Greek Financial Adviser Discusses Economic Crisis
GUY RAZ, Host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Guy Raz.
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
I spoke earlier today with economist Elena Panaritis. She's a member of the Greek parliament, and an economic adviser to the Socialist Prime Minister George Papandreou. She says the solution to Greece's financial trouble lies not just in austerity measures, but also in reforms to an overly bureaucratic system.
ELENA PANARITIS: And we're not a dictatorship. We're a democracy, so we can't just decide on Monday morning and Monday afternoon have decisions applied.
BLOCK: I'm curious to hear your perspective when you hear the international community say that Greece is a failed welfare state. It has a hugely bloated civil service and it's a country of widespread tax evasion. It's estimated more than $100 billion goes uncollected in taxes every year. What do you say to them? Are they right?
PANARITIS: Well, these are the problems that show up as tax revision. But in reality it's what I told you earlier, a broken system. The oxymoron about our country is that although we are a 4,000-year-old civilization, we are only a 35-year-old modern economy and modern democracy. So our organizations, our institutions are not as mature. But this applies to also other European Union countries. And unfortunately, we're the weakest link and the crisis hit us first.
BLOCK: Do you accept that those things do need to change if lenders are to have confidence in the Greek economy, that there needs to be a wholesale revision and reform of your country?
PANARITIS: Yeah, absolutely, there needs to be a change. However, there needs also to be a full understanding and acceptance that we only are part of 2.7 percent of the GDP of the eurozone. And that the markets are not reacting simply to the one-seventeenth of the member country of the eurozone. Instead, they're reacting to the way the euro is being systemically handled.
BLOCK: As you've seen the waves of public protests and strikes, and even riots in the streets over the austerity measures that the Greek government has put into place, how do you convince people that these are necessary if Greece is to avoid default? What's the message you try to send?
PANARITIS: And fortunately, as the days go by, it becomes more and more real right under the skin of every single Greek. So we just don't really have to say very much, but just promise to tell them that we are trying our best to keep our country afloat and move ahead.
BLOCK: Elena Panaritis, thanks very much for talking with us today.
PANARITIS: Thank you very much.
BLOCK: That's economist Elena Panaritis. She's a member of the Greek Parliament and a top economic adviser to Prime Minister George Papandreou.
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