The limits of reform

It never came as a surprise in this country that the government should choose to open up the piggy bank during a pre-election period, with the aim of shifting the political mood in its favor. Pre-electoral handouts have been a standard tactic for decades, regardless of the potential political gain for the party that loosens the strings of the public purse. Even so, one would expect that a supposedly reformist government that is urging citizens to join the difficult task of facing the demands of the new era would not yield to such a dangerous temptation. One would expect that a political elite which brags of having guided Greece into the eurozone, the «hard core of Europe» to use its preferred term, would refrain from using handouts as a political weapon. One would expect that, given the fiscal crisis and the poor state of the national economy and with elections coming up, the government of Costas Simitis would have found a different way to deal with the problems besetting his party. A leadership that talks of a «new national self-confidence» should retain a bit of it for itself; at a political level, that is. Unfortunately, the Simitis government took the beaten track, pledging handouts regardless of whether the money actually exists, and oblivious to the fiscal black holes. The potential implications of such handouts for the national economy of a eurozone member seem to leave the Socialist government unconcerned. The prime minister is obviously more concerned with the prospect of a conservative victory than with the economic repercussions of his lavish promises. This charter of handouts effectively revealed the real limits of the reformist policy heralded by Simitis’s PASOK back in 1996.