Alexis Papachelas ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

Elusive consensus

COMMENT

TAGS: Politics, Economy

If you were to lock up all of the serious and moderate SYRIZA and New Democracy folk in a room together, they would sooner or later admit that none of what was agreed to at this week’s Eurogroup meeting will help solve the Greek problem.

That is a fact which Greece’s foreign partners prefer to ignore. Government officials who understand what really goes on in the country realize that Greece’s woes will not be overcome without, first, streamlining the public sector and, second, shaking up the system which is keeping foreign investors away.

The real drama is that they do not dare to admit all that to themselves. If they really want to fix these fundamental shortcomings they must first sever the ties that connect them to their political clientele. They also need to shed the ideological obsessions of yesteryear.

But that is something they simply cannot do. Ruling officials could always reach out to the opposition parties and ask them to share some of the burden. But they prefer to stick to the politics of polarization and ad hominem attacks. This administration is allergic to consensus.

Foreign officials are also tired of Greece, perhaps a bit frustrated with it too. They know the constant paring of wages and pensions is not a solution to the country’s problems. Low-income earners and pensioners are near breaking point. Greece urgently needs to produce wealth and reduce spending on sectors that are not of vital importance to the public interest.

This government cannot, and does not want to do so. Even if the second bailout review is finally wrapped up, the numbers will still not add up, and no one will be willing to lend us that extra money.

It would be good for the country if leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras were forced to debunk the demons of populism which brought him to power and now haunt the nation. The SYRIZA leader would have to come clean to voters.

Today we are paying a hefty price for the fact that Greece’s mainstream parties never came to an understanding on how to grapple with all these problems, something which should have happened before – or in the early days of – the financial crisis. Should things carry on as they are, the next government will have to deal with the deadlock with a protesting SYRIZA.

Either the next government will succeed or we will again find ourselves on the edge of the precipice and come to an understanding at the very last moment. However, as it happens, our foreigner partners have learned their lesson and will put Greece on a course of shock therapy at all costs.

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