Consent paramount

Reforms necessitate a broadly based dialogue to achieve the greatest possible social consensus in order to proceed, Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis said in a speech before an international conference in Italy yesterday. «Reforms may be essential, but they will not lead anywhere unless society too is convinced of their necessity,» the minister stressed at the Bocconi University in Milan. Alogoskoufis noted that an effective reform policy had to fulfill three conditions: It should have clear objectives regarding the proposed changes in economic and social institutions, take into account social and economic limitations and its components should be the subject of extensive discussion in the context of a broad social and political dialogue. He also underlined the importance of providing a safety net for those who may be hurt during the early stages of reform implementation, in order to protect and give them time to adjust. «When advancing reforms, there is always a golden mean. You always run the risk of creating destabilizing trends if you go too fast and do not have society on your side. There is then the risk of not proceeding at all,» he noted. Alogoskoufis stressed that in Greece, the implementation of the reform program had resulted in an acceleration of the economic growth rate by strengthening social cohesion, despite considerable fiscal adjustment and the slashing of the deficit to 2.4 percent of gross domestic product in 2007 from 7.9 percent in 2004.