I was bornin 1960 in Athens, Greece, and grew up in the city. I lived most of my childhood and adolescent years in the house on the right on 6, Orminiou Street. The house no longer exists.
My father George was born in Arcadia in Peloponnese. He was of humble background, did not manage to finish school, and grew up in the difficult 1920s and 1930s doing odd jobs all over Greece. He fought in WWII against the Italians in northern Greece and Albania. During the German occupation of Greece (1941-44), he joined ELAS, the armed resistance movement, in Kaisariani, a suburb of Athens. After the war, he stayed in Athens and went into the clothes trade. He died in 1985, leaving behind my mother, my sister, and myself.
ELAS officers. General S. Sarafis, ELAS military commander, first row, fifth from left. George Demekas, first row, second from right.
Officers of 1st ELAS Regiment in Kaisariani, 1944. George Demekas second row, second from left.
George Demekas, October 1944.
At the age of 12, I entered the Varvakeio gymnasium. Varvakeio was an endowed public boys-only high school, with competitive entrance examinations. The level of instruction was exceptionally high, especially for a public high school, and the success rate of its boys in universitry entrance exams commensurate. In 1982, in a fit of egalitarianism, the then-new socialist government decided Varvakeio was too elitist and replaced the entrance examinations by a lottery. But by then I had already graduated and gone to the School of Economics at the University of Athens. I graduated magna cum laude in 1983, and left Greece on a scholarship for postgraduate studies in economics at Columbia University in New York. After earning my Ph.D. in Economics at Columbia in 1988, I joined the International Monetary Fund. I have stayed in the US ever since, except for brief overseas assignments.
One of these assignments was in Latvia and Estonia during 1996-99, as these economies were pulling out of the recession following the break-up of the Soviet Union and gearing up for the European Union. My experience in the Baltics was very significant for me. I loved the countries and the people, I witnessed (and was part of) liberal economics and politics in action, and I gained life-long friends. My life was also enriched by my two daughters, Sophia and Daphne, born during these years.
Between 1999, when the last of the wars of Yugoslav succession ended, and 2007, I have been involved in Southeastern Europe, especially in the post-conflict countries of Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Macedonia. I have come to know the region well. During these almost eight years, I have worked on the Western Balkans at the IMF, as well as at the European Union, as Special Adviser to the Greek Presidency during 2003, when the Thessaloniki Agenda was finalized. Working in the Balkans can be frustrating, but it's always lively and fascinating. Like the local people...
Photo from Sarajevo, courtesy of Samir Jahjah.
The onset of the financial crisis in 2007 and the
increased global role of the IMF brought about a big professional change
for me. I took over the management of the Fund's Financial Sector Assessment Program
(FSAP) worldwide with a mandate to review and revamp the program and
strengthen the IMF's surveillance of the global financial system. I knew
this was going to be an incredible opportunity for personal and
professional growth, although I could not foresee the wild ride of the
global crisis during the last few years. Big personal changes were also
afoot, with my marriage to Marta and the birth of my son who, of course,
had to be named George.