This is the content of an email sent by Serafim A. Kotrotsos to the President Jean-Claude Juncker in 05/08/2015. I release this today after the tragicomic level of discussion in the Hellenic parliament early in 14/08/2015.
From “coup” to democracy
A public appeal to the President Jean-Claude Juncker for an additional precondition to the new program for Greece
Dear Mr. President Juncker,
As a citizen of the European Union and Hellas I would like to address to you some concerns and suggestions for the so - called “agreekment”.
The whole globe has witnessed the difficulties that all parties involved faced in order to eventually reach an agreement early in the morning of the 13th of July 2015. Nevertheless, I think that some key points of this agreement have already been violated and I need to tell you that I am not very optimistic for the next steps. These violations are directly undermining my civil rights both as a Greek and European citizen. They also jeopardize the future of the young generations of my country, including my three sons’.
Assuming that the statement published after the Euro Summit of July, 12, is still the basis of your support to my country I outline some key areas of violations that I have identified:
1. Upfront measures to improve the long – term sustainability of the pension system.
At least during the last two decades the top subject in the agenda of the public discussion about our unsustainable pension system are the early retirements of non – incapable citizens from the public sector and some privileged sectors (including the banking sector). Under this institution some people retire at ages of 45 – 50 only because they have completed 25 years of service and have an underage under their protection. This institution is a direct fund transfer from hard working people up to the age of 67 to some privileged ones that will live almost half a century or so on the expenses of the rest. We all hoped that this leak wound just stop with the July, 15 bill of the Greek authorities. Unfortunately it was not.
2. Streamlining of the VAT system and the broadening of the tax base.
We thought that this broadening would include the abolishment of the numerous special taxing policies and tax exemptions that some privileged minorities enjoy here in Greece. Nevertheless there was no sign of such a step forward. Among others, MPs still enjoy tax exemption for the largest part of their compensation while everyday employees have to pay taxes even for the use of a company car, which is considered as an indirect remuneration, not to mention farmers, ship owners etc. that are taxed not based on their income. Again, a fund transfer from everyday citizens to some special groups, which spread tax distortions all over the economy, since these groups have incentives for black transactions rather than the opposite. How could these issues be excluded from the broadening concept?
3. Modernizing, significantly strengthening, capacity-building and de-politicizing the Greek administration
According to the Euro Summit Statement a first proposal on the crucial topic of public administration should have been provided by July 20, 2015. Have you received such a proposal? We, the citizens, have heard absolutely nothing about it. We cannot neglect this topic since the Greek inefficient, non – transparent, corrupted and costly administration is a key growth barrier of this country, one of the top root causes of recession, dramatically high unemployment and essentially zero investment rate.
4. Full implementation of the provisions of the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union.
Among others we were supposed to operate the Fiscal Council and introduce quasi – automatic spending – cuts in cases of deviations from fiscal targets. As you know the law for this Fiscal Council is already in force since June ‘14. Of course no operation has started. Moreover, the procedures for quasi – automatic spending cuts are far from documented in the law that was voted in July, 15. No process has been adopted and obviously no automation what so ever can be expected. How do you believe that we would meet the fiscal targets like that?
5. Full program ownership by the Greek authorities.
This is the first prerequisite mentioned in the first paragraph of the Euro Summit Statement. I guess that you have heard the news from Greece. Our authorities have stated at all possible ways that they do not believe in this program at all. They say that the program was imposed by the “institutions” (that includes yourself I am afraid) and is deemed to fail. Moreover, the elected president of the Hellenic parliament describes the Euro Summit Statement as an act of Coup! Do not get the rumors for change of president of our parliament. The current president is a person that was elected by the vast majority of the MPs and for which no motion of censure has occurred yet. In addition to that, things are not much better with the rest of our MPs. Even those that voted for the first two bills, as part of the prerequisites for the new support program, they clearly spoke about a cumbersome program that they only supported due to the criticality of the situation. They also do not believe in most of the reforms included.
How can we expect a successful implementation and meeting of targets while the local authorities are so far away from owning, supporting and promoting the necessary reforms for the recovery of my country? How do you expect the Greek people to respond to these reforms while our elected leaders condemn them?
Mr. President Juncker, I thank you for your efforts so far. I also thank you for your discretion to avoid stimulating public statements. However, I think it is high time you took some additional steps. Trust rebuilding with my country’s authorities is far from a realistic target. This generation of local politicians have embedded antibodies to trust, dignity, straightness and consistency. Therefore you need to change who you consider as your primary counterparty from Greece. Your only reasonable bet is on the Greek people. Those that have been paying for an unprecedented financial and social cost during the last 5 years without seeing remarkable signs of improvement in their every—day lives. Most of these people are in favor of the “agreekment” as also the primary strategic national goals to keep Greece in the Eurozone and the European Union. This is the only consistency you can trust from our side.
To address to these citizens you need to decisively ask for one more key precondition before engaging into serious talks about a new ESM program for Greece. The Greek authorities need to call a new referendum. This time it won’t be on a non - valid proposal, but on the Euro Summit Statement of July, 12. Since our authorities do not take the ownership of the agreement, we the Greek people must do it, or not. We need a crystal clear question. Do we agree on the Euro Summit Statement as basis for the new program or not? It will be a vote that will decidedly impose the policies to be followed by the Greek authorities. That is the ownership that is needed; a definite ownership to persistency on reforms, transparency, meritocracy and recovery or the doubtful route of non – conventional experimentation attempting to maintain unfair and unsustainable privileges of political clientele. This needs to be the last but not least prerequisite. This is what you need to ask the Greek authorities do in order to be certain that all sides believe in the new program.
Mr. President Juncker, we the Greek citizens, as any citizens of a democratic country, have the right to choose poverty or prosperity, institutional modernization or conservation of our post – ottoman regime of cronyism. I deeply regret that an unfortunate decision of my co-patriots could be costly for the rest of the fellow Europeans as well, but I am sure both the local authorities of each European state as also the Eurogroup and the Union have already made all possible preparations for a potential grexident. Moreover, I am sure that if we continue without local ownership of the reforms the disaster will eventually occur with more painful results and higher costs. That’s why we need a new referendum as a precondition before the finalization of the new ESM program for Greece. I am optimistic that we the Greeks are finally ready to take the responsibility that our leaders keep on avoiding to take so many years now.
With sincere respect
Serafim A. Kotrotsos, PhD, MBA,
41 year – old, start-up tech – entrepreneur