Quick cuts will bleed Greece

October 20, 2011

The debt crisis demands deep reforms by the Greek government. What it doesn't require is a ham-fisted insistence on public expenditure cuts that will stifle future prospects for recovery.

I write as the first foreign member of the Greek National Council for Research and Technology, which provides advice to the Ministry of Education on policies towards universities and research institutes. We are busy putting in place reforms that will radically alter the research landscape and establish an engine for future economic growth to help Greece escape the crisis.

There are many inherited problems, built up over successive governments, to overcome, including inertia, poor monitoring and the misallocation of resources. Yet we have witnessed the determination of key stakeholders to engage in serious reform. A cross- party consensus is evident on research policy. There is much scientific talent and dedication, with pockets of excellence, to build on.

But the danger today is that the research infrastructure, as well as many other related institutions, may disintegrate owing to the inordinate pressures being placed on the country. I ask your readers to appreciate being asked to restructure an entire research establishment, not in months but in only a few weeks, as is being presently demanded by Greece's international creditors. Under the extremely tight schedule set by the "troika" - the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the European Central Bank - the only choice is to make financial cuts indiscriminately and without evaluation, with potentially grave consequences for Greece's future prospects for recovery. Already there is a worrying brain drain; scientists have faced drastic cuts; and there is an imminent and general threat of salaries not being paid.

Greece's creditors need not doubt the will to engage in deep-rooted reforms, but it is imperative and in the interests of both Greece and the whole of Europe that she be afforded the opportunity for an orderly implementation of such measures.

Kevin Featherstone, London School of Economics

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