Nikos Konstandaras NIKOS KONSTANDARAS

Return to the future

COMMENT

TAGS: Politics

SYRIZA’s pre-election campaigns were a latent promise to lead Greece back to the pre-crisis era, somewhere like 2007, before the time of “memorandums” and austerity. The delay in abandoning disastrous policies, persistence with the destruction of values and tolerance for antisocial behavior will have enduring consequences.

But among the positive outcomes of the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks government is the fact that here and there, necessity is dictating the abandonment of traditional obsessions.

The government decision to allow private companies to provide services on bus routes in Athens and Thessaloniki was such a surprise. The fate of the project will show whether the government is prepared to look for solutions or whether it remains committed to clientelism and political expediency.

Even if SYRIZA tries to water down the reform – perhaps even to the point of negating it – the idea recalls the early 1990s, when the government of Constantine Mitsotakis tried to privatize urban buses.

The daily protests by unionists at the time ended only with their triumph in 1993, when PASOK returned to power. Today’s plan does not call for the scrapping of the OASA and OSETH public bus companies, it aims to complement their services.

Breaking the public monopoly, though, will create new demands for better services from both public and private sector, to the benefit of passengers. If we see such progress in urban transport, perhaps one day the idea of nonprofit, non-state universities will not cause such outrage.

Another obsession which appears to be relaxing somewhat is anti-Americanism. We can begin to believe that the government’s alignment with US interests is not based solely on Greece’s need for support in its negotiations with the European Union and in its perennial problems with Turkey; it appears that society itself is beginning to believe that the US is taking Greek interests into account.

According to a Pew Research Center study on global attitudes and trends (released on Monday), 29 percent of Greeks believe this today, from 20 percent in 2013.

The figure may still be low, but it has risen by close to 50 percent in five years – compared to a steep drop in faith in the United States in most countries polled over the same period.

Many problems have worsened during the SYRIZA-Independent Greeks government. But we can note signs of seriousness when this is possible.

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