Kostas Stoupas How we lost our country

“A few days ago the FT published some data, like those we have published dozens of times in recent years, which showed that Greece is one of the poorest countries in the EU. Only Bulgaria is behind us,” wrote journalist Kostas Stoupa in his opinion piece published in the Greek media this week. “Many were surprised, others were outraged and many pretended to be angry.”

He continued, cautioning, “The impoverishment of the country, however, has its identifiable culprits and names. But let's take things in order.”

With over 30 years of experience as a journalist, Kostas Stoupas brings a unique perspective to the table, drawing on his extensive background in financial reporting and analysis.

Starting as a financial journalist in the early 90s, he gained firsthand experience of the real economy and entrepreneurship. Over the years, he transitioned into commentary and analysis, drawing on his encounters with individuals from all walks of life, including entrepreneurs and businessmen. Through his work in various media outlets, including Capital magazine, Kathimerini newspaper, and Mega and Star channels, Stoupas has established himself as a prominent voice in Greek journalism.

According to Stoupas, Greece's economic performance in recent years has been marred by stagnation and decline, despite efforts to portray it otherwise. He uses a simple analogy to illustrate the magnitude of the challenge, emphasising the significant effort required to recover from a substantial loss.

Highlighting key economic indicators, Stoupas attempts to highlight, what to him is, the stark reality of Greece's economic deterioration. He points out that Greece has fallen behind even former communist countries in Eastern Europe, while its neighbour Turkey has experienced exponential growth, widening the economic disparity between the two nations.

“Many characterise the dynamic performance of the Greek economy in the last 4 years as "fake", since they did not manage to change the general picture. It's not like that.

"If we subtract 50% from 100 we will have 50. Then to get from 50 to 100 we will need an increase of 100% and not 50%. Consequently, to get to where we were, more effort and more time is needed. Meanwhile the others will have moved on...

"In 2009 the Greek GDP had reached 242 billion euros, in 2015 it had fallen to 177 billion euros. Now we are celebrating that it reached 220 billion euros in 2023.

The worst of all, however, is not that Greece is almost the poorest country in Europe, but the fact that Turkey, which is plotting its national sovereignty, has acquired an overwhelming difference in economic power.

Kostas Stoupas

"But we are far from the high of 242 billion euros in 2009. But this is the least. This, because in the meantime even the communist-ravaged countries of Eastern Europe have overtaken us. The worst of all, however, is not that Greece is almost the poorest country in Europe, but the fact that Turkey, which is plotting its national sovereignty, has acquired an overwhelming difference in economic power.

"In 2000, the Turkish GDP was 50% higher than the Greek one. In 2025 it is fivefold. As economic power is the foundation of military power, the difference had now become chaotic,” he writes.

"Things would have been better if Greece had not defaulted in 2010 and if 2015 had not lost an additional four years in stagnation and deterioration. If Greece had not gone bankrupt in 2010, today it could have a GDP of over 400 billion euros.

"With this size, it would be quite far from the ranking that considers it the poorest EU country outside of Bulgaria. With a GDP of 400 billion, it would also be able to maintain stronger armed forces than the ones it maintains today."

Stoupas attributes much of Greece's economic woes to past political decisions and mismanagement. He criticises former leaders, including Andreas Papandreou and Kostas Karamanlis, for their roles in exacerbating the country's debt crisis through excessive spending and poor fiscal policies.

“The patriarch of the Greek bankruptcy is Andreas Papandreou, who assumed a debt of about 25% of the GDP and in a decade quadrupled it, tripling the State staff,” writes Stoupas.

“At the beginning of 2000, the situation could have been saved if the Simitis government had not succumbed to the Pallaic rage against the Giannitsi-Sprau insurance reform. A decade later, government subsidization of pensions alone had added over €200 billion to the debt. This amount represented about 2/3 of the debt at the time of the bankruptcy.

“The scapegoat for the bankruptcy of 2010 was given by the period of government of Kostas Karamanlis from 2004 to 2009. He took on a debt of just over 100% of GDP and delivered it over 150%. If in the Autumn of 2009, when G. A. Papandreou won the elections, he had taken 10% of the measures taken in the following decade, Greece could have avoided the memoranda and instead of a ten-year recession with a loss of 25% of GDP, to have less losses.

“But then the populists of the extreme right and the extreme left did not leave much leeway, promising the naive hundreds of billions of euros from German reparations and oil that we have not yet found.

“The cost would have been lower and today the GDP could be close to 300 billion euros if we had avoided the... mistake of 2015 and the third memorandum.

However, Stoupas also acknowledges the role of societal expectations and political ideologies in shaping Greece's economic trajectory. He argues that voters must take responsibility for the leaders they elect, as they ultimately reflect the aspirations of society as a whole. Stoupas emphasises the need for accountability and a critical examination of past decisions in order to pave the way for meaningful change.

“So whose fault is it that we are the poorest in Europe?” he asks in closing, stating, ““Blaming politicians alone is evasion and deception.”

“From '74 onwards those who governed us were elected by us and basically expressed the average expectations and aspirations of this society.

On that note, Stoupas concludes: "Happy Easter."

See also Athens Transportation Schedules over 2024 Greek Easter Holidays

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