OPINION

Painting a picture of another country?

I have known Greece for 40 years and am living here for four years now. In these four years, Greece has joined the euro; its economy has been upgraded to developed country status; its EU presidency in the first half of 2003 was considered a great success; its former governor of the central bank went to the ECB in Frankfurt and its economic policy has been judged «better than Italy’s» by the governor of Italy’s central bank himself. On a more personal level, I have been pleasantly surprised by the economic and social progress made in the last 10 years: many better roads (even if more are needed), a modernized banking system, advanced digital telecommunications, etc. I also recently had positive experiences with the much decried Greek bureaucracy: «Citizen Service Centers (KEP)» free of charge and efficient, and tax authorities whose computers often seem to work better than in many other European countries. Also, as seen from Thessaloniki, Greek companies and banks have become dynamic players in the new markets of Southeastern Europe. Of course, the Greeks themselves are always grumbling about not having enough money, paying too many taxes and about there being too many people not working hard enough in the public sector. But that is exactly what other Europeans (the French and the Italians in particular) have been saying for years! Still, I often get the feeling of living in another country (say, the Greece of the 1980s) when I am reading the daily edition of Kathimerini English Edition, especially the «commentaries» that are translated from the Greek edition. How is it possible that the leading newspaper (and the only one with an international edition) in a country which now enjoys the highest growth rate in the EU, systematically publishes negative economic views and throws suspicion on the positive aspects of the Greek economy, including the success stories of its entrepreneurs? Let us take the examples of El Pais in Spain, Le Monde in France or La Repubblica in Italy – all three leading dailies in their respective countries and all at present considered close to the opposition. They often criticize the government in power but their economic coverage is completely objective and absolutely non-partisan. And, contrary to Kathimerini, they seem to take a certain pride in the successes of «national champions» in banking and industry. Building a positive international economic image of a country is an important factor to ensuring future prosperity. Such an image is the end result of the policies and actions of a country’s entrepreneurs, bankers, government officials, politicians and rating agencies, but also of the way the economic news is covered in the leading media. In Greece, Kathimerini English Edition is the main source of information on the Greek economy for the outside world. It is read in all the embassies and foreign companies in Athens, and, as such, is an essential tool for attracting future investment that will be badly needed after 2004. By systematically denigrating the successes of the Greek economy and by «politicizing» economic reporting in its editorial comment, the leading international daily newspaper of this country is not only confusing its readers. It is also discouraging the investments – and the jobs – that are needed in the future. ROBERT DE BRUIN,Thessaloniki.