Sharing the spoils

« The government sets the rules and there is enough to go around for everybody,» Interior Minister Costas Skandalidis said yesterday. On the same day, Kathimerini published an article by Evangelos Couloumbis, a former Socialist minister and former chairman of Greece’s Technical Chamber, in which he exposed the workings of a system that undermines free competition and squanders the funds supposedly channeled into big public projects. Couloumbis long ago realized the flaws of this mechanism, urging Prime Minister Costas Simitis as early as 1997 to take remedial action. So on the one hand, there is an experienced and concerned PASOK cadre who cared to warn the government before making his latest allegations over the waste of public money. On the other, there is an old party hand who reassures us that everything is on track and that there is enough to go around for everybody. In other words, Skandalidis does not question, nor is he anxious whether the pie is shared out evenly. He is merely reassuring the interested parties that they will all get a share of the spoils – so they should not brawl in public, as an unseemly fray could raise suspicion among the public and embarrass the government. The gulf separating the notion of a fair distribution from an «everyone will get a share» pledge is a huge and obvious one. The funds from the Third Community Support Framework were enough to implement a far greater number of projects, to reduce unemployment to a minimum, to boost Greece’s growth rate, and to bring about real economic convergence with our EU peers. All this could have been achieved had distribution been fair and even. Then there would indeed be enough for all – and not just for the construction firms, as Skandalidis rushed to suggest.

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