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Where is the plan, Syriza?

By Fotis Kapetopoulos - posted Thursday, 9 April 2015

When Syriza won I was ambivalent. Their victory was a circuit breaker and a way of providing Greece with hope. Syriza's attacks on Germany and calls for WWII reparations seem to be a step backward. It was typical of modern Greece, and Greeks in Greece; on the one hand wanting to be part of an international community, yet targeting foreigners for all of Greece's problems. Conspiracy theories reign in Greece.

Varoufakis, Tsipras and Syriza were the new cool kids in the Euro block, especially for progressives emboldened against the overwhelmingly dry economics of the right and the austerity measures. Syriza were also a new breath of fresh air for youthful left wing parties and for Greece's prostrated middle classes.

These are the same middle classes that took easy loans from German and other banks and subsidies from Brussels in the high times of the mid 90s to 07. They are the same middle classes that never paid appropriate taxes. They are same middle classes that sent their kids to study abroad instead of actively reforming the sclerotic Greek tertiary education system. And it's not as though they did not know, everyone knew! Admittedly, the tax issue is not all their fault; many governments have the dubious honour of never fixing the labyrinthine tax system.


Now across the Greek and other media, all I see are abstract intellectual discourse by Mr Varoufakis, some of it very good but most of it great for class but not for negotiating when your nation has no leverage. I also see terrible diplomacy akin to Politics 101 students running international relations. Thus we see a growing tension and increasing distance between Greece and Germany, between the needy and the paymaster.

Populist tactics are always used by left and right governments in Greece, high on rhetoric and low on detail. These type of politics are effective in opposition but make for bad governance and Greece with the exception of the PASOK Simitis Government of the 90s and to the recent New Democracy Government of Samaras has always had appalling governance. Greece needs technocrats not ideologues, the citizenry is made of ideologues.

Syriza is now approaching its first 100 days in government. One would hope to have a plan, a narrative for reform and policies of managing the affairs of the state. The need for an articulate economic and social reform plan is profound in the case of Greece to imbue Greece's creditors and partners with confidence.

I am not only considering only Greece's EU partners, but Greece's Chinese investors. Those who focus on the Teutonic austerity imposed on Greece rarely mention that the Chinese-owned Piraeus port has become efficient and profitable after an eternity of mismanagement by profligate governments and irresponsible labour unions.

Where is Syriza's plan to reform Greece's wasteful bureaucracy, its convoluted laws, and to free the callipers on investment? What plan is there by Syriza to transform Greeks into civically minded citizens? Into citizens who are responsible for the 'polis'.

Will Syriza educate Greek citizens on the social, cultural and economic benefits of multiculturalism? They did provide citizenship to many immigrants who were raised or lived in Greece, but recent threats that they would allow illegal immigrants to flow into the EU is preposterous, not a strategy for dealing with the major global refugee problem.


I am concerned about Syriza's missing strategy of economic, cultural and social engagement with Asia - India, China, Singapore and Malaysia. Mr Varoufakis is an astute economist; he's lived in Australia and should know the value of Asia to the global economy.

Hellenes are well equipped to deal with Asian economies, societies and cultures; we have done so over thousands of years. In fact, we stopped looking to the East when we took on French and British notions of Hellenism in the post 1800s nation building phase. We deluded ourselves as European, even though up to 1921 over 1.5 million Hellenes lived in Asia Minor.

We were once the natural conduit between Asia, the Middle East and Europe. We share much culturally and historically with the East - our music, our foods, our family structures. We have more in common with the Arabs, Chinese, Indians and Turks than we do with the Germans and French. One of the reasons Australia was the only OECD nation to survive the GFC unscathed was due to Fraser's, Keating's, later Howard's and Rudd's Asia engagement strategy.

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About the Author

Fotis Kapetopoulos heads Kape Communications Pty Ltd a cultural communications consultancy. He was Multicultural Media Adviser to Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu and former editor of Neos Kosmos English Edition. He lectures in communication and marketing at various academic institutions and will be undertaking a PhD at the University of Canberra.

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