Stand With Greece: Policy Summit at US Congress

Hellenic Caucus of the US Congress

Stand With Greece: Policy Summit at US Congress

On October 1, 2015 a policy summit on current Greek developments and prospects was organized by the Hellenic Caucus of the US Congress, co-chaired by Hon. Gus Bilirakis (R-Florida) and Hon. Carolyn Maloney (D-New York). The summit comprised three sessions: (a) Administrative and Business Reform, (b) A View From Greece, and (c) Regional Security Discussion.Each session was chaired by a moderator and included three panelists.  The purpose of the Summit was to explore how U.S. policies can be best utilized to provide technical and security support to Greece, which is currently undergoing both economic and migratory crises that are likely to persist in the foreseeable future.

I participated in the first session as a panelist, along with Mr. Pavlos Geroulanos, former Minister of Culture and Tourism  of Greece, and Mr. Ted Diamantis, international businessman.  The session was moderated by Prof. Ismini  A. Lamb, Director of Modern Greek studies at Georgetown University. The panel discussion and participants’ expertise focused on administrative and business reform in Greece and how it can help bolster  growth prospects in the country, especially through foreign direct investment.

My main theme was that the current agreement with European partners includes all areas of desirable structural reforms, but implementation could be a problem. Based on my experience from previous agreements while I was at the IMF Board, I suggested that unfinished projects were not always due to lack of political will, but frequently due to capacity constraints faced by the Greek civil service. To avoid similar difficulties in the future, I recommended that international creditors and donors be parsimonious in their demands on the Greek authorities, including a better prioritization of reforms and a more realistic timetable for their implementation. You can read my full remarks here.

3 Comments

  1. Dagny Taggart says:

    Reforming Greece is a hopeless task. All the Syriza-ANEL government cares about is debt relief, which they view as their ticket to redemption after signing the “sinful” MOU with creditors. Lack of capacity is the least of their worries, lack of ownership is the key problem. Just watch the fiasco of PM Tsipras’ performance at the Clinton Global Initiative investor forum in NY a week ago.

  2. H.Trickler says:

    Although many details in your text superficially look correct, in many aspects they are too indulgent to help.

    > „… many commentators attributed the insufficient progress with structural reforms under the previous governments to lack of political will. To some extent, this is true. But there was also an issue of capacity, which slowed down the implementation of reforms.“

    Imho, over a considerable period of time, these various governments would have had plenty of time, assuming they would have made clear to the staff that the previous system of cronyism was decidedly abandoned.

    > „And then comes the question of technical assistance (TA): why didn’t TA help to the extent envisaged by the creditors? The answer is again two-fold: to some extent, civil servants may have resisted novel approaches and changes in their routine, but I think the multidimensional TA also slowed down the process. It was a question of ‘absorptive capacity’“.

    This lack of ‘absorptive capacity’ too was the fatal consequence of years of cronyism. If the government had decidedly made it clear to the administration that a new epoch with completely new rules has begun, the outcome would have been much better. In industry, every competent manger knows that successful change management is an art that can be learned.

    Your recommendations in Chap. IV towards the creditors are too generalized and a matter of common knowledge. The whole bunch of reforms is interdependent and should be realized the fastest possible. Due to 5 more years lost, the house is in fire and unless the new government performs the miracle, it won’t happen this time either.

    For a long time I had published that unless Greece gets some Greek Lech Walesa, the turn around will not happen. And Tsipras, imho is not capable to succeed in this gargantuan task.

  3. Constantine Kazakos says:

    Greece do not have the capability and the capacity to perform transformational, to its infrastructure, projects. There is a severe lack of technocrats, who by the way, could be contracted to perform these initiatives by a dedicated and decisive government. The Tsipras government could commission the appropriate technocrats to address transformation based on a prioritized list of initiatives.

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