Lift­ing the ob­sta­cles

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY ALEXIS PAPACHELAS

Greece is weighed down by some very spe­cific prob­lems that make get­ting back on its feet that much harder. Its huge debt is one prob­lem, of course, but there are other, in­her­ent short­com­ings that add to the strain. One such ob­sta­cle is pop­ulism, which has ac­quired near-in­sti­tu­tional sta­tus. The Greek po­lit­i­cal sys­tem is ex­tremely hos­tile to any­one who would con­sider putting his ca­reer in the pri­vate sec­tor on hold to con­trib­ute to the state sec­tor in­stead. For ex­am­ple, there are salary caps for ex­ec­u­tives em­ployed by state banks, pub­lic utilities or other or­ga­ni­za­tions. The idea be­hind that is to avert the “golden boy” phe­nom­e­non. As a con­se­quence, th­ese jobs at­tract party cronies who would never stand a chance in the pri­vate arena or in­di­vid­u­als who know how to make money in some­what shady ways. More­over, any­one with a suc­cess­ful ca­reer in the pri­vate sec­tor knows that a pub­lic sec­tor job would mean full dis­clo­sure of their dec­la­ra­tion of as­sets, reg­u­lar vis­its to the pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice and a good chance of see­ing their name in the head­lines. Th­ese are ma­jor put­offs for any rea­son­able per­son. Speak­ing of head­lines, an­other prob­lem has to do with the qual­ity of the coun­try’s news me­dia. Greece is no stranger to black­mail­ers, big or small, but what is new is the pro­lif­er­a­tion of over-the-top or even fab­ri­cated news. For very lit­tle money, you can as­sas­si­nate char­ac­ters or ex­ter­mi­nate values and ideas. There is no fil­ter to pro­tect the av­er­age ci­ti­zen from the spread of lies and mis­in­for­ma­tion, and we are pay­ing a hefty price for this. Even the peo­ple who are in charge of Greece at the mo­ment are aware that the me­dia sys­tem which they so reck­lessly used to climb to power is sick and destruc­tive. As for the much-hyped war on po­lit­i­cal and busi­ness cor­rup­tion, it proved to be a sham. Fur­ther­more, prime min­is­ter Alexis Tsipras bears a huge re­spon­si­bil­ity for weigh­ing down the coun­try with an in­sti­tu­tional prob­lem: the sys­tem of sim­ple pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion could eas­ily re­sult into a Greek exit from the euro area – that is un­less some­thing very spec­tac­u­lar hap­pens. Take a mo­ment to think how many – and ex­actly what kind of – par­ties may make it into the House. Take a mo­ment to think of that oli­garch who, with just a lit­tle money, will be able to ma­nip­u­late frag­ile and com­plex ma­jori­ties. And, fi­nally, take a mo­ment to con­sider the risk of po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity at a time when what the coun­try needs is coura­geous and swift de­ci­sion-mak­ing. Too bad for the coun­try, none of th­ese ob­sta­cles is easy to lift. The next per­son called in to rule will soon re­al­ize that it is not fully gov­ern­able – un­less he en­gages in kamikaze pol­i­tics.

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