Facts and fantasies

The public is waiting to see whether the draft budget, due to be discussed and approved in today’s Cabinet meeting, will finally reveal the truth about the current state of and future prospects for the national economy, or whether it will seek to perpetuate the government’s attempt to gloss over its sorry state. Unfortunately, the fact that we are in the runup to parliamentary elections, combined with a shower of vote-grabbing measures on behalf of the Socialist administration, leaves little hope that reason will prevail over the government’s electioneering tactics, which are aimed at distorting the figures describing Greece’s real economic performance. However, it is of great urgency at this moment that we know the truth before going to cast our vote. People must be aware of what lies around the corner before going to the polls. The 2004 budget is not like previous budgets. What is unique about this coming year is that it will go through two completely distinct phases, namely the last stretch before the Athens Olympics and the actual event, but also the period following the Games. People are aware that the two periods will have nothing in common. The first will go down as a pompous show, and the second as a period dominated by the urgent need to deal with the economic catastrophe left by the preceding one. Until the end of the first period, the government will continue to waste money from the public purse. After that, the Greek taxpayers will be called on to pay the bill. However, the people who will have to pay the heavy price of Costas Simitis’s «successful Olympics» harbor the minimum expectation of being kept informed on the situation that they will face in the wake of the Games. Voters demand to know the real state of affairs so as to be able to invite all political parties to take a position on the country’s needs and to clarify their prospective remedial action. This is a crucial issue. People suspect that a serious economic crisis is lying ahead, after next August, and they would certainly want to know what each party plans to do about it before making up their minds on their vote. The government budget must reflect the truth about Greece’s economy, bitter as it may be.

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