When Greece’s financial crisis broke out in 2010, the country had already entered a phase of multifaceted decline. The widespread yet false mood of prosperity could not hide the fact from the sober observer. One could argue that this misguided exuberance had gradually deactivated the capacity of both the political class and society to comprehend that the country had been in a long process of decline on all levels – and not just the economy. However, experience suggests that such a claim is untenable.
Several optimistic observers had originally expressed hope that the crisis would be a catalyst for change that would put an end to some of the country’s chronic structural weaknesses. Unfortunately, four years on, their hopes and expectations have been sorely defeated. Sure, four years many not be enough time to shake off bad habits that took root over many decades. But it is still a sad conclusion.
Greece’s public administration has not become more efficient or more effective; the burden has not been evenly shared out among the people; vested interests continue to have an influence on political developments; the political class combines the same ineptitude and reluctance to live up to contemporary needs and challenges; unions impose their views on a whim without paying heed to the sorry state of the country’s economy; public education is falling apart; bureaucracy remains an obstacle; laws are constantly violated; the quality of public debate remains low; news media habitually indulge in populism; extremist acts are on the rise; society is locked in a rejectionist mode.
On the other hand, figures show that the Greek economy is gradually finding its footing. The question however remains: Can the economic recovery be sustained when all other factors that define the country’s exit from the crisis remain stagnant or worse? Reason says it’s highly unlikely.