More than two months have passed since the elections and the government has to stop running around in circles and adopt a program of specific reforms, with detailed calculations as to their cost and benefit, and present it to the citizens and our partners. For more than two months, we have had our fill of rhetoric and late-night meetings and visits to European capitals, but every mention of a possible new measure has been greeted by a roar of disagreement and confusion. For Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to achieve at least something of all he has promised, he must decide what he will do and who he will take with him. He cannot keep avoiding a clash with dissidents within his party, at the expense of the economy and the country.
The only response to the government’s lukewarm commitment to present a list of proposed reforms to our partners and the creditor “institutions” was the condemnation of this attempted compromise by 40 percent of SYRIZA’s central committee, while the economy kept going from bad to worse. In its effort to not change anything, the government will discover that its own inertia does not mean the rest of the world stands still. This was the very painful lesson of the New Democracy government under Costas Karamanlis from 2004 to 2009, and it will be tragic if we have to suffer even more to understand it.
The government does not have many choices. It will either pretend to do something (in order to trick citizens and our partners that it is giving them what they want) and lead to disaster, or it will clash with those who reject any idea of compromise, suffer the political cost, and start on a course which can allow some hope that we may avoid the worst.
For the government to make progress, it will have to convince its citizens and its partners that it knows what it wants and understands how to achieve it. Until now, however, its vision has been confined to a return to 2009, to the years which brought us to ruin. It has to think outside of today’s framework: if we could imagine that the country was freed of all debt, how would the government organize the economy so that we could achieve the growth that its ministers talk about all the time? With reforms to the tax code and public administration, with a war on corruption? To achieve this you don’t need money, but you need to adopt principles such as evaluation, accountability and discipline, to reward excellence – all principles that have been alien to SYRIZA so far.
If laws and institutions do not function the same way for all – protecting and controlling each group, each company and each person with the same persistence – there will be no improvement to the economy, the political system, the public administration, society. Mr Tsipras should trust his fellow Greeks, and our foreign partners – that when the government adopts a realistic policy, they will accept a compromise that keeps Greece standing.