Throughout the last decade, Greece’s economy was a basket case. Lally Weymouth of the Washington Post reminds us that Greece endured a crippling depression in which it lost one-fourth of its GDP. The nation’s banks nearly collapsed and European Union officials contemplated expelling Greece from the EU.
But in 2019, the Greeks dumped the leftist government of Alexis Tsipras and replaced it with a center-right government led by Kyriakos Mitsotakis. The result has been a rapid improvement of fortune. Giving credit where it is due, Weymouth observes that “today, things have turned around, and the country is growing at 6 percent, thanks in part of the stewardship of. . .Mitsotakis.”
The last time I wrote about Greece, I said: “You can create an economic crisis through anti-capitalist, redistributionist policies. You can’t dig your way out of one in that fashion.” I hoped that Mitsotakis could help dig the Greek economy out of crisis by cutting taxes, attracting investment, and improving the job market. He has.
The Post has published an edited version of Weymouth’s interview with Mitsotakis. It covers immigration, covid, the economy, relations with Turkey, and relations with the U.S., among other topics.
“Populism” also comes us when Weymouth asks Mitsotakis whether his government “can provide an antidote to the rising populism in Europe.” The prime minister describes the government he replaced as “populist,” which it certainly was, although, as I argued here, an even more salient description would be “socialist” or “radically leftist. The Greek experience is a useful reminder that populism can be, and often is, associated with the left.
The other part of interview that intrigued me was Weymouth’s debate with the prime minister over legislation just passed by the Greek parliament making it a criminal offense to publish “fake news,” and making both the journal’s proprietor and the journalist liable for doing so. Weymouth pleads with Mitsokakis not to go through with this. I’m with her.
I fell in love with Greece when we visited it three years ago. Back then, the economy was still a mess, and visibly so even to tourists like us. I’m delighted that the conservative government has turned things around rather dramatically, the pandemic notwithstanding.
There’s a lesson in that.