COMMENT

Beyond fear and rage

By Nikos Konstandaras

The longer we take to start creating, the longer we sit waiting for the next cuts to our income and don't look for new ways to nurture our economy, the longer we will remain trapped in our feelings of humiliation and incompetence. The longer we continue to pretend that we are the victims of evil foreigners who had been waiting for an opportunity to terrify us with bankruptcy and then forced us to borrow more money from them in exchange for our national sovereignty, the longer we put off the day that we stand on our own two feet and take our rightful place in the community of nations. We will achieve this when we carry out a serious assessment of where we are, who we are and what we are capable of achieving. In today's world, Greece has neither the means nor the reason to become an industrial power. It does not have the agriculture industry to become a major exporter. What it does have is the potential to create enough wealth to sustain its population. It is rich in natural and cultural treasures; it is at a geostrategic crossroads between East and West, North and South; a large part of its population has a high level of education and specializations, is innovative and has shown that it can survive even against the difficult odds of Greek reality. We know the obstacles that prohibit development. The most important of these is the fatalism born of the fixed system of clientelism, which finds its most authentic expression in a huge and incompetent public sector crammed with political party appointees. Those who can, enter this system, which destroys all ambition and productivity; those who cannot, know that whatever they try to do in the private sector will be obstructed by the public administration. As has been noted many times, if the public administration does not change to become more efficient and supportive of private initiative, all efforts to revive the country are doomed to failure. A new Greece will start to be built only when all workers in the public sector are appraised and the most capable of them are appointed to key positions so that the laws will be applied in the service of citizens. This has to happen everywhere: in the education and health systems, in every institution and every ministry. Assessing the capabilities of each employee and creating a backbone of people responsible for carrying out the changes is the only way forward. When the public administration begins to function effectively, when the environment in which businesses and self-employed professionals function is cleaned up, when the laws are applied evenly (not arbitrarily, as is the case now), when schools and universities train our youth for the new century, when our hospitals and social security systems offer services that are not an insult to our dignity, then we can say that our country has started the long march forward. Today, although there is no shortage of ideas or the need to apply them, we cannot take the first steps towards new forms of economic activity. Among the things we could do is create energy from biomass and renewable sources instead of allowing uncontrolled garbage dumps to fester across the country while paying exorbitant prices for imported fuels. We could invest in high quality agriculture with specialized products, making a virtue of the problem of small lots. With the right attitude and organization, we could turn our universities and museums into international centers for study and research, attracting teachers and students from across the world. Our hospitals could specialize in ways that would attract patients from the broader region. New forms of tourism are already late in development: we need hiking trails crisscrossing the country, we need to set up retirement villages for people from all of Europe, we need to specialize in holidays for people who need medical services. We have the people for all of these activities and most of the infrastructure as well. The ideas are not new. The reason that none have made any progress is the indifference of our political class and the enmity of state functionaries - and society suspicious of every change. When we exhaust our rage at the evil that has befallen us, when we abandon fear, we will start building our future.

Online