OPINION

‘True convergence’

The «Charter for True Convergence» to be presented at the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair in early September will obviously be a continuation of Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s recent initiatives. What is not clear is what Simitis means by the term «true convergence.» If he means the convergence of salaries, as many people understand it since the introduction of the euro, then the charter will by necessity take the form of wage increases and handouts to various categories of the population. From what sources, no one knows, not even in the government, one supposes. During a pre-election period and at a time when there is pressure from the electorate, it is likely that the «charter» will be of this nature, a dangerous «initiative» aimed at raking in votes with unforeseen consequences on the economy and the country. Wage-earners, who observe that with the euro payment for work done is far lower than in, for example, Germany or France, would naturally like to see such convergence. However, the government is obliged to consider whether this is the same work with the same productivity which would justify a convergence of wages. Otherwise, it will be heading for trouble, just as in the past. One would imagine that «true convergence» also means adapting the entire economy (but not only) to what is applicable in most European countries. For example, you cannot be at the bottom of the list of most economic indicators and promise just a convergence of wages. Convergence of this kind cannot be achieved in the 10 months remaining before elections must be held. It requires long-term and mid-term programs of structural changes that will unavoidably meet with opposition. That is, they would have the opposite effect from that hoped for by a party preparing for an election campaign. When they had sufficient time and political support, Simitis and his governments did not dare go ahead with such plans for the «true convergence» of the Greek economy with those of other European Union member states. Particularly after the defeat of their plans for the social security system, they have not dared to take any other initiative in the economy that might lead to a convergence of wages. And they are not going to do so now. So the most likely outcome is that the «charter» will be restricted to a list of campaign handouts, with a few generalities thrown in for good measure.