The economy is in dire need of stability and trust, and yet many players who ought to pursue these goals seem indifferent to them. From the beginning it was clear that Greece’s crisis was not about debt alone, it was also political and cultural.
It remains, above all, a crisis of trust: The state does not trust citizens and they do not trust the state; citizens do not trust each other; there is no trust between Greek governments and EU partners and foreign creditors. Suspicion and distrust contributed greatly to the crisis; at the same time, the crisis “confirmed” to everyone why they expected ill of others. This still drives the crisis.
For us Greeks, what is important is not so much what “others” did to us as what we have done to ourselves. The longevity of the crisis stems from our inability to build a climate of trust in our country, with foreign players either failing to help or even contributing to instability. Or they simply stay away, as the lamentably low foreign direct investment figures show.
The most recent example of the cost of this situation was Thursday’s demand by the European Commission that the Greek government commit itself to furthering the investment at the site of Athens’s old airport in Elliniko, a major project to which Greece is already committed under the bailout memorandum. A European official called Elliniko “a symbol of mismanagement and delay.”
This kind of talk is the uninterrupted continuation of the dramatic days at the start of the crisis, when European officials were stunned by the size of Greece’s deficit, when ratings agencies consigned Greece’s creditworthiness to the junk heap, when the leaders of other EU countries presented the Greeks simply as wastrels, without seeing the greater dimensions of the problem. In the meantime, endless tax hikes and income reductions contributed to instability and suspicion.
False promises undermined and continue to undermine years of effort to restore order to the economy and banking sector. Small groups violate laws and principles with impunity. International players, with the most recent example that of the International Monetary Fund, voice dire estimates which, through the instability that they cause, could turn into self-fulfilling prophesies.
However many sacrifices have been made, and they have been huge, if there is not a conscious and universal pursuit of economic stability and political credibility, Greece will remain stuck in crisis. With desolate Elliniko its symbol.