They are sad, unacceptable titles: Greece ranks among the worst countries in Europe and the rest of the world when it comes to fighting corruption and non-transparency. Out of the 27 countries making up the European Union, we are only behind Bulgaria and Romania in the corruption index, while we are the champion within the eurozone, leaving behind Italy, a serious contender for the repulsive appelation. On the global map, we have dropped another two places, reaching number 88. As far as OECD countries are concerned, Greece?s triumph is absolute: We are the last on the list — and proud of it.
I use the term ?proud? because what is even sadder than the actual figures certifying the country?s sad state is that even though we?ve known for years that our performance is ghastly, our efforts to improve matters (by the state and society) have been minimal, random and lacking in coordination, ostensible rather than substantial.
For decades we have been aware of the fact that sectors earning top prizes in corruption are hospitals and tax and urban planning offices, yet this knowledge has led to no good: The state still finds it convenient to allow black money to float from purse to purse and keep vested interests satisfied, the operators of these institutions continue to receive bribes at their habitual rates while citizens carry on paying a range of fees destined for public coffers.
So there is every reason to believe that we are rather proud of these rankings, as opposed to getting upset over them, and this is why we do our very best to maintain them. Even though one of them, tax evasion, costs the country some 10 billion euros annually.
We can add to the list of achievements the world record for announcing catharsis, given that no government has left any sector uncleansed, dirty or corrupt.
Cliches of how the ?knife will go deep? in health, education, tax offices, the Church, sports, the army and the police, for instance, have been hurled over and over again, while the knife has lost its edge, not due to heavy usage but because of the rust of purgatorial rhetoric.
Take soccer for instance: We inflated the ball with empty words, boasting that the time had come to crack down on the gangs ravaging the game through fixed matches, blackmail and bribes, among other things, before bursting the ball and hurting the judges? efforts. But who wants to risk losing top corruption prizes over rash impulsiveness? In other words, who wants to lose our reason to brag?