Greeks are known for their hospitality. But five months ago, thousands of Greeks greeted Dominique Strauss-Kahn with demonstrable hatred: they hung his effigy outside the nation's parliament, set it ablaze and watched it dangle amid a chorus of cheers and jeers. "Many people believe we're the bad guys,"the IMF head said at the time, "but we didn't come here uninvited." More importantly, he warned, "You don't fight the doctor. You take the bitter medicine he prescribes, even if you don't like it."
With the doctor, now, seemingly out of the picture, Greeks - increasingly resentful of tough cost-cutting measures decreed by the IMF and its European partners -- are hardly rejoicing. News of Strauss-Kahn's arrest sent shock waves across the country, keeping most Greeks glued to their television sets as pundits, politicians and media sounded concern that the debt-choked country was heading for an even bumpier ride ahead. As Stefanos Manos, former finance minister of Greece put it, with Strauss-Khan gone, "hard-line German policies will be given a clear right of way."
Already this week, hopes of winning more time and money were dashed by a mouthful of German demands that Athens first make good on its promise to fix its broken economy and sell-off some $60-billion (U.S.) in state assets, before any new infusion of EU/IMF aid is considered. What's more, the fate of a $17-billion tranche of aid due next month, is now at stake as Greece's international lenders are growing bore and bug with its flagging pace of reforms. "If the installment isn't approved," said Adamantios Pepelasis, a leading economist in Athens, "we'll be bust. Greece and company will not be able to operate."
True. In fact, it's no wonder Eleftherotypia, the popular, left-leaning daily blared "Chambermaid blocks Greece" on its front page on Monday. The forceful yet savvy Strauss-Kahn was due to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday, planning to lean against the notion of whacking Greece, in its third year of a deepening recession, with additional austerity reforms. Such shock therapy, he is said to have argued, could prove lethal. The question, now, is whether his successor will act the same.