Charter of promises

The so-called Convergence Charter that was announced by Prime Minister Costas Simitis yesterday failed to convince, falling well below the expectations cultivated by the government’s spin doctors. Unlike last week’s handouts that proved to be a compelling vote-grabbing gambit, the charter does not appear to have the same appeal. First, the medium- and long-term goals of the charter did not satisfy those who anticipated a new wave of social spending. This, no doubt, is a good thing about the charter – and perhaps the most important of its few advantages. More importantly, it let down those who hoped that after embarking on some electioneering activities, Simitis would at least present a realistic development plan for the country. This has not been the case. The government’s charter is hostage to the logic of promises and handouts. Instead of presenting a coherent, pragmatic vision for national development, what Simitis has vainly tried to do is to provide a theoretical framework for his handout-driven policies. Simitis’s charter makes no reference to – let alone suggests the existence of – a comprehensive plan for much-needed structural reforms. The document fails to even hint at an issue which has been raised not only by experts but among common citizens as well: What will be the prospects for growth after 2004, once Olympic-related projects are over and done – along with the funds that are now being spent on these projects? In an arbitrary fashion, rather than setting out a plan that answers that question, the prime minister went on to assert – presenting no evidence whatsoever – that the rate of growth will continue to hover over 4 percent after 2004. This is a groundless forecast that cannot withstand any sort of economic analysis. Opportunism is a bad counselor when it comes to finances. It can lead to decisions that can demolish hard-fought achievements within a few months. The promises made by the prime minister over the past few days give the impression that pre-election opportunism and canvassing threaten to take over the helm of the government’s economic policy.

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