ECONOMY

SEV president upbraids ‘timid’ economic policy

The government’s economic policy came under withering criticism yesterday from the chairman of the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV), Dimitris Daskalopoulos, who accused the government of «timid, risk-free management» that «undermines our common future» and «cheap rhetoric» that is out of tune with the times. Daskalopoulos has established a reputation for outspokenness. However, his remarks, made on the occasion of SEV’s presenting a blueprint for the revision of the Constitution, were considered unusually blunt and were clearly disliked by several government officials, some of whom said they sounded like the declarations of a new political party. Daskalopoulos scoffed at government claims that public finances have been improved, calling them a «fabricated euphoria about the present, behind which lies a harsh future for all if we do not change tack.» «The maintenance of high growth rates, through a model based on consumption and state subsidies, as well as the apparent reduction of the fiscal deficit, do not make up for the loss in competitiveness reflected in two critical indicators: the current account deficit that almost doubled to 11 percent of GDP and the increase of the public debt not attributed to the budget deficit,» Daskalopoulos said. «In other times, we would be obliged to devalue the drachma. Now, it is the quality of our lives that is being continuously devalued.» Arguing that changes in the Constitution will not have an impact until after 2012, Daskalopoulos presented a series of measures that, he claimed, will boost competitiveness immediately. The first measure called for by SEV is a dialogue among «the social partners,» that is employers and unions, in order to agree on social security reforms toward a welfare state «that will make citizens feel more secure.» The other measures proposed are the creation of a National Competitiveness and Growth Council and the creation of a new Supreme Civil Service Council in the place of the ineffective old one that functioned between 1951 and 1973. The new council, which will resemble the UK’s Civil Service Commission, will, according to Daskalopoulos, «restore meritocracy» in the civil service. Further measures demanded by the SEV president included facilitating the setup of new enterprises, reforming bankruptcy law, upgrading the information systems in the civil service, deregulating markets and enacting further tax reforms. Alekos Kalyvis, deputy president of the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE), called Daskalopoulos’s proposals «anti-labor.”