Just over five years ago the economies of Ireland and Greece were in the same dire situation. Both countries had racked up massive debts and were unable to borrow on the international markets. Eventually both countries were forced to seek an emergency bailout to rescue their faltering economies.
Fast forward to today and the fates of Greece and Ireland cannot be further apart. It is absolutely clear that the situation in Greece has continued to deteriorate. The Greek economy continues to shrink, seeing a 0.2% contraction in the first quarter of this year. Greece’s unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at over 25% and it has one of the highest public debt levels in Europe at over 177% of its GDP. In contrast, the Irish economy has grown every year for the last three years and this year is predicted to be the fastest growing economy in the EU, even outpacing the UK and Germany. Ireland has year on year reduced its unemployment rate and now boasts a rate lower than the Eurozone average.
The lessons for Greece cannot be clearer. Ireland has taken the tough decisions and so now must Greece. The Irish people are now reaping the rewards of sensible and wise decision making. Now is the time for sensible and wise decision making in Greece. While standing at the abyss Greece cannot bury its head in the sand. Nor can it expect special treatment from its European neighbours. Why should Greece receive more favourable treatment than Ireland or any other European country for that matter? It would be an insult to the Irish people. It would show that irresponsibility is rewarded over responsibility. Greece’s interest payments are already lower than Ireland’s and Greece enjoys the most favourable lending conditions of all the Eurozone countries that were forced to accept an economic bailout. The Irish cannot be expected to have taken the sensible decisions and endured, for Greece to do the opposite and be rewarded with more favourable terms.
Of course, European solidarity means that all European’s stand together to assist one another in their times of difficulty. The Greek people should know that Europe stands beside them and will continue to help and assist them. But this help and assistance alone is not enough. Now is the time for Greece to make wise decisions. Now is the time for brave decision making. Now more than ever Greece should learn from Ireland.