Thursday, November 13, 2014

Has Greece Reformed Since 2010?

"So we ended with half-hearted reforms, which in some cases were not implemented or were eradicated after being approved. The biggest crime of all was that the political system relinquished reform ownership and blamed everything on the memorandum and the troika. Greeks despised the troika and the memorandum as they saw their salaries and pensions being slashed while taxes skyrocketed. There was little, however, in terms of reforms. Schools, universities, hospitals, red tape and justice, among others, remained more or less the same. Fiscal reform was carried out in the same way in which a dentist pulls out a tooth without using anesthesia. In the absence of other policies, lowering labor costs became the easy way to increase competitiveness. This failed to translate into exports and real production, however, as the entire system is anti-entrepreneurship".

This would be the major critique of Greece which foreigners make off-the-record when they are being blamed for 'having destroyed the Greek economy'. I was surprised to read it in an editor's commentary in the Ekathimerini. And I was even more surprised that quite a few of the readers of the article expressed agreement with it.

Personally, I am at a loss to judge this. On one hand, when I read reports by the EU Task Force, the Troika or the IMF, I always read that "Greece has made substantial progress...". Sometimes they include listings of all the items where Greece has made progress with reforms. On the other hand, the people who I meet in day-to-day life tell me the opposite. They tell me that they have to wait as long as before to get things done with public offices; that things are as complicated as they were before; and - sadly - that public officials are as corrupt as they were before.

One thing is certain: only if and when everyday people notice in their day-to-day lives that things are getting better will they start believing that things will get better.


  1. As in many things in life, the truth lays somewhere inbetween. Generalization from both ends can not be the basis of what is truly going on Greece.

    I am a strong believer and I have seen change on an "everyday level" that reform has been implemented over all in Greek society, whether it be in from private or public institution to small businesses. There indeed has been change but unfortunately there is still corruption whether it be from the public services or private sector.

    I believe both generalization that Papahelas mentions, is an instigation to Greece and Greeks to further imporve and Troika mentioning "Substantial progress" a generalization that indeed improvement has been made, but more needs to be done. I see the both ends of how things are seen in Greece as "dare" to Greeks to further improve.

    ....I also read your comments about your freind's dilema and I can also say that i am frustrated with some services and although there may be corrupt people, I have found ways around such people. Without the need of "Fakelakia...." "When your nest is clean nobody can bride you..." And when you work with the new lawful system your will be surprised that there are many public officials and workers truly working for the better good. There are also cases from the past which there was no "upkeep" of proper documentation of property, which may deem your friend's property problematic or illegal. This is the unfortunate of the past mentality. Right now though it is a great opportunity for many things to continue to "clean up."

    As for the negative comments made to you, I belive it is more of the frustration and anger of the financial pressure the average family in Greece has had and the desire to have a new change to life where we are not "wipped" constantly.


  2. Read the links below. The truth is somewhere in the middle but what really matters is how close to one side it is, and I am afraid that very little has been accomplished. No public sector layoffs, no free market changes (Sunday open, taxi/transportation/pharmacies still mini-monopolies), very little progress in chasing tax evaders (why? because everybody is doing it), no divestment of public property (everything is asimika in Greece, see how great the government takes advantage of them).

    Instead of laying off people we just get them to retire. There is a reason for that. After so many years of doing nothing they have no skills so if they get laid off they have no chance of getting another job. In the mean time taxes went up dramatically. Is this a good environment for potential investors? It's better than before, but not that great and certainly well below the potential of the country.

    1. @AnonymousNovember 14, 2014 at 12:25 AM:


    2. @ Anonymous:

      You obviously live in Greece with me. I understand your POV and respect it but, things are in motion for change and change will come. I follow capital site and it has some good reporting but it is harsh in its critism. I do like many writers on that site but many times they do not show the whole picture in their reporting. I have no opinion of the other site and i can not judge from one article.

      Public sector lay offs: Or as requested public sector cost reduction. How they did was their (government's) choice. Layoffs may have not been many, but there were layoffs whether they be directly or indirectly. What did you expect to hear? Government laying off 50,000 workers in one day? Not going to happen. In any country. Public sector was reduced by wage cutting and drastically reducing benifits. Not health but the unbelievable benifits we both know about. Such a 75% off for this and that public service. Also retirement. Yes many had to be retired, outdated dinosaurs who do not know what a computer looks like. I like seeing so many young and eager faces in the public sector don't you? See anyone smoking in public buildings? No!

      I am aware of many services which have improved in performance and their budgets have been cut, quality of their services improved and the time to action. Police, Fire department, KEP, Ministry of Taxes (ofcourse they are taxing the hell out of us but at least they have been modernized). I can do everything online without having to be on line for 5 hours and interigated at the end. Department of transpotation has improved its services. IKA or health system is still behind but they always were. At least they reduced the cost of drugs plus allowed quality generics drugs into the system. This has in parallel contributed to the increased production of greek pharmaceutical businesses. A business sector in Greece that is booming and has both local and exports. Generics is the future and Greece already has a strong pie in the local balkan region.

      Road system. Our major highways although private and expensive are the best in europe. I have been all over europe and we have nothing to be jealous of versus germany italy or france. In contrary they should be jealous of us. It is expensive yes, but Turkey a major exporter to eu uses our roads now as a nnecessity to get good safely to their destination. Konstandinoupouli to Igoumenista to italy and so on.

      Free market? Pharmacies? No this is not a monopoly. Have you not seen how many pharmacies have popped up everywhere? Are you aware that super markets can now have pharmacies? This will change the landscape alone in this sector. The difference is, is that we choose to go to our local pharmacy because we want an expert opinion from "our own" phamacists. It is a personal issue. Law is there. But companies have not come yet. They will. The invester who brings CVS to greece will make a pile of money. Drive in pharmacy like the USA. It is all coming. The only reason it has not happened yet is that commercially companies do not choose to sell to non pharmacies because it is a strong sector. It will change though.

      ... to be continued

    3. continued....

      Sunday opening? That is an american idea which simply can not be implemented in Greece. Firstly, it is an idea which costs more for a business in Greece to open on Sunday because nobody goes. In America it works because America has a larger population and people go to shop on sunday. It is a cultural thing. Greeks will not go on sunday. The idea is a disaster and there are already discussions in stopping this. Nice idea, didn;t work.

      Transportation? OSE i assume? I pray for the day that either Cosco or the French bidder buys OSE. In my masters of logistics managment in 1997 i studied the logistics changes of the 80's in the USA. Imports from ASIA would go through the panama canal to service EAST coast USA. That ended with the idea of train piggy back. Containers would be dropped off at west coast and onto rails and be shipped by trains to the east coast. The costs of shipping were halved in one night.
      Now imagine Greece. We are the first major port or can be the largest port into EU coming out of the Suaze or outgoing to Asia and Mid Asia. Piggy back to europe and compete directly with all the northern european ports EASY. Increased turnover, increased infrastructure, more jobs, reduced costs for local goods, increase in exports for local companies. The handling of containers by cosco has greatly increased since it was a public port. Thank god! Why on earth do you think Cosco bought our port? For Greece and the local market? No because they see the oppotunity to own and serve europe through Greece. Very wise our chinese friends. As a public port we would never be able to aspire to this. This will be a great thing if this happens. I believe it will.

      ERT: Although this smells from the top to bottom, i am sorry to say i am glad they closed ERT. Yes nice programs and good reporting but i am not going to pay 30-40 euro monthly for this. NO WAY. I can get Nova with 30 channels with the same money. As a news source the private channels were propaganda machines anyway. They simply removed the balanced of opinion. It was not worth th money. escpecially for once a week shows who the presenter was makign XXX,000 euro? per shows to get piss drunk and have fun with his friends.

      Don't look at things as we normal see things. With our negative attitude or our disbeliefs. Things are happening and things will change. I also get discourage with many things in our country, but we must have faith and strength within ourselves to all help move foward. Together. Nobody can ever stop us if we were togther and you know this.

      Although I do not Keynesian, i do admire one of his most well noted quotes: "The difficulty lies not in the new ideas but in escaping from the old ones."

      Change is happening and we need to embrace it. Even if an idea is wrong, we need to find the positive in it.

      Like Socrates said, "know thyself." Do you know what our biggest problem is? We are 9 million greeks in greece and for every issue or aspect of our society, we have 9 million opinions.

      We have incredible diversity. This is a good and intristic value of character. nobody has it like us. But it must not be in our way to grow. So when we see something new, we should not bash it but embrace it and try to improve it if it has flaws.

      And rethinking the above i would say we are on a better track than what most people think.

