Felix Salmon has a theory: Greece needs some Canadians, or at least people like us, to turn the country around.
It’s something he first expressed during a CBC television segment earlier this week, and then elaborated on in a blog post on Reuters' website. His point: the new bailout requires Greeks to work hard and pay their taxes “in a good Protestant manner.” Canadians, he argued, “are well-educated, productive, and very good at paying their taxes; what’s more, they’d probably like somewhere warmer to live, especially in the winter.” So transplant some of us there, and things should turn around.
Truthfully, he was having a bit of fun with the idea, being on Canadian TV and all. But his analogy gets at the heart of Greece’s economic problems, which he succinctly summarizes in just a few sentences.
“Underneath it all is the simple truth that economic growth is caused by people. Ever since the euro zone was created, Europe has been quite clear about the fact that economic and monetary union can’t work without labour mobility. But sadly, the ability of Europeans to work in any EU country has meant an outflow of skilled professionals from Greece, when what it really needs is an inflow.”
He then argues that structural reform in Greece will have to come from new blood. But read the post. He offers some great examples.
This very subject is something the Globe touched on a few months back. In October, I reached out to a group that dub themselves Greek Economists for Reform, who argue that the country's entire economy needs an overhaul. The labour force is full of inefficiencies. Tax evasion is rampant. And Greece has developed a culture in which government employees are accustomed to job security - the public sector represents about 40 per cent of the economy - and each new proposal for cutting public spending sends Greeks into the streets to protest or riot.