At the May 24th Eurogroup meeting, Euclid Tsakalotos presented Greece’s growth strategy to his fellow finance ministers of the euro area. A national development strategy covering the major economic sectors, which has so far eluded the public eye.
As Eurogroup President Mario Centeno noted at the end of the Eurogroup meeting: “on the back of our experience in other programme countries - namely in the country I know best - ownership is critical for the sustainability of the current economic recovery in Greece.” It is not very clear what the EU finance ministers understand by “ownership”. In this case, ownership of the growth strategy lies with the present Greek government only, as no draft was ever announced, while its core direction has never been the subject of any open dialogue either in Parliament or the public.
According to the Supplemental MοU of 5 July 2017, the growth strategy would “aim at creating a more attractive business environment and help design sectorial priorities in areas such as ICT, tourism, transport, pharmaceuticals and logistics, and agriculture and agro-food.
After eight years of surveillance under three economic adjustment programmes, whose overall impact on environmental laws and policies has undoubtedly been detrimental, it is now clearer than ever that the lack of transparency covering the negotiations and the content of the priorities for development erodes their acceptance, efficacy and legitimacy. Greek governments are indeed notorious for opaque policy making. Considering that the European Commission, both as leading member of the institutions supervising Greece’s economic adjustment and as guardian of the Treaties, undoubtedly shares responsibility with the Greek Government for this lack of transparency and scorn towards public engagement in planning for the country’s future.
Clear, effective and accountable governance mechanisms at all levels are fundamental to effective environmental protection and sustainable development and robust democracy.
The draft of the strategy that was published in Greek media fails to move ahead from the banality of polluting business-as-usual. Even worse, it shows lack of vision and understanding of Greece’s true comparative advantages for growth. Although it indirectly recognizes that the lignite-based electricity model is obsolete, it fails to commit to a coal phase out. It further insists on hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation in Greece’s pristine areas as well as infrastructure for natural gas storage and transportation, while at the same time, tries to keep Greece’s massive potential for energy efficiency and renewable energy deployment at bay with goals of very low ambition, in order to ensure there is enough room for fossil fuels.
The secretly drawn “growth strategy” could well be the vehicle towards the sustainable, vibrant and participatory economy that Greece so badly needs. In an age of climate change and growing ecological footprint, real economic stability can only be founded on a sound ecological basis.
Beyond the dramatic state of its finances, Greece is one of the EU’s most important member states in terms of ecological wealth. Yet, with the approval of the European Commission, the IMF and the ECB, the Greek governments have been consistently sidelining the sustainable development agenda since the onset of the economic crisis. As WWF has shown in the report ‘A living economy for Greece’, Greece’s fragile economy and state have a tremendous potential for good governance, innovation and competitiveness, based on the country’s unique ecological wealth.
A development remodelling is urgently needed: clear, equitable and effectively monitored laws; taxation that boosts job creation and makes polluters pay; policies that favour ecologically sustainable investments; a participatory and solutions-driven society; a vibrant social economy. Specific measures on good governance, which will ensure the development of a clear, transparent and coherent regulatory environment, should necessarily be the basis for an economy that creates a healthy and attractive environment for social development, entrepreneurship and good investments. The post-bailout strategy for Greece needs to set the basis for a living real economy, which will be founded on the dynamic and environmentally sustainable revival of the primary sector, industry, energy and certainly tourism.