OPINION

Paralyzed

Giorgos Papaconstantinou, the Socialist government?s finance minister who is also the architect of the two so-called memorandums signed with Greece?s international creditors, has come under heavy fire from the Cabinet. The reaction of the PASOK deputies was to be expected. But even if it was in part justified, there is not much one could expect from it.

Papaconstantinou has from the start behaved like an economic expert. But his shortcomings became painfully evident in less than a year. During his talks with the members of the so-called troika — the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Commission — the Greek finance minister seemed to miss one key element in the process, known as bargaining.

In an undisputed sign of political immaturity, Papaconstantinou treated PASOK deputies in an arrogant manner. In return, they lashed out at him two days ago. As finance minister, Papaconstantinou failed to ensure public revenue increases as mandated by the memorandum. Failure to do so damaged his credibility among fellow ministers whom he had repeatedly pressured to meet their obligations toward the troika.

The problem no longer is whether Papaconstantinou will keep his post or not. The Greek tragedy, in its modern-day reincarnation, is that the country is ruled by a needy government that is mired in endless debates and consultations, like Fidel Castro?s post-revolutionary Cuba.

The PASOK administration is incapable of pulling its weight at a time when everything is an emergency.

The political paralysis of George Papandreou?s government has had a deleterious effect on the political system at large. Hence the mass protests at Syntagma Square and in other cities across the country, as well as the manifestations of political disobedience.

That said, we do not mean to paper over the responsibilities and mistakes of the conservative administrations.

However, the fact is that it is the government of a country that sets the tone. When that is done by the opposition or, worse, by the crowds, then there is the risk of losing control.

This is exactly what is happening now as, 36 years after the end of the dictatorship, the country is faced with the specter of political disintegration.