Lest there be any doubt, my movement – Syriza – is committed to keeping Greece in the eurozone.
President Barack Obama was right when he said last Friday: “Let’s do everything we can to grow now, even as we lock in a long-term plan to stabilise our debt and our deficits, and start bringing them down in a steady, sensible way.” That applies to my country, too. The need for giving Greece a chance for real growth and a new future is now more widely accepted than ever.
I strongly believe we will get a clear democratic mandate from the people of the Hellenic Republic on Sunday. With that mandate we will take immediate action to end Greece’s corrupt and inefficient political and regulatory systems that have ravaged our economy over the past decades. The people of Greece also expect us to take immediate responsibility for averting the country’s evolving humanitarian crisis.
Syriza is the only political movement in Greece today that can deliver economic, social and political stability for our country. The stabilisation of Greece in the short term will benefit the eurozone at a critical juncture in the evolution of the single currency. If we do not change our path, austerity threatens to force us out of the euro with even greater certainty.
Only Syriza can guarantee Greek stability because we do not carry the political baggage of the establishment parties that have brought Greece to the brink of ruin. It is for this reason that voters support our commitment to pulling our country back from the edge of destruction. We will set Greece on a new path to growth through transparent government. A renewed Greece will contribute to the new foundations of a closer, more unified Europe. Developments in Spain at the weekend confirm that the crisis is pan-European, and the way it has been handled so far has been completely ineffectual.
The people of Greece want to replace the failed old memorandum of understanding (as signed in March with the EU and International Monetary Fund) with a “national plan for reconstruction and growth”. This is necessary both to avert Greece’s humanitarian crisis and to save the common currency.
The systemic fiscal problems of Greece are, in large part, a problem of low public revenues. Myriad tax concessions and exemptions granted to special interests by previous administrations, along with a low effective tax rate on personal income as well as capital, explain much of the problem. So too does the highly ineffective method of tax collection.
According to Eurostat, Greece lags behind the eurozone average of government revenue as a percentage of gross domestic product by 4 per cent. The two-party political system has spent decades conveniently ignoring the dire need for effective tax reform. It has focused its tax collection efforts on the one exhaustible source of income tax: middle and low-income households.
Under our plan for reconstruction and growth, we are committed to following a programme of pragmatic and socially just fiscal stabilisation. The structure of this programme consists of: stabilising public expenditure at approximately 44 per cent of GDP and reorientating this expenditure to ensure it is well spent; increasing revenues from direct taxation to the average European levels (by more than 4 per cent of GDP) over a four-year period; and reforming the tax regime so as to identify the wealth and income of all citizens, and to distribute equitably the burden of taxation.
Lack of financial transparency prevails, even as Greek banks are being recapitalised with loans from the troika (the EU, IMF and European Central Bank). We will ensure that viable banks are recapitalised transparently and in a way that is fully compatible with the public interest. That is the only way to ensure that the entire financial system is returned to full stability.
Arthur Miller once wrote that “an era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted”. The basic illusion of good Greek government under the old regime of a two-party system has been exhausted. It is now totally incapable of ensuring our country’s return to growth and full participation in the eurozone. This Sunday we will bring Greece into a new era of growth and prosperity.
The new era begins on Monday.
The writer is president of Greece’s Syriza coalition