Greek Finance Minister on first months of SYRIZA government: We were weaker than we believed, and failed to detect major tax evasion
Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos was revealing on Wednesday in regards to the first six months of the Tsipras government in 2015, a period punctuated towards its end by failed negotiations with creditors, a controversial referendum on a withdrawn offer by the latter, capital controls and a third straight bailout memorandum as the result.
Speaking at the Sciences Po – Paris School of International Affairs, Tsakalotos – who succeeded mercurial Yannis Varoufakis at the post – said the view of the hard leftist government in early 2015 was that it would succeed in achieving a better agreement over Greece’s debt, “but we did not achieve this”.
What followed, his said, was a “compromise”, with the acceptance of a bailout program, given that a debt relief package was promised at the end of the memorandum.
In fact, he told audience members, the debt repayment agreement extended to Greece over the first 15 years was better than the one extended to Portugal, and possibly Italy.
At the same time, he admitted to two strategic errors of the first SYRIZA government, namely, the fact that it was weaker than what its members believed, as he noted in response to a question by an audience member.
He also said the negative outcome was guaranteed no matter who was the finance minister in Athens, referring to what he claimed was an intent by European creditors to “defeat” a leftist government in the Eurozone.
According to reports from Paris, Tsakalotos said “we tried, but were defeated”. He added that the mistake was considering the threat of Grexit as a means of pressuring creditors, when, in fact, the German side at the time was actually favorable to such a prospect, i.e. Grexit.
The second “strategic error”, according to the previously UK-based economics professor, was an “over-estimation” of the Tsipras government’s ability to deal with corruption and tax evasion in the country.
In again using a class-based analysis of the problem, he said “the rich” in Greece always have the best attorneys and accountants, in order to find ways to avoid paying taxes. He said his government was over-confident in its ability to locate money laundering and tax evasion.