This is no conspiracy theory. The Greek government has convinced everybody that they are doing an admirable job handling the pandemic. Or to be honest, it was much easier than others. We have no economy. Sending everyone home when half the population isn’t working anyway (as civil servants) is no big decision. Taking an aggressive approach when your economy depends largely on tourism is also an easy choice. If we manage to salvage July and August on the Greek islands it will be a major victory. Even if we end up paying for it in terms of more deaths right after the tourist season. It is all about first impressions. Leaders of countries with actual working economies that actually produce something have a much harder job. Sure Trump and Boris Johnson are inept, but we should not disregard how much harder it is to make any decision when there are billions riding on it. All the Greek government has to do is wait for the handouts. During the crisis nobody discussed shared debt, now it is inevitable.
Here in Greece it was easy to stop schools. We have a terrible educational system run by civil servants who do their best not to work or be evaluated. Not much difference if they close. In England it could cripple many companies when parents have to stay at home. Here it is easy for most people. Same with our enormous civil sector. Nobody misses the paper pushers when they are gone.
Some years ago, when my kids still thought I knew the answer to everything, they asked me what I would do if I became prime minister. (Because it was so obvious that I was the wisest man in the world!) I didn’t have to think much, the answer was obvious: “I would force everyone to get on a single IT system for everything.” This would solve most of our woes, from the black economy, to corruption.
We now have most of the population at home. Online most of the time. How will they return to work when this is all over? They won’t! Our Prime minister used to be minister of Interior. He had a thing about organizing the civil service better. Here is how he will do it: What we will do is ask them, under the pretense of health and safety, to work online. Civil servants in Greece have managed to avoid using computers. About two decades ago some minister tried to make it compulsory for them to use email. He failed. They still don’t. But they could now!
These civil servants are all being paid full salaries and bonuses even though they are at home. So you could easily ask them to start signing in on a computerized system. Next step would be to get them to monitor some simple procedure, much as they would stamp approval on paper in their offices. Then more procedures on the same electronic platform. “Hey, we are paying you, it is dangerous to go back to the office, this is the only way!” It is not hard to imagine the entire civil service being restructured in less than a year like this. And the best part is that whoever can’t or won’t join the digital revolution will be self exiling themselves.
I am optimistic I know. My kids tell me as much now that they are older. The most likely scenario is that this government, like all others before it, shows itself to be spineless and changes nothing. Or it gets loads of new cheap loans and spends it with friends and relatives, leaving our national health system as bad as it ever was. After all, the people that voted for this government will believe Greece did very well in the pandemic, based purely on the good results of this early period. When we have to actually do something real as a society and government , something like organizing a mass vaccination we will fail. Then they will blame antivaxxers or the other political parties.
But hey, I tried. It’s not rocket science to improve Greece in terms of IT infrastructure. And this is the best opportunity we will ever get. Will look forward to upcoming DESI scores with interest.