NEWS

A life devoted to serving his country’s needs

For the economist, dignified discourse, a convergence of views and insistence on the principles of good management were the three key elements that linked excellent theoretical training with the practical implementation of government policy. Of all the titles by which one might address him, he preferred only one. The professor wasn’t keen on politics, yet his personality suited the profile of a public official more than any other. He believed that when the public interest is identified with national goals, it must be served without other considerations. His long term of office as head of the Bank of Greece goes hand in hand with recent economic history. In two periods, from 1955 to the dictatorship of 1967, which he denounced by resigning from Athens University, and from 1974 to 1981, he emphasized stability, advocating that Greece should rapidly develop its economy. Social cohesion Zolotas believed that the benefits of development should be shared in such a way as to support society and its cohesion and to bring out the potential of its members. In 1989, during a major political, ethical and economic crisis, when the leaders of the three major political parties asked him to form an all-party government, Zolotas hoped to achieve a single goal. He wanted to take a few urgent stability measures that would allow the electorate to return to the polls without feeling that it was facing an impasse. One of the leaders agreed. The second remained silent and the third engaged in covert obstructionism. Political expediency, with which Zolotas was not prepared to clash, won out. The other feature of Zolotas’s approach was discipline. His first concern when he became governor of the Bank of Greece was to complete the process of restoring confidence in the national currency. His second step was to find capital and insure businesses against the currency exchange risks. This combination gained the support of Constantine Karamanlis and George Papandreou (the elder) and was retained by Andreas Papandreou. Unfortunately, as Zolotas noted, this framework of a guided economy was retained when Greece opened up, through its accession to the European Union, to the competitive global economy. Its exposure to the rules of the liberalized market was delayed, and Zolotas accepted responsibility for that. His personality went beyond national boundaries. On the international scene, he insisted on the need for balanced global growth, the need for consultation and cooperation for the stability of the monetary system, and when he spoke at the general assembly of the IMF, the hall was packed. Cautious in expressing his views when it came to current political issues, Zolotas spoke his mind on socialism and its place in the broader postwar environment. In 1945, long before the Cold War, he set down his views on socialism in a book which clearly, critically and realistically explored the Soviet model and its then-unknown social democratic version. He gave the book to Boris Yeltsin, then first secretary of the Moscow city Communist Party (1985-’87), of whom Zolotas commented privately that he would soon be in the limelight. Few saw as clearly as Zolotas did how close the time was when the world would face the same great questions.