Gov’t critical of employers’ stance on central issues

The government and employers yesterday offered largely contradictory views on how to tackle the country’s main problems. While employers called for «a dynamic alliance of social forces» with a view to dealing with increasingly complex problems and modernizing the country, the government attacked the recent pay pact between employers and unions, calling on them to be mindful of the country’s flagging competitiveness and the need to control inflation. «We need a new balance and an overall redetermination of the roles of the state, the private sector and the trade union movement, of the social partners – even the media which provide a key element in public discourse,» Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) President Dimitris Daskalopoulos told the organization’s annual congress. He singled out the recent pay pact with the unions, which envisages increases of 12 percent over two years, as an example of «creative compromise.» Daskalopoulos said the country is gradually moving into a new phase of economic structures and social relations. «The cost of living is rising, quality of life is falling, the welfare state is steadily being eroded and its survival is becoming problematic… Social cohesion is thus undermined while insecurity, inequality, poverty and the lack of prospects for significant segments of the population take hold,» Daskalopoulos said. Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis, who also addressed the congress, called for greater responsibility on the part of enterprises, citing US President John F. Kennedy: «Don’t ask what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.» «Dealing with rising prices and strengthening competitiveness is not just the government’s job. I believe you can help in dealing with those practices which give rise to and maintain oligopolistic situations and lead to excessive price rises,» Alogoskoufis said. He also urged pay restraint in order to tackle inflation. «There is no point in agreeing on pay pacts which are then violated by some enterprises and some sectors with corresponding or even greater price rises,» he said. General Confederation of Greek Labor President Yiannis Pana-gopoulos referred to a «lack of strategic planning among entrepreneurs, leading to shortsighted practices of a speculative nature.» He also said the Greek economy suffered from a fixation with strict fiscal discipline. «The development of public policies which improve productivity can better shield the economy from external shocks,» he said.