After 2004, what?

For some months now, particularly since last month when the government began its policy of campaign handouts, reservations expressed by the more thoughtful observers of Greek affairs have had one common denominator: concern for the country’s image after 2004. This has been particularly evident with regard to the economy and the extent to which it will be possible to maintain continued high growth rates, when the outlay for Olympic preparations is over and the bill presented, and European Union funds, of which the Third Community Support Framework is the final opportunity, will eventually cease. Our Olympic undertaking gives no occasion for optimism that it will promote secondary growth. And the focus on these projects appears to have further weakened our export capabilities. The concern is not only evident in observations by experts, such as Bank of Greece governor Nicholas Garganas, but in people’s insecurity regarding the future as expressed in opinion polls. This is important not only as a measure of the government’s failure to meet its goals. From a purely economic point of view, insecurity means less trust – for trust is crucial for people’s willingness to «open up» and invest – and therefore negatively impacts economic growth. The «hope deficit» over the country’s future after 2004 is the common refrain. That deficit transcends the economic sector; it gives a broader impression that there is no central, national goal capable of focusing our efforts and our dynamism. Very few will disagree with this view, as even the most optimistic predictions are tinged with an underlying insecurity regarding the «day after.» Nevertheless, as we enter an election campaign, the broader issue of Greece’s future, post-2004, is not a major issue. On the contrary, it is being dealt with in piecemeal fashion, triumphantly or otherwise, according to the particular partisan view, without any broader approach and, above all, with no proposals as to what should happen. This method may serve the political parties, but not the country or the voters, who cannot formulate a picture of this most crucial of issues. In the few months left before the elections, we should all demand a more substantial debate and the best preparation possible for what is to come, which will decide whether Greece will progress or fall even further behind its EU partners.