Back in late 2013, the coalition government made up of the New Democracy and PASOK parties told the people that Greece was on the way out of the crisis. A year-and-a-half later, the country is back in the grips of a crisis that seems to be out of control, with a preliminary agreement on a new bailout package being the only a tenuous thread keeping it from total derailment.
Greece is like a person who seems able to keep on going despite suffering a serious debilitating disease whose effects are also evident externally. The sickness in all of its vital organs can been seen in almost every aspect of day-to-day life, from the hundreds of migrants and refugees forced to sleep rough due to the state’s inability to cope with their numbers to citizens’ and enterprises’ everyday financial transactions which have become frustratingly difficult – if not impossible – as a result of the imposition of capital controls. The revelation this week that Greek students cannot sit their exams for the TOEFL English-language diplomas because the registration system does not accept Greek credit cards is but one example of the latter.
From the increasing number of businesses that have no choice but to shut down to the steadily growing ranks of the unemployed and from the huge migration waves that have been slamming Greece over the past few months to the simple things that can no longer be taken for granted, all signs point to the same conclusion: Greece has crashed but was saved at the last minute by the European Union’s air bags.
Every new day that dawns could mark further decline or the start of the process of rebuilding. But we will never manage to see a good day if every time a new, crucial reform is implemented pharmacists shut up shop, civil servants go on strike, merchants and business owners complain, farmers threaten action, tax dodging goes into high gear, and so on and so forth.
The road out of the crisis can be rebuilt, slowly and painfully, with the majority of citizens having to curb their needs and desires, going from bad to worse, but still working toward the only viable solution for the country. Over the past six months, the new coalition pulled the pin on the grenade of bankruptcy, confirming all of our worst fears and proving that the thing we are scared of most is not just a horror story to frighten us but a very real possibility.
The only change that has not happened in the past five years since Greece sank into the quagmire of the crisis is the root causes of the crisis, as we continue down the same old path, with the same reflexes and the same bad habits.