OPINION

Short-sighted handouts

The government’s prematurely announced handouts inaugurated Greece’s pre-election period. The reactions since have shown that the government’s promises jolted the public and raised several issues. The differing opinions sparked a heated debate which, as usual, failed to get to the heart of the issue. Most appear to have been bamboozled by the spinmasters’ techniques. Some population groups are, no doubt, in dire economic straits and run the risk of being marginalized. These groups must be supported – for economic as well as social reasons. Provisions of aid, however, must not be a product of any circumstantial, canvassing policy but part of comprehensive, long-term planning. Otherwise, handouts tend to be like gifts offered at celebrations, or, in this case, elections, which might look impressive in their ribbons and wrapping, but which eventually fade from memory. And so the announcement of handouts was met with skepticism by an already wary society that has often seen its expectations crushed in recent years. The real question – and one that was not asked – is what guarantees does the current economic policy provide for assisting the lower-income classes? Does the existing model create the necessary wealth to support these groups in the long-term? What economic plan can guarantee such support? What development model can truly meet social needs in the contemporary environment of deregulated and highly competitive markets? And how detrimental are these plans when not backed by structural reforms? As long as these questions remain unanswered, government pledges are nothing but electioneering tactics. The only hope is that the measures will trigger genuine discussion about Greece’s real problems and the looming storms that are already casting their shadow on the future of the country after 2004.