June 22, 2011
Tony Barber, from the Financial times, wrote this article yesterday.
Here are some extracts:
Thanks to generous agricultural subsidies and regional aid funds granted by the European Union, which Greece joined in 1981, and the low interest rates of the eurozone, to which Greece was admitted in 2001, the nation’s living standards soared. The ruined streets filled with maimed beggars of the 1946-49 civil war era were a distant memory.
But too few politicians explained to Greeks that with European levels of prosperity should come European habits, such as not viewing income tax payment as a life choice. In this regard, New Democracy, Pasok’s conservative opponents, were as guilty as the socialists. “Economic ethics are absent from the Greek mind. It’s a blank spot,” says Mr Veremis.
On coming to power in October 2009, the prime minister promised his EU colleagues a Herculean effort to root out corruption, improve tax collection, suppress the falsification of official statistics and downsize the public sector. But Mr Papandreou faces four obstacles that threaten to abort his mission.
The first is Pasok’s “old lions”, party traditionalists wedded to a clientelistic conception of the state and disinclined to bow to foreign pressure for reform. The second is Pasok’s trade union allies, robust in their defence of public sector jobs and perks.
The third is the Syntagma protesters, who speak for the squeezed middle classes of the private sector as well as Greece’s jobless youth. Finally, there is New Democracy, which refuses to support the government’s austerity measures and structural reforms, in spite of EU pleas for Greeks to unite for national salvation.
Mr Papandreou, rolling his boulder uphill, knows that he has no choice but to carry on. Like Sisyphus, the odds against him look bad.