Policy Performance


Economic Policies

Mired in financial crisis, Greece remains the lowest-ranked country (rank 41) in the SGI 2017 with regard to economic policies. Its score on this measure has gained 0.7 points relative 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. Recent negotiations have focused on privatization, pension reforms and labor relations. The government has resisted privatization, and broader private-sector investment has not been forthcoming.

Despite appreciable declines, unemployment rates remain excruciatingly high, with the long-term jobless share undermining workers’ skills. With greater job protections, public-sector workers are faring better than their private-sector counterparts.

Tax rates have been raised, but tax evasion remains problematic. The retention of capital controls has complicated budgetary decisions. A primary budget service has been attained, but significant government surpluses predicted for future years are based on very optimistic growth forecasts.

Social Policies

With safety nets strained by crisis, Greece falls into the bottom ranks (rank 37) with regard to social policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.5 points relative to 2014.

Spending on pre-primary education is low, but a high priority is put on secondary and tertiary education. Universities show widely varying quality, and fail to reflect labor-market needs. The NEET (not in education, employment or training) share among young adults is very high.

The crisis has badly exacerbated poverty and social exclusion. Policies focus on ad-hoc social assistance and short-term public-sector jobs for the poor, while relying on families to share resources. Health care spending has dropped dramatically, while poor organization and oversight exacerbate problems. A new policy has helped uninsured people gain basic health care access.

Child poverty rates are high, and family policies underdeveloped. Funded preschool services are rare, and women face serious labor-market disadvantages. High unemployment rates have destabilized the pension system. Resources applied to the massive refugee influx, including for camps on the Greek islands, have been insufficient, and broader EU solutions are needed.

Environmental Policies

With environmental policies neglected under the crisis, Greece receives comparatively low rankings (rank 35) for its environmental policies. Its score on this measure has fallen by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

While energy intensity and CO2 emissions are average to low in cross-OECD comparison, and use of renewable energy sources is growing quickly, Greece’s ecological footprint is comparatively large. Tourism and agricultural development have long taken priority over conservation. Waste management is a serious problem.

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, and signed the Paris climate accord, 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 26) with regard to democracy quality. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

A new law on political-party funding and transparency is a substantial improvement over the past, but monitoring remains spotty. Courts have shown a marked independence of the government, but long delays are common. Progress has been made on the anti-corruption front.

The national broadcaster, shuttered by the previous government on bailout grounds, was reopened and its personnel rehired, but now tends to follow the government line. The print and influential electronic media are quite pluralistic. A government attempt to regulate the broadcast media, viewed as a challenge to established media owners, was partly annulled by courts.

Refugees have been treated with tolerance. Progress has been made against right-wing Golden Dawn attacks. Sweeping crisis reforms have in many cases been implemented by decree. Despite political convergence around the adjustment program, the legal framework in major policy sectors still holds loopholes and contradictions.



Executive Capacity

Strongly constrained by bailout commitments, Greece falls into the bottom ranks internationally (rank 39) with respect to executive capacity. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Strategic planning has improved in areas covered by the adjustment memorandum. The PMO is the primary gatekeeping body, but the Ministry of Finance plays a key role on financial issues. Coordination with line ministries is haphazard, but a new senior-level cabinet committee is tasked with overseeing reforms outside the scope of the bailout.

RIAs are not generally performed. Government communication has often produced contradictions and incoherencies. Significant structural reforms have been passed by successive governments, but implementation remains inconsistent.

Monitoring and compliance has improved as ministries and agencies have implemented policies crucial to the flow of international funds. After a period of experimentation, government structures have settled into a more predictable form of informal coordination. Several municipalities have declared bankruptcy and been rescued by the national government.

Executive Accountability

With a mixed oversight record, Greece falls into the lower-middle ranks internationally (rank 27) with regard to executive accountability. Its score on this measure marks a gain of 0.2 points relative to 2014.

The parliament has robust formal oversight powers, and members have adequate resources. The audit office is independent. After the previous ombudsperson was forced to step down, the office is now functioning normally again.

The cross-party tendency to make unrealistic anti-austerity pledges to voters has diminished. After multiple elections, citizens have not improved their role in decision-making, but have gained a more realistic view of Greece’s constraints. The media have been hard hit by the economic crisis.

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