When austerity measures, one after the other, very deliberately and very intentionally, deepen the depression of Greek economy and lead society to despair, Special Economic Zones (SEZ) appear as a ‘salvation’ solution.
Do you know what Special Economic Zones (SEZ) are? A great bet for development, says our government, along with certain bizarre ‘technocrats’, who wander around the country, telling fairy tales. A strange private consultant company wanders around Thrace saying they have carried out ‘studies’, which find SEZ a profitable solution. It is the so called “Financial Forum of Thrace”, which has booked the conference room of the Bank of Greece on the 24th of September, in order to present the profitable SEZ solution in Athens.
The whole set-up reminds us of the time of the great looting of the Athens’ Stock Market in 1998-2000, when “special financial advisors” appeared out of nowhere and encouraged people to get involved (and lose…) en masse. The same thing happens now.
What is a SEZ?
The SEZ issue is nothing new. It did not come to surface today, just because anti-memorandum parties, like Syriza, Independent Greeks and the Communist Party, discovered it. Well, better late than never! And that would be right, if indeed, SEZ were discovered in order to show the necessity of people’s struggle against them. On the contrary, Syriza and Independent Greeks, are opposing, not as a matter of principle, but only in terms of management. Meanwhile, the Communist Party found yet another chance to recite a poem titled: “People’s power and economy”.
So, what is a SEZ? A SEZ is a geographical location, usually a city, or a port, or a whole county, in which the economic terms of operation, labor legal status, ways of administration and management, bears no relation whatsoever to what applies in the hosting country’s national laws. It is a state within a state, from an economic, administrative, and labor point of view. Its aim is to attract foreign investors, or economic activity, under a specially privileged status, which would otherwise be unacceptable according to national law.
Are all jobs acceptable?
This is the question: Even if we accept that a SEZ is an attraction pole for foreign or local investors, what will be the benefit of these investments for the country and its people, when they operate under tax, labor and administration immunity? What is the use of having an investment when it does not pay tax, not even VAT, occupies and pays workers with conditions worse than the minimum foreseen by national legislation and can freely export its profits abroad? SEZ parrots talk about creating jobs. But since when is any job acceptable? If one accepts this line of thought, one could invest in prostitution houses to create jobs for the victims and jobs for the men as pimps-why not?! Our politicians play this role for the whole country, are they stupid?! Aren’t these jobst oo? Don’t they offer growth? If this is the line of thought, why refuse them?
Don’t rush to reject the analogy as extreme. SEZ parrots, like the “Financial Forum of Thrace”, when they talk about ‘job creation’, these are the conditions they are talking about. IFthereare any jobs created- because the other thing they don’t say about SEZ is that the workers are mainly immigrants, interior or exterior. It is a SEZ policy not to employ locals, so that they won’t have problems when they fire them.
Back door colonialism
The idea of SEZ originated from City’s hawks, i.e. the bank cartel of central London, since the beginning of 1970s. As colonialism was reaching its end days and corporations were having difficulties in their relations with newly liberated countries, there had to be a new way to keep the profits of colonialists, under the status of political independence of the old colony. The solution was SEZ. In these, old colonialists attempted to restore the status of old capitulations into a modern form. Capitulations were an unequal, unbalanced, one-sided deal according to which merchants and civilized Western citizens had special privileges within a ‘barbaric’, ‘uncivilized’ state, like those of the Orient and Africa. Capitulations’ status often included monopoly rights at the expense of the host state and of course, extraterritorial rights for foreigners. Capitulations’ status began to collapse by the mid-war period and by the end of WWII it was completely abandoned. The last country to be fully released from capitulations was China in 1947. Keep this in mind.
SEZ are therefore a comeback of capitulations in favor of foreign investors. During the 70s, the memories of colonialism were still too fresh in liberated countries to accept a SEZ comeback from the back door. The start was done again with China. As the Chinese were the first to open the doors of countries, which were very cautious of old colonialists, City’s hawks managed to pass SEZ in some African states. Yet, memories were still fresh, and as liberated countries were still struggling for a wholesome development of their countries, SEZ were not allowed to spread. According to the International Labor Office, in 1986 only 176 SEZ operated in 47 countries on the planet. In 2006, theyhadreached 3.500 in 130 countries.
