MEP Liem Hoang Ngoc

“Pistol-packing” Troika must go, says MEP

A Euro think-tank has heavily criticised the Troika for putting “a pistol to the head” of struggling nations in a way that is “totally undemocratic”. Talking to journalists in Strasbourg, MEP Liem Hoang Ngoc who took part in the study said: “The Troika in its current form must be dismantled.”
In an interview with Público newspaper, Ngoc heavily criticised EC president Durão Barroso for failing to uphold the rights of the community, while he claimed the Portuguese government had been much too hard on citizens and responsible for privatisation deals that were “very opaque”.
Posing for the interview, Ngoc looked more like an actor in a martial arts movie than a Euro politician, but the French economist of Vietnamese descent – elected to the Euro Parliament in 2009 – knows how to choose his words.
“Austerity doesn’t work,” he said in Strasbourg – and in answer to questions from Público, Ngoc explained how “there are things that give you goose bumps because of the enormous implications that they have on people’s lives”.
In the case of the Troika’s decisions over Greece, Cyprus, Portugal and even Ireland, measures imposed “were not deliberated within any democratic framework. It was the technocrats of three institutions who imposed measures, with a pistol pointed at the head of the governments in question, that had received no democratic consideration on a European level,” he said.
In a separate interview in Strasbourg, Ngoc continued the theme: “The troika in its current form must be dismantled. This is the message that I have been pushing in negotiations with the EPP in Parliament.
“The adjustment programmes in Greece and other countries under the supervision of the Troika are not delivering on their promises: public debt keeps increasing and competitiveness has not been restored.
“There needs to be more time for decreasing deficits. More effort needs to be done to support consumption and public investment must be safeguarded. In the current troika setting, Greece sadly has very little room to manoeuvre. Our investigation has revealed that national governments have tried to propose more pragmatic measures, such as the introduction of a minimum wage negotiated with social partners in Portugal. But the Troika refused – it is captured in a dogmatic approach. To be able to change course in Greece, Portugal and Cyprus, we must first and foremost dismantle the existing setting of the Troika.”
In a question-and-answer interview with Público, Ngoc added that it has been in the Troika’s interests to have a “weak” European Commission and that this was one of the reasons for re-electing Durão Barroso, as the EC president did not press hard enough for the rights of the community.
In Portugal’s case, the crippling austerity measures brought in by the government had been “even harder” than those stipulated by the Troika – and “very opaque” deals (like the privatisation of EDP) need further investigation, suggested the MEP.
How would he suggest the Portuguese government get out of the crisis, the newspaper asked?
Ngoc said he would suggest a macroeconomic policy that allowed for growth. It would mean renegotiating the debt so that the country wasn’t tied to its strict deficit targets.
“What I fear,” warned the young economist, “is that in the context of a return to the markets and an eventual EU credit line, the policies of austerity will just go on getting harder.”