In the Greek Parliament earlier today, the Socialist Party of Prime Minster George Papandreou, backed by a simple majority, 155 to 138, won the vote in favor of a bitterly contested package of austerity measures. This should clear the way for the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund to release $17 billion that Greece needs desperately to pay its expenses through the summer.
The measures approved today include tax increases, wage cuts and the privatization of 50 billion Euros in state assets. Another vote will be held on Thursday to enact the measures such as the timing of the privatizations, which includes the state-owned electricity utility, whose union has close ties to the Socialist Party. This will be interesting to watch from a safe distance.
Predictable, Greek’s unions began a 48-hour general strike on Tuesday—their longest walk-out since democracy was restored in 1974. The police called in reinforcements Wednesday and cordoned off streets near Parliament with 5,000 officers.
For a second day, protesters massed in Syntagma Square, shouting, “Traitors, traitors!” The police fired tear gas at the demonstrators repeatedly to maintain control—some demonstrators came prepared with surgical masks to protect against the gas. On hearing the result of the vote, some protesters waged running battles with police in the streets around the Parliament.
Those who favour and NDP majority in Ottawa could do well to review modern Greek history and, especially, to study the economic policies of both Papandreou and his predecessor, Antonis Samaras, the leader of the main opposition party, New Democracy, which once governed Greece and ran up the national debt to unsustainable levels.
The unions want to keep the old ways—cradle to grave security and cheat on their income taxes and have their European partners finance their privileged lifestyle.
Socialism has been a abject failure in Greece, as it has been in so many other countries. And yet 30 per cent of Canadians seem to want this discredited system for Canada. Go figure.