Greece’s nine-year debt crisis, which forced the implementation of painful austerity measures, is over. The country exits its third (and last) bailout on August 20.
Since the debt crisis exploded in early 2010, four successive governments have fought to keep bankruptcy at bay, relying on the biggest bailout in economic history, more than €260bn lent by Greece’s euro zone partners and the IMF.
But Greek banks are still struggling with bad loans and the country’s public debt load remains the highest in the euro zone, at 180% of national output.
There is some good news, however. As reported by the Reuters news agency, Greece’s economy, which shrank by 26% in the crisis years, has started to grow, tourism is booming and unemployment is slowly coming down (19.5% from a peak of almost 28%).
“If there is a lesson that we learned from the crisis it is that, under any circumstances, you must try to protect macroeconomic stability,” said Panos Tsakloglou, chief economist of the previous coalition government.
“Populist policies that may win some votes today and have disastrous effects some years down the road must be avoided at all costs. Otherwise, sooner or later we will end up in the situation we are in now,” he said.
In a separate report, Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, noted that doubts remain over Greece’s long-term prospects.
“I don’t see a reason for jubilation concerning our exiting the memorandum (bailout) because… you may be jumping out of the frying pan into the fire,” was the succinct take of Thanos Veremis, emeritus professor of history at Athens University.