A question of timing

Greece finally has a group of ministers who are prepared to rock the boat in order to get the job done and, more importantly, to explain why they have to do it. Unfortunately, the country has been badly damaged over the last few years by politicians who did not have the courage to implement the reforms outlined in Greece’s bailout deal with its international creditors. Only a handful had the fortitude to step up and call a spade a spade. But most used the troika as an excuse and basically led the people up the garden path. They put the onus of every decision that was even vaguely unpopular on the troika and the memorandum. Like the miserable yes-men that they were, they would tell their voters/clients that their hands were tied by the troika, however much they wanted to accommodate them.

The consequences of this attitude were disastrous.

The public understandably lost all faith in and respect for the political system, because no one can trust someone who comes up with such pathetic excuses for doing what is after all their job. Our foreign partners also saw that no one was prepared to take responsibility for much-needed reforms. An adjustment program such as the one applied in Greece cannot succeed without strong political will-power.

But now things have changed. We have ministers like Yannis Stournaras, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Adonis Georgiadis, Yiannis Michelakis and others who have come out and explained why many of the reforms being implemented now, because of the memorandum, should have happened decades ago. Each in his own way is taking down stereotypes, responding to populist sentiment and communicating with the public. There is nothing more important right now, because people are sick and tired of hearing that this or that has to be done simply to placate the troika and secure the next aid tranche.

The public may get frustrated or angry when politicians are so forthright, but they will certainly respect them more than they do those who hide behind the specter of the troika and ultimately do nothing because of their own inadequacy.

Of course the question is whether this small group of politicians can make a difference. I have my doubts because a lot of water has already passed under the bridge and a large portion of the public has already become deaf to the voice of reason. Successive spending cuts and a drawn-out recession have had an impact on people’s tolerance, as the loud voices of the bullies find their mark among a part of the population that has been most affected by the crisis.

The new faces of the Greek middle class of politicians have come too late and after the damage was done by the cowards and laggards that preceded them. And time is running out because society has already given all it could.

This group of dedicated politicians have only a short period of time to succeed in the task ahead and to convince the rational members of society of the necessity of their decisions.