When procrastination becomes an option

Public discontent with both major parties is now evident. Its magnitude is not just revealed by recent opinion polls but is present everywhere, in the discussions of the vast majority of citizens, those in both the low and middle income levels. What is worse is that even the affluent are showing signs of serious concern that the general phenomenon of unwieldiness in public life will soon encroach upon their own interests – if this has not happened already. After the breakout of the recent scandal involving Christos Zachopoulos, the general secretary of the Culture Ministry who attempted suicide, an increasing number of people are sensing that that the government has lost the initiative. Within this framework, all sorts of different interests are flexing their muscles, either to defend their interests or take advantage of the situation. But even without the scandal, the accumulation of unfulfilled expectations is such that a «flight forward» would have been inescapable. However, the government seems to have opted for the least painful course, of avoiding confrontations in order to minimize political cost. The overdue reform of the country’s ailing social security system, where even the initial soft-pedaling has fizzled out almost to a standstill, is the prime example. But education reform has also come to naught, the law about public utilities has not been applied, and Olympic Airlines and Hellenic Railways continue to guzzle taxpayers’ money. The list is endless. Hand-in-hand with this practice goes the absence of policies. For if we had practical applications of policy, we would also have a serious reaction and, as a result of the confrontation, citizens would have been able to judge whether the country’s interests had been served correctly. But responsibility for the stagnation also rests with the weak opposition, whose stance contributes to the government’s procrastination. Inevitably, with the absence of real policies, public attention focuses on spicy scandals of political gossip. This situation forces the government to seek measures for protecting its senior officials, who, being either ineffectual at best or having pursued legally dubious practices at worst, seem to guarantee inertia and stagnation. There is no progress anywhere. Despite what some believe, business frets in such an environment. Particularly at times like this, when markets are undergoing upheaval and uncertainty about the future of the global economy is rising, the absence of official boldness is the worst possible situation. Where things stand now, there are two scenarios as to how the situation will develop: One is the overhaul of the leading teams in the government and the state apparatus, so that the momentum for reform is renewed. The other is the maintainance of the same practices. With timid moves, such as that on social security, or the privatization of ports, time will pass, the next election will likely be won again by New Democracy and the country will anxiously await the next strong government which may effect the promised «rebuilding of the state.»