What catapulted SEZ numbers? Free capital markets domination, the suffocating dependency of less developed economies from multinational corporations, the increase of state borrowing, which after the 1990s reaches unprecedented heights for global economy standards. So, any country that did the tragic mistake to attach its growth onto investments or capitals from abroad, immediately received the visit of a ‘special’ team, which demanded the classic recipe of violent adjustments, as well as capitulations, in the form of SEZ, as prerequisites.
The EU’s back door: the “country of origin”
The SEZ issue is nothing new in Greece. Nor did it start when we were subjugated to the troika status. This is when it was revealed. It had begun long before. Eurozone’s countries’ governments had offered themselves to be the guinea pigs, in order to turn the whole European Union into a SEZ. Let’s not forget that the efforts of the European lobby to turn their member states’ economies into SEZ were relentless. The European Commission, published her proposal regarding services in the internal marketin January 2004 and set out the most radical and total attack at the social state within the EU. This proposal was the creation of the Directorate General for the Internal Market, headed by the Commissioner Fritz Bolkenstein and covers all services.
This directive aimed at the gradual abolition of national constraints and the systematic undermining of national laws, introducing the concept of the “country of origin”. According to the directive, the services businesses within the EU should comply only with the demands of their country of origin. Other member states, in which these businesses operate, are not allowed to enforce limitations or checks. The Commission wishes to ban even the registration of foreign businesses on national tax records. In this way, the principle of the “country of origin” essentially deletes the effective supervision of business activity within the European Union. Every business will be able to avoid national constrictions, by moving to another country of origin, or by establishing a mirror company or an off-shore company in another member state. Collective labor agreements, requirements about qualifications, protection of the environment and the consumer, can all be by-passed easily and cheaply.
This is the essence of SEZ, which the EU first promoted in peripheral economies, like Poland, Romania, Hungary, Ireland etc. The only difference is that, with SEZ, the investors and companies do not need to even bother changing base or set up a ‘virtual’ company base at a convenient country of origin.
Co-ordinating the recession and the salvation by SEZs
When the bail-outs measures intentionally and deliberately deepened the recession of Greek economy and drove the Greek society to despair, the Germans first came out and talked about SEZs. On 6-7/10/2011, Merkel’s vice president, Philip Resler, as a head of a numerous business representative committee, came for two-day visit to Greece, and he openly set the issue of SEZs on the table.
The Greek government of that time agreed to four pilot SEZs in Thrace, Hepirus, Peloponese and South Aegean. She also agreed to establish special ‘gkaoulaiters’, who will undertake searching SEZ possibilities on site. This was Mr. Fuchten, already a permanent resident of Thessaloniki, touring the country, searching opportunities for SEZs.
A few days after Mr. Shaeuble clearly stated publicly that Greece must accept “surrender of sovereignity” with SEZs, and Mr. OliRehn, on behalf of the Commission, found the idea of SEZs a ‘good’ one. “Mr. Rehn, answering a relevant question by Syriza’s MP Mr. Hountis, sent a particularly worrying message to the Greek economy, naming the creation of SEZs as a ‘good’ idea, the establishment of which means salaries’ haircut, slight taxation, and the creation of outrageous inequalities in competition among businesses”, wrote the newspaper ‘To Vima’ (31/10/11)
Just as the old Nazis, during the first occupation, did not have a hard time finding collaborators, the same thing happens now. Fat local interests also compete to ensure a lion’s share from the SEZ looting.
Among others, the well-known Mr. Michalos (President EVEA) in constant communication with Mr. Veniamis (President of the Hellenic Union of Ship Owners) rush to gain assets on SEZs, in order to negotiate goods shares with the occupiers.
The government’s flag
Our present government presents SEZs as her priority choice. “The establishment of SEZs, of which we have talked in our program, is a complementary measure in current structural adjustments, undertaken by the Greek government. We are talking of zones of special tax and administration character”, said on 28/8, the minister Mr. Hatzidakis, with special achievement records in sell-outs. He also said that “any changes regarding SEZs will be done in total respect and full application of the current labor legislation”.
