Tom Ellis TOM ELLIS

Greece of 2018 must shed habits of 2008

COMMENT

Soon, Greeks will have a chance to show if they have indeed drawn the right conclusions from their recent history.

TAGS: Politics, Economy, Society

Greece’s bailout program is close to an end. The country’s European peers would be reluctant to have their parliaments vote on yet another aid program for the debt-wracked nation. The unwillingness is admitted in private conversations, but also in public. Eurozone governments and taxpayers are fed up with the Greek case. The International Monetary Fund would also rather stick to an advisory role.

In eight months from now, Greece will enter a new era. With or without a precautionary credit line, with or without monitoring or supervision (some regrettably still prefer to deal in spin rather than economic substance), the country will have to steer through a new environment. We will have to get by with what we produce.

Regardless of government spin, the economy and the people will have to grapple with the day after. How we decide to deal with this will also determine the future of our country.

The existential question that we need to answer is whether we – as a country and a people, as well as our politicians – have learned anything from the eight-year crisis. Have we realized that this was our fault and not somebody else’s?

Sure, our European partners made some serious mistakes as they were unprepared to contain a major crisis inside an EU member-state, and saving their banks turned out to be their first priority (as officials have recently admitted in public). The International Monetary Fund also acknowledged that it made mistakes with regard to its projections and fiscal multipliers.

But this was, first of all, a Greek problem. We made too many hirings, we granted the salary and pension hikes. We allowed the deficits and debt to spin out of control.

Have we learned from our mistakes? Have we realized how much populism cost the country? Have we acknowledged that it was us who caused the crisis that led to the bailout programs, and not the other way round? Have we realized that the transition to normality will come through cooperation and not through conflict with “those outsiders”?

Soon, the Greek people will have an opportunity – and indeed the responsibility – to show if they have indeed drawn the right conclusions. If they have changed for real. Will they reward those who dare to speak the hard truths, or will they side with those who utter convenient lies? The majority of politicians (with some bright exceptions) have proven to put self-interest before the interest of the country. But we’ve had enough of short-term partisan gains.

As another tough year comes to a close, the Greece of 2018 will have to make an effort to be radically different to the Greece of 2008. This is the only way that the country can get back on its feet and grow in a viable fashion. If this is to happen, we must change. All of us.

Online