Friday, 10 September 2010

Greece can’t save itself

I read the commentary below in yesterday’s English edition of Kathimerini regarding the state of Athens, a city I know well and have lived in, albeit prior to the latest phase of the decline the article describes. Since I haven’t been to Athens in about six years, I can’t confirm first hand if what the piece says is true or an exaggeration; but what I can say is that the problems described – illegal street vendors, stray dogs and so on – don’t actually require that much imagination or effort to solve and most normal societies would swiftly act to solve them. Except that Greece is not a normal society and imagination and effort aimed at serving the common good are absent, which is why anyone who thinks that by rigidly implementing the strictures of the IMF, EU Commission and ECB, Greece will be reborn and develop a recognisably modern, sophisticated, European economy and society, has no idea how low Greece has sunk and how incapable it is of saving itself.

Athens a city on the skids
Almost everything about downtown Athens would make one think that it is a city in a developing country, and the situation does not seem to be getting any better.

It seems that there is a beggar on every street corner and you see stray dogs milling around and occasionally attacking the odd passer-by. Then there’s the sight of hundreds of street vendors taking up the sidewalks and promenades with their illegal wares laid out on bedsheets.

The situation is completely unacceptable and makes a mockery of any efforts to boost revenues from tourism. It is ridiculous to talk about Athens as a prime tourist destination when, as a city, it seems to be doing its best to frighten tourists away.

The responsibility for the sorry state of the country’s capital lies squarely on the shoulders of the City of Athens and the government. If they do not take some measures soon to improve the standard of living and the appearance of the city, they will be responsible for the decline of one of Europe’s most historic capitals.