Grave consequences

The serious consequences of Costas Simitis’s incessant promises of handouts have already become apparent. More and more teams of workers, sensing that the government has opened up its coffers, are now seeking European wages without them offering anything more than before. Indeed as the possibility of early elections appears less likely, and as the electorate appears determined to change the government, it is very likely that we will have to put up with eight months of being bombarded with promises of benefits, increases and appointments. The closer election time comes, the more susceptible the government will be and the more strenuous its efforts will be to avoid confrontations, rifts and strikes. And it is certain that the resulting fiscal pressure will be transferred to the already overloaded budget for 2004, thus canceling out the initiatives which the next government would like to undertake. The markets, which are forecasting the deadlock, are sending their warnings to the government. Meanwhile the opposition, wary of being cast as anti-populist, is not trying to stop the inevitable. And so Simitis, casting aside all he has stood for until today, presents himself as a populist leader to clinch a third election victory. The point is that the public will get attuned to handouts and then ask for more – a situation which is difficult to reverse, as the experience of the 1980s taught us.