Greece’s multidimensional reforms: Will they work?

Athens: From healthcare to education, from overhauling the judiciary to cracking down on tax evasion, the Greek government is undertaking a reform program to set Greece on a solid foundation for the future. The question is: Will it succeed?

If economic recovery was the priority of his first term, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is now embarking on a far more ambitious program, namely to reform the Greek state itself.

For seven years now, the InvestGR Forum – whose slogan is: Business/Policy/Action – has been debating these very issues. The new Greece that is being built also needs a new, strong foundation. And this is where the foreign multinationals and leading Greek corporates that take part in the Forum can help.

Ultimately, the success of the reform program will depend on effective implementation. And to achieve that, there has to be all-encompassing buy-in: From society, from the public sector itself and from businesses.

For businesses, the varied nature of the latest reforms – senior civil service appointments, tax evasion, judicial reform, private universities – are all relevant, but the benefits may take significant time to materialize.

The non-public universities are perhaps the most ground-breaking reform, but will take time to manifest themselves in changes to the labor market and a lot will depend on implementation. Likewise the upcoming judicial reforms, which will involve a restructuring of the court system, seem like a positive step, but the proof may be forthcoming only years from now.

The appointment of hospital directors with professionally vetted credentials also seems positive, and is of direct interest to businesses. But one wonders if Greece will be able to attract the right candidates, given other disincentives to working in Greece, like high income taxes or the lack of meritocracy.

Because, beyond just the public facing bureaucracy, the Greek state is fossilized by a web of rules, regulations, conventions, habits, mindsets, hierarchies and underperforming public institutions. Anyone who lives or does business in Greece will be familiar with the idiosyncrasies of how this country functions.

These latest attempts at reform are in the right direction, but it remains to be seen whether they will have a real impact. And whether they go far enough.

In the meantime, investors and businesses – particularly those with experience and knowhow from abroad – should engage with policy makers to contribute to the reform effort. Because they will be among the key arbiters in the future of Greece and whether the new Greece will emerge on solid ground for the benefit of all.