Πέμπτη, 19 Φεβρουαρίου 2015

'Grexit' Must Die, Now and Forever!

'Grexit' Must Die, Now and Forever!
Justine Frangouli-Argyris

It is in Brussels where the final act of the latest Greek drama will be played out. If, that is, Greece manages to secure a continuation of its loan memorandum that it hopes will contain certain added conditions in order for its electorate, who voted overwhelmingly for its termination, to save face.

What the Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, along with his Finance Minister, Yanis Varoufakis, must make clear to the Greek people is, that, with a few pluses and minuses, Greece is obliged to ask for this extension, in order for the country to have access to funding for its banks beyond February 28 when the current agreement is set to expire.

It should be understood that the government does have the option to make fiscal adjustments to the present memorandum and to introduce measures that are different from those agreed to by the previous Samaras-Venizelos coalition. In the meantime, however, it must mobilize the State's mechanisms in order to collect taxes owing and fill a new funding gap that has emerged as many citizens have withheld payment, expecting the new administration to carry out its pledges to scrap various levies such as the property tax known as "ENFIA". The administration must also act to return overdue value added taxes that it owes many individuals and corporations and must look to cut the wages and privileges of the 300 members of the Greek Parliament and their numerous clerks, a step that the previous administration, sadly, failed to take.

Also, Greece should aggressively proceed with the privatizations that have been launched and not muse about arbitrarily suspending them as it must show a desire to welcome private initiatives. The governing Syriza, a pro-European but radically leftist party, will have to prove to the international environment of investors that the country is friendly to private investment and that it intends to embrace all initiatives by avoiding the imposition of new taxes that may chase them away.

Today, the administration appears set to request a 4-to-6 month extension of its aforementioned loan agreement as it must secure a source of funding for the countries banks beyond the end of the month. A potential new arrangement that Syriza seeks, and has promised to deliver, will require much study as well as its ratification by all the other 18 Parliaments of the Eurogroup, a laborious and time-consuming process.

Once an extension has been agreed upon, both the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister will need their staffs to immediately get to work on the new proposals that must be submitted to their lenders. The aim of any new contract they submit should be to focus on unlocking the current gridlock and giving impetus to growth in the battered country.
Greece should forget about playing hardball with their European partners and the IMF, wasting precious time and jeopardizing its standing with the financial markets. It should, rather, look to quickly close the "Grexit" window by showing a sincere willingness to co-operate with its allies.
Any new plan must allow Greece to lower its primary surplus, enabling it to implement the funds where they are sorely needed, and must include a fair and stable tax system that will offer justice, not vengeful punishment, and that will enable the private sector to operate under clearly defined parameters in order to promote job creation.

Also, any new agreement should provide for debt relief, either by means of a "haircut" or through a restructuring of the terms of repayment. The country's debt has reached 175 percent of its GDP and is blatantly unsustainable. It has become a clear obstacle to Greece's development and its lenders must show leniency in this respect. As such, the government will have something to offer its people who have suffered through five long years of inhumane austerity measures whose sole aim was fiscal consolidation.

Syriza must request a concrete plan to move the case of Greece beyond mere budgetary stability but one that will include a developmental phase that will promote job creation and give its devastated citizens hope for tomorrow.

The new era of Greece in the European Union will have to bring equality, stability and fairness in its relationship with its partners. The country has spent far too much capital to remain inside the Eurozone and owes it to itself, and its citizens, to conclude a program that will provide an appropriate balance of budgetary stability and development.

It is the duty of Greece and Europe to be in close co-operation during this process and to put a stop to continued mumblings about Greece's future within the Union that are negatively impacting the fragile Greek economy and the Western economy as a whole. It is imperative to put an end to the fear of "Grexit", now and forever!

Τρίτη, 13 Ιανουαρίου 2015

I'm Charlie, I’m Ahmed, I am Justine...and I'm afraid!



 Justine Frangouli-Argyris


I heard the news surrounding the mass killing of the 12 journalists at “Charlie Hebdo” in Paris early Wednesday from a friend who is working in the “City of Light" this year. “The capital is paralyzed by fear," he said, after Islamist extremists had struck the heart of French freedom of expression by attacking the renowned satirical weekly newspaper.

 

I arose with an anxiety that quickly spread to all the muscles of my body and mind. Earlier this year, the radical fundamentalist group, ISIS, had warned it would attack all the countries partaking in the fight against its guerrillas in the Middle East which have been brutally beheading Western hostages on camera in an effort to spread their message of terror and death.

 

Before I came to realize what was happening, a third jihadist had killed a female police officer the following day in Paris. And, during the subsequent massive manhunt for the three terrorists, I saw pictures of those held hostage in a Jewish grocery being murdered.  I was shocked, not knowing for whom or for what to mourn.

 

For the exceptional cartoonists who fell victim to Islamic fundamentalism?

 

For the savage blow to democracy and freedom of expression in the press?

 

For Ahmed Merabet, the Muslim policeman who was mercilessly gunned down in cold blood?

 

For the hostages in the Jewish grocery store who fell victim to a growing religious-political war?

 

For the young Muslim radicals who were born and raised in France but became subservient to the teachings of ISIS and Al-Qaeda?

 

For the inability of the French secret service to keep an eye on the extremists who had recently returned from a stint in Syria, making them perfect potential terrorist candidates?

 

For Western society which is unable to integrate immigrants coming from Muslim countries, incapable of making them proud citizens of the Western world?

 

For the Muslims who freely choose to migrate to the West but allow a hatred for Western society to fester in them?

 

For the world’s major power brokers in whose interests our innocence is being sacrificed?

 

For myself, Justine, who matures, day by day, discovering the horrible face of fear?

 

For our children who are learning to fear Muslims and be suspicious of them?

 

For the gap that the jihadist attacks have opened between the Muslims and the other populations of the West?

 

For the consigning to oblivion of the slogan "make love, not war?"

 

For the hatred that deepens daily between Muslims and other religious cultures?

 

A week after the dramatic attacks in Paris, while the world surged through the streets to show a common will against the terror that sows terror, I'm feeling sorry and afraid.

 

I am not pacified by the demonstrations of solidarity towards Charlie Hebdo and the French people. I am not reassured by the hand-to-hand march of Western and Eastern leaders last Sunday in Paris. I'm feeling sorry and afraid.

 

I feel sorry for the heroes of Charlie Hebdo who lay pointlessly dead at the hands of youths in a zealous frenzy.

 

I feel sorry for Ahmed who could not be saved by the fact that he was a Muslim himself.

 

I am afraid for Justine in the West who respects the East but cannot defend its actions any longer.

 

A week after the deadly terrorist attacks, I feel sorry and I feel fear. These two emotional states have been planted deep inside me, first with the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001, then with the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013 and, finally, with the savage killings in Paris as I awoke last Wednesday. From now on, I know that I will be living with sorrow for what has occurred and with fear for what is going to happen!