Hard-left Greek ministers plotted to bring back the drachma

Two former ministers in the government of Alexis Tsipras were scheming to blow up the bailout talks with Greece's creditors and bring about a return to the drachma, thus exiting the eurozone.

It's unknown if Tsipras had knowledge of these plans, but the steps these ministers were willing to take were so toxic that implementing them would have enraged most Greek citizens.


It is not clear how seriously the plans, attributed to former Energy Minister Panagiotis Lafazanis and former Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, were considered by the government and both ministers were sacked earlier this month. However the reports have been seized on by opposition parties who have demanded an explanation.

The reports came at the end of a week of fevered speculation over what Syriza hardliners had in mind as an alternative to the tough bailout terms that Tsipras reluctantly accepted to keep Greece in the euro.

Around a quarter of the party's 149 lawmakers rebelled over the plan to pass sweeping austerity measures in exchange for up to 86 billion euros in fresh loans and Tsipras has struggled to hold the divided party together

In an interview with Sunday's edition of the RealNews daily, Panagiotis Lafazanis, the hardline former energy minister who lost his job after rebelling over the bailout plans, said he had urged the government to tap the reserves of the Bank of Greece in defiance of the European Central Bank.

Lafazanis, leader of a hardline faction in the ruling Syriza party that has argued for a return to the drachma, said the move would have allowed pensions and public sector wages to be paid if Greece were forced out of the euro.

"The main reason for that was for the Greek economy and Greek people to survive, which is the utmost duty every government has under the constitution," he said.


In a separate report in the conservative Kathimerini daily, Varoufakis was quoted as saying that a small team in Syriza had prepared plans to secretly copy online tax codes. It said the "Plan B" was devised to allow the government to introduce a parallel payment system if the banking system was closed down.

In remarks the newspaper said were made to an investors' conference on July 16, Varoufakis said passwords used by Greeks to access their online tax accounts were to have been copied secretly and used to issue new PIN numbers for every taxpayer to be used in transactions with the state.

"This would have created a parallel banking system, which would have given us some breathing space, while the banks would have been shut due to the ECB's aggressive policy," Varoufakis was quoted as saying.

The new PINs would have forced Greek citizens to use the drachma to pay their taxes and made their euros next to worthless.  That would have thrown a lot of Greeks into poverty, since the purchasing power of the drachma would be severely limited until the bitter medicine worked its way through the entire economy.

So instead of the drachma, Greeks still have the euro – but at the price of a severely curtailed sovereignty.  You have to wonder a year from now if the Greek people will still think it was a good tradeoff.

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