OPINION

Economic blues

Today’s parliamentary debate on the economy gives political parties a chance to discuss the most burning social issue of today. However, the debate will most likely veer off into a pointless rhetorical confrontation bound to receive extensive publicity because of the heated climate. The desperate attempts of the prime minister and the responsible minister to gloss over the situation are condemned to fall through because people know firsthand about the rising costs and the economic slowdown. It is common knowledge that more and more households are finding it hard to make ends meet. Incomes remain stagnant, or slide further down, while everyday needs are rising. We would never underrate the achievements of the Simitis government in the economy and other spheres. But the signs of recession are too obvious to ignore. The lower- and middle-income classes are under increasing pressure – and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel for them. The precipitous fall in exports over the recent years reflects a dramatic drop in the competitiveness of Greek products. The inflow of funds from the Third Community Support Framework still helps maintain a relatively high growth rate, but such tonics will soon come to an end. What is worse, EU funds are not being utilized in a way that would spur on local productivity or spill over into other areas of economic development. Fiscal prospects are grim as well. Responsible government officials have exhausted all their room for creative accounting. Successive cooking of the fiscal books helped paint a false picture of economic euphoria, but reality cannot be disguised for much longer, talented as the spin doctors of the «powerful Greece» may be. Prime Minister Costas Simitis and National Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis are trying to buy time, but this is of no service to Greece or PASOK. No doubt they are genuinely trying to keep control of the situation and prevent things from getting worse, but this cannot be achieved by empty rhetoric or by turning a blind eye to reality. Cultivating a climate of relaxation will only harm their efforts. If the government wants to reverse the climate and put the economy back on track, it must first speak openly to the public and call for self-discipline, more work and productive initiatives.