Two wrongs don?t make a right

Numbers are inexorable. The economy is spiralling into the vicious cycle of recession and the distance from the fiscal targets is growing despite the fact that the average household?s living standards are dropping fast.

The economic policy mix has clearly failed, but our foreign lenders insist on the same recipe, attributing the failure to the shortcomings of George Papandreou?s government — which cannot be denied. The fact is that the recipe is bad — and so is the cook.

The economic and social fallout is worsening by the week, and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Social tension is soaring — and although no one can predict the social momentum, we have clearly entered a flammable zone.

Greece is caught in a vise. On one hand, Greece is obliged to follow the demands of the troika in order to avoid defaulting. On the other, the measures dictated by the creditors have failed to tackle the crisis; instead they have undermined social harmony. Faced with this grim prospect, some eye a coalition government between the two mainstream parties, a scenario that was boosted by

New Democracy?s backing of the government?s university reform bill. Meanwhile, remarks by prominent ruling officials have ignited talk about some form of shared governance. Note that similar efforts, backed by the Europeans, fell through in June.

Interestingly, no one really bothers to explain why a national unity government would work in the first place. After all, these two parties are the main culprits behind the current ills. Two wrongs have never made a right.

A large parliamentary majority would no doubt make it easy to pass legislation, but the measures go through anyway and instead of shaking up the economy, they aggravate the crisis. Making the conservatives part of the government would not change the situation. New Democracy has objected to the government?s policy, but has failed to stop it. Taxi drivers would take to the streets anyway, even if their conservative chief were against the move.

Papandreou is not the first to raise the flag of consensus. Before him, Costas Karamanlis and Costas Simitis did the same. When a premier runs into difficulties, he will typically try to pass some of the burden on the opposition. The word consensus may have a nice ring to it, but what the country needs is a plan to get it out of the crisis.