The economic para-state
Burgeoning demands by workers and the handouts pledged by Prime Minister Costas Simitis have fanned concerns over the durability of the economy, as if the entire system could be jeopardized by a 30-euro pension hike. We are not, of course, in favor of any unchecked increase in public spending in a period of economic stagnation. However, the problem with the Simitis administration is that it has frittered away EU funds, feeding a new powerful economic oligarchy that has seized people’s savings by way of the Athens bourse and squandered European funds, pushing a large section of the population below the poverty line. Wages and pensions would be higher, public services better and unemployment lower if the cost of public works were not twice the projected costs, had it not been for 2004 Olympic budget overruns and the waste of capital made on the stock market. Barring any ideological differences, Greece’s main problem today lies with political and business entanglements. Wealth is indeed produced but it ends up in the pockets of an elite few – no one is to blame for this pitiful state but Simitis. The new ruling class flourishes on the contracts it gets from the public sector. This makes Greece a Third World country, not a member of the EU’s hard core, as Simitis likes to brag. Another characteristic of the ruling class is its self-styled progressiveness. No other Western European state has seen «democratic» or «anti-dictatorial» credentials turned into such a commodity, to the extent of insulting those who truly fought all sorts of totalitarianism without hoping for any payoff. Worse, under the administration of Simitis, development, economic reform, even the adoption of the common currency, have been discredited in the eyes of the Greek citizens, becoming identified with the creation of an economic para-state.