The Straits Times says

Now for the hard part, Mr Tsipras

Many would aver the history of Ancient Greece is obligatory reading - Olympic Games, birth of demo-cracy, Odyssey, Pythagoras, Plato, Alexander the Great. But the tale of modern Greece is less so - conquest by Germany, on-off monarchy, military rule, myopic political class. The chronology of Greek debt from 2009 makes for sober reading - credit downgrading, violent protests, raucous politics, bailout loans, Alexis Tsipras. However, the recent timeline of twists and turns - since January - offers nothing that anyone outside Greece would care to reread.

The journey to the make-or-break European Union meetings this weekend has been a tortuous and torturous one for all concerned, not least because of the bumbling ways of a neophyte prime minister in Athens with a penchant for foot-dragging drama. Europe's harshest critics would say EU creditors shouldn't complain as the writing was on the wall in 2004, when the European Commission had warned Greece for falsifying budget data before it had joined the euro zone. Such is the political culture that there was a grab subsequently for European Union transfers and debt-fuelled government largesse by entrenched circles and pressure groups. Crawling out of a hole of its own making has not been easy for the nation - with anti-austerity rage on the streets and industrial unrest spurred by reforms to antiquated labour laws, including jobs for life in the public sector.

Much of that is history and what matters now is that Greece is in extremis and Europe should come to the aid of one of its own by settling the terms of what support is bearable for the Troika (European Central Bank, European Commission and International Monetary Fund) and euro zone members. The ultimatum issued to Greece serves that purpose by focusing minds on the key tasks ahead, rather than on recriminations like Mr Tsipras' comparison of creditors to extremists.

Essentially, Greece needs to staunch the financial bleeding of its banks and monetise its debt in order to create sufficient stimulus to grow the economy, give its people jobs (a quarter are unemployed), and generate revenue to repay loans progressively (a process that will take years). For Mr Tsipras to work on this by leaving the euro zone would be to enter uncharted territory. But staying might not help fulfil his goals if Greece's share of any additional funds (especially if on strict terms) is limited. One analyst estimates that "for every euro in bailout funds, the Greek government receives less than 20 per cent". Regrettably, bankers and bond-holders get the lion's share.

Mr Tsipras has made history by giving Greece the dubious distinction of being the first developed country to miss a payment to the International Monetary Fund. He can redeem himself by helping Greeks to complete the difficult economic marathon ahead.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2015, with the headline 'Now for the hard part, Mr Tsipras'. Print Edition | Subscribe