OPINION

Commentary

Independent of the feelings that one may harbor for former National Economy and Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, who was recently moved to the Defense Ministry, one cannot ignore his long service as head of the economy. Regardless of what one thinks of Papantoniou – indeed, a controversial figure to many – he unquestionably put his stamp on economic developments. For nearly eight years he guided the country’s economy and helped significantly to shape a new economic morality; and he was able to impose new ideas, especially those of the market economy, despite the reactionary notions of the ruling party and the traditional negativism characteristic of the PASOK party in the 1980s. Notwithstanding the shortcomings and the idiosyncrasies of Greece’s economy, it would be equally unfair not to acknowledge Papantoniou’s significant contribution to the Europeanization of the Greek economy. In a party environment pervaded by statist ideas, a party ready to put the brake on the simplest of privatizations, Papantoniou adopted a steady course; and it could be said that he contributed – even if mainly through the entry of firms into the stock market – to opening up the economy to the market and the public. Furthermore, it cannot be denied that he defended to the end the country’s drive to enter the eurozone and that he remained fixated on this target which, especially in the current volatile global environment, has proven to be a saving grace for Greece’s economy and its citizens. Despite all this, Papantoniou is responsible for avoiding a more direct policy for preparing the country for the competitive environment ushered in by the EMU. The excessive use of creative accounting and of technical capabilities for fudging the country’s economic figures – which in turn fueled the irrational stock-market fever – was to blame for postponing the necessary adaptive steps and for bewildering the citizens and businesses into unreal and perilous – as it was later proved – practices in the imaginary world of overpricing. Perhaps this delay and deception constitutes the Achilles Heel of his long service and will also be the source of future pain.