OPINION

Off course

In an article published with the Eleftherotypia daily yesterday, the economist and former minister Manolis Drettakis, a man who keeps a close eye on Greece’s convergence with the European Union, claims that the latest Eurostat figures are more than a defeat of the promises made by the Socialist party; they are humiliating. Indeed, the data over the 1981-2001 period indicate that far from converging with our EU peers, Greece’s GDP per capita expressed in purchasing power units in fact veered away from the Community average. In 1981 Greek GDP was 69 percent of the Community average, while by 2001 it had fallen to 65 percent – with Greece ranking last among the 15 EU members. Although no data for 2002 has been released, the situation has hardly changed since. Although Greece’s GDP increased more than that of the rest of Europe, this was not enough to catch up with the others. Besides, all the government talk over the so-called Convergence Charter is an acknowledgement that convergence still lies ahead. As Drettakis maintains (and Kathimerini has repeatedly pointed out), the main reason for our poor performance during PASOK’s 20-year rule is that the Community funds that were channeled into our country through the Integrated Mediterranean Programs and the Community Support Frameworks were misused, wasted on shoddy projects, or squandered by state-dependent business circles with the help of political and state officials. It is worth noting that the money lost by the implementation of the formula used in awarding public projects would be enough to pay for the electoral handouts planned by Prime Minister Costas Simitis. The total loss from maladministration and political entanglement with business interests would suffice to pay for a host of social measures and to boost Greek competitiveness through investments in education and labor training. In April 2000 and in June of the same year, immediately after the EU summit that sealed Greece’s EMU entry, Simitis pledged that he would concentrate on bringing the country’s living standards in line with the European average by the end of the decade. But nothing has been accomplished in that direction since then. PASOK only cared to consolidate its grip on the State and to serve and enhance its business cronies, who are now trying to return the favor by ensuring the maximum possible media backing ahead of the coming elections.