Cementing stability

By Alexis Papachelas

The current mood in Greece is one of reserved optimism. The threat of bankruptcy or a euro exit appears to have subsided. Voters realize that the country effectively has no other options in terms of economic policy. But the survival instinct has, at least for the time being, shoved widespread anger aside.

Meanwhile, foreign officials involved in Greece’s rescue program are also trying to sustain the positive mood. Chancellor Angela Merkel would like to sell Greece as a success story, as it were, ahead of federal elections in Germany later this year. Senior officials at the International Monetary Fund would want to see some improvement too, after pressure from critics who deem the Washington-based organization has been too soft on Greece.

The question is whether there is any cash value in this positive mood for the average citizen. The conservative-led government in Athens also needs its own success stories in the domain of economic growth, privatizations and the fight against tax evasion.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is certainly putting his micro-management skills to use. He has no qualms about calling up general secretaries late at night, holding meeting after meeting, holding discussions with investors and being in constant contact with foreign officials.

But all that is not enough. Progress will require the work of more than one person, as well as mechanisms. This is time to make use of skilled and determined individuals in key posts.

We still have three to four months to carry out key reforms that will help the country get back on its feet, strengthen its international credibility and set the economy on a growth trajectory. All that is no task for partisan hacks or weakhearted men.

To be sure, finding these people is not easy. But there is no other way. If the political class does not manage to change its ways, the current optimism will quickly evaporate and the country will soon find itself again on the verge of the cliff.

That said, it would be in the interest of Greece if left-wing opposition leader Alexis Tsipras took some steps to demonstrate that he is for greater stability. Foreign officials are interested in what Tsipras, fresh from a tour in the United States, has to say after his return to base.

That does not mean that SYRIZA is expected to fall behind Greece’s governing coalition. But it is its duty to at least do its bit in cementing stability in the next crucial months. After all, extremism and polarization have never done this country any good.