Since the economic crisis over 500,000 people have gone abroad

By Richard Pine,Irish Times

An Athens newspaper recently referred to the mantra “this is Greece”, which is often used to explain a failure in the political or social system – a way of shrugging off the problem onto the collective shoulder. “It serves to rationalise inertia, the inability to break with vested interests, and the failure to take on influential oligarchs.”

To fight this, the paper argued, is a losing battle, even though there are “hundreds of inspiring examples to show that we can achieve anything we put our minds to”.

Unfortunately this is true on the individual level, but not on the macro-social level of government or industry.

Last month some of the top Greek industrialists denounced the obstacles to effective competition in the European marketplace: taxation, high energy costs, bureaucracy and monopolistic practices.

On the same day the German finance ministry and the European Stability Mechanism both warned that Greece cannot in the foreseeable future pay off its debts to the IMF or other creditors, and that continuous surveillance of economic performance is inevitable.

One of the merits of a new book by Roderick Beaton, Greece: Biography of a Modern Nation, is his demonstration of Greek indebtedness to foreign lenders since the foundation of the state in the 1830s: funds to fight the war of independence and to finance Greece’s fledgling manoeuvres in statehood.

The eventual bankruptcy of Greece in 1897 led to an international commission monitoring the economy right up to the 1960s, only to be replicated during the present crisis.