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FT: Rich did not pull their weight during crisis

In an article in the Financial Times about Greek plans to seek an early exit from the bailout program, and the potential for snap elections in March, columnist Tony Barber addresses the true root of many of Greece’s problems: clientelist relationships and corruption.

“In the end,” he writes, “what matters for Greece is not whether Mr Samaras stays in office or Mr Tsipras replaces him. It is whether almost five years of domestic hardship and subjection to the “troika” – the European Central Bank, European Commission and IMF – have really modernised Greece’s political culture and public attitudes to the state.”

Barber maintains that many of the structures that caused Greece woes remain, adding that in the years of the crisis rich Greeks ‘made no sacrifices’, leaving the poor and middle classes to pick up the bill.

Here is the key excerpt (emphasis added):

“The crisis dealt a blow to the time-hallowed system of clientelism, bribery and self-enrichment that gained fresh life in Greece from the early 1980s under PASOK, the socialist party, and New Democracy. But it is pointless to deny that public sector corruption and patronage networks persist. In the private sector, meanwhile, rich Greeks made no sacrifices to help their nation in its moment of need, ensuring the crisis hammered the middle classes and poor instead.”

“Greek clientelism, and the selfishness of the rich, survived everything the 20th century threw at them – two world wars, foreign occupation, a civil war and a domestic military dictatorship. Do not be surprised if they outlive the troika, too, after Greece’s latest foreign overlords take their leave.”