Greece

   

Policy Performance

#41

Economic Policies

#41
Mired in financial crisis, Greece remains the lowest-ranked country (rank 41) in the SGI 2018 with regard to economic policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 1.0 point relative to its 2014 level.

Some recovery has been evident, but economic policy flexibility has remained strongly constrained by agreements with creditors. A third review of Greece’s adjustment programs was delayed by disagreements with creditors over major labor-market reforms. The country has returned to bond markets, but still faces investor skepticism.

Despite significant declines, unemployment rates remain excruciatingly high, with long-term joblessness undermining workers’ skills. With little investment from domestic or foreign sources, economic growth has been stagnant, meaning labor-market advances have been driven largely by lower wages, tourism and worker emigration.

Tax rates have been increased, but tax evasion remains problematic. A surprisingly large primary budget surplus was achieved in 2017, attributable both to higher incomes and a delay in paying the state’s suppliers. Considerable efforts have been made to preserve public investment programs.

Social Policies

#37
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.

The country’s education system is heavily skewed toward a tertiary sector that falls far short of reflecting labor-market needs. Spending on pre-primary education is low. The NEET (not in education, employment or training) share among young adults is very high.

The crisis has badly exacerbated poverty and social exclusion. Pensioners receive far more support than do other needy groups. A new social-benefits program has supplemented rent- and electricity-cost subsidies for poor households, but its financing remains insecure. Health care spending has dropped dramatically, but the creation of new local public health care units is likely to improve primary care.

Child poverty rates are high, and family policies underdeveloped. Funded preschool services are rare, and women face serious labor-market disadvantages. As a first entry point for many refugees, the country has been overwhelmed by the recent migrant surge. NGO assistance has helped in the short term, but the issue requires a European-level solution.

Environmental Policies

#36
With environmental policies neglected under the crisis, Greece falls into the bottom ranks internationally (rank 36) for its environmental policies. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to 2014.

Industrial production and greenhouse gas emissions have declined as a result of the economic crisis. However, progress toward use of renewables has been slow, without decisive government support.

Tourism, agricultural development and public works have long taken priority over environmental protection. Waste management is a serious problem. Recent forest fires and a serious oil spill have produced serious environmental damage.

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

Democracy

#28

Quality of Democracy

#26
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 0.2 points relative to 2014.

A recently passed law on political-party funding and transparency is a substantial improvement over the past, but monitoring remains spotty. State-bank funding to parties is rarely repaid in full. Courts have shown a marked independence of the government, but appointments can be politicized.

The national broadcaster tends to follow the government line. The protracted economic crisis has proved a serious strain on the media sector, with many outlets shutting down. Ownership of major media outlets often lacks transparency.

Significant progress in LGBTQI rights have been made in recent years. Refugees and migrants stranded in detention centers suffer from very poor living conditions. Anti-corruption policy has been active but fragmented, focusing on punishment rather than prevention.

Governance

#32

Executive Capacity

#37
Strongly constrained by bailout commitments, Greece falls into the bottom ranks internationally (rank 37) with respect to executive capacity. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.4 points relative to 2014.

Strategic planning has been guided by international MOU commitments. The PMO is the primary gatekeeping body, but the Ministry of Finance plays a key role on financial issues, while a small informal advisory circle around the prime minister is primarily responsible for formulating cabinet proposals. Coordination and monitoring of ministries has been improved.

RIAs are not systematically performed. Government communication is improving, but contradictions and incoherencies persist. Subnational governments, a partial source of previously lax spending discipline, have been put under tighter control, in some cases involving unfunded mandates.

Significant structural reforms have been passed by successive governments. Privatization targets have been repeatedly revised downward, but policies such as pension cuts and a civil-servant pay review have been implemented after international pressure. Some questions remain as to whether adaptation and consolidation will continue following the end of loan conditionalities.

Executive Accountability

#25
With a mixed oversight record, Greece falls into the lower-middle ranks internationally (rank 25) with regard to executive accountability. Its score on this measure marks a gain of 0.6 points relative to 2014.

The parliament has robust formal oversight powers, and members have adequate resources. The independent audit office’s powers to review specific agencies have been enhanced. The ombuds office has been an active defender of migrant and refugee rights.

A general tendency toward more inclusiveness and openness is evident across parties. Citizens are not well-informed about government policies due to the predominance of partisan or infotainment-focused reporting. Wealthy media owners are using the crisis to consolidate and extend their power, while the government has tightened control over the state-owned media.

The government has sought to mend relations with the business sector. The receding of the welfare state has prompted greater civil-society engagement, encouraging volunteers and organizations to become more active in providing social services to the needy.
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