The big invalid

Terrorism, the resignation of the premier’s press aide, the capital’s socialites, the looming war in Iraq, the Cyprus problem and other important issues may monopolize public interest, if one follows mainstream media, but the great invalid, the one that will have a decisive effect on people’s lives and political developments, is the economy. Official statistics fail to demonstrate the problem but daily life has many examples to offer: Stock markets are under pressure; they can’t create new income. Many companies are being forced to downsize or reduce their activities. Low-income households are struggling to meet basic needs; thousands of cars are being returned because of buyers’ inability to pay off their installments; house auctions are on the rise; banks are striving to increase revenues and to rescue problematic firms in order to ensure their own survival. The economic crisis is mirrored in the failure by bank officials to strike any good deals and ordinary people’s concerns about job insecurity, their children’s unemployment, and shrinking incomes. Although public projects help to create a sense of euphoria, the rest of the economy has slowed down and is unable to make up for the losses on the stock market and in deposit interest – two lost sources of revenue. Furthermore, the recent failure of the Hellenic Petroleum and Olympic Airways privatizations has highlighted the problem, as politicians waver and business groups remain extremely cautious. In both these cases, both sides demanded the strongest possible guarantees, invoking the domestic and international downturn. Some may think we exaggerate, others may think of us as mere pessimists but the signs are out there. Worst of all, the political elite seems unable to reverse the climate. Funds are tied up, elections are looming, and little political time remains.