Sustaining a myth

Prime Minister Costas Simitis’s politics have, in the past few years, been governed by the mantra of a «strong economy.» This dogma was the premise of his reformist policy and, at the same time, the lever of PASOK’s spinmeisters over the past seven years. But the dogma seems to be a spent force. It can no longer sustain positive expectations among the people, but rather breeds mistrust and insecurity. People feel increasingly insecure about the future, while claims to Greece’s ostensibly strong economy prompt bitter reactions. They react particularly strongly over claims of high growth rates, pointing their collective finger at high prices, lost incomes, household debts, unemployment and deficits – all of which fuel uncertainty about the future. The government’s economic doctrine is structurally flawed. High growth rates are not the result of the economy’s productive momentum but rather an outgrowth of EU funds, swelling deficits and increasing credit expansion mainly through housing and consumer loans. This is why the entire model breeds insecurity and uncertainty about the future. It has become obvious that the government must change course, acknowledge the problems that its economic policy model has accumulated over the years and sketch out a program of structural reform after 2004. If it managed to take such action and provoke a genuine debate on the economy, the government would boost its credibility and, most importantly, brace society and the citizens for the troubles that are to come. However, this seems a very remote probability these days, for it requires political courage that is hard to find. Unless the government takes drastic measures, loose talk about defending «Europe’s strongest economy» will only raise a smile.