      Sincerely to my Compatriate,


    4. Kudos V,

      We need optimistic and realistic people like you. I disagree (vehemently) about your assessment about Sundays. Athens is huge. US villages have stores open 24/7 and they seemed to be doing just fine. The scale factor is definitely there. And in the end of the day, get the regulator out of the way for once and see if the thing works. The owners can decide for themselves. Half measures like 6 Sundays a year open etc. leave me unimpressed. Believe me once the thing is put in place there will be no coming back. People will stay at work for extra hours since they will know the stores will be open and they won't have to rush for shopping; car shopping over the weekend, buying dinner stuff late at night from the super market instead of leaving early - I know your tavernas stay open very late though ;-)

      I would say, the government should stay out of the way and let the free market decide winners and losers. Everybody complains about the government in Greece but nobody wants less of it. You go to a store and come out complaining, would you go back? Why the government story is different is beyond me.

      Happy Polytechnio Anniversary. ;-)

    5. @ V - Anonymous
      Thank you for your compilation of specific facts which I have not seen anywhere as yet in this form. Several of the points you mention ring a bell with me (and I have commented on them in this blog).

      Of the major highways, I only know the Egnatia Odos from Igoumenitsa-Kavala which we have travelled frequently. And every time I have commented to my wife that a highway of this quality, particularly in some of the most challenging topography, has no parallel elsewhere in Europe. Not even in Switzerland. The only thing which is lacking on the highway is --- traffic. It should be full with trucks carrying products from Northern Greece to Igoumenitsa and from there to the North.

      I have recently written a couple of articles on the pharma industry. My interest in it was triggered after becoming acquainted with Pharmaten, a sensationally good company. And yes, I was most positively surprised by what I read about the pharma industry. And Cosco, of course, has been one of my pet subjects in this blog as regards foreign investment, logistics and future potential.

      Again, thanks for your contribution.

    6. @ Ananymous 1:27am

      Thank you for agreeing. For the Sunday opening thing you have some good points, but on the most part i do not see greeks accepting this. Even with releasing of regulations. After reading your comment, I believe it could work if implemented for the 6-8 month touristic period of the year. Get some extra commerce during the high season of Tourism in Greece.

      @Jim Slip further down. Please take the blinds off. Please give some do credit to even public workers. For their efforts at least. As for exports. You are also blind and i will leave it at that. Greece is naturally loved by the sun and has wonderful water. The land creates wonder food which is consumed. It is a manditory for human survival. Having a volkwagon or a mercedes (which is high value) is not manditory. Food is a basic need. Being the producer of food control also an economy. Why else do you think the KKE keep saying we should all return to our fields. Because if we can feed our selves and sell our goods we are in control of our livelihoods which is a basic. KKE likes this eventually as well to tell the banks to "Kiss Off" for the debt. Unfortunately their minds are stuck in absolutes of communism.

      Thank you very much. I am honored you re posted me as a title article. I guess it all came to me last Friday. To be honest i have hundreds of ideas just as many greeks do . :-) Hopefully there are eyes which see these great oportunities. One by one these small opportunities for our country if grasped will create a an economical motion which will help us and i believe in the end the Euro. (A great idea but badly implemented as it seems.) I will re comment on my own article. I have some other thoughts... :-) (Also please edit me before reposting please. This small dialogue window does not help you to make agood proof reading.)

      As for the Highways? Egnatia Northern (west east coast highway) Attiki Odos (Attika or Athens major highway grid) Needs a few extentions to be 100%. Extension to Rafina Port to be concluded and also include rail. Neo Odos. (North south highway from athens to Thessaloniki.) Also to Corinth. With attiki odos. Need Cosco to buy OSE to upgrade rial system with highway out of Pireaus and open the idea of Piggyback. The governement has done good with the highway system and outsourced this. It is a huge priority. If they complete athens- Patra and Patra-peloponeses and Patra Igoumenitsa, we will have the most modern highway grid (with rail ideally) in the world. It will be a grid which encircles all key businesses. Tourism, Light industry, Agriculture.


  3. Below is a most interesting article by Nick Malkoutzis.

  4. There has been no reform whatsoever. Only fiscal consolidation.

    Any visit to any part of the Greek public-sector is as harrowing as it ever was.

    Greece still lives in the 19th century. Go to any tax office, witness the piles of dossiers stuffed with handwritten documents and tell me about reform.

    In the top 10 Greek exports we find: fish, cotton, olive oil, fruit, nuts, vegetables. And Greece expects to make a living out of selling products like these? Seriously?

    Like I said, Greece still lives in the 19th century. Greeks might be too proud to admit it, but it's the sad truth.