Talk about hitting the ground running. Greece’s new Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, doing the country the favor of running the Looney Left SYRIZA of former Premier Alexis “Say What?” Tsipras out of office, took over like a man determined to get things done. Now.
Now we have to hope he can and that Tsipras’ emptying the cupboard of 1.7 billion euros ($1.91 billion) through a barrage of pension bonuses and tax cuts in a frantic, two-minute drill that failed to get him re-elected hasn’t made it mathematically impossible.
Making the Leftists look like the lazy losers and amateurs they are, the pro-business and all-business Mitsotakis, a Harvard and Stanford guy who’s actually worked for a living - unlike many of the anti-elitist SYRIZANS who haven’t - quickly convened a Cabinet meeting, gave deadlines for results, barred nepotism (he didn’t even appoint his own sister, highly-regarded former Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyianni) and laid down the law.
That could, however, disintegrate like so much confetti if he can’t do what he says and live up to his words and promises. Greeks remember Tsipras broke his 40-points of vows and threw them under the bus faster than you can say Troika.
What brought Tsipras down was reneging on anti-austerity promises and imposing more Draconian measures on workers, pensioners and the poor while letting the rich (he said they're your people,) tax cheats, politicians and Parliament workers escape, so can you avoid that?
After the Tsipras Avalanche, tax hikes and new taxes and raising the corporate rate to 29 percent, Mitsotakis said he would cut taxes to bring in investors scared off by the SYRIZA fiats and the Leftists furiously fighting any foreign businesses, and he's the kind of guy who can.
But that could depend in large part on the Premier convincing the country’s creditors, the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM) to let him cut back a required primary surplus target of 3.5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) he said is unsustainable because it is.
Their first response was a Big Fat Greek No so that initially puts him behind the eight ball, in a vise, and with little wiggle room because governing, except for social policy, is just so much math and the algorithms aren’t in his favor, especially with tourism falling off this year after five consecutive record years.
Tourism brings in as much as 18 percent of the GDP of 178.12 billion euros ($200.3 billion) and has been a saving grace the best few years in spurring a very slow recovery from a 9 ½-year economic crisis, the country propped up by 326 billion euros ($366.6 billion) in three rescue packages from the Troika and the International Monetary Fund.
A small disclaimer here: I interviewed him in 2009 in Stalin's Palace in Warsaw, a Soviet-style brutalist monolithic 42-story tower, during a European Union political convention, while working for another paper and he came across as well-informed and wicked smart, if a bit stiff but that's probably in his favor because Greece doesn't need another clown at the present time.
Still, he has a tough task in getting the economy going again and missed his first promised mark of immediately starting the long-delayed $8 billion development of the abandoned Hellenikon International Airport on Athens' southern coast, the last linchpin of major projects from Piraeus – where China's COSCO, like the Hellenikon builders – was blocked by SYRIZA.
So Mr. Prime Minister, as a man of integrity and decency, can you answer these for now since Greek leaders don't give news conferences and rarely meet with reporters:
- Will New Democracy pay what it owes to banks after a previous administration – not under you - gave bank officers immunity for loaning the party money with insufficient collateral. Bad loans are holding back the lending you want to kick start lagging business developments and how can you ask others to pay what they can't when your party won't.
- Since it was New Democracy previously which put a moratorium on home seizures of people who couldn't pay because of austerity measures you supported – attached to three bailouts of 326 billion euros ($366.03 billion) – will you halt foreclosures of primary residences Tsipras allowed?
- Will you keep social programs such as rent subsidies and fuel allowances for needy families since you said you'll offer baby bonuses of 2,000 euros ($2246) to help re-populate an aging Greece?
- Will you keep the pension bonuses Tsipras gave after slashing benefits?
- Since a previous New Democracy administration didn't move to end Article 16 of the Constitution barring private universities (Greece is the only EU country that does it) will you now so Greeks can go to schools maybe almost as good as Harvard and Stanford?
- Will you stop furloughs for violent criminals and reverse the SYRIZA law paving the way for the conditional release of terrorist killers?
- Since you recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's leader and not Dictator-President Nicolas Maduro, why don’t you boot his Ambassador?
- Are you comfortable having a man like Makis Voridis in your Cabinet since Greece's Jewish community believes he's anti-Semitic and admitted associating with them?