Reviewing some of the older pieces on the true greek tragedy (in economic terms) and finally read through the whole of the great Vanity Fair article by Michael Lewis (“Beware of Greek s Bearing Bonds“). The detail in the article is great and Lewis, as always, is an incredible writer.
But the important insight is how this could be fixed. How we could move from rebel to revolutionary, and start to solve the problem? Open Government, writ large, is the answer.
The article is about the details that led to the fall of the previous government in Greece and the challenges that resulted when the new government dug into the reasons behind it. While the immediate cause was certainly the incredibly odd deal that the Greek Monks made to overvalue and trade on the “value” of their land. The real answer is, as Lewis details, the degradation of civil society in Greece.
Lewis details the challenge:
It’s simply assumed, for instance, that anyone who is working for the government is meant to be bribed. People who go to public health clinics assume they will need to bribe doctors to actually take care of them. Government ministers who have spent their lives in public service emerge from office able to afford multi-million-dollar mansions and two or three country homes.
Apparently tax payments are also an optional exercise in Greece. There simply is no enforcement mechanism and bribery of tax officials has run rampant allegedly. The challenge is what to do about it.
Transparency, like sunlight, disinfects the distasteful debris. Open Government, deployed broadly and enabled through structures that tie the open data to enforcement mechanisms create some interesting outputs. Stability and Fairness. Stability that economic growth can be built upon and Fairness that allows for the once vibrant civil discourse to take up arms again. These two outcomes are worth the pain of enabling transparency in Greece and everywhere else in the world where I have heard story about bribery, corruption and skimming off the top of the government.
I was asked by a friend in one of India’s largest Pradesh what the largest expenditure was in the economic development efforts throughout India. The answer wasnt land development, infrastructure, education or public health. Without flinching he told me “corruption”. That easily 80% of the economic development funds in India never reached individual areas in need of help. Most of the public money targeted at poverty reduction was the same.
From the monks in Greece to the poor in India, the world deserves more focus on Open Government as a way to build more Stable and Growing nations. Lets work to make that happen. What are the SPECIFIC deployments we could push to the governments of the world to free up precious resources and stabilize the world?