Can Greece really turn into a fully fledged European state? Personally, I think it can, but it will take a great deal of effort, some outside help, and a new generation of political staff.
A number of success stories demonstrate that Greeks can in fact work in a systematic, professional fashion in the manner of their European peers. Sadly, they seem to transform into something completely different when they engage with the state, the unions and the corrupt section of the political system.
Examples abound. Just think of Olympic Airways, Greece?s formerly state-owned carrier, at the heyday of political parties and unionists. Compare that to any of the country?s private airlines today, its successor Olympic Air or Aegean. Both of these companies are run by Greeks, like the once-dominant Olympic was, and they both have nothing to envy in their foreign competitors. What is more, they cost the Greek taxpayer nothing.
Also, compare OTE when the former telecoms monopoly was managed by party-appointed administrations to the company as it is today. In the old days, we used to joke about how long it would take customer services to pick up the phone. These days, you?ll get an immediate response from some OTE staff, who will give you their name and surname and commit to fix the problem within 48 hours.
Or how about the Athens metro? Although several ministers have tried to cannibalize the service by appointing hundreds of their own boys there, it?s still as good as any other European metro.
Greece has changed for the better in many ways. It can change even more. Look at the new pharmacies which stay open daily until 11 p.m. Thanks to the efforts and the hard work of some good professionals, we no longer have to search for an on-duty pharmacy. Finally, look at all those hospitals that combine professionalism with hospitality.
If we can?t see any light now, it?s because we have sunk into despair. Our politicians always find it easier to make cuts than take on the hard stuff that is holding the country to ransom. One should not underestimate the power of inertia, or pure reaction, against change. It will take a lot of time and effort to radically change this country. However, the Greeks now have to adapt. We will make it in the end, unless we lose our minds and start feeling nostalgic about closed pharmacies, Olympic Airways and the OTE of our quasi-Soviet era.