OPINION

Has the government reached a tipping point?

Has the government reached a tipping point?

That things were not going well was already blatantly obvious – only the distortive lens of arrogance could make people who didn’t want to face up to the truth think otherwise. One look at the qualitative data of the public opinion polls, however, was enough to convince the ostriches: For months and with almost no variation, surveys showed that more than six in 10 Greeks believed that the country was headed in the wrong direction, more than seven in 10 that the government had failed in its management of big issues such as prices, healthcare, education and – very importantly – the gangrene of corruption. The levels of dissatisfaction were high, equal to those seen in other parts of the world only where governments are in their waning days.

What do these poll findings tell us? That ruling New Democracy’s political dominance is fragile. That it finds itself in a dominant role not because people believe in its policies, but because they have not been convinced by its rivals. They also foreshadowed a shake-up in the architecture of the political system, and particularly the likelihood of a shift in favor of the far-right, of nativism and of the absurd. This growing public disappointment and frustration, meanwhile, is what’s driving sneaking divisions and discord inside the ruling conservative party. 

Can these developments be stopped in their tracks or even, more importantly, reversed? I can’t imagine anyone putting money on it. The prime minister’s performance in the first meeting since the European elections of New Democracy’s parliamentary group last week, meanwhile, did not evoke the sense of power and confidence that defined his pre-election demeanor. According to some, after five years in power spent with loud proclamations of reforms to modernize Greece and great expectation, but with results that fell far short of these, New Democracy reached a tipping point – to borrow a term from risk analysis – at the European elections.

Are specific choices to blame? Such as, for example, the terrible management of the housing crisis, where instead of strengthening the supply of homes with affordable rent by promoting measures for opening closed apartment and building new affordable housing with resources from the EU’s Recovery and Resilience Fund (like Portugal, Spain, Italy and others are doing), it chose to strengthen demand, leading sales prices and rental rates through the roof. Yes, such choices are in part to blame. Could it be the government leadership’s refusal to take on vested interests and intervene in practices that harm society and the economy, such as cartels which further stoke price hikes? Yes, that too. For example, we can’t blame multinationals for the fact that farmers sell watermelon at 0.25 euros per kilo and it reaches the consumer at 1-1.25 euros, some 400% higher. 

Wishes abound for a new economic model to change that would bring more productivity, reduce inequalities and promote sustainable growth that is friendlier to man and nature. When it comes to actions, though, the policy in place right now has made consumption, construction and the unfettered and unplanned expansion of tourism the only engines driving the economy. In other words, it is the exact same economic model that has been sending Greece crashing into the rocks for decades.

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