Dr. John N. Kallianiotis Headshot

Greece Is A Long Way from Back

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With all due respect to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who made some upbeat announcements about Greek's comeback last week, Greece is far from back financially or politically.

Samaras did say there is much left to do -- lowering record unemployment and revitalizing cash-strapped businesses -- but he pointed to modest GDP growth and start-up businesses hiring young people as positive signs.

Those of us who call Greece our homeland would love the prime minister's proclamation to be true, but let's not forget local elections are on the horizon.

Here is how Greek politics since 1974 work: The government is buying votes by distributing the budget "surplus" and giving other unrealistic promises. Meanwhile, the Parliament just issued yet another round of austerity programs.

I predict that after the elections May 18 and 25, the nation's corrupt leaders will tighten the financial noose even more to please their lenders from the European Union.

To really make a comeback, Greece has to return to being an independent, self-sufficient nation, and they need an efficient, effective government to match its progressive, intelligent citizenry. They will not get there by following orders from bureaucrats in Brussels.

The first step back to prosperity would be for Greece to put its own exit from the European Union on the agenda for the next meeting of the Council of the EU, which the nation chairs through this June.

It is the only way to rid Greece of the corrupt tax collectors leading the country now. My hope is that the spring elections will begin to move in that direction.

The PanHellenic Socialist Movement and the New Democracy Party have led Greece down the wrong path since 1974. Borrowing at low interest rates, they did manage to build highways, bridges and other infrastructure. Tourism and shipping did flourish, but manufacturing companies have been driven out of business.

Greece's standard of living improved artificially during this period, and the 2004 Olympics in Athens, while good public relations, levied a severe economic toll on the country.

The debt crisis in Greece has been created by bad management of government revenue, tax evasion by friends of government leaders and other wasteful spending. Patronage was rampant in the public sector. In sum, Greece's elected officials have for decades been inexperienced, and sometimes evil-minded, managers.

In ancient Greece, the term "paideia" referred to a value system the nation lived by the aristocratic class, which they passed on to the youth, and which embodied intellectual and moral excellence. That excellence has been stripped away, along with centuries-old values.

As if greed and corruption were not enough, the PanHellenic Socialist Movement brought Greece into the European Union. They are in bed with their EU benefactors, depending increasingly on their handouts, all of which have strings that include ever-increasing taxes on the already overtaxed citizens of the nation.

I believe it will take two generations to undo the damage inflicted on my homeland.

Greece needs a new conservative, moral and ethical government. Taxes must be reduced for the middle class and small businesses. Liquidity must be improved, with loans offered to private companies, which will create jobs and encourage educated young Greeks to stay. A war on corruption must be waged, including collecting back taxes from the evaders. Assets should be confiscated if necessary.

A new government must be more transparent in its actions, and the media must fully research the backgrounds of all the candidates before elections. Greece needs moral leaders who hold office to serve the people of Greece, not the interests of a few.