What he did not say was that SEZs will work with immigrants, whether from inland or abroad. This is because the average employment time in SEZs does not exceed one year. The personnel are hired through special job centers on individual contracts of temporary employment.
The business pays these special job centers and their employees. In the Arab world, immigrants’ agents withhold 50% of their wages.Inthisway,businesses can fire anyone at any time, without compensation.
SEZs are regions where the sovereignity of a nation is given up in favor of private investors. They are places where there is no law, there is crime and savage exploitation of workers, mainly immigrants. No place where they were built, no place was helped to grow, nowhere was the local population helped to survive.
Quite the opposite. SEZs are the black holes of global economy, where black investments, black capital, products and work are traded, under complete lack of transparency, and lack of law, that no civilized society would accept.
Is this the country we wish to become?
The first SEZ
The first great success of old colonialists is when they managed to sell the idea to the new leadership of China in the end of the 1970s. So the last country to get rid of capitulations was the first one to bring them back in the form of SEZs. The small fishing village of Senchen was the first SEZ in 1980. Within a decade it was converted to glowing megacity of 9 million people. For those promoting SEZs, it was a miracle and an excellent argument in favor of SEZs, presenting slides with skyscrapers and the glamorous vitrines of the city. They forget the backgroundof course. Massive poverty, especially of workers living in factory shacks, without any rights, and on slave salaries of the time of celestial empires. The crime rate and illegal trade of all kinds; the political and social corruption, being the no 1 industry in China.
“Kallikratis” prepares the ground for SEZ
In order to establish a SEZ, there has to be administrative autonomy of the region given. This is what happened in Greece, with the introduction of Kallikratis, whose principal aim was to cut the national dominioninto pieces, into semi-autonomous counties and municipalities, in order to facilitate their privatization and their surrendering to private investors for growth. I was writing about it and shouting about it since 2010. In July 2011, the implementation law of the medium-term program of the bail-out agreement, according to which the whole of the Greek dominion could be given away at a simple ministerial decision. Even the seashore zone, could be filled with debris by private investors and the seashore line could be re-defined, as suited, with just a ministerial agreement. Everything is sacrificed on the altar of private investments, which are exempt from any national legislation regarding environmental protection, archaeological and consumer safety concerns, only to be included in the so-called fast track investments. The right to leasing came back, an archaic feudal privilege, according to which a private investor has ownership rights on a land that does not belong to him. Thus, we came to SEZs, i.e. the giving away of critical infrastructures, municipalities and counties in favor of private investors.
“Xenios Zeus” imprisons immigrants for SEZs
As the Greek government of traitors is callous enough not to keep national labor laws, if Greek employees are hired, they have also set out the Xenios Zeus operation, in order to imprison immigrants, which SEZ will need tomorrow.
The law already foresees this: Law 3907 of 2011, article 37, par. 5 says:
“Incasethe authorities are unable to ensure, within their own means, that the citizens of other countries whose expulsion has been postponed, can enjoy, during the postponing period, basic conditions of dignified accommodation in premises of state or non-profit character and, in general, if they cannot meet their basic living needs, these citizens can be allowed, after a relevant permit, to be employed in certain areas of the country. A presidential decree, issued after the proposal of ministers of Interior Affairs, Decentralization, Cyber government, Labor and Social Insurance, and Citizen’s protection, determines the employment sectors, aswell as areas of the countries where they (citizens of other countries, whose expulsion has been postponed)can be employed, as well as the terms, conditions, processes and relevant work permit authorities, and anything else relevant (to their employment).
Do we realize what they have written in this law? Any undocumented immigrant arrested and imprisoned in concentration camps, whose expulsion has been postponed, for whatever reason, can sent off to work by the government anywhere in the country -on any terms that the government will then determine. We all understand what this means…
By DimitrisKazakis, (published in “The Funnel” “To Xwni, on the 9th of Septembeer 2012)