Off bal­ance

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

Things have def­i­nitely changed in Greece but this is not nec­es­sar­ily some­thing that the coun­try’s politi­cians and cer­tain busi­nesses have grasped. The game, as it were, has be­come much more com­plex and more global. Take a look at the banks, the merg­ers and the big com­pany takeovers. A se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial re­cently ad­mit­ted his sur­prise at see­ing that banks are no longer run as they were in the good old days. “You used to be able to just call the Na­tional Bank of Greece gov­er­nor and sort things out in a cou­ple of min­utes,” he said with a twinge of nos­tal­gia. Those times are cer­tainly gone for good. There are pri­vate in­vestors and share­hold­ers, some of whom are pow­er­ful in­ter­na­tional play­ers, with strong opin­ions and con­nec­tions that go be­yond the lo­cal scene. Also, there are Euro­pean in­sti­tu­tions that, for bet­ter or worse, have a say in de­vel­op­ments – the money is mostly theirs, after all. Noth­ing is sim­ple any­more. This is ev­i­dent in the on­go­ing tug-of-war sit­u­a­tions across the bank­ing sys­tem. If these con­tinue, it could mean trou­ble for Greece. The com­plex­ity is also sug­gested by the progress (or lack thereof) in ma­jor busi­ness deals which are near com­ple­tion. At the same time, Europe still has a lot of work to do in terms of bank mon­i­tor­ing. How else could one ex­plain the in­de­ci­sive­ness and mis­takes of the Sin­gle Su­per­vi­sory Mech­a­nism (SSM), re­spon­si­ble for look­ing after all eu­ro­zone banks, with re­gard to Greece? For Greek play­ers it’s busi­ness as usual. Their for­eign coun­ter­parts are find­ing it hard to de­ci­pher this byzan­tine sys­tem of power and many are hostage to their own dog­ma­tism. The for­mer be­have like the English after the end of the Bri­tish Em­pire, whereas the lat­ter are like colo­nial­ists with no idea about colo­nial rule. We will soon have to strike a bal­ance. The bank­ing sys­tem can­not af­ford to re­main in a perenni- al state of un­cer­tainty. Dif­fi­cult and im­por­tant de­ci­sions are to be taken that will to a large ex­tent de­ter­mine whether Greece will exit the black hole of re­ces­sion. Greece’s im­age in the eyes of the world is not that of a se­ri­ous coun­try. The coun­try ap­pears to be re­cy­cling old ma­te­rial. A mix of out­side and do­mes­tic re­stric­tions mean that very few Greeks or for­eign­ers will take the risk of putting their money in this coun­try. A con­tin­u­a­tion of the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion will have dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences for Greece and for those who have risked their money here. There must be an­other path be­tween the old sta­tus quo and the bu­reau­cratic in­con­sis­tency.

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