When the Games are over

The pre-election period is tense, but partisan confrontation only skims the surface of the problems are expected to follow next year’s Olympic Games. The first hints, the first official mention, were made during Thursday’s presentation by Bank of Greece Governor Nicholas Garganas of a report on the domestic economy. Notwithstanding the technocratic lingo that downplayed the looming slowdown, the issue has indeed come into the open. It is a big one: As soon as the Games are over, the Greek economy and, by extension, the public, will be faced with a complex and unfavorable environment for which we have to brace ourselves as of this day. Garganas said that high growth rates have a limited base and noted that current growth is mainly a result of increased demand based on the inflow of EU funds and on public works projects. The question is what will happen after 2004. It is certain that the impact of the projects will fade after next spring, as a main source of income for a large number of employees and works-related companies will vanish. Furthermore, the fiscal economy will be overburdened by Olympic-related obligations and current handouts. The government elected after next year’s elections will face the very daunting task of balancing the budget and dealing with shrinking EU funding – at a time of intense pressure for more social spending. Surviving this adverse conjuncture of circumstances will require stricter economic policies, more effort, more structural reforms and, of course, more political courage to root out the problems and push ahead with the necessary measures. But this all demands preparation and understanding by a public which has for years been misled by slogans of a «powerful economy.» People can sense what is in store, and this is why they express uncertainty about the future.