Δευτέρα, 4 Ιουνίου 2012

The problem with Greece is the Greeks


      For the last 38 years – since the fall of the dictatorship in ‘74 – and especially after ‘81 when Andreas Papandreou came to power, Greece has taken the path of corruption in all the shapes and forms of the political world and in the social structures. This is because Papandreou, in his attempt to control the voters, created a monstrous bureaucratic public sector and he himself gave the signal for corruption when he used the historic phrase “giving yourself a gift is one thing, a gift of 500 million drachma is a different thing” about one of his party members that his government had appointed as a public servant who was caught red handed in the late ‘80s.

How can you expect a nation to show fiscal discipline and implement troikas memorandum, when they cannot implement a simple smoking ban?

I am a 38 year old Greek man and I have lived and worked for a large period of my life in the UK and Ireland. I have never seen such a passion to be employed in any position available in the public sector by an entire nation! This is because firstly, the public sector was probably the only secure career path where no one would ever be relieved of their duties, where employees would have as little responsibility as possible, enjoy a large salary with benefits, start work at 8am finishing by 1:30pm, enjoy an early retirement and a bonus pack from the government plus all the extras from the brown envelopes. Secondly it is the effect of an uncompetitive market place in the non existing private sector investment.

New Democracy, had a chance to change all that in their brief period in power, mostly during their 1989 – 93 reign under Konstantinos Mitsotakis. However the practices of populism by Andreas Papandreou that drove the trade unions and the masses out in the streets protesting on a daily basis and his constant obsession with power did not let any of the reforms go forward. Later on when Kostas Karamanlis came to power in 2004 – 2009, even though he made historic efforts to reduce the political gap between the left and the right wing, he failed in relation to the re-organisation of the public governance also regarding the selection of his close advisors. I have firsthand experience of this because in 2004 I left my job in Citigroup Dublin to manage a small hospital in Greece on the understanding that Karamanlis was looking for young people with European experience and managerial skills to reform the Greek state. I left this position in 2008, disillusioned by the scale of corruption in every sector coupled with the constraints of my position and the lack of political support from the ministry in order to battle all this.

Whichever government came into power, Papandreou’s PASOK or NEW DEMOCRACY, both played on the people’s passion for getting a job in the public sector, conducting their daily business in an inefficient manner, trying to cheat the system, each other and effectively the country. Both PASOK and NEW DEMOCRACY are responsible for people’s perception and totally responsible for the country’s current economic situation. One of the main political figures of the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s, Akis Tsohatzopoulos, who nearly became prime minister after Kostas Simitis, is now in prison for getting his hands dirty, money laundering of uncounted millions of Euros from when he was minister in the PASOK governments.

Is he the only one? Will justice pursue others? Doubtful!

Today, it would be unfair to say that the Greeks are all tax evaders, when in reality they are economically exhausted. The Greek market is totally dead and almost no one cares about the so called “Euro or Drachma?” dilemma. At the same time, it would be fair to say that the Greek elite that has always refused to pay their taxes and were always backed in doing so by any government that was in power, have secured their money in Swiss banks. However, the majority of the people are disappointed, in despair and angry. They cannot accept that their life is going to be dictated by the Germans and the troika and they are willing to submit to any politician that will promise to relieve them of the “foreign suppressors”. This is because PASOK and NEW DEMOCRACY have constantly lied to the people about the economic situation of the country and about what needs to be done in order to overcome the problems. Instead the leaders of both parties preferred to blame the Troika for all the unpopular measures that they decided to propose to them behind closed doors.

NEW DEMOCRACY and PASOK received a big blow from Alexis Tsipras’s SYRIZA in the elections of May 6th. For the first time in modern history, seven parties entered the parliament including the neo Nazi party of Golden Dawn, which means that the “PASOK – NEA DEMOCRATEA” reign has come to an end.

In a desperate effort to sustain the political status quo, the system, that consists of certain business men and media owners that are also the main national public contractors for roads and other infrastructure development, is using populism practices such as daily media propaganda in order to force people to vote for NEW DEMOCRACY. The same practices are being used by the current leader of the party, Antonis Samaras, who went from being an “anti troika rebel” to a troika fanatic confusing his followers to the point of them turning to alternative parties and giving NEW DEMOCRACY the historic low percentage of 18% in the May 6th elections.

On the other hand, SYRIZA, a left wing “multi political party” ranging from fanatic communists to light socialists that was barely elected in previous elections with percentages of up to 4%, now faces the prospect of governing the country. Tsipras knows that 17% of the population did not become socialists overnight. He knows that desperate people take desperate measures and so he plays on that. He is  promising 120.000 new working positions in the public sector, as is Samaras and an exit from the misery that troika brought to the people. His advantage is that unlike NEW DEMOCRACY and PASOK, his party has never ruled. But his promises are empty, his policies are dangerous and his party is incapable of dealing with the seriousness of the situation.

Greece is doomed to request an exit from the Eurozone very soon. Either because the austerity measures are not applicable and will not be successful or because the vote of the people will cancel them on June 17th.

What we really need to ask is...whether the economic crisis is the real problem of Greece or the mentality of the Greeks themselves? It is a politically corrupt country, with no infrastructure, populated by desperate people with total disrespect for authority. Its salvation lies in its destruction. That destruction will most likely come from a left wing party, that has no governing experience and no plan for tomorrow. In other words it will come from SYRIZA sooner than it would from NEW DEMOCRACY. Only following destruction will Greeks be able to take a step back, assess their situation and decide whether they want to build a new state based on social justice and renounce the nasty habits of their shameful past.

Otherwise the people who are scared today of what may happen if SYRIZA comes to power, will have a new nightmare to deal with. The rise of KKE (the Greek communist party) or the fall of democracy under a military dictator. Will society manage to survive all this? It is is up to the people to decide. The time is now.

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