To tell you the truth when I read the title of the article below, my brain hit the wall of my own prejudice. “Greeks still hostile to reforms despite economic depression” I read on a German state media outlet and much to my shame I thought: “Oh, it’s the German conservative establishment again, blaming the Greeks for failing reforms, for this and that, and thus a day before the Eurogroup meeting.”
I admit, I was quite wrong. The article describes quite vivid and well-researched the good old way of doing business in Greece. Or even just get a job.
Creditors insist on strucutral reforms to boost economic growth and generate new jobs. But Greeks resit. Why is that?
“Greeks see things differently. They know that structural reforms would shake the foundations of Greek society – because they would break up a vast and complex web of dependencies, cozy deals, agreements, and relationships that order people’s place in the economy and give them some security in an uncertain world. That’s why most Greeks believe that despite the government’s debt crisis, established structures shouldn’t be shaken up.”
A Greek needs to be part of the system
“”Once you’re in, you’re in, and then you can have a good life.” This phrase comes up fairly quickly when one chats with Greeks about the problems in their country. Being “in” means being part of a network characterized by nepotism, favoritism and corrupt dealings, mediated at the center by the Greek state.
To get “in,” one needs good contacts. In Greece, it’s not possible to get a job even as a municipal garbage collection worker without having contacts. Jobs like that aren’t easy to get, and have great advantages – as a sanitation worker, one is classed as a civil servant, and gets paid a secure income in an economically weak and insecure country.”
Doing business with the public sector
The CEO of a municipal agency in a Greek city – who preferred to remain anonymous for this interview – explained how “getting in” works on an everyday basis: “Let’s assume my enterprise needs new plumbing-pipes worth four million euros,” he said. “A private business will get the contract to deliver pipes to me – but will deliver only two million euros’ worth. The other two million will be split between me and my supplier, who will of course provide me with a receipt for four million euros.”
Naturally, such contracts are subject to public bidding processes, just as European Union laws and regulations require. But in most cases, the winning contractor has been decided in advance. That’s how business is normally done in Greece, even now, with the country in a deep economic crisis.
Salary cuts promote corruption – But that was also the case before the economic crisis
“On a recent Friday, the businessman said, a civil servant arrived at his business location and announced an inspection. There was nothing out-of-order, but the inspector refused to leave after the inspection. He sat for hours in the CEO’s waiting-room, without saying a word. As the hour neared quitting-time, the businessman and his partner discussed between themselves what was to be done with the chap. After all, they wanted to go home to their families for the weekend. Late in the afternoon, they gave him an envelope with a few hundred euros in it, to get rid of him.”
Generation Y is different – Really?
“Generation Y (born 1980 – 1995) is the first generation to question the country’s culture of corruption and nepotism since Greece achieved independence in 1821 from the Turkish Ottoman empire. Many of its members don’t want to accept these ways of doing business that continue to drag the country down.
Generation Y is better educated than any previous generation, but only 10 percent manage to find an adequately paid job. The rest are unemployed, or stumble through life as badly paid freelancers, taking in perhaps 400 or 500 euros a month.”
This new generation refuses to pay bribes, and instead waits until an application to conduct a business or a project has wound its slow way through government agencies, even if it takes longer.
“It works out,” according to entrepreneur Konstantinos Konstantinidis. “Our parents’ generation brought this country to ruin. Now it’s up to us to learn from their mistakes.”
Konstantinidis is proud that he produces something, that his medium-sized business is productive, and doesn’t wait on the next state contract – unlike a great many other companies in Greece.
Many members of Generation Y are self-employed, setting up tiny businesses – perhaps offering dance lessons in a small town in the countryside, or farming olives on their parents’ land. Nearly every Greek family still owns a patch of farmable land.
The new generation, it seems, doesn’t need as much money to live on as their parents did. Their parents’ lifestyle is, in any event, unachievable for most of them.“(full article DeutscheWelle)
A bit cliche – and certainly romantic.
Because if the parents “who ruined the country” had no olives trees, agricultural land, a small apartment here and another there if they could not afford start capital for their offspring business, things would be much tougher especially for the youngest part of Generation Y.
Certain is that the majority of the Generation Y does not seem to seek a job with the public administration anymore. But as we have no data on this… it is just an assumption. what I can report about from Athens is that still many of my friends dream their kids get a job at a ministry, a public institution or whatever. Jobs, especially good paid jobs are a rarity. Unemployment among youth below 25 is more than 45 percent. Majority of offered jobs is at cafes, bars and restaurants, or big retail chains. Part-time. For 3 euro per hour.
A question to ask is who has been resisting the reforms? The protests in the first year of the first bailout were largely spontaneous. In recent years they turned into a show place of unions of the narrow and broader public and the private sector of the utility companies. Those who bring up or down governments.