The government faces a bumpy ride over the next few months. The prime minister and a small group of ministers and officials have handled two big crises – the deliberate migrant push at Greece’s border with Turkey and the initial phase of the coronavirus – and these are successes no one can take away from the government, hard as they may try. They can’t say that everyone, including the international media, has been bought off to present the government in such a flattering light with regard to the health crisis. They have nothing to gain with their hateful criticism, saying that the government was too hasty with the lockdown on the one hand and too hasty with lifting it on the other.
The adrenaline rush from dealing with successive crises will soon be over and it will be followed in quick succession by a third crisis with no easy solutions.
Some government officials insist on continuing to paint a rosy picture of what lies ahead. Others still believe that tourism will bounce back this year, the virus will disappear into thin air in July and that the recession will be small. Either they are living in a parallel universe or they’re making mistakes that have proved fatal in the past. Tourism will not make a comeback and the recession will be steep.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis needs to be his usual self and present a candid picture of what lies ahead and what he proposes to do about it. The people know that the crisis is global and that Mitsotakis and his government are not responsible for the recession. The trouble will start when expectations that are being foolishly cultivated now are dashed and people start looking for someone to blame when they’re struggling to make ends meet come fall. The opposition, meanwhile, is banking on this anger.
The pressure on the government is huge. Every bankrupt business (including those that had been failing before the coronavirus) and every social group will demand handouts – and some ministers will say it’s Mitsotakis’ fault they’re not getting them. The prime minister is facing a gauntlet. Businesspeople and citizens are waiting for a clear practical plan – one that leaves no room for shenanigans. If a vaccine is discovered and the global economy improves, the economy can recover in a year.
In the meantime, Greece needs ministers who are committed, who work as a tightly knit disciplined team, and who don’t seek the populist limelight – a team that can take a deep breath, plunge into the stormy waters and come out on the other side.