The Periclean Dimensions of Antonis Samaras as the Future Prime Minister of Greece
By Con George-Kotzabasis—December 10, 2011
We have forced every sea and land to be the highway of our daring. Pericles
In the present storm-laden dark sky of Greece, a glittering new star has made its appearance which like a beacon of the sky is attempting to navigate the battered ship of Greece into calmer waters and save it from shipwreck. This new star is the leader of the Opposition of the New Democracy Party, Antonis Samaras, who since he has become its leader two years ago, has displayed unprecedented qualities of leadership and economic and political insight and daring, in this critical economic situation that Greece traverses, that only a statesman of Periclean dimensions could exhibit.
The criticism of Samaras from early on as leader of the Opposition of the Papandreou government, which he has depicted as amateurish and inept, has been totally justified. His early warnings that the policies of the socialist government of Papandreou were wrong and the torrent of taxes that the latter rained upon the middle classes would be disastrous for the economy. In October 2009, when Papandreou began his premiership, public debt was 298 billion euros, 125% of GDP. Today it has reached the whopping amount of 360 billion euros, 165% of GDP. Gross National Product in 2009 was 238 billion and presently has shrunk to 218 billion. According to OECD estimates it will decrease even more by 6% in the near future and unemployment will increase to 18.55%, affecting tragically younger people.
Further, Samaras predicted that the first EU Memorandum that imposed draconian austerity measures on Greece would neither decrease the budget nor would it put the economy on a track of recovery. As an economist he cogently argued that in conditions of deep recession austerity measures would exacerbate the economic crisis not dampen it. He was severely criticized and reprimanded when the New Democracy Party voted in parliament against the extreme austerity measures. Moreover, he had the moral strength and political insight not to be tempted to fall to the seductive calls of Papandreou to participate in a unity government to deal with the national crisis. Samaras gave as his strong reasons that since the PASOK Government was refusing to change its economic policies, that followed the blueprint formulated in the European Memorandum without attempting to modify it in certain crucial parts that could deter the further weakening of the economy, and which had failed the country, he, and his party, would not take part in a coalition government merely for the purpose of being an “accomplice” to these flagrantly wrong policies.
Samaras made a series of proposals that he encapsulated in his “Restart of Greece” by which the country could avoid the shoals that would cause its economic sinking. Last May in his Zappeio II Proposal the Leader of the Opposition presented a number of policies that could put Greece on the road of economic recovery and its corollary, the ability to pay off its debts. His restart programme would necessitate a “shock treatment” but with positive results. (a) A severe cut in public spending and on pensions, only above the level 700 euros. (b) A reduction of taxes on household income and businesses and a decrease in VAT in all sectors of the economy particularly in tourism which is pivotal to the Greek economy. (c) The abolition of all means test for the acquisition of a house and on capital repatriation so to inject money in the financial system. (d) The legalization of all buildings constructed without permits-there are more than a million-which will bring substantial increases in state revenue. (e) The state is to pay off all its debts to private individuals thus increasing market liquidity. And banks to commit to the real economy 20% to 30% of the guarantees they receive. This will further increase liquidity in the market and be an incentive to stop capital flight. (f) The state must not make any cuts to the Public Investment Programme with its high multiplier effect that is a powerful instrument to combat recession. (g) The acceleration of denationalization of public owned entities, which the Papandreou government was slow to implement, and the stimulation of the development of property which is the economic engine of the country. All these relief measures will increase state revenue and the Restart programme will balance the budget within just over three years, and start paying off Greece’s debt.
This daring Restart programme is not an abstraction and Samaras is quite aware that to concretize it he has to convince the lenders of Greece, i.e. the EU, of the urgent necessity of making changes to the present economic policies that clearly have failed, if the goals of the Memorandum of 26th of October, to which he is irrevocably committed, are to be achieved. This task of convincing Greece’s European partners of a change in tack has been eased, as High German officials admit now that the initial programme was wrong.
Finally, Samaras warns (not exactly in the following words) that this contagion that is threatening to engulf the European continent is not only economic and political but also social, and could lead to an explosion of European Spring protests that could not be contained and could transform radically the political landscape of the continent by the reappearance of the infernal star of the swastika in the political constellation of Europe.
But History has shown repeatedly nations at moments of great dangers, produce great and illustrious leaders that saves them at the eleventh hour from destruction and obliteration. From Themistocles to Charles Martel to Winston Churchill, the invasions of barbarians and dictators were defeated by the sagacity, imagination, and moral strength of exceptional leadership. Antonis Samaras from his words and deeds without any doubt belongs to this lineage of leadership. Greece facing the abyss of economic bankruptcy, poverty, and mob rule with the dangers that are historically inherent in such combination, i.e. the resurgence of fascism, has a unique leader in Antonis Samaras that could prevent this stupendous threat from consummating which would consign the country into the doleful state of penury and into the captivity of dictatorial regimes.