30 July 2009

"We are ungovernable"

In early July, I attended the 2nd International Conference on Water Economics, Statistics, and Finance, in Alexandroupolis, Greece. Along the way, I visited Athens with my lovely daughter, Becky.

First impressions of Greece were that it's a poor country. I live in New Zealand, which is not top of the economic heap, but it certainly feels wealthier than Greece. Why is this?

One disturbing bit of graffitti that I saw in Athens said, "We are ungovernable." I wish I'd taken a picture of it, but the Wikipedia image here gives the right impression. On a previous trip to Greece, I'd seen similar graffitti, and found that the university students are outright radical. Why is this?

To unwrap these double questions, first note Greece's relatively low standing on the Corruption Perceptions Index. Young Greeks know their country is too dishonest, and want change. Strangely, though, it is the people in power whose own corruption is the problem; these are the ones who are ungovernable.

Second, examine where rich countries get their wealth: from better institutions and governance. New Zealand is wealthier than Greece because New Zealand is more honest and has better government. Kiwi students have no desire to revolt. They want to graduate and get jobs.

As for Greek governance, if you remain ungovernable, you will remain poor.

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