The path of history is never a straight line and rarely does it follow the predictions of the experts. Greece, for example, was supposed to be on course for growth of around 2-2.5%, but the pandemic happened and we are where we are today.
The question now is how the country can stay afloat in this terrible storm and how – once it subsides – it can make up for lost ground. For the past year, the prime minister has been governing a country that is constantly stretched to its limits. The immigration crisis, fraught Greek-Turkish relations and the coronavirus pandemic have been testing the mettle of a state apparatus that has a tendency to fall apart in a crisis, because it relies on good-will and self-denial to function, instead of a proper system. After a crippling economic crisis, it is also a poor state. The idea of a chancellery-style government may seem obvious, but it cannot work without ministers who feel they are part of a team, who take ownership of their successes and failures. The way the Greek state operates, it is easy for orders to be “lost in the gray mass,” as the late prime minister Konstantinos Karamanlis lamented.
Greece is having to navigate turbulent waters amid high winds that can push us back to where we started. To a great extent, how the storm evolves is not up to us when it comes to the pandemic, its impact on the economy, Turkey’s unpredictable behavior and the profound anti-systemic trend sweeping the world. But another big part of our tribulations is due to a shattered state, the deeply ingrained rot of the political system that spreads faster than the coronavirus and is even more resilient, a Left that chooses to stay in the 1970s, a greedy business class that is suddenly seeing the pie get smaller, and other perennial failures.
All of these factors are “pushing us south.” The battle to stay afloat as a country and not sink under the pressure of memorandums and anti-memorandums has left us spent. That said, it has also made us wiser and more practical, as a few years under SYRIZA disabused us of any post-dictatorship chimeras we may have been clinging onto. But as soon as we started feeling the waters still, another strong wind brought fresh storm clouds.
It is tough to govern when you’re constantly trying to just stay afloat, to reach out to a society that is frustrated and exhausted and to try to push ahead with reforms of… limited ownership. But this has more or less, been Greece for the past 200 years and it managed to get ahead – and will do so again!