Friday, November 02, 2012

The First Real Memorandum?

If parliament approves the 2013 Budget and its associated measures, Greece will finally have a real plan. The first memorandum was hastily drawn and ill understood, least of all by the parliament that voted for it. It was never fully endorsed and it was hardly implemented. The second memorandum was negotiated by an interim government without a proper mandate, and its main elements were to be agreed upon later (now). If this new deal passes (and the risk it will not is not trivial), it would be the first memorandum signed by parties elected for that purpose. In itself, this is a milestone.

Yet the fragility of the ruling coalition is evident in the hesitation of the two leftist parties to accept changes in employment laws. Once again, ambivalence threatens reform. PASOK’s equivocation effectively doomed the first memorandum, paralyzing reforms and leaving the country adrift. That same ambivalence is now spread between two parties, fewer deputies, and with more radical dissent from the far left. The calculus of reform has not changed, but the politics of change look harder.

The politics of change, however, also look simpler. The reason is that the left is largely a parliamentary rather than an executive partner in the current government. Of course, if the coalition disintegrates, this distinction will hardly matter – no parliamentary majority, no government. But if it survives, even weakened, this is important. Reforms during the Papandreou government failed both on a macro level (inability to come up with a grand plan on big questions) and a micro level (tendency of even modest reforms to get stuck on minister's desk).

In theory, this deal provides clarity on the big picture. An agreed big picture is important and, evidently, difficult. But the true test will be implementation: not just voting in favor of measures but carrying them out one by one. In the PASOK years, much of the stasis came from non-implementation. A New Democracy-led government committed to change could overcome these hurdles. The haggling is almost over. The time of action is coming. And while it is exciting to have a sense of consensus over the big picture, I am mostly eager to see little things being done – many, little things that have been stuck due to irresolution.


  1. I was reading enkos today and if I am not mistaken the politicans made sure that their pensions could not be reduced as all of the others. Can that be really true that even now the only thing they are interested in is themselves. I have included the article.
    Σώζονται οι συντάξεις των βουλευτών;

    Λίγη ώρα πριν κατατεθεί το Πολυνομοσχέδιο στη βουλή, υπάρχουν πληροφορίες ότι η κυβέρνηση υπέκυψε στις πιέσεις διαφόρων πρώην βουλευτών και υπουργών που παίρνουν σύνταξη πάνω από 2000 -2500 ευρώ και δεν θα περικοπεί σύμφωνα με την εισήγηση του υπουργού Εργασίας Γιάννη Βρούτση το 25%.

    Οι πρώην βουλευτές έκαναν διάβημα σε ορισμένους συνεργάτες του πρωθυπουργού να μην συμπεριληφθούν σε τέτοιες περιοριστικές διατάξεις σύμφωνα με τις οποίες οι συντάξεις τους θα περιορίζονταν κατά 20-25%, έχοντας ως πρόσχημα τις μειώσεις στα ειδικά μισθολόγια .
    Ο υπουργός Εργασίας ήταν υπέρ αυτής της ρύθμισης, όμως τελικά η κυβέρνηση φαίνεται ότι ενέδωσε στις πιέσεις .

    1. Incredible (actually, sadly, not incredible at all...)

  2. The distinction between legislative and executive alliances is relevant to the extent that ND is more inclined to actually implement the laws that (with the help of PASOK and DIMAR) it legislates.

    But is there any evidence that this is the case? I've heard anecdotal stories which go in both directions.

    Which brings forward the more important issue: how would one measure implementation in a systematic way?

    1. No evidence and no easy way to collect evidence. Anecdote is all we have for now.

      But there is a reason to be more optimistic with ND. There is greater symmetry between their platform and what they have to do. And they are closer, ideologically, to the reforms they have to make.

      PASOK never bought into real reform--at least, not entirely. It's hard to be a PASOK socialist and a reformer at the same time, which is why the Papandreou government collapsed.

    2. It's true that ND has felt less need to be apologetic for certain things, such as privatizations. But this is also the party that felt no great difficulty to imitate the worst of 80s vintage PASOK during 2004-09 which makes me quite skeptical about their ideological affinity for genuine reform.

      I think that many very public statements in favor of reform have come from PASOK people such as Ragousis, Mossialos, Loverdos, Diamantopoulou... Whether they actually meant it or had the authority to proceed all the way is a relevant point but i think it's inaccurate to say that there's no reformists there.

      An interesting question of course is what will happen to all of them given that syriza has no interest in reform.


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