Speaking hard truths

Faced with the unprecedented crisis that the nation is currently going through, Greece needs all the help it can get from people with knowledge, experience and — why not? — wisdom. Our country stands at a crucial crossroads and the lack of inspired leadership at the helms of the main political parties is not making things any easier.

In this light, public interventions like the one made recently by former reformist Prime Minister Costas Simitis can be of great help. Simitis is a politician with great analytical skills and a good grasp of European realities. At the same time, he has firsthand knowledge of the shortcomings of the Greek state.

The problem with Simitis is that his interventions lack two crucial elements, a fact that seriously compromises his credibility. The former PASOK leader has failed to offer any self-criticism or explanations about the failures and mistakes made during his tenure. Simitis has in fact said very little on the issue of corruption — just a brief statement following media reports on the activity of his former Transport Minister Tasos Mantelis. Corruption certainly grew during the 1980s but it evidently took off during Simitis?s spell in government. The political veteran ought to throw some light on that period and reveal the extent to which he knew about what was going on. Perhaps he saw corruption as a necessary evil, or perhaps he thought that dealing with graft would distract him from other, more important objectives. After all, he is reported to have said that ?there is no growth without some degree of corruption.?

Simitis has refrained from interviews so as to avoid being pressed on the issue. But even those who praise his legacy would like to hear some answers.

Another thing Simitis is failing to deliver is much-needed proposals, however painful, on what must be done to overcome the crisis. It?s not enough to say that we must leave pensions intact or that we need to restructure debt. More is expected from a former premier and statesman, like telling the people the bitter truth about the things that must be done. There is no one more qualified to speak their mind than the experienced leaders who are not bothered by the political cost. Former conservative leader Constantine Mitsotakis occasionally upsets people by speaking hard truths. Simitis has ducked the tough stuff, and that does not help him in the current situation.

That said, one might counter that no one from inside the current government ever asked Mitsotakis or Alekos Papadopoulos what can be done to overcome the current crisis. Fair comment.

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