Time to change! Greek crisis & reforms.

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18576973764_2c2156c253_kSo, we now have a result. The Greek people have voted no to our recent referendum. I’m still not exactly sure what the question was in the first place, or even why it was necessary to go through such a process, at this particular moment in time. Regardless of all these, I follow the ubiquitous social media and I am convinced that we’ll need considerable time to heal and recover, from this friction and conflict. I see fear, distrust and genuine concern from those of us who voted YES, bitter and arrogant comments from many that supported NO, unbelievable accusations (from both sides) and masses of people celebrating in streets and squares as if the war is over and we have won the lottery, both as a nation and as individuals. Either I totally get something wrong or I’m biased and pessimistic by nature (which, I probably am).

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Photo by K Spyroglou @Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kspyroglou

The Vice President of the EC, Dombrovskis, published a statement with some important remarks (Please read the whole article and not half of it). The conclusion is that Europe requests reforms from Greece.

Since the years of Kostas Karamanlis (the 2nd) as Prime Minister, we were talking about structural reforms and reinvention of the state. All governments since then (both ND and PASOK, “conservatives” and “socialists”) did absolutely nothing in fear of their “political clientele”. After them, SYRIZA came into power, the first left government in Greece, allegedly free from patrons and “hidden agendas”. So regardless of old and new loans the question still remains. Which structural reforms did this government pushed or even proposed ?

  • A more flexible and productive public sector ? (This most probably means less public servants).
  • A restructuring of the insurance system ? (This means no early pensioners, and rising of pension age limits)
  • An opening of closed professions and markets ? (This means going against some strong unions and syndicates)
  • A more transparent and meritocratic political system ? (This means going against political fractions and established political party mechanisms)
  • A clear separation of the Greek church from the state ? (This means taxes for the church).
  • The privatisation of problematic national organisations ?

Where is our vision for tomorrow ?

A few days ago, just before the Greek Referendum, I tried to explain the situation to my friends from abroad:

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White Tower, Thessaloniki. “We stay in Europe” event two weeks before the referendum. Photo by K Spyroglou @Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/kspyroglou)

“Many friends and partners from the rest of the world, ask what’s my opinion on the Greek crisis. They are all supportive but often puzzled with our demands or decisions, at least as these are expressed by our government. Well, the Greek crisis story is as simple as this: Greece has a huge and largely inefficient public sector, closed markets, dysfunctional public health, poor and deteriorating educational system.
For decades no government was either able or willing (or both) to change anything since reforms require going against unions and an established “status quo”. Although we became full members of European Union, we did not fully embrace its values and principles. We kept our selective privileges. We followed only the rules that worked to our favour and ignored or rejected those that did not. For many years we enjoyed a false prosperity, spending money to maintain a lifestyle instead of investing them to create new wealth and a fair public state. Each and everyone of us had our share in this (of course some more than others). We either benefited or ignored the situation.

Every single political party, since I can remember, whether in power or in opposition, has been lying to the people and it seems that people prefer to believe in these lies. We all believe that we have to change but we want to exclude ourselves from any changes. It seems that each one of us has a different question in mind to answer in the referendum. Too bad there are only 2 possible choices. Regardless of the result, Greek people want to stay in Europe and the eurozone. At least the vast majority of them. They believe in it. They just don’t see how this is possible simply with even more austerity measures.
They want to vote no to the referendum, because they blame Europe and IMF for the disastrous policies that where implemented in Greece. But the biggest mistake of our Creditors (EuroZone and the IMF) was that they agreed on a program that was based more on taxes and salary cuts instead of putting together and pushing for real structural reforms.

Greece, beyond and above money, urgently needs major reforms, a more functional state, less bureaucracy, more transparency and meritocracy. Greece needs a deep reinvention of the state and its values. This is more than obvious today to almost everybody. I hope it is also clear enough for our politicians and our partners in Europe.

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