Thursday, 6 October 2011
Greece’s problems analysed and solved in five minutes, by Aristos Doxiadis
If you want to figure out and find solutions for Greece’s problems, it’s a distraction to go on about capitalism, the banks, the troika, neo-liberalism and so on; or to attribute the country’s failings to some genetic predisposition Greeks have to corruption, laziness and conflict. Establishing and overcoming Greece’s woes has always been much simpler and well within the capabilities of contemporary Greeks. Thus, I believe the most lucid commentator I’ve so far encountered on Greece’s crisis has been Aristos Doxiadis, interviewed above. The interview is in Greek and I’ve translated extracts in English below. A long piece by Doxiadis on how Greece got itself into such a mess and how it can extricate itself from its predicament is here, in English.
‘One million people need to change employment. They need to leave from those inward-looking professions and go into industry, agriculture, tourism, technology and shipping. When these jobs are created, with investments and so on, then the economy will move forward.
‘We had a “bubble” different to those they had elsewhere. In Iceland, it was a bank bubble; it Ireland it was a property bubble; but in Greece we had a bubble of parasitical professions. That’s to say, people in the public sector being appointed even though there was no work for them to do; but also professions, such as doctors, chemists, lawyers, whose numbers are excessive. For example, we have 70,000 doctors, even though we could get by with 30,000 just as well.
‘Let’s not delude ourselves that we will be able to crack down on tax evasion quickly or easily, because the problem isn’t tax inspectors who don't have the will or means to do their job. The real problem is that we have large numbers of self-employed – 35% of the population in Greece, 4% in Germany. The self-employed throughout the world – in Germany and in the US – will try to avoid paying taxes. It’s very difficult to catch them.
‘[Returning to] the drachma is dangerous for us. Not just because of the problem of how we get from the euro to the drachma, but also because of what might happen when we have the possibility of printing money. We don’t have the political system that will handle such a scenario responsibly. I fear that once Greece regains its own currency, the money will be syphoned off to parasitic activities and the productive sector will once again be pushed to the margins.
‘[For Greece to reform] the current political parties are inadequate. There is a large section of society that is not represented today, that didn't feed off the state, that is involved in exporting, that insures its workers, that is healthy. No political party currently supports this section of society, which must find a way to express its views.
‘The people to reform Greece can’t be the ones from the current political system, “the pensioners”. They have to be young and daring, take responsibility for the unpopular but necessary measures and the parties must give them time. Change won’t come about in three months, but two, three years. And these new faces should be supplemented by people already in the political system, the two, three ministers from PASOK capable of carrying out reforms and similar personalities from New Democracy and the Left.’