Greece, you are on your own

It took a serious international credit crunch to bring to the fore ills that the country has suffered for decades. The social security system, labor relations, rising costs and declining production as well as a gigantic, recklessly spendthrift bureaucracy have all made Greece even more vulnerable to the financial crisis. We had no reason to delve into these matters while the party was still going strong – even if it came with a large dose of corruption – but now it is time to check the bill. Someone needs to tell the Greek middle class that the party is over, and with it a certain lifestyle. The European Union has run out of patience with our irresponsible, wasteful ways and is not about to step in with any lifeboat. The only way to survive this crisis is to really tighten our belts and roll up our sleeves to boost competitiveness. This requires brave measures against tax evasion and waste in the public sector. The plans are already there; all someone needs is to dust them off. The question is who? Where is the politician who will dare? Everyone agrees that we need a new round of tougher reforms some time before the autumn. It is doubtful, however, to what extent a single-party government is capable of shouldering the burden. On the other hand, with main opposition PASOK already believing that it has the vote in the bag, it is difficult to see the two parties ever being able to cooperate on this issue. Here in Greece we have yet to grasp the concept of consensus fully, even though it has become abundantly clear that three or four fundamental problems just cannot be solved via the collaboration of the country’s biggest political parties. For the time being, the onus of carrying this burden, in the worst possible period, has fallen on the prime minister. Costas Karamanlis has realized this and he is making an effort, but the big question is whether a society that has become so spoiled will be able to handle real change.

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