Policy Performance


Economic Policies

Still struggling to emerge from financial crisis, Greece remains the lowest-ranked country (rank 41) in the SGI 2019 with regard to economic policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.9 points relative to its 2014 level.

Though the country has exited its three-year economic adjustment program, access to public capital markets remains difficult. Growth has returned, but remains well below the euro zone’s average at 1.5% in 2017. Public debt levels remain forbiddingly high, with even the IMF calling for further debt relief.

Despite significant declines, unemployment rates remain excruciatingly high, with long-term joblessness undermining workers’ skills. Shifting policies on income and property taxes have kept investment levels low. Labor-market advances have thus been driven largely by lower wages, tourism and worker emigration.

Tax evasion remains problematic. A surprisingly large primary budget surplus was achieved in 2017, in large part by raising taxes on the middle classes. Large pension and defense expenditures remain significant budgetary burdens. A post-crisis brain drain has depleted the country’s R&D capabilities.

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.

The country’s education system is heavily skewed toward the tertiary sector, with spending on pre-primary education very low. Young people remain excluded from the labor market in large numbers, with the NEET (not in education, employment or training) share among the worst in the OECD.

The long crisis has badly exacerbated poverty and social exclusion. Pensioners receive far more support than do other needy groups. A new minimum-income guarantee program provides income support, access to social services and job-market re-integration services. An effort to make health care delivery more efficient by focusing on primary care has stumbled due to an insufficiency of family doctors.

Family policies are underdeveloped, with women providing most child care. The country has been unable to manage refugee flows effectively, with residents of overcrowded camps suffering from human-rights violations and health risks. EU and NGO assistance has helped somewhat. Social integration is not a focus of migration policy.

Environmental Policies

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 has improved by 0.1 point as compared to 2014.

Industrial production and greenhouse gas emissions have declined as a result of the economic crisis. However, the country has not pursued a systematic approach to key environmental protection targets, including climate change, renewable water sources and forest biodiversity.

Economic growth is pursued at the expense of environmental policy. The huge inflow of tourists creates a waste-management problem that is not well managed. State mechanisms are unable to control pollution, urban development or large infrastructure projects effectively.

Greece participates in international conferences and signed the Paris climate accord, but crisis-management efforts have kept it from contributing further internationally or pursuing effective emissions-reduction policies domestically.



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 0.2 points relative to 2014.

A recently passed law has improved the transparency of political-party funding, but implementation has been spotty. Prosecuting authorities have followed the government’s lead, particularly on issues of corruption, but courts have shown more independence.

The government has exerted considerable influence over the public broadcaster’s reporting. After an effort to limit the number of allowed TV channels failed, new TV licenses were being readied for auction. Media ownership is oligopolistic in general, but the sector remains pluralistic in terms of coverage.

Refugees and migrants stranded in detention centers suffer from very poor living conditions. Left-wing violence proved a problem in some cities during the review period. Anti-corruption policy has been active but fragmented, focusing on punishment rather than prevention. A prominent former minister was arrested on charges of corruption during the review period.



Executive Capacity

Despite its emergence from a period of bailout-related conditionalities, Greece falls into the bottom ranks internationally (rank 38) with respect to executive capacity. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.1 point as compared to 2014.

Recent strategic planning has been guided by international commitments. Under the Syriza-ANEL government, strategic decisions and cabinet proposals were formulated by a small circle around the prime minister. There has been little formal coordination of policy across ministries, but informal coordination has played an increasingly significant role.

RIAs are not systematically performed, and the short tenure of ministers has made ex post evaluation rare. Communication strategy has become more incoherent over time. Ministerial compliance has been strong on issues relevant to the bailout, as they have been monitored by lenders, but other sectors have seen ministers seek to implement untested ideas of their own.

Significant structural reforms have been passed by successive governments. Recent efforts to encourage private-sector investment proved largely fruitless outside the tourism sector, and bureaucratic delays have stalled privatization. Regulatory enforcement has long been influenced by powerful interest groups and businesspeople.

Executive Accountability

With a mixed oversight record, Greece falls into the lower-middle ranks internationally (rank 26) with regard to executive accountability. Its score on this measure marks a gain of 0.4 points relative to 2014.

The parliament has robust formal oversight powers despite a mismatch between committees and ministries, 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, and the data-protection office is quite active.

Political-party leadership circles tend to control candidate lists and agendas. Citizens are not well-informed about government policies due to the predominance of partisan or infotainment-focused reporting. The government has tightened its control over the state-owned media, while the private sector is increasingly oligopolistic. Citizens trust social media more than the news media.

Interest associations make relevant policy proposals in economic areas, though they had little input during the bailout period. 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. The state’s assumption of responsibility for refugee camps has produced largely negative results.
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