COMMENT

Greek particularities

By Angelos Stangos

It’s been five years since Greece entered recession and three years since it signed up to the EU-IMF bailout deal, but the particularities – other people would say mysteries – of Greek reality remain in spite of the dramatic changes that have swept the political scene and the woes dogging the average citizen’s daily life.

One such mystery, as it were, is the stance of successive Greek administrations toward their obligations under the bailout agreements signed with the troika. Every time they reach an agreement and sign a deal allegedly under enormous pressure to avoid a disorderly Greek default, they subsequently seek to bargain a way out of adopting the measures they have agreed on.

The reasons behind this are simple. Greek governments are incapable of enforcing – or simply do not have the guts to enforce – the requisite reforms in the private sector and, most evidently, in the public sector which they treat like a sacred cow.

It has become clear that the state apparatus cannot continue as it is, but they prefer not to touch it or improve it.

The Greek political class instead prefers to introduce painful horizontal measures that hit the general population and, at the same time, openly declare that the “new measures” will not pass. It therefore remains a mystery why the current government and the political elite in general do not want to advance “labor mobility” or even rid the state of those corrupt civil servants.

Instead, they bring up all sorts of excuses, ask for deadline extensions and drag their feet instead of honoring their agreements in hope of receiving the next installment of the much-wanted loan.

Or take the mystery of unemployment. Statistics show there is big problem, the media do not tire of emphasizing the problem and we all have a friend or relative who has lost his or her job. Europe is deeply concerned about the issue.

There is no need to point out that Greece has the highest unemployment figures, also among its youth. Efforts are being made to create new jobs via growth-inducing measures, and yet Greeks continue to be extremely picky when the opportunity does arise.

There’s an ad for peach picking, but hardly any Greeks show up for the job. There’s one for strawberry picking (25 euros/day for a five-hour shift) but there’s hardly any interest and such jobs are unavoidably taken by non-Greeks. It’s a mystery how all those unemployed people out there manage to get by.

Meanwhile, in yet another mystery, car traffic has reportedly increased over the past few months and so has turnover in the recreation and entertainment sectors. Meanwhile, we hear the market is all dried up.

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