It is we who wound our country and undermine our future. It is a misfortune that we were almost always under foreign supervision, because this gave us an excuse to blame others for our ills. [Panos Kokkinias]
If some power wanted to undermine all that is good in a country, to waste its natural beauty and people, to damage its past, present and future, it need look no further than Greece. Here it would see the result of a long-term conspiracy against the country. Fortunately, the Greeks are fighters, they resist as much as they can. That is why the country is still beautiful, with talented, generous people, with bright children capable of competing with the best in the world. The “enemy,” though, holds the people hostage, keeping them from reaching their full potential, from making the country what it could be.
From the beginning of the modern Greek state, the Greeks were under foreign tutelage. In the past few decades, though, as a member of the European Union, we had begun to believe that we could function as an independent country, without patrons. And suddenly, bankrupt, we found ourselves under strict supervision again. It is understandable, then, that we blame foreigners for all our ills – those powers that want to suck us dry of our wealth, to keep us weak and under control. Because it is certain that we are not the ones who benefit from continued political and economic insecurity, from unpredictable and excessive taxation, disdain for investments, dysfunctional justice, a weakened education system.
The only beneficiaries are the tricksters who know how to exploit the situation – and other countries. When we have almost no investments and the country’s strongest selling point as a tourist destination is its stability in an unstable region, it is clear that we are not creating added value, we are not establishing foundations for the future. Investments go elsewhere and Greece keeps falling behind the competition. In the World Bank’s latest Doing Business survey of 190 countries, Greece was ranked 67th, from 61st last year (and 60th and 58th before that). It is incredible that after seven years of crisis and three bailout agreements it should still be so difficult to set up a business in Greece. And yet, there is stiff resistance to improving the situation: Taxes and social security contributions are way above the European Union average; there are long delays in the justice system, conflicting and confusing laws and regulations, along with a public administration determined to obstruct whatever it can, encourage corruption and send businesses elsewhere.
Other countries gain even more when thousands of Greek doctors and others with special skills move away in search of a better life, taking with them the money invested in their education. So why should we not believe that it is in our foreign partners’ interests to keep Greece at this level? In the past, they lent us money, now they loot our human resources (and later perhaps our still-to-be-discovered fossil fuels, according to a long-running conspiracy theory). Our partners did not stop lending us money, but now it comes not from their banks but from their taxpayers, and with strict conditions.
Among the significant demands is the improvement of our justice system (with special emphasis on business law and tax issues). And yet, seven years after the first bailout agreement, the problems here remain unsolved. Also, the memorandums did not demand excessive taxation which would eliminate the middle class, they did not demand a return to the past in our universities, nor the establishment of a Vatican of anarchy in central Athens. The memorandums did not establish illegal landfills across the country, nor did they prohibit coastal resorts from setting up waste treatment plants which would end the pumping of raw sewage into the sea. The memorandums demanded effective public administration but we resisted with revolutionary zeal – as smokers resist public health regulations with a smug smile.
It is we who wound our country and undermine our future. It is a misfortune that we were almost always under foreign supervision, because this gave us an excuse to blame others for our ills. We are still in search of patrons – witness Tsipras with Trump – to solve our problems, to blame them when we fail. Working out what really holds us back does not interest us as much.