OPINION

Reproducing more of the same

Thirteen months after Greece signed the memorandum, instead of solutions, the citizens see the country sinking deeper into recession, leaving more and more in a state of economic and social ruin. Hope has been replaced by despair, and this is gradually transforming into rage. Under such explosive circumstances it is fortunate that society?s rage is being channeled through the peaceful Indignant movement. But how long will that last?

In a chameleon-like change of face, the ruling elite that nurtured the kleptocracy, the waste of the state, irrationality and impunity have become the torchbearers of austerity, but only in regard to those beneath them. The more impudent among them are even wagging their finger at society. That is not to say the citizens are completely innocent, but the fish starts to stink from the head.

The same elite is acting in a provocatively selfish manner. They condemn populism and the trade unions, corruption in the civil service and tax evasion among the middle class, but never the multifaceted system of entangled interests that fed the parasites bleeding the state dry and obstructed productive activities. The plundering of state coffers is a systemic phenomenon, but it is those at the peak rather than at the base of the social pyramid who benefited the most.

For Greece to come out of the crisis it needs a restructuring of its debt and a national strategy for purging the system and promoting growth. A radical shake-up in the way the state makes money and how it spends it could save enormous amounts, while a boost to the country?s growth potential could break the vicious cycle of recession.

George Papandreou?s government has done neither. It has not only failed to reach its fiscal targets but it has also exhausted the precious capital of society?s tolerance for painful measures and reforms.

The issue, therefore, is not about erasing the deficit, but how. Doesn?t the fact that the government has hardly touched the ?big fish? or the main players of the kleptocracy while at the same time placing the entire burden on the easy targets — the wage earners, pensioners and manufacturers — tell us something?

The inequitable division of the burden corrodes the moral foundations of the collective effort to exit the crisis, increasing instead the people?s rage and the chance of a social explosion. Furthermore, the more you try to squeeze out of an already dried-up market, the more damage you do to the country?s production dynamic, therefore simply reproducing more of the same.