OPINION

A hands-on battle

Is the Samaras administration capable of succeeding as a government? Yes, it can, but it will take two or three miracles. The main stumbling block is the skepticism of our European peers and international lenders toward any promises or commitments made by Athens.

Foreign officials know what to expect from us by now. When they hear Greek politicians say, ?We will increase tax revenues in the next few months? or ?We will slash state sector spending,? they naturally respond, ?Do it first and then we shall price it in.?

If the government really wants to succeed it, will first have to change the public discourse. Raising the specter of the ?troika bogeyman? simply will not cut it anymore.

The eurozone and the International Monetary Fund have done a very professional job in every crucial sector. Troika staff have, for example, surveyed Greece?s health sector and can provide detailed analysis of all the wasteful practices. They also possess enough data to explain why, although things like wages and rents are going down, consumer prices remain unchanged. They know exactly what rules and regulations discourage Greek businessmen from exporting their goods. And, finally, foreign inspectors have scrutinized our public administration and come up with concrete proposals regarding how to fix it.

The problem is that any measure or proposal which carries the stamp of the troika or the memorandum is viewed as going against the interests of the people and the nation. Talk of reform in the civil service is always interpreted as an attempt to slash wages, for example.

Those who are against all change have played their cards well. Contractors, unionists, vested interest groups and cartels are seeking to benefit from the anti-bailout tsunami. They hope that if the country ends up outside the euro area, they will be able to survive in the new environment dominated by gangs, oligarchs and a state-dependent model unbound from European controls.

It?s time the government broke some eggs. It could make use of all the work that has already been done, take on the interest groups, large and small, and win over the great majority. Every Greek wants to see better hospitals, easier exports and reasonable prices. It would be like our own national memorandum — a big national campaign to once again become a responsible country with a functional state apparatus and a more competitive economy.

Can the current administration pull this off? Its top financial officials have deep faith in these changes and would have no problem communicating them to the public. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras appears prepared to push ahead with reforms despite, as he regularly repeats, the political cost.

It won?t be an easy task. People have discredited the notion of reform and are deeply skeptical toward anything related to the memorandum and the country?s obligations. There are many reactionary forces out there that are prepared to fight change, in some cases with unorthodox means. In fact, some of them briefly found refuge in the conservative party while the party lashed out at the bailout deal.

The Americans often say that Nixon was the only one that could go to China. Perhaps Samaras will prove to be the one who is able to fight the battle of opening up closed professions and cracking the cartels that are keeping prices high. It is a hands-on challenge presented to a politician during a difficult time with little room for promises. It is also his only chance at political survival.