General indifference leaves real convergence a mere political slogan

Last week’s report by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on the Greek economy did not make us any wiser. We already know that the social insurance problem is a time bomb in its foundations but society as a whole does not want to face up to it. We shall continue living under this threat. We also know that at the pace at which the economy is growing, convergence with the average European living standards will not be achieved until about 2030 – and this only on condition that the other countries will continue growing at their present rates, which are lower than Greece’s; if some of them accelerate their pace, convergence will take even longer. But this does not seem to be much of a cause for concern. Despite this reality, Greek society seems oddly contented. Moreover, the OECD technocrats, who appear to be the only ones concerned, also have an optimistic scenario; they argue that if reforms in the labor and product markets are carried through, bolstering competition in coming years, the Greek economy will accelerate its growth rates to 4.5 percent. This assumption brings Greek convergence closer, to 2020, but on condition of an increase in the employment of women, the young and those over 55. This is no doubt an interesting exercise for technocrats within international organizations, but still, the target still leaves Greek society cold. In 15 years’ time, many of those now in leading positions in society, education, business and the economy will not be interested. Conversely, those who will then be in positions of authority have no say today and, possibly, no desire to speed up developments. The young nowadays do not hit the job market until late, women prefer to work in the public sector, and those over 55 want to become pensioners. With a low rate of an economically active population, neither the achievement of real convergence nor an improvement in living standards is feasible. And so, the goal is relegated to the level of a political slogan that is unattainable. No one is going to apportion responsibility to anyone. Meanwhile, new and dynamic countries are entering the arena: countries with younger populations, with requirements, aspirations and a willingness to work hard to achieve them. In some cases, they are also fortunate to have the inspired leadership that ensures the necessary organization. And they are very likely to overtake Greece, whose convergence target will then be in relation to them, as well.

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