Political toxicity, and the antidote
If one could channel all the psychological strain, the tension and the passion generated by the Novartis bribery case into some growth-inducing goal instead, the results would be impressive.
The question about why we are wasting all this energy on cases which – as shown by previous experience – ultimately remain unresolved while the actual wrongdoers go unpunished would be naive if the turmoil had been generated in an economically robust Greece, full of prospects.
However, scandalmongering is the only thing that is real about Greece, while the country’s economic growth remains stuck in the realm of the imagination.
It is not that we are not dealing here with an important case, and one which potentially has many aspects to it. But it is the names of political heavyweights who have once again grabbed the headlines. At the same time, very little is said about the way that medicine prices have been set in Greece. Or about how drug-making companies have allegedly been offering kickbacks to thousands of doctors. Or for that matter why such phenomena have recurred again and again as silence and misinformation substitute strong monitoring and investigation.
A few days ago, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the leader of the country’s main opposition party New Democracy, pointed out a serious problem: “When the country’s political life slides into scandalmongering and [political] toxicity, it is very hard for consensus that would help the country to emerge.” There is little new to this statement, but that does not make it any less important.
The question is what section of the Greek political class want consensus, if that means turning their backs on public sentiment or swimming against the tide.
For years now, waste has not been restricted solely to public money. What is clear is that the cost of this waste has skyrocketed: Greece is being stripped of its seriousness, its manpower resources are being depleted, while at the same time it has no reserves of optimism. And the end result is always the same: scandals, polarization, fear, humiliation and division.
We hope to see Mitsotakis move from (the right) words to action, from accusations to goodwill gestures. The opposition may not have the same power that the government has, but it does have a share of responsibility for the toxicity of public life. Building consensus and promoting reforms are a practical affair.