Greece is all over the news again. As our readers may know, I’m of Greek descent and proud of it. My grandfather, Pascali, emigrated to America on Jan 10, 1921.
He came through Ellis Island, like millions of others, and made a life for himself in Cincinnati, where we still have family. My grandfather’s name is recorded on the splendid Ellis Island memorial wall overlooking the New York city skyline. His ship’s manifest is prominently framed in my office.
People ask me, “What do you make of Greece’s problems?”
I’m not sanguine about the country’s future, to be frank. In my experience, Greece is a land of waste and corruption, run by special interests including the bureaucracy, protected industries, and public and private sector unions.
Famously, it’s cheaper to transport an apartment full of furniture from Athens to Brussels, than two blocks within Athens. The ports of Piraeus and Thessaloniki, which should be cash cows, until recently generated very little revenue for a cash-starved government.
In 2012 the Chinese government signed a 35 year lease half of the Piraeus docks. The turnaround is remarkable.
These stories reflect the kinds of reforms the EU is insisting upon, and the Greek government has been resisting. Without them, Greece is ungovernable and will continue to lose its best and brightest to the west, as it has for centuries.
Here’s a relevant piece from my most recent travel book, describing my lunch with a brilliant Greek doctor and researcher. (read it here!)