OPINION

Transparency

Suspicion over the influence of political and business entanglement in the arms procurements deals which were agreed upon on Monday by the Government Council on Foreign Policy and Defense (KYSEA) is nothing new in the international arms trade. As giant firms dealing exclusively with states and possessing enough leverage to shape demand for their products using their ties with the military and political elite, arms industries have a long history of murky deals and scandals, from Belgium to Japan. These remarks are not meant to belittle the alleged secrecy blanketing Greece’s arms purchases, but rather to note that the transparency deficit does not concern the country’s arms procurements only. In Greece, state commissions do not just end up in the pockets of big arms middlemen but in the private sector in general, whether this concerns the private production of electricity or the thousands of programs applying for funds under the Third Community Support Framework (CSFIII). Deputy Economy and Finance Minister Christos Pachtas announced yesterday after meeting with the prime minister that 10,000 programs and projects will be included under the CSFIII by the end of the year, while all projects listed under the state budget will be included by the end of 2003. Pachtas emphasized the need to include private firms, the middle and lower strata, and IT-related projects, indirectly admitting that these sectors are lagging behind. The issue, however, is to determine exactly what lags behind and what gets promoted. Similar to the arms middlemen (who form a relatively closed circle), it is common knowledge that everyone is trying to get as many funds as they can from the CSFIII. And as with the defense issue, the tight network creates distortions not only when it results in a sleight of hand, but even in instances of preferential treatment that some firms enjoy. When dealing with arms purchases or the CFSIII, one should not only examine whether a kickback was actually given but what was achieved because of it. The most usual outcome is a deal that would not have been reached otherwise or an agreement on prices or subsidies that is many times the warranted price. The conclusion is the same in both cases: «With that money we could have bought twice as many.»