Sustainable Policies


Economic Policies

Still struggling with the effects of crisis, Greece remains the lowest-ranked country (rank 41) in the SGI 2020 with regard to economic policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 1.3 points relative to its 2014 level.

While the country has exited its three-year economic adjustment program, economic conditions remain difficult. Its external public debt exceeds 180% of GDP, and non-performing bank loans constitute about 45% of all loans. Growth has been positive but moderate, at about 1.9%.

Despite significant declines, unemployment rates remain excruciatingly high at around 17%, 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. Primary surpluses have been substantial, thanks in part to high taxes, with revenues used to distribute benefits to the government’s electoral clientele before the 2019 elections. The new government is lowering corporate and property taxes, but has shown little interest in combatting tax evasion. 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 36) with regard to social policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.6 points relative to 2014.

The country’s education system is heavily skewed toward the tertiary sector. Polytechnics have been merged into the university system. Pre-primary education has become mandatory at the age of four. Young people remain excluded from the labor market in large numbers, with the NEET (not in education, employment or training) share among the EU-27’s worst.

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 some income assistance, but financing remains insecure. An effort to make healthcare delivery more efficient by focusing on publicly provided primary care has stumbled due to an insufficiency of general practitioners.

Family policies are underdeveloped, with women providing the bulk of childcare. The country has been unable to manage refugee flows effectively, with residents of overcrowded island refugee camps now being moved to camps around the country. EU and NGO assistance has helped somewhat. Social integration is not a focus of migration policy.

Environmental Policies

With short-term economic gains taking precedence over environmental policies, Greece scores relatively poorly (rank 35) with regard to 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. Central and local authorities have become increasingly sensitive in implementing environmental legislation, but the country has not pursued a systematic approach to key environmental protection targets, including climate change, renewable water sources and forest biodiversity.

The promotion of renewable energy, boosted by significant natural capital in the form of solar, wind and tidal resources, has yielded tangible results. An eco-tax has been imposed on plastic bags. Some progress has been made on waste-management issues, ecosystem protection and the implementation of the EU’s Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive.

Environmental policymaking is fragmented across different ministries and agencies. Greece participates in international conferences and signed the Paris climate accord.

Robust Democracy


Quality of Democracy

Despite free and fair electoral procedures, Greece falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 24) with regard to democracy quality. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

A recently passed law has somewhat improved the transparency of political-party funding, but monitoring has proved ineffective. The new government appears to be improving efforts to monitor services and bolster the rule of law across the administration. Judicial appointments became somewhat politicized under the Syriza-ANEL government.

The Syriza-ANEL government exerted considerable influence over the public broadcaster’s reporting, with performance improving after New Democracy government took office. Through the structure of media ownership is becoming increasingly oligopolistic, a wide variety of opinions remains available.

Women face workplace discrimination. Civil rights and political liberties are generally well protected, but refugees and migrants stranded in detention centers have suffered from very poor living conditions. As camps have been moved across Greece, local communities have reacted to refugees and migrants with hostility.

Good Governance


Executive Capacity

Although its new government is engaged in significant governance reform, Greece scores relatively poorly (rank 34) with respect to executive capacity. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.5 points as compared to 2014.

The Syriza-ANEL government’s last year was focused on day-to-day business rather than strategic goals. The incoming New Democracy government has worked to strengthen strategic capacity, reorganizing the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and staffing it with policy experts, and expanding monitoring mechanisms. Ties between the PMO and line ministries have been strengthened.

Informal coordination continues to play an important role. RIAs quality is generally poor, and ex post evaluation is not yet a regular practice. Public consultation under the Syriza government was limited by bailout conditionalities, while the New Democracy has made strong efforts to contact and attract investors. The new government is focusing its messaging on the establishment of European “normality.”

Significant structural reforms have been passed by successive governments. Several long-stalled investment projects have gained speed under the new government. Regulatory enforcement has long been influenced by powerful interest groups and businesspeople. The new government has sought to nominate non-politicized appointees to law enforcement and regulatory agencies.

Executive Accountability

With a mixed oversight record, Greece falls into the lower-middle ranks internationally (rank 23) with regard to executive accountability. Its score on this measure marks a gain of 0.5 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 is popular and widely used, 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 and infotainment-focused reporting. The Syriza government held tight control over the state-owned media, although the new government has loosened these reins. The private media sector is increasingly oligopolistic.

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, including refugees and migrants.
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