Then and now

The Federation of Greek Hoteliers recently proposed that pupils at secondary schools be given an extended holiday on the Clean Monday break in early March in a bid to boost domestic tourism to winter destinations with a so-called “white week” designed along the lines of ski holidays in France and other European countries. That might have been an interesting proposal at a different time, a time of prosperity, such as 2004.

Had the white week idea been put forward in those days of plenty, then families could have taken out a holiday loan designed by banks for that precise purpose, with numerous installments, and sent their children off to a ski resort for a few days. Sure, the usual whiners would have found something bad to say about the whole scheme, but who would have cared at a time when Greece was mighty and pleased with itself?

That would have been then. But now?

The hoteliers, together with those who championed their proposal, are obviously clueless about the predicament of most Greek households, for starters. The second problem with their proposal is that they were trying to create demand where it doesn’t exist, in an economy and a society that has been wrung dry. Simply put, there can be no demand, however much they want it – not with 1.35 million people unemployed, millions of workers going unpaid or being paid with great delays, and who knows how many more thousands shut out of the social security system.

However well intended the remedy, you simply cannot cure the serious ailment of recession with a few aspirins. You cannot create several hundred thousand jobs with the possible good intentions of Google, free Wi-Fi for all Greeks and a few days of skiing. Conventional remedies, with the influx of long-term capital and the hope of a trickle-down effect, cannot instantly resurrect this bombarded economy, which is constantly bleeding already existing invested capital, is suffering from nightmare unemployment and broken morale.

After the four-year shock, what the country needs is to enter a period of economic warfare so that it can get its juices flowing again, whatever this may require in terms of outside assistance and domestic political organization. To bring this formidable task to fruition, we need entirely new approaches, a completely new mind-set, a good deal of daring and plenty of risk taking. We need truth and justice. Sure, many small initiatives can help move things along, but what we need most is a clear vision about the kind of country we want and can tolerate, within Europe, within the Mediterranean and within the globalized world.

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