For over fifteen years, Greece surfed on a wave of materialism. Awash with money that wasn't earned yet with a feeling of entitlement. It was probably one of the least hellenistic places on earth. On a personal level I have felt the corrosive force of a surrounding where the worst most materialistic side of your character is applauded rather than isolated. I have done things that I regret and I could definitely have been a better and more responsible citizen. The fact that “everyone was doing it“ is no excuse for ethical elasticity. I believe that there is a collective and independent sense of guilt which is the underlying reason for the lack of serious social eruptions.
Could the European community have done anything differently? Or is that a systemic mistake?
Olympios: Of course. It cannot by default be a uniquely Greek failure. This is a European accident, a systemic failure as well. It was an accident that took place in slow motion but many saw it coming years ahead. But to be fair it has still been made in Greece. Just because Eurostat did not catch Greece it still means that by manipulating greek statistics, you were effectively stealing and when you are caught stealing you still deserve to be treated like a thief.
But there must have been people in Brussels who knew about that.
Olympios: Of course they new. But once again change does not only have to be institutional and reform must be personal, communal, corporate and political. It cannot be on just the one level for us to create a new citizen.
Is there something that could be of immediate help?
Boutaris: As long as specialists come into the greek economy and really do understand the greek economy and taking the best practices from Germany or Europe and adjust them to Greece, that could help very much. But the whole bureaucracy in Brussels is unbearable, for all of Europe. This is where the problem lies.
Olympios: They must build a security net. Bring other principles and moral directions into the mix of measures and policy. Acknowledge that the social fabric cannot be shattered at all costs. Despite Greece meeting many more targets than it has missed, why is the Troika panicking at even the smallest set back in tax revenue from an already financially exhausted public and not equally alarmed by the social crisis? Why do we need special help with our finances but not for our social needs? How European is it that the program does not have social benchmarks in place? Checks and balances regarding the suffering it creates. We need to factor in the learnings and acknowledge the hardship.
Boutaris: Only the real growth can bring real jobs. No matter if you go to any company and you tell them, “Listen, you can have five people for free. I will pay you to have them.” It will not work. We must create real sustainable jobs.
Did all of you—during the crisis—build new jobs? Or did you have let go of people?
Kefalogiannis: As far as we are concerned, we have increased our staff.
Boutaris: Have you dropped the salaries?
Kefalogiannis: No, we didn’t drop salaries and we didn’t fire anyone.