No 79: George Papandreou. for making the best of Greece's worst year.
rime minister | Greece
Even before the 2008 financial crisis, the Greek economy was running on borrowed time, an ossified system that predictably buckled under the weight of the crash. When George Papandreou took office as Greece's prime minister in October 2009, he found that the budget deficit was not 6 percent, as his predecessor had claimed, but 12.7 percent, four times that allowed by the eurozone's rules.
Papandreou has spent 2010 telling Greeks hard truths about the unsustainable nature of their welfare state -- and sounding an international warning that Greece is the canary in the European coal mine. The Minnesota-born son of a former socialist prime minister, he has rolled out an austerity plan that will raise taxes and rein in the bloated public sector, a package ambitious enough to convince Europe to keep Greece afloat even as it has provoked riots in Athens. And he has argued that the disaster should be a wake-up call for the threat sovereign debt poses far beyond Europe's borders. "It's not an issue of countries acting on their own," he said. "We need a more coordinated strategy not only in Europe but around the world."