The farmers’ blockades symbolize the trap the Greek state has created for itself

Posted on January 25, 2010, 7:25 pm
4 mins

I don’t know if most Greeks are aware that the bet in the financial circles is against Greece to come out of its financial crisis. Yes, it’s really bad. The two major parties are primarily responsible for the current situation, going back to the early 1980s. The state mechanism was never seen as an institution to serve the modern Greek state—and in extension the people.

The rousfeti (patronage & corruption) has become endemic, to the point that in most many instances if you want something done quickly (or at all) it’s the only way. This is sad, not only because it has destroyed the finances of the Greek state but also because it’s unfair and a detriment to the whole country.

The Greek political parties of all stripes have had a standard policy of avoiding the hard choices and telling people the unpleasant truth. In addition, they told the people that it wasn’t the country’s fault for the mess; it was the “enemies of Greece,” the “foreign interests” that were responsible. The people liked what they told and they demanded more from the state and the European Union—which had to pay the Greeks for ..wanting them in their company.

Thus, the EU paid lots. The Greek farmers got a fairly good share of the money too. Now they’re blocking major roads and hurting all sorts of people who need to work or go about their own business. I understand that in a democracy some inconveniences are necessary to ensure free expression, but this wave of paralyzing the country’s ground transportation system is unethical and illegal. It amounts to no less than blackmail. On the other hand, such practices are common, and in a way, if the state itself doesn’t respect the rule of law why should the citizens? It’s a vicious cycle, but it must be broken.

The rousfeti must be stopped. It’s bad for the economy, it’s bad for efficiency & productivity, and it’s bad because of the particular mentality it promotes. I’m afraid the government has to be really tough right now and say ‘NO’ to the farmers’ demands and to other special interest groups. It should also reduce the public sector and re-evaluate those who work in it. I couldn’t believe it when I heard that the “seasonal and temporary” workers hired by the state were doing the job of the permanent ones! Equally I was shocked years ago when I learned that university graduates had the normal expectation that the state had to hire them, even if it took many years between their graduation and eventual employment! I didn’t ask whether they kept themselves busy in the interim by learning and being close to their degree’s subject.

The bottom line is this: hard austerity measures now are necessary, but won’t be enough unless they are accompanied by structural and institutional changes as well. The good news is that the current government doesn’t have any wiggle room; it’s been pushed against the wall, and the wall isn’t budging. They have nothing to give so they must bite the bullet, and if they’re going to be unpopular, why not go as far as possible in reforming the country, beginning from their own house—the public sector.

A self-described Athenian, works and lives in the NYC metropolitan area. Interested in the world of ideas, the human condition & history, and how public policy can foster a progressive culture of life.