Sir, The debt crisis demands deep reforms by the Greek government. What it doesn’t require is a ham-fisted insistence on public expenditure cuts that stifle future prospects for recovery.
I write as a member of the Greek National Council for Research and Technology, which provides advice to the Ministry of Education on policies towards universities and research institutes. We are busy putting in place reforms that will radically alter the research landscape, helping to find an exit from the crisis and to establish an engine for future economic growth.
There are many inherited problems, built up over successive governments, to overcome, including inertia, poor monitoring and the misallocation of resources. Yet, we have witnessed the determination of key stakeholders to engage in serious reform. A cross-party consensus is evident on future research policy. There is much scientific talent and dedication, with pockets of excellence, to build on.
But the danger today is that the research infrastructure, as well as many other related institutions, may disintegrate due to the inordinate pressures being placed on the country. I ask your readers to appreciate being asked to restructure an entire research establishment, not even in months but in only a few weeks, as is being currently demanded by Greece’s international creditors. Under the inordinate time pressure of the “troika”, the only choice is to make financial cuts indiscriminately and without evaluation, with potentially grave consequences to the future prospects for recovery. Already, there is a worrying brain-drain; scientists have faced drastic cuts; and there is an imminent and general threat of salaries not being paid.
Greece’s creditor governments need not doubt the will to engage in deep-rooted reforms, but it is imperative – indeed, in the interests of both Greece and Europe – that the country be afforded the opportunity for an orderly implementation of such measures.
This piece first appeared as a Comment Letter in the Financial Times (Tuesday, 18 October 2011) Note: This article gives the views of the author, not the position of Greece@LSE, the Hellenic Observatory or the London School of Economics.
Isn’t it that the creditors would be more sympathetic to affording Greece more time, had Greece been able to demonstrate a more impressive/effective set of actions in the time it has already been offered…? Not sure the international creditors want (or expect) to see a restructuring of the research establishment (within weeks or otherwise). What they want to see, perhaps even within days, is a firmer move towards primary surpluses. Maybe restructuring the research establishment is even a distraction to this.
Its good to debate. Of course too much time has been lost and more reform should have been achieved. I don’t wish to take a partisan stance, but there are a number of contextual factors that should be taken into account (e.g. domestic opposition; problems of state administration). Did you advocate faster, deeper adjustment (e.g. more cuts) in 2010? In any event, judgements must be made in the present and there is no invention here of a pressure that is not direct and immediate in this specific area.