OPINION

Transparency

Pressure on the prime minister to combat widespread state corruption has finally yielded some fruit. Under the heat of public opprobrium and from revelations over the shady dealings of some of Costas Simitis’s close aides in the stock market, the premier finally acknowledged that a political issue does exist. The end of the Cabinet meeting yesterday was followed by an announcement of a series of measures. Putting aside the delay in taking these decisions, one cannot deny their positive side – in theory at least. The decision to introduce a closer inspection of politicians’ declarations of assets from 1990 until today – including a comparison on a year-by-year basis – is no doubt a good start. So is the regulation banning deputies, mayors, municipal leaders and the chairmen of state-owned companies from trading in shares. Such prohibitions were already in place for ministers and ministries’ general secretaries. Also, there were regulations prohibiting deputies from owning offshore companies. Another positive measure is Simitis’s decision to introduce new legislation forcing Socialist deputies and ministers to submit to an additional audit of all their transactions on the Athens bourse from 1998 until the 2000 bust. The declarations will be cross-checked by the Capital Market Commission, which will undertake a further investigation in cases where there is heavy investment in one particular stock, so as to examine possibly suspect connections. It would be naive to think that these measures alone will be enough to stamp out entanglement and corruption. Nor does one hope that the measures will reveal unwarranted ties of the Socialist bigwigs accused of showing favoritism to state suppliers and contractors. Politicians are not bribed with the money stated on their assets’ declarations. On the other hand, we must acknowledge that these measures can check the worst cases of corruption among politicians, especially at the lower echelons of power, and to contribute to the establishment of stricter institutional checks on politicians’ activity. At least from a psychological perspective, politicians will no longer enjoy the status of immunity. All this presupposes that the premier and PASOK are willing to implement their plans – which, in the light of their performance until now, seems rather unlikely.