A cursed coun­try, maybe not too far away from this one

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

A few days ago a friend of mine painted a pic­ture of a deeply trou­bled coun­try. Ac­cord­ing to him, what is vis­i­ble to the naked eye is a far cry from what goes on in the shad­owy wings of pol­i­tics. The power cer­tainly does not lie with the peo­ple or the me­dia, as some like to be­lieve be­cause de­ci­sions and laws are made by a small group of politi­cians, min­is­ters and deputies act­ing out­side the lim­its of the hi­er­ar­chy. Po­lit­i­cal deals are reached with the help of mid­dle­men who do busi­ness un­der the cor­rup­tion radar. Amend­ments and cir­cu­lars are won­der­fully tai­lor-made to suit spe­cific pri­vate in­ter­ests, the kind of ma­nip­u­la­tion that even a trained le­gal eye is un­able to de­tect. The most sen­si­tive state ser­vices – le­gal, op­er­a­tional and su­per­vi­sory – have been hi­jacked by pri­vate in­ter­ests, which treat them along the lines of out­sourc­ing. Even cru­cial de­ci­sions such as those re­gard­ing na­tional se­cu­rity, for in­stance, are made fol­low­ing con­sul­ta­tion not among gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials but in­stead, among th­ese power clus­ters that act out­side the in­sti­tu­tional frame­work. When the “bosses” dis­agree or the stakes starts get­ting high – it’s all part of the game – the sta­bil­ity of the sys­tem is shaken. Of­ten, there will be col­lat­eral dam­age as well. No out­sider, no mat­ter how street smart and pow­er­ful they may be, would dare en­ter this coun­try and try their luck by in­vest­ing their money. This is be­cause they know only too well that they would have to bribe their way into the econ­omy. Hear­ing my friend de­scrib­ing that cursed coun­try felt like I was read­ing a novel. I asked him if the rou­tine is ever dis­rupted by shock events that help clear up the sys­tem, at least for a lit­tle while. His an­swer was dev­as­tat­ing. Sure, he said, some spec­tac­u­lar de­vel­op­ment will take place ev­ery now and then. The price is usu­ally paid by the un­sus­pect­ing am­a­teurs who are try­ing to play ac­cord­ing to the rules. Or by play­ers who take it too far and threaten the sta­bil­ity of the sys­tem. Some­times, a ha­bit­ual out­law may even stum­ble upon a con­sci­en­tious em­ployee who is not a part of the sys­tem. How­ever, those who know the ropes and have a mighty army be­hind them have noth­ing to fear and they are cer­tainly im­mune to po­lit­i­cal changeovers, left-wing or right-wing gov­ern­ments. “I have never seen any­thing like it be­fore,” my friend said, even though his work had taken him to some ex­tremely dif­fi­cult coun­tries. “What can I say? I just hope Greece does not end up like that,” I replied.

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