A lot has been said about Greece’s three most recent elected premiers who, each in their own way, oversaw the nation’s path to bankruptcy. It is up to the historians of the future to evaluate their share of the blame for this financial crisis, but Costas Simitis, Costas Karamanlis and George Papandreou have kept quite diverse stands since leaving office.
Simitis warned about the impending bankruptcy and the IMF early on when no one really wanted to hear about it. His public interventions are always timely but they have little of substance to offer as he has never offered a concrete crisis exit plan. Most importantly, Simitis has not taken stock of his legacy, the huge stock market bubble and rampant corruption. Pressure on him to do so is mounting again following revelations about the German arms bribes. During his tenure, it was said that a degree of corruption is unavoidable at times of economic growth and Simitis himself urged anyone who had any evidence of corruption to “send it to the prosecutor.” But such excuses won’t do anymore.
Karamanlis has chosen to remain silent although he occasionally voices his opinion on developments through his close aides. Many questions still remain unanswered concerning his various appointments, his failure to impose his will at crucial moments, and his denial when faced with the impending fiscal derailment. He still owes us a response as to why he did not take harsh measures back in the fall of 2008, when it was already evident that the country was heading toward the rocks, and why he continued to spend until fall of the following year, in spite of warnings at home and abroad. Silence is not appropriate for a former PM. The burgeoning cost of the state sector and his loss of control over law and order demand some explanations.
As for Papandreou, he has failed to live up to his role since he left office. And he too need to answer some key questions. Why didn’t he help Karamanlis deal with the debt crisis in spring 2009? Why didn’t he follow up from the speech of his predecessor at the Thessaloniki Trade Fair instead of uttering his infamous “There is money” statement? Why didn’t he try to avoid the IMF and the memorandum by adopting immediate fiscal measures? And when did he decide that there was not alternative to IMF involvement? Did he really try to fend off pressure from German Chancellor Angela Merkel by making an alliance with Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and others or not?
People want answers. It is very easy for our former leaders to blame their fall, and the collapse of the country, on the deep PASOK, on invisible foreign powers or interests that can’t be named. But some degree of self-criticism would be far more useful and courageous.