November 22, 2020 by Surochinee Santiwisak
According to Conor Stewart, the researcher shows the statistics of a number infected COVID-19 cases in Europe zone, and Greece is the country that has the number of infected around 85,261 cases. This number is lower than the dominant economic countries in Europe, such as The United Kingdom, France, or Germany.
What does this situation tell us?
Greece is the country that has been confronting the economic crisis since 2009, and it brought about the “Debt crisis“– ‘triggering a spectacular loss in market confidence across the globe… and a default’. Then the Greek government stepped forward to boost their credibility and guarantee that they would not default again. They join the Troika project for receiving economic and financial help that comprises the European Commission (EC), the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Unfortunately, the Troika project evoked the anti-austerity movement because of the bailout agreement–cutting public spending and raising the taxes, such as canceling the bonus payments for government workers, setting an annual vacation bonus and dividing it into higher income, banning on raising salaries and public sector for at least three years, raising VAT from 21% to 23%, raising taxes on fuel, alcohol and tobacco by 10%, and taxing illegal construction. Including the bailout agreement’s budget also affected the Public health system— it had fewer ICU beds in a country than the strong economic countries in Europe.
How does the Greek government deal with the COVID-19 while cutting public spending?
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said, ‘We are not a black sheep. And this, I believe, is of great importance for our collective psychology…The fact that we dealt with this pandemic and its impact collectively, with a discipline which was unexpected by many, shows that we are resilient.’
In fact, in late February, as the government started to notice the pandemic is not anything they had seen before, the total case of COVID-19 infection has already reached 2,401 confirmed cases and 121 deaths. The country has the second highest rank in elder population after Italy. This situation could destroy Greece. Causely, the Greek government made COVID-19 protection measures earlier than other European countries by announcing the restriction on all movement, which started in March by only necessary going out—for example, going to the market for buying food or getting medicine and medicine, and requiring ID or passport if people want to go out. The government then extended these measures until April and started lock-down in the country in early May, only 42 days after the government found the situation difficult. Then, the country restarted business activity and came up with the new restriction of all movement.
The Greek government also uses direct communication by a televised briefing with updates every day and announcing that the nation has a weak health system, so it is necessary to take rigorous measures early. To save people’s lives, although the economy has been adversely affected. This situation causes people to be aware of the virus and not worry about the temporary economic crisis.
The Greek government is brave to tell the truth to their people about they couldn’t afford the ICU beds and not have sufficient budget to support medical care to people if there are a high number of COVID-19 infections. A fragile economy is one factor that arouses Greek citizens to follow the COVID-19 protection measures easily. Like Thailand, a weak economy and junta government caused people more concern about COVID-19 protection and prevention because Thai people know they cannot expect better help from the government than themselves.
Does this situation make democratic erosion’s situation in Greece better whether or not?
It seems to not clearly say the democratic getting better. During July, 15 2020, The International Press Institute (IPI) joined with the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) to write the letter to the Greek government about calling for greater transparency and impartiality in distributive public advertising money to the media.
The Greek government created the campaign to public health advertise into COVID-19 pandemic; however, advertising revenues were not distributed fairly, as the media organizations, which are criticizing the government receiving disproportionately less income or being excluded from all programs.
This circumstance show Greece is still confronting with democratic erosion in practical. To block or press media organizations or perspectives to receive highly in ad revenues if not critiquing the government, is a sign of destroying freedom of expression, which is one element of democracy pathway.
It seems likely the enormous challenge of Greek government is not COVID-19 pandemic, but it is a critique of executive implementation.
In conclusion, unbelievable scenarios does not mean it will not happen anywhere in the world, like Greece, and it has happened. A country, which has a debt crisis and a weak economy, is capable of surviving and has a low number of COVID-19 infection cases. Because of the direct communication and awareness of a weak economy that could not afford medical treatment. This circumstance made Greece succeed in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the strength of economic countries—such as the US, the UK, or Germany. But the democracy in Greece still erodes, the unfair ad revenues becomes a strategy to pressure the media organization to not critique the Greek government. The thing is, please do not use COVID-19 pandemic as a bargaining chip to ruin democracy.