Varoufakis: 'I Prefer To Cut My Arm Off' Than Sign Deal without Debt Relief
Greek Finance Minister says he will resign his post if Greeks vote in favor of accepting the latest austerity-laden bailout package from foreign creditors
Declaring that both he and the people he represents are tired of "extending and pretending" over the austerity conditions that have repeatedly been tied to bailout packages, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis has expressed confidence that Sunday's scheduled referendum over the latest offer from the nation's foreign creditors, known as the Troika, will be rejected.
In fact, he said his feelings about the deal's inadequacy are so strong that he would "prefer to cut off his arm" than sign another agreement that does nothing to address the impossible debt burden that has been forced on Greece and its citizens.
In an interview with Bloomberg TV that aired early Thursday, Varoufakis explained that he perceives the high-stakes brinkmanship between the Syriza-led government and the Troika as one that is more political than economic in nature.
Speaking about the current imposition of capitol controls and the shuttering of Greek banks this week, Varoufakis put the blame squarely on the behavior of the Eurozone commissioners and moves made by the European Central Bank and the IMF. "There was a political decision to shut the banks down as a way of effectively pushing us to accept a non-viable agreement," Varoufakis said. "Once the political crisis is over, after the Greek people deliver their verdict, banks will open."
Though Varoufakis vowed the Syriza government, led by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, would respect the wishes of the Greek people if they vote in favor on accepting continued austerity, he said that he personally would not sign the deal as it stands and would resign his post before doing so. "If there's a yes vote then we will sign the agreement," he said, before adding: "We may have to reconfigure the government because some of us will not be able to stomach it. I will not sign another extend and pretend deal. But I will not scupper it."
On Wednesday, Varoufakis published a concise 6-point memo explaining why he and Syriza's leadership think Greek voters should reject the offer by voting 'No.'
Chief among those reasons is the absence of anything in the current deal that addresses debt forgiveness or debt restructuring. As many economists agree, the level of current debt—coupled with policies that make future economic growth unlikely or impossible—is simply a recipe for prolonged suffering and recessionary trends. To make his stance clear, he said, "I prefer to cut my arm off rather than sign an agreement without debt restructuring."
He continued, "I don't have the moral right to sign another 'extend and pretend' agreement which is condemning this economy to further disintegration." Varoufakis argued that Greece's unsustainable levels are an inherent detriment to its economy and said any capitalist or serious international investor—not just his own "left-wing government"—would acknowledge that as a fact. "The only way to get Grexit off the table," he said, "Is not to get rid of this government, but to get rid of those funding cliffs [created by investor scarcity and the bailout conditions] and the unsustainability of the debt."
For his full assessment of the current situation in Greece, watch Varoufakis' complete interview with Bloomberg TV here: