Source: The Toronto Star . David Olive, a business [smirk] columnist at the Toronto Star has written a piece about the Greek situation ....
|Source: The Toronto Star.|
His first mistake is in conflating the political classes and governments with the citizenry. He writes, for instance, "Greeks seem intransigent about reforming obviously dysfunctional economic and governance practices that contributed to the crisis." And "Germany, the hardliner among Greece’s creditors, forgets...."
If one asks the actual citizens, one gets a very different story. Greek citizens are uniformly sick and tired of being trodden under by the politicians and bankers and power-brokers. German citizens too are for the most part more in favour of helping Greece than their government's posturing implies. Of course, this kind of oversimplification is to be expected in the Canadian press, and all the more so from "business" experts who privilege the captains of industry and have an unnecessarily money-centred worldview of things.
Olive is right, on the other hand, that Greeks work on average more than Germans do (according to the OECD). The notion of Greeks as layabouts, especially with respect to the Germans, is nothing more than an urban myth, and an ugly one at that.
He's also right to point out the titanic hypocrisy surrounding every aspect of this crisis - although I wouldn't call it "manmade" - a number of the key players in the European Troika who have been involved in the Greek situation are female. "Artificial" would have been a more accurate word.
Finally, Olive is correct in condemning the application of austerity by EU to Greece. It is evident that austerity applied to nations rarely if ever works.
Unfortunately, Olive then turns left at Albuquerque and ends up in a cartoon land where only business factors need be addressed to guarantee prosperity.
He sets forth three "aces" that he believes Greece holds: transport, tourism, and energy.
Unfortunately, while there's little question Greece could benefit from leveraging these three sectors, the long term picture on all fronts is probably far bleaker than Olive's keen business sense suggests.
Transportation through Greece would be international if not global in nature. As climate change continues screw us all over, we will need to learn to significantly cut consumption - of everything. Less consumption will require less transportation.
Tourism requires transportation (see above). Moreover, tourism will unavoidably damage the cultural distinctiveness that Olive himself thinks is such an important feature of Greece. Do we want the Acropolis to look like Disney World? The business people would be fine with it. I doubt the Greek citizens would, though. And Greece's energy sector still is significantly based on fossil fuels. 'Nuff said about that.
None of these sectors are naturally aligned to produce a sustainable future for Greece.
While Olive is correct to note the byzantine level of red tape in Greece, this is not very unusual for Europe. And he's completely wrong about changing taxes to promote foreign investment. "Foreign investment" is code for "selling out to foreign corporate powers."
I think, instead, that once Greece gets out from under its most immediate problem via either Grexit or substantive debt relief, the Greek people should focus on these things:
Sustainable energy and technology. This is still a blossoming area, and there is much work left to do, especially in terms of local power systems, mini-grids, and passive energy storage.
Local development and social business. I'm a big fan of social business. It runs counter to many conventional business practices, but its goal is significant: to ensure that the wealth of productivity remains in the hands of those who are productive. While social business has been a boon in developing countries, I'm convinced that it should be how all countries work.
Radical overhaul of their own legal system, including tax law. Olive points this out, but doesn't make enough hay of it, in my opinion. Iceland is a great example of what can be done during a financial crisis. If the Greek people are willing, then it should be possible.
The point is, if Greece does well, then the world will be better off. If it fails, then the world will suffer. Basically, we're all in this together. We should be helping Greece find their way. One way to do this is to make damned sure that its creditors and the EU bureaucracy are put on notice.