Sunday, December 8, 2013

What the Heck is Going on in Greece?

Even a more than casual observer can't help but despair every once in a while about the Greek situation. Of late, I have gotten used to hearing good news: a primary budget surplus is in place; the current account approaches balance; growth will return next year; and - the budget was passed last night. Additionally, foreign officials have visited Greece and expressed compliments about Greece's progress.

And this morning I read that the Troika is freezing the next tranche for lack of reforms! Below are the facts:

Reform completions

Plan Actual Percentage
July 35 28 80%
August 26 15 58%
September 47 13 28%

I wonder how many people really know what these planned reforms were; what benefits they were supposed to accomplish; which reforms were completed; and what benefits they have achieved. All we have is statistics and these statistics are certainly lousy.

Which raises the question why one plans 100% reforms when the track record shows clearly that, at best, 50% will be completed. Why not only plan 50% and make sure that they really get done. That way, one would avoid the perception of failure.

This is what Alexis Papachelas recently wrote in the Ekathimerini:

"Here’s one discussion, however, which has never reached Greek society: What are those infamous structural changes that could increase the country’s GDP by 1 or 2 percent? How many have been approved by Parliament following battles and large-scale protests? And exactly how much have they benefited the country’s real economy? How many were actually voted in the House (such as the liberalization of port services) before being subsequently annulled via circulars and other means?"

Well, if a newspaper editor doesn't know what's going on, how should anybody else?

I don't remember the author but I do remember the phrase: "The tragedy of life is not that man loses. The tragedy of life is that man almost wins".

The uninformed public is far from 'almost winning'; it is definitely losing. If a company goes through a major restructuring requiring substantial sacrifices from its staff, one of management's most important task is to keep the staff informed about 'Where were we? Where are we now? Where do we plan to get? And, Why things will be better when we get there!'

I wonder who in the Greek governments feels that his job is to do the same what corporate managements need to do when they manage a crisis?


  1. >"Why not only plan 50% and make sure that they really get done."

    I had (inherited) some lousy employees who always achieved max. half of the agreed goals. In order to get a decent result I had to set their goals to twice of what I expected ;)

    Of course this was not a satisfactory situation and most often these collaborators resigned after a year or two...

    H. Trickler

  2. If Greek politicians would have told Greek citizens the truth about the the content of the plan, that their living standard would deteriorate, the government would now be a Syriza one. Moreover, after the vote several MP's and ministers said they had not read the plan. Moreover, Greek business and political culture is not one of openness; it is what I call The Mushroom Culture. You keep people in the darkness, and frequently throw a bucket of manure over them.
    If you, by "track record" mean the modern historical Greek one, then the EURO zone should not have agreed to the plan (any plan). If you mean the track record that developed after the plan was agreed, then that could not be envisaged before, it is a "pilot project".
    Regarding your 50% compliance with the reforms I am thoroughly confused, if the exercise is to avoid PERCEPTION of failure, then by all means, let's call it something else. It reminds me of the Greek reaction to the first (negative) PISA evaluation of Greek school children. It was rejected as being based on an "Anglo-Saxon perception of knowledge". The topics are reading, mathematics and science, hardly vague or abstract topics. If you think that denial of facts improved the education in Greece, then look up the last PISA figures.
    PS. I would be reluctant to deal with anybody who, after having negotiated an agreement said, "well, we both know that we only have to deliver 50%" (be that money, services rendered or goods delivered).

  3. Well, let's get as much fun out of this one as we can, we all need it. Greek politicians telling their voters the truth would be like Churchill running for office here, imagine the voter reactions. "What? I just want my rights, a government position for my son and a Range Rover and a summer house, you can keep your blood, sweat and tears. What, the truth? I don't want the truth, I want to be comforted".
    PS. And a merry Christmas in Austria, I envy you.

  4. @Lennard: AnonymousDecember 12, 2013

    Imho the situation is much too sore for making sarcastic comments?

    H. Trickler

    1. @ H. Trickler
      Especially when situations are sore or serious I think that humor, and a sense of proportion, is important (be that humor sarcastic, ironic or otherwise). Consequently when my Greek friends tell me that life is hard I ask them "compared with what"? Humor ist wenn man trotzdem lacht.