Sunday, April 19, 2020

Will Corona Trigger A Rebirth Of Greece?

About 2 weeks ago, an Austrian journalist (a major blogger who has published several articles of mine, mostly about Greece, in recent years) asked me for an update on Greece. I wrote him a short mail with my assessment. He was so surprised that he asked me to put it into an article which he subsequently published. Why was he surprised? Because I explained that Corona seemed to be causing something like a rebirth of Greece. The country which oftentimes in the last decade seemed exceptional in the negative sense had now become exceptional in the positive sense. An admirable crisis management; early recognition that the problem was indeed a serious problem; consequential measures implemented and strictly controlled, etc. And the results could be seen in the Corona statistics.

I further argued that this style of crisis management had triggered a change in Greece. For once, politicians were cooperating instead of fighting one another. Even Alexis Tsipras had become tame. Corona had dramatically increased the digitalization of the country. A new sense of national confidence was emerging: Greeks who had become accustomed to being called failures were now witnessing how they were praised as trendsetters. Even Bill Gates had caught up to that.

Ever since I started this blog back in 2011, I have referred to Chile as an example that Greece should follow. Post-1973, a new wave of economic governance had swept the country. The Chicago Boys and their culture triggered a rebirth of the Chilean economy and the entire society was caught up in it. Suddenly, the entire society was on the move towards modernization. One may or may not agree with the policies of the Chicago Boys but that is not my point. Instead, my point is: if, at the right time, the right kind of leadership sets the right tone for change and improvement, and if that leads to rapid successes, the movement will develop self-reinforcing dynamics and there will be exponential progress.

"Never let a good crisis go to waste", so the saying goes. Regrettably, Greece let the crisis of the last decade go to waste. An enormous price was paid by society without any noticeable benefits. If anything, life got worse.

The present Corona crisis and Greece's reaction to it has all the ingredients for setting in motion a new change process which could develop a momentum on its own. When I listened to this interview with the Greek Minister of Digital Governance, I could not help but sense that an entire new way of doing things is developing in Greece.

Mind you, the economic damage caused by Corona will be gigantic in Greece. There will be enormous economic destruction. However, this could, for once, be a destruction which has the potential of becoming creative. If a new sense pervades society that destruction of some of the bad 'old' is not all that bad if it is replaced with some good 'new', the process will start feeding upon itself. It could even grow exponentially.

The crux of the matter is self-confident national unity in the common mission. Greeks, battered internationally for an entire decade, are beginning to have good reason for a sustained national self-confidence based on facts and not on myths. Put that together with unity in the common mission and there will be no limit to success!

Καλή Ανάσταση!


  1. Hi Mr. Kastner,
    Glad you are well and in part of the countries that will be allowed to travel to Greece this summer. :-)

    Greece did well the last months and I believe our economical figures will not be as dire as many may foresee. It remains to be seen. Stay home campaign set off a series of campaigns. Study from home and work from home which were quite successful. Employment wise it has been hailed as a major success that Greek work even more when at home. Myself inclusive. It will change work characteristics and way of thinking and we will take advantage.

    As for the covid measures. The irony is that everybody or the majority of people under 60 stayed home. Though some seniors could not follow this quite well, considering the risks.


  2. There are good reasons for optimisim, indeed.

    1) This time it is unlikely to have a "cold civil war". After a tumultuous decade people is looking for stability and safety. I don't see many around eager to revive the political adveturism and division of 2011-12 and 2015.
    2) Greece will not get involved in soul-searching this time. Everyone knows the culprit; it is the coronavirus. The endless discussions of what has gone wrong and who is to blame will fortunately not be on the agenda this time.
    3) Greece will not be Europe's black sheep in this crisis. Most of the countries will get in recession.
    4) Germany will not be an adversary. The many threats posed to the Central Europe's export-growth model (by the US and China) will make many former hawks to realize how valuable the southern markets are.

    Of course the devil is in the details and there is also the unkown-X factor that is Turkey, but we should better be optimist.