We have supposedly understood why we went bankrupt and made some effort to change in the past 10 years, but a crucial step has been missed: For Greece to finally emerge from the crisis completely, the private sector also needs to undergo a radical overhaul. There is so much that is seen and heard – but goes unproven – indicating that there is a whole lot wrong with the private sector.
We are under no illusions that German or American companies are free of scandal and operate in an angelic world, but the situation in Greece has just gone too far. That part of the private sector which depends on the state for its survival grew to uncontrollable proportions in the 1980s and has since corrupted the political system, the media and even the very state itself. It is constantly embroiled in a ruthless power game whose end-goal is to prevent anyone else from getting a slice of the pie. No one has paused to consider that a bigger pie might be a solution. Some have hit their profit margin, as assured by the state. Others are raising obstacles to prevent other foreign or domestic players from entering their corner of the market. How the market works – both officially and unofficially – is being determined by players who view politicians as passersby or even expendable. Blackmail and character assassination are part of the game. The supervisory mechanisms, meanwhile, are often in “sleep” mode, even though there are some judges who are trying to change things.
Many of Greece’s “naive” foreign partners believed that all this would change with the memorandums. But this is Greece, a country where greed and self-interest have always been profitable. They grew tired of waiting for change and decided that Greece could not be reformed. All they care about now is getting business taken care of – in a profoundly Greek way – and getting the interest back on their loans.
SYRIZA was clever about pushing the narrative that it would undo all the evils of the past. Instead, with a few exceptions, the situation only seems to have gotten worse. Anyone in the private sector who has rules and principles is struggling to survive the uncertainty. Some just throw in the towel and leave. Citizens are also dejected and trying to make it one day at a time.
On the upside, there is a part of the private sector that is showing us what can be accomplished when you stay out of politics, unionism and the media. Particularly in areas like tourism and tech, we are seeing businesses making incredible inroads – when they’re allowed to do their jobs. If more of the private sector operated professionally and unbound by vested interests, there would be a lot more pie to go around.