Where is Mr. Tsipras Going?

Greek Premier Alexis Tsipras and IMF chief Christine Lagarde

On April 2 an intercepted conference call between IMF officials regarding the strategy to be followed in the negotiations with Greece and Berlin prompted the Greek government to wage a concerted campaign aimed at exploiting politically the incident to the highest degree by turning the IMF into public enemy number one of the people and the country.

This strategy probably favors the short-term political interests of Tsipras and SYRIZA, but it raises legitimate questions about whether it is in the best interest of the country or whether it will lead to adventures.

It reminds me of Cavafy:

“With no consideration, no pity, no shame,
they have built walls around me, thick and high.
And now I sit here feeling hopeless”.

Is it in the interest of the country for there to be a rift between Tsipras and the IMF? The unusually harsh tone of the letter written by IMF Director Christine Lagarde leaves no room for doubt about the rift.

Now that that Greece’s credibility has been damaged again, will Tsipras’ approach bring the best results for the country?

I do not know where Tsipras is trying to go. I do not know what calculations his team is making, in the political realm and in general.

I hope he is right in whatever he does. But this story is disconcerting.

I do not see a serious negotiating effort.

I see them looking for a scapegoat.

Is this what Greece needs?

If only the IMF and Merkel would just pack up and leave would their successors show much more understanding regarding the necessity of reforms?

Because I really do wonder how much more the Greek people can endure.

But has anyone taken the trouble to read the transcript of the conversation between the IMF officials?

If so they will have seen that, in the words of Lagarde in her letter to Tsipras, “we are still a good distance away from having a coherent program that I can present to our Executive Board.”

For reasons of “transparency,” Lagarde posted her letter on the IMF website.

In the transcript – whose authenticity the IMF has not confirmed – one can read that the officials say to each other that mere talks without putting pressure on the Greek side will not lead to an agreement, and they cite the earlier case where Athens agreed only under threat of bankruptcy.

That point, that without the threat of a “credit event” the government will not reach an agreement, is what gives rise to opportunities for political exploitation.

But Lagarde considers the Greek government’s interpretation “nonsense.”

On the other hand, one can also see in the words of IMF staff that there is a need to reduce the Greek debt so that it becomes sustainable.

This, however, requires the cooperation of the government.

Which, unfortunately, is not forthcoming.