It is a big mistake to talk about “the economic crisis of Greece”. Not because it does not exist, but because the economy is just part of the problem as well as the most obvious symptom of a general crisis which characterizes the political-social system since 1974. Unfortunately, the discussion about the spreads, the role of the IMF and the European Commission sets apart the discussion we should begin regarding the overall restructure of Greece. Not only in the economy but in other levels as well: from the state and corruption till the social security system and our everyday lives. This discussion should have been taken place when things were not that bad, when the necessary reforms would have been equally costly but when the money to face temporary negative consequences at least existed.
What we must understand is that the default refers to a whole net of beliefs about the society and the economy, an economic model based on the state. Social justice and complaints about certain privileges being the excuse, the Greek state became a black hole that absorbs money, people and skills. Every issue had a reference in the Greek god of today: To every problem the question was “But, where is the state?” And the reply was always given with amounts of money spent happily by the politicians who had every reason to prove that the state is everywhere: From the airports which exist in almost every city in order to reinforce regional development to “cultural events” which take place in every village with public money. In the Greek imaginery the state is a machine producing money. What is basically needed is somebody to distribute it.
This leftist perception of the state has been convenient for many and for a long time. Next to the real needs that the state should cover, various requests with little social benefit and big profit for few, were also accepted. Certain unions managed to take off subsidies, some politicians favored works which obviously had no reason to do so, only to show they are interested for their electoral region, and some businessmen managed to sign scandalous contracts…A good example is “Olympic” which remained public despite suffering loss for years just because it was a matter of national pride.
Now it is time to pay the bill which is unfortunately sour. Within a short while we must do what we have not done in the past. The detox from statism which could have emerged gradually and without much social reaction, will now emerge fastly. Moreover the budget to alleviate the negative consequences of this dwindling of the state no longer exists. Having avoided all necessary reforms for we are currently under a shock treatment. This treatment will be difficult but more mild than it had been in other countries since we managed to achieve the participation of the European Union in the rescue mechanism. The country must exit the vicious circle of deficits and debts. But, on top of everything we must change theory. The state cannot be the solution to the problems of the country. It is the problem of country.
Published in "Kathimerini" newspaper 18.4.2010