Greece finally passed its long awaited package of reforms, which follows the usual pattern. The Parliament was all too happy to raise taxes and social security contributions, but pension reform and the sale of NPLs is much less clear.
No, you did not miss my last article; I have not written since January 24, 2016. And no, nothing has happened in Greece since then ... no pension reform, no sales of NPLs, nothing. And, nothing is likely to happen for the foreseeable future.
Each New Year seems to bring about a renewed optimism (unfortunately that optimism has already disappeared on Wall Street). Even I am beginning 2016 with the Greece glass half full. The weather is beautiful.
To understand what is going on in Greece, imagine Bernie Sanders fighting to pass a significant reduction in social security payments in the U.S. in order to continue to prop up a host of insolvent banks.
Unless these frightening measures are eased, a social upheaval, triggered by exponential rises in unemployment, will continue undermining for the foreseeable future the entire spectrum of human rights in Greece.
Syriza remains almost as popular, despite a confusing message. Is Syriza in favor of the agreement with the EU? They say, "Yes," but they recommended a "No" vote in the referendum. They seem to be doing very little to comply with the EU agreement.
Athens is eerily quiet. The restaurants are half-full. If it were not for a few lingering tourists, the restaurants would be empty. Even the Nike store in Kolonaki closed in the last two weeks (in the interest of full disclosure the store was not owed by Nike, it was operated by Folli Follie).
The EU must and can settle internal deficits and surpluses, as long as these remain within the euro zone. Therefore, a better integration of economic and fiscal policies and a significant increase in economic transfers within the euro zone are needed.
To be sure, any austerity plan imposed on the country will not be successful if it does not also embrace a complementary option that is manifestly available to provide hope to ordinary people in Greece whose mounting distress is real and must be taken into account.
Year after year, Greece's creditors have promised that the bailout packages would bring about a meaningful rebound in output, employment, and exports. Instead, the country has experienced a depression comparable to the decline in output and employment that Germany suffered from 1930 to 1932.