COMMENT

Wanted: A new narrative for the nation

By Alexis Papachelas

What Greece really needs right now is a fully-fledged plan to regenerate the nation. People are in despair. Some over the extra taxes they are forced to pay at the end of each month, and others because they simply cannot afford to pay the emergency property tax on their house.

The conservative-led government, or rather the prime minister plus a handful of deputies, are fighting against the odds. Meanwhile, in the background, a brutal war rages among competing interests as the coming months are expected to determine the viability of many once-key players.

This is taking place as the debt-wracked country walks a tightrope between 20-year-olds armed with assault rifles on the one hand and phenomena that are uncomfortably reminiscent of the 1930s on the other. One or two wrong steps and we will be dangerously close to the abyss of violence and self-destruction.

So, given these conditions, is this a time to come up with big plans for the nation, to have a long-term vision? The answer is yes. Every country needs a convincing narrative about where it wants to go.

Instead, Greeks seem to be caught up in a vicious cycle. Half are defending every decision taken from above as being in line with staying true to the obligations deriving from the bailout agreement. The others nourish the illusion that pressure on us will gradually ease “because the IMF has admitted it made a mistake” in the bailout recipe.

What we need right now is a national strategy on the fundamentals. Do we want Athens to become a key European destination? Do we want Greek farmers to finally move into the future? Do we wish to turn the country into a logistics hub for southern Europe? Do we want private and public universities that produce graduates who have what it takes to find employment in tourism or shipping, and to attract foreign students? Do we want an energy policy that can help local production and exports?

If we want Greece to be a different country then we need to invite renowned experts in each particular field, away from petty interests and ailing lobbies, to hammer out a plan that will be served by everyone including the state, the banks and the unions.

It’s not an awfully difficult thing to achieve. But it demands that we turn our backs on self-pity, division and intolerance, and see how we can make this country better. Our biggest asset, if we set our minds to it, will be the incomparable combination of Greek stubbornness and ingenuity.

Online