Greece’s day of redemption

The official end of a bailout of the Greek economy marks a triumph for European unity and a new dawn for reform in Greece.

AP Photo
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras delivers a speech from the island of Ithaca, legendary home of the ancient mariner Odysseus, hero of Homer's Odyssey epic, on Aug. 21, the first day since the end of international bailouts.

According to classical poet Homer, the Greek hero Odysseus returned home from a difficult 10-year journey with the wisdom of self-restraint and the joy of redemption. That lesson has not been lost on modern Greece and its current prime minister, Alexis Tsipras.

On Tuesday, Mr. Tsipras traveled to the island of Ithaca, the mythological home of Odysseus, and marked the end of his country’s eight-year “odyssey” of international bailouts. The financial rescue of Greece from a severe debt crisis was the largest of any sovereign nation in history ($330 billion). The official end of the bailout from Greece’s eurozone partners and the International Monetary Fund, he said, was “a day of redemption.”

Tsipras also called it “the dawning of a new era,” one that he says will require further reforms aimed at changing Greek culture and behavior, such as better tax compliance and the end of a patronage system for government jobs.

The crisis began when the Greek government admitted in 2009 that it had lied about the size of its debt. That scared off foreign creditors, threatening the breakup of the European Union and the end of its experiment with a single currency. The EU countries in the eurozone then threw Greece a lifeline that has since saved the Union. For its part, Greece decided to stay in the EU and change its ways. Both decisions have proved to be the right ones.

Greece is now a stable center in the eastern Mediterranean, one that welcomes Syrian refugees. Its economy is growing 1 to 2 percent, exports are rising, and unemployment is going down. It has risen up the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index. While it will take years to lower its outsize debt, Greece’s budget is running a surplus. With the end of the bailout, it can again seek money from financial markets.

More Greeks now see more of a future in entrepreneurship than in landing a government job. For sure, the imposed austerity has left its mark on daily life and many businesses. Many well-educated Greeks have left for other countries. Yet the “new era” also includes a shake-up of Greece’s politics. The people are more demanding of integrity and accountability in leaders. So far, the journey home has been worth it, both for Greece and the rest of Europe.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Greece’s day of redemption
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/the-monitors-view/2018/0821/Greece-s-day-of-redemption
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe