The affluent citizens of Greece
have a lot to answer for in their country’s dire economic predicament, but I
can’t say I blame the rest of them for not responding to the constant hectoring
So far it hasn’t worked anyway. Nor, I suspect, is it likely to work in the
foreseeable future, if ever.
Angela Merkel has her political fish to fry at home,
I’m sure, but surely even she must soon realize that bashing the Greeks for
being lazy, feckless and profligate, while it may strike a chord in the
Fatherland, isn’t going to motivate the Greeks to mend their ways overnight, even
if one accepts that they are guilty on all three counts.
Changing a country’s working customs and fiscal traditions,
however inadequate or improper they have proved to be, is going to take more
than long-distance lecturing in search of an immediate result. And who’s to say that a sudden conversion to
austerity is the right solution anyway?
Some Greeks, not to mention a great many experts from other lands, believe
that austerity is actually the last thing the country needs, on the grounds
that it can only deepen Greece’s
recession and thereby cause the debt crisis to worsen. I can’t work out if that’s what we call Catch
22 or Full Circle,
but I bet there’s a pithy Greek phrase for it.
The point is that even those Greeks who acknowledge
that the country must mend its ways don’t necessarily believe that battening
down the hatches with German steel is the solution. Even Britain
– which Germany
secretly despises for its economic mismanagement but can find no public excuse
to criticize – there is discourse in political and financial circles about
whether the government’s belt-tightening is a case of too much, too soon.
I personally think Cameron and Osborne are on the
right track, but I also concede the possibility that, with unemployment rising,
all kinds of things could go terribly wrong, both economically and socially.
Greece ought to leave the Euro before the
domestic unrest, at present confined to chucking bricks and Molotov cocktails
at the police, boils over into something more serious. It isn’t so many years since Greece, run by
a junta of colonels, teetered on the brink of civil war.
A return to the drachma and devaluation would ease Greece’s burden
far more than trying to sustain a beleaguered economy saddled with a currency
valued on unmatchable German industrial efficiency and the grim prospect of
Germany, back off!