Listening to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras during his TV interview last night, I could not help but think that some of what he said was the stuff of a Kathimerini editorial.
Listening to his arguments on early retirement, for example, it felt like Tsipras had suddenly turned into a neo-liberal. Of course he hasn’t. The problem is that some self-evident truths have been systematically abused in Greece by populist pundits and politicians across the political spectrum.
The ministers who put forward the need for a far-reaching social security reform on the basis of scientific data, were both reduced to caricatures.
When the debt crisis broke in Greece, vested interests and corrupt politicians sang from the anti-bailout hymn to make sure that everything would stay the same. Then came the brutal cuts and taxes, and the people lost all appetite for big, yet necessary, reforms.
It took a close shave with Grexit for people to sober up and face up to the facts. In a sense, it was shameful that it took an ugly threat from Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany’s finance minister, for us to take a step back from the abyss.
As Tsipras pointed out Tuesday, these changes were inevitable – with or without the troika. In order for these reforms to be carried out, two fundamental elements must be in place. To begin with, someone has to clearly explain to the people why these changes are necessary. Good communication is everything in this case and Tsipras seems to have no rival in this department so far. In a country where the left part of the brain’s left part dominates, the premier has the ideological sovereignty and ease to prevail in his new role. The question remains how he will cut the umbilical cord with all that ties him to his previous role as opposition leader. But he has proved he has a way, judging from his handling of Alekos Alavanos and Fotis Kouvelis. Could Panayiotis Lafazanis, Yanis Varoufakis and Zoe Constantopoulou be next?
Beyond good communication skills, it also takes expertise and robust management. This is where Tsipras is largely lacking. The incredible insecurity displayed by the government’s hard core led to terrible choices in the people department. Nevertheless, Greece has professionals, people who are willing to help the country to change. Most of these people did not vote for Tsipras but are ready to rally behind him and help.
Times are tough. We know what the country needs. We still don’t know whether Tsipras is capable of becoming a Lula – according to the international cliche – considering that he did not turn into a Chavez. If he does not succeed he will have done a major service to the citizens of this country, as he will have destroyed a number of myths regarding the necessity of certain reforms and the lack of “another way” to exit the crisis.