Sick man of Europe in a state of shock

By Nikos Xydakis

Trapped in the triple snare of the international crisis, the euro crisis and the domestic structural crisis, Greece has watched its economy contract by one-fifth in three years, the unemployment rate soar to 21.7 percent and its exhausted political system become paralyzed.

History is putting Greece through the wringer, but before the country can find its feet and start to recover, we will most likely feel the pain of the wringer strongly.

Time and again we have said in this column that the country?s politicians, already responsible for years of bad management and allowing the kleptocratic forces to prevail, were caught napping by the European crisis and the effects this was having on Greece, and ended up surrendering the country without even trying to put up a fight -- just like that, without drawing up a national rescue plan and also wasting precious time that could have been put to better use for constructive negotiations.

Obviously lacking in technocratic adequacy and intellectual acumen, the two governments of the 2009-12 period accepted an exhaustive program of internal devaluation and rapid reforms, responding more to the punitive mood of Berlin toward the sick man of Europe rather than Greece?s need for a reboot.

The plan is so one-sided and so tightly organized in terms of scheduling that no country would have been able to implement it without exhausting its people. Even worse, both governments during this frenetic two-and-a-half year period limited their response to the crisis to slashing wages and hitting the people with a barrage of taxes.

Society began to bend under the pressure, and then it broke. The complete fragmentation of Parliament and the power vacuum that has followed this process should hardly come as a surprise.

Europe, coming a few steps behind developments, is now beginning to examine the possibility of changing the approach to the crisis. It has seen that the elixir it prescribed to Greece is toxic, and so it is looking for a new formula. Meanwhile, Greece, wounded by the triple blow of three simultaneous and overlapping crises, and poisoned by the toxic prescription, is in a state of shock, unable to breathe, without time and without a national plan to treat its many ailments.