It looks like we’re in for a bumpy ride

There are those moments in history that ultimately prove to be historical. We may be going through one such time right now. Top ministers appear to be on a dangerous flight and their captain has just told them to fasten their seat belts as there is likely to be heavy turbulence ahead. The next few weeks are crucial for Greece, a crash test for both the public and the government. The best-case scenario sees the government approving the social security bill in Parliament and going ahead with the privatization of the country’s ports. The worst-case scenario sees complete chaos breaking out on a societal level and the government being forced to step down. The prime minister appears comfortable with the decisions he has made and sees the changes he proposes as the bare minimum necessary to convince the Greek public of the need for change. The government faces many obstacles ahead, but the wind is behind it. First of all, the government does not really have to worry about the opposition. The PASOK chief keeps diving all on his own and while Alekos Alavanos and Alexis Tsipras have struck a chord with the public, they lack any real vision and leadership. The Macedonia name dispute has also given the government political leverage and, so far, it has not done very badly at all. Politically it has helped to curb some of far-right LAOS’s dynamic, while the threat of a Greek veto on FYROM’s NATO membership may lead to an honest and realistic compromise. The government may well come out looking like the most capable to run the country at present. But what will happen with the other, deeper problems that continue to fester? A significant part of the population can no longer make ends meet. The rising cost of living, the last bits of family land sold off and over-borrowing are testing the limits of even the middle class. Today’s 20-year-olds cannot even imagine trying to achieve the goals they were brought up to take for granted. For these people, the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and other extreme political or unionist movements represent a last-ditch option. There is another aspect of society as well. There is a dynamic sector that sees Greece succumbing to its most basic structural ailments. The guild mentality, the fear of judges and other social services to enforce the law, politicians’ need to be in the limelight and the unfettered populism of the media have contributed to a slowdown in innovation and modernization. It takes a government with gumption, a prime minister that is not looking ahead to the next elections and a few real achievers placed in crucial ministerial posts to overcome such obstacles. The job that needs to be done right now is no easy feat; it may even be impossible. So, strap yourselves in for what might turn out to be a historical ride.

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