Policy Performance


Economic Policies

Mired in financial crisis, Greece remains the lowest-ranked country (rank 41) in the SGI 2016 with regard to economic policies. Despite gains last year, its score on this measure has fallen back to its 2014 level.

Economic policy has been bound by successive agreements with creditors, who provide debt-service support in return for banking, fiscal, pension and tax reforms. GDP per capita shrank by a quarter between 2008 and 2014. Six years of negative growth concluded with marginal gains in 2014, but further disappointments in 2015.

Unemployment rates remain excruciatingly high. The left-leaning government has focused on public-sector hiring rather than supporting private investment. Fears of withdrawal from the euro zone produced bank runs, capital controls and further collapse of fragile enterprises.

Tax policy has been incoherent, despite some progress on tax evasion. Sustained austerity has produced primary budget surpluses, though recent policies have put this at risk.

Social Policies

With safety nets strained by crisis, Greece scores relatively poorly (rank 35) with regard to social policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.6 points relative to 2014.

PISA scores are good, but the prevalence of private tutoring for university entrance exams creates access inequities. Universities show widely varying quality, and fail to reflect labor-market needs.

Income inequality is high and rising. The crisis has badly exacerbated poverty and social exclusion, with successive governments’ antipoverty programs insufficient. Cuts have impaired health care services and quality. Family allowances are small, and child poverty quite pronounced. Child-care facilities are underfunded.

High unemployment rates have destabilized the pension system. The government’s reluctant acceptance of a third rescue package committed it to pension cuts. Naturalization has been eased for second-generation migrants, but exclusion and racism remain serious problems. However, the country has played a key role in receiving and supporting Middle Eastern refugees.

Environmental Policies

With environmental policies neglected under the crisis, Greece receives comparatively low rankings (rank 33) for its environmental policies. Its score on this measure remains unchanged relative to 2014.

While energy intensity and CO2 emissions are average to low in cross-OECD comparison, Greece’s ecological footprint is quite large for a deindustrialized country. Tourism and agricultural development has long taken priority over conservation. Forest fires have been a periodic problem, exacerbated by poor forest management.

The country has not pursued any major environmental-protection goals in a systematic fashion, and the crisis has further undermined environmental-policy management. It participates in international conferences, but does not contribute significantly to global regimes.



Quality of Democracy

Despite free and fair electoral procedures, Greece falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 28) with regard to democracy quality. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Legislation on political-party funding and transparency has been only partially implemented, with oversight incomplete. Despite the population’s rejection of EU creditors’ bailout terms, the crisis-driven government afterward accepted equally severe terms.

The national broadcaster, shuttered by the previous government on bailout grounds, was reopened and its personnel rehired. The print and influential electronic media are quite pluralistic. Courts are independent and active, but long delays are common. Progress has been made on the anti-corruption front.

Discrimination has declined somewhat, and refugees have been treated with tolerance. Sweeping crisis reforms have in many cases been implemented by decree. Shifting coalitions and changing economic circumstances have undermined legal certainty.



Executive Capacity

Strongly constrained by bailout commitments, Greece falls into the bottom ranks internationally (rank 40) with respect to executive capacity. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.3 points relative to 2014.

Strategic planning is driven by bailout conditionalities. The incoming Syriza government initially relied on inexperienced cadres for policy planning and implementation, but has learned from working with creditor representatives. The Finance Ministry and foreign creditors play a larger gatekeeper role than the Prime Minister’s Office, which has been swamped by negotiations and other crisis tasks.

RIAs are not generally performed. The Syriza government has expanded public consultation, and been more effective than predecessors in winning support for its policies. Monitoring is unpredictable, as the prime minster has stated his opposition to policies being implemented.

Subnational-government funds have been tapped to pay central-government commitments. Strategic-capacity reform programs have been associated with neoliberalism, and largely rejected by Syriza ministers.

Executive Accountability

With notable gaps in monitoring capacities, Greece falls into the lower-middle ranks internationally (rank 29) with regard to executive accountability. After a slight gain last year, its score on this measure marks a decline of 0.1 points relative to 2014.

The parliament has robust formal oversight powers, and members have adequate resources. The audit office is independent, but the government forced the long-serving ombudsman to step down.

The breadth and complexity of reforms have made it difficult for the public to understand them in detail. Parties have routinely – and ultimately unrealistically – promised voters that new expansionary and anti-austerity policies were possible. Private-sector media owners often change sides in political debates.

Led by Syriza, parties have become more internally democratic. Interest associations have had little ability to influence policies determined through negotiations with the bailout Troika. Civil society has played a key role in helping refugees.
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