Friday, October 09, 2009

New Greek PM George Papandreou a Fan of the Olive

Only days into his tenure as Greece's new PM, it is nice to see that George Papandreou is a fan of the olive branch - both literally and figuratively. Upon his arrival in Constantinople for a summit, he made a point to visit the grave of a former Turkish counterpart with whom he worked closely during his time as foreign minister. When his ally passed on, Papandreou asked that an olive tree be planted at the grave, and upon his recent return he plucked a branch from the tree and laid it on the grave of the man who had once shared his vision of improved relations among the two countries.

As we sit under our olive tree, we see this as a testament to this fair symbol of peace and of what sincere and honest discourse under olive branches may bring for the greater good.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Greece Goes (PASOK) Green With Plan that Risks Putting Country in Red

With Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis ceding victory to PASOK leader Andrea Papandreou (pictured at right), Greeks decidedly gave the election to the country's socialist party after five years of conservative leadership that previously prevailed by a hair. Unlike these past years, which found the government in a perpetual stalemate due to the narrow margin of the previous victory, PASOK will likely hold about 64 more seats in Parliament than New Democracy. In the immediate term, this will be a silver-lining for the markets who'd be eager to see a definitive direction for the country.

Papandreou's campaign for leadership was paved with promises to end corruption, stimulate the economy and do so by taxing the rich. In contrast, the incumbent was promising a tough road ahead given the global and domestic economic environment. The match up amounted to asking a child whether they want hamburgers and a salad or chicken with vegetables for dinner. This gives optimistic credit to Papandreou's stimulus plan (the salad) so that it might provide some health for the country's economy, but in any case, the decision is easy to predict.

Now, admittedly, I do not [yet] live on Greek soil so I can't fully appreciate the factors that brought voters to cast this decision in PASOK's favor. I hope that it is fueled more by a disgust with the current situation rather than the sincere (and immature) belief that raising the pay of the public sector and plunging the country into debt will solve the situation.
As Greece now hopes that this decision will position the country for better days, here are my hopes for the incoming government and the tough road ahead.
  • Fiscally responsible stimulus program that creates jobs & avoids extravagant debt

  • Infrastructure investment that propels country to competitive position in growing industries

  • Systematized approach to internships/apprenticeships for graduates to more effectively introduce them to the workplace

While I know these might be just as optimistic as Papandreou's promises, I hope that the Greek people will take a phrase from his campaign, "roll up their sleeves" and take one individual step towards progress.

FYI - Although I did not vote in this election since I do not yet live in Greece, my vote would have gone to the Eco-Greens this year for the sheer reason that I think that theirs is a viewpoint that should be considered in Parliament based on a proposition that is beneficial for Greece and Greeks - a healthy patrida.


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