The government has just enough time ahead to complete three very difficult tasks: the review of the Greek program, the recapitalization of banks, and the talks on debt restructuring. Should the leftist-led administration pull these off, it will set the country on a whole new trajectory. If it fails, speculation about a possible Grexit will return – and, as we know, the prospect is no longer taboo among European leaders.
Let’s put aside for a moment the political obstacles involved – which are neither negligible nor fully predictable. What the country’s partners are really concerned about is whether the existing government has the technical know-how to bring a plan of this magnitude and complexity to fruition. So far, the Greeks have come across as woefully unprepared. Ministers and their aides casually show up to meetings and negotiations without any serious preparation. International officials find it hard to trust their Greek counterparts who worked in this area in the past. Consulting with the veterans of the previous bailout agreements is out of the question.
The only hope lies with the lower strata of the government nomenclature. Here you will find educated young men and women, individuals who are free from partisan directives, who realize that not everything included in the memorandum is by definition a bad thing. They also realize that this government, like all previous ones, has no real action plan or reform program. However, will they be able to shoulder the burden and see through the measures that need to be implemented over the next few weeks while they are only just getting the hang of the job? Will the Maximos Mansion offer support when party hacks and union leaders start bashing at them as “agents of the troika”?
If experience is any guide, such projects only succeed under close supervision. Former premier Antonis Samaras was quite good at micromanaging, which included phone calls to ministry directors. His successor, Alexis Tsipras, has been largely uninvolved. Nor is there a team of people that can execute requests.
Meanwhile, across the table, Greece’s partners seem to be in a relatively positive mood – particularly the European Commission. However, no one can help you if you cannot guarantee that your people will not act on your orders.
The problem in Greece is that prime ministers rarely realize that they need two different sets of people to govern the country: one for communication and another for policymaking. So far, the Tsipras administration has excelled in the field of PR. It will soon have to raise its game in policymaking or the review-recapitalization-debt triangle will prove a political Bermuda Triangle for the country.