For Ekathimerini, the New Year has begun with exhortations regarding the future.
In an op-ed by Yiannis Manuelides, the author argues: "Years of proud Greek exceptionalism, followed by years of passive-aggressive acceptance of memoranda, need to be followed by something radically different. The world today is interconnected in complex ways. It will continue to evolve in challenging ways. For Greece to break free of its current isolation, it needs to engage with the world. The means of this engagement is a better and marketable Greek product. The actors who can bring this about are the residents of Greece working better together and becoming bona fide members of the global community. Rising to this challenge will see the return of lasting prosperity and legitimate national pride."
Alexis Papachelas argues that "it is high time for Greece to set new goals for the future, to make a plan: "Today we are looking at the future divided and with a clear leadership deficit. The asymmetry with Turkey, notwithstanding its internal problems, is a cause for concern. It’s time we hammered out a plan that will help the country restore its strengths and play a leading role in the region, taking advantage of untapped potential. Looking back at the big picture, it may not appear that bad, but if we want to halt the decline we need to set goals for Greece and the diaspora, which has also played a key part."
And then there is an obituary about Nikos Mouyiaris who is quoted: “I’ve been in America for over 50 years. I saw many of us succeed in what we chose to do. Professionals, academics, scientists, businessmen. Some also excelled in politics. As persons we succeed. Regretfully, however, I see that organized Hellenism is declining. Associations and federations are in danger of extinction. They are not capable of attracting our youngsters, our many incredible young professionals."
One of the wonderful traits of Greeks which I have learned to admire is their competency in making diagnoses. I have been with taxi drivers who would explain to me, during a 1/2 ride from the airport, everything that is wrong in Greece and why. It makes for wonderful conversation. What is lacking across the board, however, are specific proposals and action plans. Not sophisticated macro-economic dissertations but, instead, pragmatic goals and measures which the population at large can absorb and identify with (if they only hear them often enough).
Suppose a Prime Minister made the following speech on prime time TV: "We - the government - propose a New Deal to the Greek people: going forward, we will, unequivocally and irrevocably, pursue 4 obsessions in our daily lives: we will be obsessed with export promotion, thereby creating growth in the economy; we will be obsessed with substituting imports through local production wherever we can, also adding to economic growth; we will be obsessed with attracting foreign investment as a source of foreign capital, provided that such investment adds value to our economy and society; and - we, the government - will seek to build a modern and prosperous Greece: a Greece characterized by economic opportunity and social equity, and served by an efficient administration with a strong public service ethos."
If nothing else happens, that speech will go down into the history of beautiful soundbites. What else must happen? Each of these soundbites must be supported by specific action plans with milestones. During the last 10 years of crisis, there has been a multitude of proposed plans for the turn-around of the Greek economy. To only name my favorite: the Greece Ten Years Ahead Report submitted by the Athens office of McKinsey in 2011. And regarding the building of a modern and prosperous Greece, I refer to the former EU Task Force for Greece.
It really would not take all that much but what it will definitely take is Greek leaders who step forward and display civil courage and disinterested conduct. Does Greece have such leaders? A plenty, in my judgment. The eternal question I have about Greek society is why such leaders do not step forward and display civil courage and disinterested conduct.