Žilvinas Šilėnas. Few Guidelines on How to Become Greece

Although Greece’s drama has left no people indifferent, neither those who stick to a tough position on Greece (Lithuanian government, for starters), nor newly declared Greece’s friends (European nationalists and socialists) would want the same scenario for their countries. However, becoming Greece is not so difficult. Here are a few guidelines.

Firstly, governments should pursue imbalanced budgetary policies for decades, that is to say, to spend more money than they could raise. And of course, there are more than enough reasons and excuses to justify that. Why the efficiency of the public sector cannot be improved? Because unemployment levels are already high. Why salaries, allowances and pensions should be increased? Because the election is coming next year. Budgetary deficit should be accumulated for decades without even thinking about the repayment of public debts or, at best, short-term debts should be refinanced by long-term loans.

Secondly, certain groups of voters should be granted privileges to receive taxpayers’ money. This is achieved by apparently kind privileges such as early retirement. The rumour is that even Greek hairdressers could retire at the age of 50 due to allegedly precarious exposure to chemicals at work.

Thirdly, there should be no resistance to market intervention on a political level. This includes the establishment of public businesses, institutions and agencies of dubious necessity that is nothing else, but the creation of jobs for political allies as a form of appreciation for their loyalty. Moreover, the government should not forget to throw a tantrum in case of objective criticism towards it and call for people to march into streets and strike. A referendum is also an option.

Seriously though, one thing is certain: There are no more advices and money available for Greece. The present crisis has become a warning to governments that like to live above their means and postpone the necessary reforms. In this case a smart country is the one with a critical eye that learns from others’ mistakes, rather than its own.

So, how Greek is Lithuania? Even in the light of annual economic growth of 8%, Lithuania cannot avoid budgetary deficit. As many as 28.5% of the employed work in the public sector in Lithuania as compared to the Greek level of 24%. In fact, although in the last four years the Lithuanian population declined by 4%, the administrative personnel numbers grew in two thirds of Lithuania’s municipalities at the same time.

Moreover, although there are more teachers per student in Greece (9.4) than in Lithuania (8), we have more hospital beds per 1,000 inhabitants than Sweden, and almost twice as many doctors as Poland or Slovakia. Additionally, in the past five years Greece’s privatization accounted for almost €8 billion while Lithuania could hardly brag about any. The message is clear. We are mocking Greece for its inability to reform while our own government has no political will to take action.

Lithuania’s position on Greece is adequate. However, after cleaning up the mess along the Aegean coastline, we should get to work on the shores of the Baltic Sea.