In an opinion piece entitled The Euro’s Morality Lesson which it compares the financial situation of Germany and Greece, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen said that despite a crushing economic crisis, Greeks still believe in putting bribes in little envelopes called fakelaki to get political favors known as rousfeti.
In the article, growth in Germany’s economics, as well as frugality and avoidance of debt, is mentioned, compared to Greece’s economics, which is characterized as “a branch of personal ingenuity,” where there is no meritocracy or morality.
The piece referred to words corruption and cronyism of the Anglo-Saxon canon, saying that these words “have attached themselves to the Greek approach and that for Greeks following rules was a form of stupidity.”
“If politicians were corrupt, what could be the purpose of personal integrity? Far better, Greeks thought, to trust in “fakelaki” (the little envelope) and “rousfeti” (a political favor for votes) than confuse morality with material advancement,” the article noted.
The role of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Minister of Administrative Reform and e-governance, is mentioned in the article, who has stated during an interview to the article’s author: “The parties used ministries to reward people. The grand bargain was a job in the public sector for votes. But you needed to be able to finance the system. Fine as long as money was flowing and loans easy. Now that they are not, you have no choice but to be efficient.”
“Look, the private sector has taken 1.3 million unemployed since the crisis broke, and there has been basically zero from the public sector. Because the reform was put off, the private sector was taxed and punished as an alternative. There is a silent majority for this reform,” Mitsotakis said in the interview.
He continued: “We’ve had a state that is way too big — with no meritocracy, no disciplinary activity, and a lot of people entering through the back door. Some employees were even being paid in jail.”
“We can get better value for money and meet the commitments of my country,” Mitsotakis said. “But our creditors must understand that the main risk today is if they try for more measures — any further attempt to tax incomes will not fly. Austerity has been pushed too far. When our prime minister meets with President Obama this month, one of his main messages will be this,” Mitsotakis explained.
The newspaper concludes pointing out that “Greeks can learn something of economics as moral philosophy” and saying that “Europe must bridge its moral chasm.” It also writes that “Germans can learn that austerity as economic tool has its limits and that the use of a fiscal deficit to finance growth is not a sin.”