Germany and Greece: two countries, each great, and each with a character vastly different from the other.
Germany is unison, discipline, goal, achievement. Which of these distinctly German qualities of character can one relate to Greece? Unison? (does Greek history substantiate this?). Discipline? (where does one notice this in Greece?) Goal? (has any one ever set a national goal other than the good conduct of the 2004 Olympics?) Achievement? (What achievements, other than the very successful 2004 Olympics can Modern Greece display?).
The world knows how the Greek “situation” has come to be, the Greeks do not. No responsible political party has bothered to explain to the people what went wrong and why.
The radical “left” stepped in to tell the nation its version of what happened and what the nation should do, moving the national “mood” to the left of center. No responsible political party has presented an objective explanation of the situation with an objective allocation of responsibility for the situation.
No responsible political party has presented a plan, complete with figures allocation of sources and specific objectives for each segment of the Greek society, with which the country can climb out of the pit with the help of its Eurozone partners.
Germany is different. People know what their role is within the context of a National Development plan and so they cooperate for the National Benefit. They have a road map, a sense of purpose.
Why was the conduct of the Athens 2004 Olympics so successful? Obviously because an “iron lady” was in charge and she left nothing to chance, despite the delaying tactics of the present Minister of Finance, who was then the Minister under whose authority was the preparation of the stadiums and other venues and he wanted to have his way, for his own reasons.
The very successful conduct of the Games was an achievement for Greece. It reflected well on the country, thanks to an individual’s drive, talents and determination, not thanks to a capable government.
If Germany were to conduct the Olympics, the government would organize everything, brilliantly, no “iron lady” would be necessary. Germany has a state mechanism that functions well, in stark contrast to Greece.
The lesson of experience with the 2004 Olympics is that when given a goal the Greeks can display German-like efficiency and achievement, which leads to the question: why are the Greeks left to wallow in misery instead of being presented with realistic solutions to their problems?
The obvious answer is lack of leadership and that neither of the two leading parties has a well documented solution to the problem and with elections expected in the near future all those with a “plan” want to present it as an electoral platform.
Germany is different. The government communicates with the people and is close to them. unlike Greece, where political parties “communicate” only with specific groups.
The anger displayed at every occasion, with people exhibiting disdain, even aggression, when they see politicians is an example of despair. People are suffering the repercussions of the astronomical national debt and they see no light at the end of the tunnel; suffering with no expiration date.
Germany is different. No German government would have acted as selfishly and irresponsibly as Greek governments have, loading on the back of the nation a colossal debt which, ironically, did not finance wealth producing investments, which could pay off the debt, but the parties’ shenanigans with the unions and the public sector.
When the Germans are angry they display anger with civility. Greek anger is not constrained. In Germany, people respect the authorities because the authorities exercise enlightened leadership, beneficial to the people, not a defining characteristic of Greek authorities who very often fail to deliver.
No wonder why Greeks abhor authority, which most of the time is but a pain in the neck, unlike Germany, where it is always a helping hand.
What will the political platforms of the Greek parties present? An attractive story of Economic development? Based on what? New tenets? A New socioeconomic contract? Will they borrow something from the German book of success?
Will they want to reduce government by passing to private enterprise a number of activities which the public sector is engaged in, as is the case with Germany? Such a move will result in investments without any cost to the government. These investments will have a multiplying effect, any economist can attest to that, which translates to capital inflows, as Greeks will begin to bring back the capital deposited “abroad” for safety reasons.
Will the two parties promise (and materialize the promise) to do away with the development-killer bureaucracy? German public sector executives will be installed in the Greek public sector to help reduce the “killer” bureaucracy. Will, after they are gone, the Greek public sector revert to its old poisonous ways, with the help of the political parties?
Will they push for the exploitation of the national resources under the ground and under the sea bed? Greece has interesting mineral wealth and the discovery of commercially viable oil and gas deposits is a possibility.
If Germany was sitting on the mineral wealth of Greece, with the National interest as the guiding star, German Governments would have planned and started, long ago, the exploitation of this potential, but then German Governments are there for the people.
Will they push for a close cooperation between farmers’ cooperatives and private sector knowhow, to thus enable the farmers to gain more by processing (where advisable) and marketing, in partnership with private sector expertise, their output? Germany is a leader in Agri-Exports. The German knowhow will be valuable, if the Greeks decide to ask for German help in this economic sector.
Will they wage war on waste? Forty customs houses are to cease operating. Will their installations be put to other uses, to save the public sector money, will they be abandoned and save the country rental payments for unused installations, or will the government keep paying the rents, for no, obvious, reason?
Will they diligently yield the axe on the expenses of local government? Persistent talk and facts known point to the possibility of great opportunities for savings there.
In Germany, it could never happen that the mayors of two neighboring municipalities hire the one the relatives of the other, so that they would not be accused of nepotism. In Greece this has happened (press reports).
In Greece, there are Pension Funds that refuse to participate in the voluntary reduction of the value of the Greek Bonds they hold, when foreign pension funds participate. This is not only the Greek idea of patriotism, but also makes it difficult for the Greek Government to persuade Greek Bond holders around the world to voluntarily participate.
Such, totally unjustified attitude that inhibits the effort of the Greek Government in a time of need is “Greek” in its nature. A ghastly public exhibition of indifference to the National benefit, something that could never happen in Germany, where National prevails over Sectarian benefit.
Unison is not “Greek.” Will the Greek politicos, finally, adhere to the doctrine of the separation powers and separate the legislative from the executive?
Today’s challenges require expertise that politicians, let alone the political operatives who constitute the parties’ nomenclature, do not possess. Accomplished individuals should undertake the executive function with the politicos legislating in accordance with the requirements of the executive.
Of course, in Germany the public sector has all the required expertise and so the politicians, devoted to the good of the country, can also be in charge of the executive branch of government.
Will they accept that the taxpayers should not finance the political parties, which, any way, cater to the interests of the “pressure groups”? Voluntary financial support, in full view of the country should replace the current stipends and no public employee, paid by the tax payers, should be engaged in the service of the political parties. Will they accept this?
Will they accept that the unions be financed solely by their members’ contributions, so that the taxpayers do not finance what, in effect, is a political apparatus in the service of political parties?
Will they bind themselves to reducing deficits to near zero, indeed since from June 2012 Greece must stand on its own feet? Will they reduce public expenditures by eliminating the thousands of public organizations, useless schools of every level (with only a handful of students), will they go over the outflows side of the Budget assessing every item, a zero-base budget procedure in effect?
Will they restart the economy by wiping out all the disincentives to investments and provide meaningful incentives to investors?
Will they collaborate with private enterprise to plan economic growth and prepare plans for specific projects to be presented to foreign investors?
If Germany were asked to govern Greece for six months, recovery would be certain. Can a Greek government do all what should be done, in the way that it should? A government of technocrats? Yes, definitely. A government from and of the parties who brought the country to its knees? Very doubtful.
Germany is purposeful action. The Germans love order and do what their leaders tell them. The Eurozone is de facto under the German leadership, which wants austerity for all.
Yes this is the way to start reducing the deficit (by reducing expenditures), but it should be coupled to growth, which will generate the additional income to reduce the deficit.
The German government believes austerity is the cure for all the ills, recession be damned. Only recently has it started realizing that growth should, also, be encouraged, to prevent an accentuation of the recession plaguing Greece in particular, where unemployment has climbed above 20%.
The American solution to recession has, successfully, been expansion instead of austerity. This seems to have been, finally, understood by the Germans who now heed to the suggestion of the EU leadership, which, until recently, they have ignored, that growth is urgently required to pull Europe and the Eurozone up.
Germany has many of the qualities Greece lacks. The result attests to the fact that Greece should become a little “German” in some ways. Yes, the German character has its shortcomings, but then the Greek character has many (too many) shortcomings as well.