Spitting out the medicine

It?s fashionable to argue that the memorandum is responsible for Greece?s current mess. But the truth is we will never know. That is because the vast majority of the recommendations set out in the deal signed with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund were never really carried out.

We have so far seen significant cuts in public sector salaries and pensions and a far-reaching reform of the social security system. But apart from that, the much-heralded structural changes never materialized. The government of George Papandreou never really opened up any of the closed-shop professions. Labor market reform also failed to get off the ground.

Any difference has not come from changes in market rules but from changes in the principles that govern life.

But at the end of the day only a few politicians out there really stood behind the reforms that both PASOK and New Democracy have promised in the past ahead of every general election only to shelve them once in power.

The truth is that most Socialist officials would like to see things remain as they are and to protect the vested interests that saw them enter the political domain and prosper. In fact, the majority of them have invested in the failure of both Papandreou and the memorandum — and they are trying to win over union leaders for the day after.

Led by Antonis Samaras, the main opposition New Democracy party chose to go against the memorandum and, politically speaking, that could prove its safest bet.

The business sector is represented on television by merchants. However, the philosophy of the memorandum was aimed at encouraging productivity, not consumption — and consumption was already disproportionately high for Greece?s production capabilities. Greece?s producers kept silent.

As a result, there was no one left to defend the memorandum. The rule book was attacked by the state and it was never really implemented.

It?s a bit like a feverish child pretending to swallow a bitter pill but spitting it out once the doctor leaves the room. The fever, of course, does not subside and the child is forced to take an extra dose. Everyone knows there is no magic solution. But the medicine will become even harder to stomach.

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