Already weak, Greece’s status performance has diminished further, placing the country second-to-last (-2 ranks relative to SGI 2009).
A ballooning deficit (more than 13% of GDP) and skyrocketing public debt (115% by the end of 2009) in the wake of the economic crisis exposed failures in governance. Coupled with the December 2008 riots in the capital, these events contributed to the image of a country in disarray.
A clientelistic political culture and strong sectoral interests mean that reform attempts often fall victim to political pressures. Reforms slated for 2008-2010 were postponed once again.
However, opinion polls suggest a shift in public attitudes is under way with calls for a break with the past growing.
Greece has been a stable democracy since 1974, but the quality of democracy fails to meet average OECD levels.
The electoral process is fair. But there are concerns about the lack of transparency in party financing, since parties are not required to specify sources or values of donations received.
State-owned media offer news coverage in a pluralist fashion; however, governments are still able to influence media coverage.
Discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, especially in the Western Thrace region, are cause for concern regarding civil rights. The rights of women remain insufficiently protected and no gains have been made in battling widespread corruption.
Greece trails the rest of the OECD in terms of economic policy.
The acute fiscal crisis gripping Greece has exposed failures among decision-makers to ensure a reliable economic environment. The high economic growth prior to the crisis was not accompanied by structural changes that would have strengthened the economy for the long-term.
Labor market policies remain passive. Only 3.5% of eligible workers have undergone some form of non-formal job-related education and training.
Greece’s tax collection system does not have the institutional capacity to meet its mandate. Tax evasion remains a serious and widespread problem.
Greece still ranks near the bottom of the OECD list (rank 30).
The Greek welfare system is rudimentary and provides only partial coverage. Unemployment compensation, like other state benefits, is very limited.
The national health care system covers the population as a whole and is funded on the basis of general taxation. However, certain professions, such as liberal professionals and bank employees, have their own occupational health care and pension schemes.
The perseverance of extended family networks contributes to the comparatively low incidence of child poverty. Support for women seeking to combine parenting and employment is generous in the public sector, but slim in the private sector.
Greece is a long-standing EU and NATO member and provides effective external security. However, the global financial crisis and the fiscal crisis of 2010 will likely reduce military spending, which is one of the highest in the world (4.3% of GDP in 2005). The high level of military spending is attributed in large part to continuing tensions with Turkey.
Internal security was challenged by sporadic attacks orchestrated by the extra-parliamentary left against banks, government buildings and police station. The death of a young student through police action in December 2008 incited a cycle of violence, destruction and looting in downtown Athens.
At rank 31, Greece has tumbled several places to the bottom of the OECD in terms of sustainable resource use.
In 2009, the new PASOC government gave environmental policy new priority. However, the country still produces a relatively large quantity of CO2 emissions, and large forest fires occur repeatedly during the summer months.
Despite the presence of skilled scientists and well-known research centers, R&D policy has been inconsistent and underfunded. Expenditure on research and innovation relative to GDP is near the OECD’s bottom.
Education policy fails to ensure the availability of high-quality, efficient and equitable schooling, though the population today enjoys wider access to secondary and tertiary education than ever before.