Learn­ing from our mis­takes

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

take to the streets in or­der to get the de­mand met. When the is­sue did make the head­lines – as it did, for ex­am­ple, in the spring of 2009 thanks to then-Prime Min­is­ter Costas Kara­man­lis – no one was will­ing to even dis­cuss it, much less form a na­tional strat­egy. Did any politi­cian openly call for mea­sures to rein in the deficit and deal with the sky­rock­et­ing debt? There were two or three, but they were quickly side­lined. So there we were, in a vi­cious cy­cle that be­gan in the 1980s with the over-ex­pan­sion of the state and the dis­man­tling of the pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion. Ev­ery­one spent state money un­wisely, ev­ery­one ap­pointed friends and doled out fa­vors. The ship was tak­ing on water and no one dared speak up. Work­ers’ unions played their own role in the ship­wreck by con­trol­ling the po­lit­i­cal par­ties and act­ing like bat­ter­ing rams ev­ery time a cru­cial de­ci­sion had to be taken. A lead­ing ex­am­ple is the ef­fort at so­cial se­cu­rity re­form un­der Costas Simi­tis, which was quickly scup­pered. The me­dia played a role be­cause it never launched a mean­ing­ful de­bate as to whether the Greek state could sus­tain any more debt, any more ap­point­ments and even greater deficits. Ev­ery ef­fort at ad­dress­ing the is­sue was met with a tsunami of re­ac­tions. News­pa­pers ran head­lines slam­ming “bru­tal aus­ter­ity,” TV sta­tions screamed about mea­sures “against the peo­ple” and in the end, noth­ing was done. The me­dia also of­ten acted the part of the mon­ster that would scare politi­cians over the cost of do­ing some­thing viewed as too harsh. This is all in the past, you might say. But that’s not how it goes, be­cause you can­not move for­ward un­less you learn from your mis­takes. No one is in­no­cent for the spec­tac­u­lar sink­ing of this ship, and the con­stant ar­gu­ing be­tween New Democ­racy and PASOK over who’s to blame stirs even more anger in peo­ple who are be­ing sorely tested and who are wait­ing to be con­vinced that the politi­cians have mended their ways.

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