Greeks do better abroad

I was greatly impressed by what main opposition PASOK party leader George Papandreou had to say about Greece’s prospects in the world in a speech to foreign university graduates last Wednesday. Everyone in this country, led by the government, he noted, is now talking about the need for Greek society and the economy to adopt an outward-looking attitude – which means increasing exports, attracting more tourists and bolstering the country’s influence on the international scene. «Rapid changes are taking place in the world and mankind’s development is unprecedented. An outward-looking attitude does not simply mean going abroad, but competing successfully, either at home or abroad, with what’s new in the economy, culture and other spheres of life,» Papandreou said. The difference between progressives and conservatives, he went on, is discerned by their attitude to this changing world. One attitude is to react with fear; politicians sometimes even play up people’s insecurities. In contrast, a progressive attitude means saying «no» to fear and insecurity and «yes» to our ability to face developments with sincerity and systematic work. And the first condition for winning is to clash with mentalities and perceptions that tie us down. Papandreou then posed a key question: «Since Greeks excel abroad, why does Greece not do as well? «When Greeks go abroad, they are alone and have to rely on themselves. But because there are established rules, processes and practises, they are able to develop their potential and creativity, and forge ahead,» he answered. By contrast, in Greece, where political clientele relationships dominate, where there is no meritocracy and the logic of serving party and vested interests prevails, how can anyone excel? Such practices cultivate a mentality of dependence on the state that does not inspire young people to take up the new challenges. The same goes for businesspeople. Papandreou said that instead of transparency within the framework of international competition, many Greek enterprises depend on state contracts and political protection. «In Greece, there is a peculiar statism that bears no relation to the worldwide debate between neo-conservatives and socialists, but is one that retains the feudal characteristics of society,» he concluded.

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