A painful but useful experience

A painful but useful experience

Whatever usefulness SYRIZA served to help the country mature is coming to an end. The Greek people elected Alexis Tsipras because they honestly believed he would be able to blackmail the country’s lenders into a volte-face. The effort failed miserably and now the overwhelming majority of citizens know that – for better or worse – the bailout path is the only way to go. The educational value of this painful experience has been enormous, despite its cost to the country. It was something we had to go through to put it behind us. The landing was tough, but it has been a landing in reality.

The SYRIZA-Independent Greeks coalition is also the only government to have slashed public sector pensions and salaries without any protest to speak of. This too has been important, because someone had to do it – inevitably.

It also moved ahead with a few privatizations, such as that of Trainose and Greece’s regional airports, and again reaction was minimal. And the port of Piraeus, once a sacred symbol for the people of the left, is now passing completely into the hands of the Chinese.

In the foreign policy department, many of the obsessions of the past have been buried for good. Coming from official lips, Greek-American relations are the best they’ve been since World War II and the strategic partnership with Israel has remained intact, albeit not gaining any additional depth.

These are the good things that have happened, and they have helped move the pendulum somewhere closer to the middle if you take the time to think about it all calmly. Many ideological delusions have been shattered and the road is less bumpy in several areas for the next administration that will have to govern the country.

That said, I don’t believe this government has anything else to give. Citizens acknowledge that there has been a return to some kind of normality, but what they want is jobs for themselves and their children, and they know that this government cannot deliver any more.

Tsipras was elected for two irregular tasks: to bully Europe and to allow Greeks to feel they got their revenge on the old political system. But maintaining normalcy and bringing about growth need capable managers and this government is obviously sorely lacking on this front. Its baggage will never allow it to become truly pro-business and to serve growth. It just hasn’t got what it takes.

If we want to have a regular foreign policy, a boost for business, privatizations and all the rest of it, we don’t need a “revolutionary” at the helm. There is, of course, the fear – very popular abroad – that if Tsipras were to go, his successor would have his hands tied by mass protests and reactions. They probably underestimate how much Greeks have matured thanks to Tsipras and how skeptical they will be about the next person who tries to encourage them to protest.

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