Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Monument in Honor of the Greek guest-workers?

This is an unusual but nevertheless very interesting account of Greek society/politics/economics in the last 50 years. I lack the knowledge to assess to what extent it is reflective of reality. A discussion about it among competent commentators would be interesting.

There is one sentence, though, with which I would disagree:

"Greece's economic progress was built on rotten foundations!"

That is probably true for the period beginning with Mr. Andreas Papandreou and PASOK (and later ND). And, of course, beginning with the EU, the grants, the Euro and the cheap money. But that period, to me, was not the foundation of today's Greece.

To me, the foundation of the Greek economy is what Greek guest-workers achieved from 1950-74. During this period, guest-workers' remittances were by far the largest source of foreign currency of the country. Wherever Greek guest-workers were, they built up an excellent reputation for themselves and for Greece. They were workaholics who lived a frugal life so that they could send their earnings back home. And back home those earnings were wisely invested in small businesses and the education of their children.

It seems to me that what is absent in today's Greece is a giant 'Monument in Honor of the Greek Guest-Workers'. A monument which reminds today's Greeks what the guest-workers had done and how they had done it. A monument which suggests that the same attitudes which made the guest-workers successful are attitudes which would make today's Greeks similarly successful.

A new age of Greek guest-workers? On the contrary! The guest-workers had to travel North to work the machinery and equipment there. Today, the North should send the machinery and equipment to Greece so that Greeks can work them in their own country!


  1. I would broaden your guest-worker category considerably.
    Greeks left Greece in the 1800s and created successful businesses and often huge fortunes in Russia, Roumania, Egypt, Palestine etc. These families were repatriated over time (russian revolution, Balkan wars, Nasser), creating new businesses in Greece. At the same time, from the 1880s onward especially, greeks left for America where they worked their way up from the lowest jobs to owning businesses and becoming professionals. After the civil war, greeks left in huge numbers for Canada and Australia - where Melbourne is now the 2nd biggest greek city in the world.
    Part of the ease with which this was done (psychologically) is attributable to the fact that Greece is a sea-going nation.

    All these waves of migration resulted in remittances.

    In fact the greek revolution was in large part funded and led by greek emigrees, notably in Vienna, but also elsewhere.

    1. Of course I am aware of the 'broader picture'. I was just a bit annoyed at the suggestion that the foundation of post-civil war Greece had been laid in the 1980s and thereafter. That's why I only commented on post-civil war. This is what I picked up in another blog:

      "The OECD notes that 1.25 million Greeks emigrated from 1950 to 1974. The money they sent back trumped tourism or shipping receipts as a source of foreign exchange through the late 1970s. For every dollar earned by remittances in 1960, shipping provided 74 cents and tourism 33 cents. In 1970, the gap was narrower for tourism (40 cents) but larger for shipping (68 cents). From 1970 to 1978 tourism and shipping grew faster than remittances, and so, by 1978, tourism brought in $1.12 and shipping $1.02 for every dollar of remittances."