriakos Mitsotakis to power.
In language unfit for polite society and civil debate – whatever both terms may mean today – Polakis said that the SYRIZA years meted out pain to the middle classes and thus lost them to Nea Dimοkratia, all along surrendering power. Surrendering power in quite durable a way, as polls show, notwithstanding the fact that the present Government had to face multiple shocks – from the corona pandemic and ensuing economic pressure to a migrant/refugee crisis in border areas and increasing Greek-Turkish tensions. Polakis’ aim was to dispute the policies of “bias in favour of poorer segments of the population” that SYRIZA deliberately had opted for under the constraints of the stabilisation imposed by Brussels, when his arch-foe Euclid Tsakalotos was at the helm of economic policy.
However indelicate the expressions used by Polakis, his reading of the situation has merits. The really interesting part, though, is that the way in which the present Government has been facing the predicament of households and businesses under the coronavirus pandemic is closer to the pattern the previous Government – the one in Opposition now – has followed in its time. The benefit of 534 euros/month for those in furlough due to the pandemic, but also the liquidity made available to small and very small businesses (which constitute the effective backbone of the Greek economy), along with rent relief, tax suspension and support with EU funds – all target the population that SYRIZA considered its very own: the poorer, more exposed segments of the population.
So, while political conflict will go on unabated – Greece will be always Greece and political reflexes will never change – the fundamentals of support share-out in the economy are going along the needs of the times. The impact such policies will have on the political system will be checked, real-time, in the not so distant future. But such is the matter for a different analysis.