From the Wall Street Journal.
“The present government has done absolutely nothing during the last 12 months to speed up privatizations, reduce the public sector or open up closed professions,” Athanasios Papandropoulos, a leading economic analyst, told me recently in an interview. “In these 12 months it has not fired even one civil servant. The only thing it is doing is trying to tax the private sector out of existence. Why should we believe that they will do something different now?”
One commentator writing in the newspaper Kathimerini this week made the point even more forcefully: “Whereas more than 1,000 Greeks were losing their jobs in the private sector every day in August, the government was assuring civil servants with lifetime tenure that their job privileges were not in danger.”
Structural reforms have been repeatedly announced by Greek officials during the past. Yet nothing has happened. Greece’s plans tend to resemble Soviet Five Year Plans: They look good on paper but have absolutely no bearing on reality. Anyone in the government who tries to point this out is forced to resign. Economist Stella Balfousia, the head of the Greek Parliament budget office, had to tender her resignation after her office published a report contradicting the government’s official forecasts on debt and deficit.
Privatization is a case in point. Greece will have to raise some €1.7 billion by the end of September from the privatization program and €5 billion by the end of the year from the medium-term fiscal strategy program. Yet in the past year and a half not a single privatization has taken place. The explanation given for this is the low share prices of the listed companies. The real reason is probably that Greek politicians are loath to give up the system of spoils that they have long run through these enterprises, which are staffed by the party faithful in exchange for votes.
Would you like to know who has been running Greece lately? The current party in power is called the “Panhellenic Socialist Movement”. They won a majority in 2009. Surprised? Socialism never works.