Archive for February, 2012

Greece: time for a new beginning

Greece: time for a new beginning

Being in Greece and seeing the impact of the social crisis is not a pleasant experience. Cuts have affected a high number of the population in a dramatic way. Unemployment is the highest ever recorded while a growing number of the population finds it difficult to afford basic food products and medicaments. Pensioners have seen their meager savings disappear; companies are closing down; a growing number of beggars made an appearance in the streets of Athens while young people are leaving the country in big numbers. There is a growing feeling of despair, disillusionment and anger amongst the population. Today Greek people live in a complete state of agony.

There is no doubt that a regeneration of the country is necessary. Important structural changes must be implemented. A new process of state modernisation should take place leading to the development of less bureaucratic and more efficient state structures. Welfare resources cannot be wasted anymore and should be targeted to those who really need it. A process of profound decentralisation should take place. A productive economy should be built from scratch.

Nevertheless, this cannot happen overnight. The cuts proposed by the Commission and the IMF will hit the poor harder and lead to further social unrest. So far, the austerity measures proposed by the EU failed to make an impact. On the contrary, they contributed to the deepening of the crisis. It is now time for a major rethinking of the measures imposed.

Greek politicians should also assume their responsibilities for the slow pace of the structural changes. The two main parties that governed the country for the last thirty years should pave the way for a smaller but more efficient state. Changing the country is by no means an easy task. Old habits and mentalities need to be altered significantly. Meritocracy can be imposed from above but needs to be supported from below in order to thrive. A collective approach will be necessary in order to support social and environmental projects that the state cannot afford to carry out any more. In an individualistic society this is not an easy task but in the case of Greece, working together in solidarity as an every day act (in the workplace, the neighbourhood and in many other aspects of our lives) is something we have to think seriously if we are to survive.  

I do hope that the current crisis will lead to a process of political modernisation. It is now time to get rid of the clientelistic patronage that so much dominated politics in the past. The current crisis should revamp what is progressive and what isn’t. It may (and hopefully will do) provide a modernisation across the Left/Right political spectrum. However, for the time being, no political force can provide a level of trust that is much needed.

Much of what is happening is indeed unfair as the country has been the victim of aggressive speculative forces that have made billions on the backs of the Greeks. However, paralysing the country through strikes and protests on a daily basis will bring no benefit. There should be a moment of reflection and dialogue. So far we only had shouts, screams and insults. It is time to move on. If no consensus is to be found on how the country will move forward, the low/middle classes and the weak sections of society will continue to pay the high price of the crisis. It is also time for the EU to face its demons: if no measures are to be taken against the wave of speculation spurred by the rating agencies then we will end up in a vicious circle that may trap Europe altogether.

In Greece, it is time to tell the bitter truths but also time to attribute justice. Those who have benefited all these years should pay the high amount of the bill. Money that has been deposited in Swiss banks and invested in luxurious London apartments should be traced. Big business tax evasion and money laundering should be punished. Corrupt officials should be put into jail.

This must be a time of deep reflection: what kind of country do we want and how we will go about to achieve it.

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