The government is facing a major political and communication problem, which has not yet been conceived to the extent that it should. So far the failures to achieve the fiscal targets are attributed primarily to the inability of authorized state mechanisms and secondarily to the general climate of recession.
Today, a growing part of the public opinion which is monitoring and evaluating what is happening, is forming the belief or even the certainty, that the objective of fiscal consolidation – which practically means “put money in empty state cash drawyers” – is not served with devotion by the political leaders, and in some cases it is even openly undermined.
In other words, the resourcefulness of the government and the supervising troika is reduced into measures of impoverishment and not consolidation. The decrease in net revenues of the tactical budget by 17% is indicative that the formula applied is wrong. This recipe impoverishes people and does not consolidate. One does not need to be Rubini in order to understand the complete failure of the assimilation of heating oil and diesel tax which has cost the state tens of millions of Euro in revenues. Yet the minister came out yesterday and said that there is no room for revision of the measure! There is inefficiency of measures, and yet there is a strange obsession with sticking to the mistaken approach which inevitably leads to de-facto second and third thoughts about what are the true intentions of the government and the troika.
Another example is the prisons which are filled with inmates who are incarcerated for various financial offenses. It would be interesting to learn in fact how much this wave of detentions costs the Greek state, especially when they openly threaten that this will intensify. But that was is the challenge here? Are we merely looking to keep lazy prison officers busy?
Entrepreneurs threatened with padlocks are not interested in whether Karouzos (businessman involved in real estate scandal) in prison or not. The unemployed who owes five months’ rents and his family is threatened with eviction does not care whether Tsochatzopoulos (former Minister of Defense of the socialist government imprisoned for his involvement in armaments programs scandals and money laundering cases) will continue to see the world behind bars, and the pensioners can no longer live with their meager pension which will not be increased by the custody of Lavrentiadis (businessman in custody for involvement in banking scandal).
All this will be truly interesting for the public opinion only to the extent that it is translated into money going back into state cash drawyers, easing the burden placed upon the society and relieving people’s lives.
Otherwise, in this case also there will be room for second and third thoughts which do not have to do not with the fiscal consolidation that the government and the troika claim, but with the rearrangement of the broader political and business landscape.
The suspicion is most severe. When the government does not do what is needed to increase revenues, it is reasonable to look for very different incentives than that of the achievement of fiscal goals. The government cannot threaten all of the society with imprisonment for debts of even 1000 Euro when they are not making any effort to take the money from those who have it and who by the way may be more willing to give than the government would like us to believe.
We are not compassionate to those who have harmed the public interest. But when you really want to collect money you have to do whatever you can to succeed. For example, I hear that a bill is being processed by the Ministry of Justice for the decongestion of prisons which provides for the so called “wristband” which transforms custody into “house arrest”. Under the circumstances that have been formed so far, this measure seems extremely right, under two conditions. First of all there should be a clear reasoning towards raising revenues into the bill and secondly to avoid falling victim of slow parliamentary procedures. It would actually be more practical if the bill was incorporated into the tax vote.
At that point there could be two specific provisions. First, to allow the house arrest on terms of financial revenue depending on the offense, or second, to lease hotels which are insolvent so that those under custody may be able to pay a high price to ensure their stay and do their time. What good is an 18 month detention if, for example, each of the VIP inmates who are currently costing the state, could be paying one million Euro per month to be under house arrest or detained in a hotel? How many pensions would be coming through if such a measure was implemented?
From every point of view it is more rational for the ones under custody to be paying the state than the taxpayers to continue paying for their detention. Is there political will on behalf of the government? Do they want revenues or inmates and why?
PS: When a society is on the verge of collapse it is not easily fooled. Even if it is fooled, it will not be for long. It would be good if Prime Minister Antonis Samaras conveyed this message during his interesting upcoming meetings in Berlin.