Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ex-USAID administrator Natsios on ancient, modern Greek crisis

(ANA-MPA) -- Former USAID top administrator Andrew Natsios on Wednesday emphasised, during a press briefing in Athens, that a "culture of accountability" is absolutely necessary for curbing corruption, a day ahead of a timely lecture on parallels between ancient and modern-day Greek crises.

Natsios, one of the most distinguished Greek-Americans in the upper echelons of US public service over the past decade, arrived in the Greek capital to deliver the lecture, entitled "What Classical Greece teaches Modern Greece -- Lessons on History & Crisis", hosted by the Deree College.

"The US developed this culture over decades and decades ... you must first build the institutions first, however, you must make the reforms quickly. In a big crisis, like the one Greece is facing now, you can take major reforms. However, we're talking about a 'narrow window', because special interest groups will then start combating changes," Natsios, a current professor of diplomacy at Georgetown, emphasised.

"... less pain now, more problems in the future; more pain now, more prosperity in the future," he warned.

Natsios, who amongst others oversaw the successful construction of Boston's "Big Dig" tunnel and served as US special envoy to Sudan in 2006 and 2007 during the Darfur crisis, also referred to a contradiction in various international indexes vis-?-vis Greece, with the UN's Human Development index putting the country in a prominent 18th place out of 192 countries worldwide, whereas the World Bank grades the east Mediterranean nation at a sub-par 60th place for starting new businesses.

Speaking directly on the subject of his lecture on Thursday, Natsios said what passed for lending institutions in 5th century BC Athens disliked loaning other city-states in the ancient world, judging them as poor risks. Conversely, lending institutions in ancient Greece were robust compared with their city-states' finances, something he said mirrors the current situation in Greece.

Asked about the negative publicity plaguing the country in the wake of the ongoing debt crisis, Natsios said that for Greek-Americans, at least, the perception is negative but temporary.

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