We are caught between celebrations over Greece’s “clean exit” from the bailout programs on one hand and, on the other, allegations that the country has effectively signed up to what can be considered a “fourth memorandum” and is headed to economic disaster.
Instead of getting wrapped up in an endless debate about past mistakes, we should be taking a sober look at the future. The conditions needed for the day after and the economic reforms that will allow Greece to get back on its feet are more or less known: Lower tax rates and measures in support of innovation, as well as for streamlining the banking sector and building economic growth on the back of healthy entrepreneurship. At the same time, it is crucial that we bring down the mammoth primary surplus targets that are strangling the Greek economy.
Meanwhile, recovery cannot be achieved without the establishment of an effective state apparatus, tax conscience, rule of law, a smooth judicial system and other structural measures that will gradually bring Greece back to a state of normalcy.
But the conundrum facing Greece also has a human dimension, one that is affected by all the shortcomings listed above: A considerable chunk of Greek society – in fact a very dynamic and productive one – has left the country. Its absence is an obstacle to restarting the economy and, more generally, to rebooting the country. The government as well as the opposition (which could soon swap places) must make significant efforts to reverse this in the post-bailout era. They must send a joint message to this dynamic segment of society that fled the country assuring that the benefits for Greece will be long-term and independent of what political party is in power (government changeovers are normal in democratic politics).
Mainstream political parties must agree on a set of incentives and adopt measures that ensure consistency and continuity in governance. Diaspora Greeks – the people who moved away in recent years as well as those who settled abroad before the financial crisis – could be the driving force of the much-desired recovery. Their high educational level and rich experience drawn from living in advanced societies could be put to the service of building a new Greece. A good number would certainly be willing to contribute. As long as they are convinced that Greece – the state, politicians, the system – has changed.