The Greek crisis, I’m afraid, will not be over any time soon. It will first swallow three or four prime ministers and some 10-15 percent of the country’s GDP before the nation can get back on track.
The painful truth is that some of the damage could have been avoided. If Greek political leaders – and some of the country’s key players – had lived up to their role in the early days of the crisis, Greece would now have been on the path of growth. Instead, it is a complete mess.
Some took their opposition strategy one step too far by inventing the highly destructive pro- versus anti-bailout rift. Influential pundits played the anti-systemic card, lashing out against “traitors” and “enemies of the state.” Many fell prey to this alluring narrative, misguided into believing that they would be rescued from the troika or the “occupation” by foreign creditors. They ended up feeling betrayed every time and shifted further toward the edges of the political spectrum.
This false narrative has now been debunked. But the crisis – which grew on our wrong decisions – is very much alive. Look around. Never before has the country had such inadequate people in such important posts.
The reason lies in the mix of corruption, political entanglement and union ties.
One problem is that we have grown accustomed to mediocrity. When you hear people praise TV celebrities or politicians that could not run the local beach bar, then you start to worry.
Greece needs state- and institution- building. I would like to see the responsible politicians out there submit specific proposals about what needs to be done for the country to move forward. Dealing with the mess requires a mammoth effort. Complex legislation, an ineffective judiciary, opposition from vested interests – all that can put off the most popular of prime ministers. These are pre-modern ailments reminiscent of an old Greece at odds with the standards of a modern European state and no number of elections will cure them. Regardless of the outcome of the September 20 polls, it is hard to see a government emerging that can lead the country out of the crisis and switch it back to growth mode. The beast is still hungry. It will take three or four premiers to sate its appetite.
On a different note, former prime minister Alexis Tsipras should not be allowed to get away so easily. He would be lucky to see the election result taking the obligation for implementing the memorandum away from him. Regardless of the result, Tsipras must throw his weight behind the effort or we will end up with irresponsible politicians who experiment, make a mess and walk away unscathed.