OPINION

Commentary

There have long been signs that the large interconnected business groups, often described as pillars of political and business entanglement, are faced with considerable economic problems. This resulted from their fervent, albeit ignorant, stock market gamble over the previous few years but also from high operational costs that were generated by their reckless previous growth and its accompanying financial obligations. Yesterday, however, we witnessed some striking developments that reinforce these signs and underscore the view that the entangled system of business and politics is coming under intense pressure. Speaking at a general meeting, Intracom chairman Socrates Kokkalis dropped the first official hint of cooperation with the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) which, in practice, would equal a takeover proposal by the state’s telecommunication organization. At the same time, the group’s 9-month results showed that its accumulated debts amount to 287 billion drachmas. This is a huge sum that highlights the problem and underscores the production deficit of an organization which has drained OTE for two decades, exploiting their monopsonistic relationship and which now, as its very survival is being threatened, seeks a takeover or, at best, the assumption of its debts and coverage of any future losses. Later yesterday, another ambitious link in this chain, Thomas Liakounakos’s Axon airlines – which until a few days ago sought to take over Olympic Airways – declared itself bankrupt under the pressure of excessive obligations and the global crisis besetting the airline industry, raising important questions about the basic assumptions of government policy. At the same time, entangled publishers have also come under pressure as they draw power and profits from those same relationship patterns and politico-economic environment. According to sources, other business groups that performed a supplementary role on the fringes of the system are faced with similar economic problems, giving the impression that this web is weakening. It may be premature to draw any conclusions, but the decline of the aforementioned, uncompetitive groups that have based their progress on direct or indirect state subsidies will undoubtedly surface during the final runup to the euro and the introduction of a more highly competitive Europe.