A woman walks in front of graffiti against coronavirus, written by soccer fans near the under construction stadium of the AEK soccer club in Athens, Wednesday, April 8, 2020. The COVID-19 causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death [Thanassis Stavrakis/AP]
The situation Greece finds itself in is particularly tough as it comes in the wake of a deep, decade-long crisis that impacted the economy, politics and society. Nevertheless, there is a ray of hope for the country, a chance at opportunity.
I’ll start with the star of the hour, the government’s coronavirus expert and spokesman Sotiris Tsiodras. Moderate, modest, educated, capable and reliable, he represents Greece’s best face. Tsiodras is a distinguished scientist and has another quality that I find very important as a matter of personal experience: He is a diaspora Greek who was born in Australia and has lived in the United States, where he studied at Harvard University.
That is where the hope and opportunity come in. I would dare say that Tsiodras’ wisdom and appeal should not be attributed to his attending Harvard; actually, he represents the best of the medical schools of Ioannina and Athens that he also attended, which led him to the prestigious American university.
Greek universities produce excellent scientists, so instead of disparaging these institutions in the public debate, we should be building them up – they may surprise us.
But it is not just education where there are glimmers of hope – also seen in our swift introduction of online schooling for elementary students and partnerships between our universities and some of the top educational institutions in the world. Another area that gives us hope is digital governance. We still have a long way to go, but we are definitely on the right path – and we’re taking it at a run.
Great efforts are also being made in the area of health. It is certainly not all perfect, but the results are encouraging, and the government is also mobilizing Greeks abroad, regardless of their political provenance. Their scientific credentials and abilities should be the only criteria. We are too small a country for it to work any other way, for any government.
Even in justice – another sensitive and crucial area to the operation of the state – legislation is being drafted to speed up the system. This is an initiative that will also help the economy as it relates to matters such as competition rules, personal data protection etc. Most foreign investors are less concerned about the taxation framework than they are about the problems and delays in the justice system that act as a brake on development.
In terms of the coronavirus crisis, Greece seems to be in a better place than many other countries so far. We should not be celebrating or letting our guard down, but we can be optimistic as long as we go the distance. Once the crisis is over, many of the changes that transpired will prove useful in creating a solid basis for a different future direction for the country.
We can and should turn today’s crisis into an opportunity, and for this we need capable people. We already have proof that they exist. And perhaps some of those who left the Greece of yesterday will want to come back to the Greece of tomorrow, at last reversing the painful brain drain.