On 9.3.15 The Eurogroup will discuss the next steps following the decision to extend the financial assistance to Greece by up to four months beyond its original expiry date of 28 February 2015. The political agreement on the extension was taken by the Eurogroup on 24 February and later approved by a number of national parliaments in the euro area and by the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), which provides the assistance. The formal decision on the extension was taken on 27 February.
This meeting follows the provision by Varoufakis of the ‘detailed’ measures that the Greek government intends to take to support the 4 month extension. It is against these measures (if approved) that the disbursement of the next part of financial assistance from the institutions formerly known as the ‘Troika’ will depend on.
I have supported Syriza and Varoufakis so far, but this does not make me a Varoufitsa (Varoufaki cheerleader) that will applaud any nonsense that comes from a Syriza brainstorming session. I am deeply troubled by this document for a variety of reasons, some of which are below.
Lets start with the less serious stuff. One can handle the ‘dress code’ of the Syriza team and perhaps stomach the upturned collars (indoors), but there are no excuses for sloppily printing a document! Seriously, the entire ministry does not have a decent printer? Also, starting with (and I quote) “Dear President of the Eurogroup, dear Jeroen” looks like an email written late, after the third glass of wine.
The content of the document though is worse that its presentation (the serious stuff). The proposed Revenue Administration Reform is entitled “Onlookers-Vat evasion fighting scheme”, and nutty as it sounds proposes wiring up random people (tourists included) to send them to spy on shops and businesses.
The obvious question once one stops laughing is to ask, Varoufakis has no lawyers in his team? Random members of the public recording other members of the public is not admissible in court and will lead to a host of violations of data protection legislation, privacy laws etc. Plus it is stupid, will create a Stalinist culture of surveillance (in the off chance that it works). Varoufakis proposes North Korea. For a not-so-much Marxist, this is a leap indeed.
And it gets worse. One of the policies to promote growth (seriously!) is the immediate public revenue accrual through online gaming services. Online Gambling as a revenue source, in Greece! I almost chocked when I saw this.
In Greece people get arrested daily (!) for operating slot machines (google σύλληψη για φρουτάκια just for fun), and this is a country that will draw tax revenues from online gambling? In the 1990s Greece pissed off lots of foreign investors by cancelling gambling licences. See for instance the Rosemarie Marra and Marrecon Enterprises, S.a./cross v. Vaso Papandreou, et al. case (216 F3d 1119, 2000), where the claimant sued in the US courts, seeking $1.6 billion in damages from the Greek government for breach of contract and unlawful expropriation of property stemming from the revocation of a licence to build and operate a casino. The trigger for the action was the Greek government’s decision to issue a resolution identifying legal defects in the licensing process, and accordingly revoking the Ministry of Tourism’s earlier decision to grant a casino license to Marra and her partners. Varoufakis bringing this in now is as laughable a revenue stream as the ‘tourist’ tax inspectors idea. How about going after the famed Greek ‘oligarchs’?
The conclusion of this set of proposals is that Varoufakis is losing the plot and brings silly ideas to a hostile Eurogroup. As pointless and destructive as breaking plates at a wedding. Will this work, or will the deal collapse and then Tsipras will need to pick up the pieces when he talks to Juncker? I don’t know what to think or hope for anymore.