Greece must stay on track


Greece’s opposition parties are angry at the government, which is only natural. The same people who were putting up obstacles at every crucial crossroads are now asking for help. To be sure, I certainly don’t believe that the SYRIZA-led government deserves carte blanche to do whatever it wishes.

But let’s be honest here. At this point, there are two options: We can either do things fast, or run into a wall. History is full of surprises, both good and bad – although the former has become something of a rarity these days. What is important, of course, is that the country moves forward, steering away from the pitfalls. Our politicians are well aware that in the age of the economic crisis and the memorandums, even the most ambitious statesmen can slip into the footnotes of history.

Still, some things get done. The caravan is moving ahead. Privatizations – which can lure capital and spur growth – are under way. Political officials may try to disguise their decisions with sentimental sound bites, but this is besides the point. As far as pension reform, nonperforming loans and a series of other issues are concerned, the government appears to have made up its mind.

European leaders do not want to have to put up with another crisis this year. Should we clear these obstacles, we will finally find ourselves on the path to the holy grail: a debt settlement, benefits provided by the European Central Bank, and an improved investment climate.

It will be no easy task. Society is near boiling point. The pro-drachma lobby will seek to strike at the first opportunity. The possibility of a political event should not be ruled out, but it would be against the country’s interests at the moment to see this government fall. Whoever comes next would have to take the same, or rather, more painful decisions. This is the lesson to be drawn from the past few years.

Here, we should add one more thing: If things unfold according to plan and the government manages to push through the proposed pension and tax reforms, Greece’s lenders will have a clear obligation to provide what they have promised.

They chose not to do so when the country achieved a primary surplus – which was wrong and unfair. If they fail to do so again – regardless of who is in government – they will be playing into the hands of the anti-euro camp. It will be like saying, “First you have to die and then you will boil in hell.”