I’ve been in Greece for about a week. I was last here in the early ’90s and must say I’m pretty impressed. Greece is clean, organized, and seems calm. With all the news about the Greek economy in shreds and riots etc… I gotta say I’m not seeing it. Athens is pleasant, boats are running on time around the islands, and people everywhere in cafes and restaurants spending their Euros (I personally miss the Drachma… it was way cooler and a better deal :-) )
I had dinner last week in Athens with a friend of mine in the Apparel manufacturing business who told me that beneath the surface however the Greeks are in a “panic” because the wall that hit them he said nobody saw coming. All in all things seem pretty calm and laid back but I’m sure we’re not seeing much of the bad news as Greece handles it’s visitors I think pretty well because tourism is a huge part of their economy no doubt.
Funny enough, the one thought that’s been going through my mind for the past week is that if Greece is as clean and organized as it has been this past week, then Italy is screwed. The overwhelming bulk of my experience in Europe is in Italy and based on my experience, Greece right now is far cleaner and far more organized that Italy ever has been. I love Italy but man does Italy need a wake up call.
Among the PIIG countries my Greek friend was telling me that in his opinion Ireland will likely come out the best because the main issue there was an inflated real estate market similar to the USA issue and still has a great work force and treats companies very well with reasonable tax rates. He owns a factory and almost 20 retail stores in Greece so he sees and understands it first-hand.
The Greek issue he explained to me is that the government is overloaded with government employees that suck more than they contribute to the whole mechanism that is Greece. He said that the government is cutting the salaries of the government employees but he said that it doesn’t need to cut the salaries of thousands of state employees, it need to eliminate those jobs entirely. The problem he said is not what they’re paid, it’s that their paid at all for doing nothing.
He told me about the games that go on in Greece where people work for 20 years in government jobs and then get 30 years of pension. He said this is a typical example of what has led to Greece being in the financial spot it’s in.
Portugal he told me is different. It has lost industry and will likely not recover it so easily.
Italy on the other hand will probably have the hardest time. In fact on the front page of one of the Italian newspapers the other day there was an article that in 2025 Italy will have 2 million more senior citizens than it does today with a much smaller work force. The headline was “who will take care of the old people”. Not a nice thought but it’s the reality of Italy unless the government rethinks the way it treats it private sector because the demographics are what they are.
If you’ve never been to Greece you might consider it. It’s easy to navigate, the food is delicious, people are warm, and the views in the islands are really amazing. It’s good place for a little down time to recharge your mind with rest, ideas, and fresh air (literally and metaphorically)