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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 31 January 2015
2 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 31 JANUARY 2015 NEWS The ‘Aussie’ who may save Greece CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 he could become a victim of the paramilitary forces in early 1980s Greece who often targeted students. Varoufakis moved to the University of Sydney in 1988, where he was "out of the blue" offered a chance to lecture and study economics. He seems to have enjoyed his time in Australia until 2000, when politics intervened again. "A combination of nostalgia and abhorrence of the conservative turn of the land Down Under (under the government of that awful little man, John Howard) led me to return to Greece," he said according to The Australian Financial Review. University of Sydney economics professor Tony Aspromourgos, who worked with Varoufakis for several years, told AFW Varoufakis was a "gifted and popular" teacher. "He was also a deeply thoughtful and very productive researcher," Aspromourgos recalls. It was Varoufakis' later research into political economy and the evolution of capitalism as a global system which led him towards commentating and policy advocacy in relation to the euro crisis over the past five years. "It is the vacuum created by the failure of the mainstream parties of the centre-left and centre-right that calls forth this participation," Aspromourgos said. Aspromourgos said reference to the new Greek government as ‘radical left’ was "intellectually lazy". "In truth, the position of SYRIZA is not so way out, SYRIZA is merely left wing, whereas the mainstream European parties supposedly of the centre-left are no longer left wing at all." One of Varoufakis' under- Yanis Varoufakis is faced with arguably one of the toughest challenges in Europe. graduate students in the 1990s, Helen Goritsas, says her former teacher gave economics, which could be dry and theoretical, dynamism. "He was a very charismatic and inspiring teacher, with a lot of presence. He made economics accessible, particularly to young people. "While other academics were more introverted, he was engaged in world issues and media and vocal about it, he was quite humanitarian." AUSTERITY 'UNTENABLE' IN GREECE Goritsas described herself as "apolitical" but said that worsening unemployment and poverty in Greece made continued austerity untenable. "It's great that someone who contributed to the educational system here and in many other countries can use that experience to help Europe. "You need to stimulate the economy, you can't just be regressive. People lose jobs, don't spend, it's a formula for destruction, that's what's been happening." Varoufakis' connection with Australia did not end with ac- ademia. He was taking great professional pride in setting up an international doctoral program at the University of Athens when he says his life took a "nasty turn" in August 2005. "My extremely young daughter, Xenia, was taken away by ... Australia," he wrote. "For reasons that I now recognise as legitimate, her mother decided to take Xenia to Sydney and make a home for her there, permanently. "Xenia's loss left me in a state of shock. (She has been living since then in Sydney, thus guaranteeing the longevity of my relationship with Sydney.)" Varoufakis rebuilt his private life through a relationship with the artist and photographer Danae Stratou. He says now that, as Xenia "grows into an autonomous person, the pieces of my life that were so violently separated" are coming together. But like most Greeks, Varoufakis was deeply affected by the GFC which caused the national economy to contract by almost 30 per cent and the unemployment rate to hit 25 per cent. His doctoral program was disbanded while it became harder to provide financial support for Xenia at a time when his salary was cut and the Australian dollar was on the rise. He decided to "come out" in the media against the bailout. Varoufakis says his criticism of Greek banking scandals led to death threats against his family. He moved to the United States to work at the University of Texas. And then Tsipras convinced him to return home once again. Greece's national debt stands at 175 per cent of GDP - the highest of any developed economy. Varoufakis says the cost is unsustainable and wants to have "a rational deliberation" with the Mediterranean nation's creditors. Many observers are predicting months of tortuous discussions which will likely lead to lower interest rates or an extension of Greece's repayment schedule. Source: The Australian Financial Review Syriza’s win welcomed down under CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1 give a damn about how it's going to affect his own people - no, I don't have a lot of sympathy for him." In Victoria, Bill Papastergiadis, president of the Greek Orthodox Community of Melbourne, said the election result was a "historic moment" but that Greece was now taking "an uncertain and difficult road, but a road many believe needs to be taken". Reflecting on the past four years, Mr Papastergiadis said the implementation of austerity policies had been "emotionally catastrophic" for the Greek people. "The toll on the people was too much. They have been consumed by uncertainty, by unemployment, by the lowering of wages, and the capacity to live a normal life," said the Community's leader. Mr Papastergiadis described SYRIZA’s victory and policies as "Greece's last chance”. “If this fails then what do we have?" SYRIZA has targeted the creation of 300,000 new jobs in the private, public and social sectors, and to increase in the minimum monthly wage from €580 to €750. The new jobs are focused on young people - almost 50 per cent of under-25s are currently out of work - and the long-term unemployed. Salaries and pensions fell in 2012 as the Samaras coalition government put the brakes on spending, but SYRIZA has vowed to reverse such "injustices". The new government is also committed to ending the despised Enfia tax - an annual levy on private property that was introduced as an emergency measure in 2011 but made permanent under the previous administration. SYRIZA will instead introduce a tax on luxury homes and large second properties. Victorian federal MP Maria Vamvakinou told Neos Kosmos that the implementation of SYRIZA’s radical agenda comes with immense challenges. "There's an expectation that the new government will bring about immediate relief and respite to those hardest hit by the austerity measures - the poor, the unemployed, the young and the elderly - and, of course, there is an expectation that the debt will be dealt with in a manner that is more palatable and bearable to the Greek people," said the Labor Member for Calwell. "On the other hand, Prime Minister Tsipras also needs to convince creditors and his European partners that renegotiation of Greece's debt has to be based on the principles of social justice." Ms Vamvakinou added that momentum developing in other European countries would assist the new Greek government's strategy as it works towards renegotiating the terms of the debt repayment. "I think, contrary to the prevailing view, the Greek PM is in a better bargaining position, and may stand a chance of renegotiating Greece's bailout." DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM Enter stage left: SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras arrives at the presidential palace in Athens to be sworn in as Greece’s new prime minister. PHOTO: EPA/SIMELA PANTZARTZI.
24 January 2015
7 February 2015