Dijsselbloem the Terrible

12 February 2017

Dijsselbloem the Terrible

In the Labour Party campaign for the forthcoming Dutch general election, Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem is showing his social face. Yet in reality he has spent the last few years, as chair of the eurogroup, forcing the Greeks down into absolute poverty. Even the International Monetary Fund is internally divided: the people cannot endure such poverty, so great a collapse of public services, and so high a rate of unemployment. But Dijsselbloem continues to make demands: further reductions in pensions, and yet more interference in the labour market, so that the few jobs which exist no longer pay enough for a person to live. In the 16th Century Ivan the Terrible was the Russian ruler. Amongst other things he so restricted the peasants' freedom of movement that they became serfs. Dijsselbloem is doing the same to the Greeks. In contravention of internationally recognised social rights, he is subjugating the Greek people. Dijsselbloem the Terrible…

The Greek government has put the budget into reasonable shape, but in order for the country to receive financial aid, such harsh demands have been made by the eurogroup that the entire economy is in a state of collapse and there is no longer any question of social protection. That isn't what our sister party Syriza wanted, but they were left with no choice: no cuts, no aid. The fact that now even the IMF says that without debt relief the situation is hopeless does not seem to have reached the ears of Dijsselbloem and his eurogroup colleagues.

A few figures: since the financial crisis the Greek economy has shrunk by a third. One in four Greeks is out of work, with the unemployment rate almost reaching one in two amongst people in the 15-24 age group, while the education system has collapsed. Under pressure from the eurogroup, there have been experiments with the privatisation of the domestic water supply. One in seven Greeks lives in extreme poverty and has no money to pay for basics such as food and heating. As recently as 2009, this applied to only one Greek in fifty.

In reality, Greece has been made the plaything in any number of political games. On the eve of elections in the Netherlands, Germany and France, the eurogroup is reluctant to acknowledge that the Greek debt of 320 billion euros is completely unsustainable. They would rather push the Greek people further into the abyss than come to an agreement over debt relief. Yet in this Dijsselbloem and his colleagues are once again playing with fire. The people are in despair. There is a real danger that a section of the population will eventually seek relief in the extreme right organisation Golden Dawn. That should be reason enough to join hands with the Greek government instead of continuing to hit them with impossible demands. But for Dijsselbloem this seems of less importance than keeping his position as chair of the eurogroup. And for that, Germany's support is vital. And so the circle is complete: the Germans are preparing for their elections and so don't want to budge, which means that neither will Dijsselbloem. Just like Ivan the Terrible, he's only concerned with his own power. It didn't go well for Ivan, who descended into paranoia. Hopefully Dijsselbloem will repent in time.

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