On the wrong path

The government is resuming its duties on Monday following an admittedly short break. We are in for a fresh round of meetings between the three coalition leaders, who will struggle to bring their campaign pledges in line with the brutal economic reality — itself the product of three decades of miserable governance and George Papandreou?s sad bargaining in the early months of 2010.

Our politicians will most likely rehash their pledges to keep the country within the euro area and to hold ?tough? negotiations with leading EU leaders. But we?ve had enough of empty rhetoric, grandiose plans and austerity measures. The government is supposedly carrying out an economic liberalization program. Yet over the past two-and-a-half years, we have not seen a single privatization except for the transfer — or was it sale? — of ATEBank to Piraeus Bank, which the Greek opposition has criticized for lacking transparency.

Managers of public enterprises appointed by the Papandreou administration have not implemented the laws passed in Parliament to cut salaries. Authorities have published the initials of individuals who have transferred millions of euros to overseas bank accounts and they are investigating how certain people built up wealth that is not justified by their previous declarations of assets. The Bank of Greece knows exactly what sums over 100,000 euros have been legally transferred abroad. Inspectors are disclosing cases of unprecedented tax evasion across the country. However, the above are nothing but PR stunts.

No minister has announced the outcome of this huge effort, simply because it?s unworthy of mention. The revelations and the accusations are only designed to demonstrate that the country is inhabited by crooks. Of course, what the political class seems to miss is that the morality of a society is a pure reflection of the morality of its political, economic and academic elite.

The biggest problem therefore — paradoxical as it may sound — is not whether Greece stays in the euro area or if it is made to return to the drachma. Rather it?s the breakdown of the state and the failure of the government to operate in a relatively effective manner. Government power is reduced to super-taxing property and constantly reducing pensions and high salaries in the state sector, trying to bring them down to a similar, and very low, level.

However, plebeian equality of this sort was the objective of communist regimes and never of a liberal-oriented government or, at least, of the champions of a mixed economy system. The government had better re-examine its stance.

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