OPINION

Convergence myth

Is it possible that we are rich and just don’t know about it? The prosperity of the individual and the family cannot be judged using averages and statistics alone. But our societies love to count everything. The same happens in politics. Everyone will use some figure or other to validate their opinion. In Greece this habit began in 1985 when Costas Simitis, then economy minister, used statistics and diagrams to convince us of the need for frugality. Then, when we joined the European Monetary Union in 1981, things got worse. You had to calculate inflation-indexed pay rises, subtract inflation, calculate interest rates and so on. Then came the Maastricht Treaty, and its goals were presented to us as yet more magic numbers. Eventually we reached the worst stage – the conversion of drachmas into euros. Now the «magic number» is convergence. Greeks currently receive 66 percent of the average European income. And it is unclear what we should do about this. There is no point in saying that our goal is to hit 100 percent – especially as our state budget forecasts that this won’t happen before 2010 or even 2015. Indeed, the chart (for convergence, of course) predicts 80 percent by 2008. But there is reality and there is myth. The reality is that we were receiving 69 percent of the average European income when we entered EMU and now we are at 66 percent. The myth is that, without making any uncomfortable changes, we will hit the 80 percent mark as if by magic…