Focus on finances

A month into the pre-election campaign that has been dominated so far by Socialist chairman-in-waiting George Papandreou’s publicity stunt and the controversy surrounding the tourist development amendment pushed through Parliament by then-Deputy Economy Minister Christos Pachtas, the publication of New Democracy’s economic policy plan has catapulted the country’s problems back into the limelight. The economic proposals of the conservative party may displease those who anticipated a clear neo-liberal policy line. It may also dismay those who expected opposition leader Costas Karamanlis to compete with Papandreou in an auction of populist promises. However, the plan will be endorsed by the overwhelming majority of citizens who realize that our time and the country’s problems demand not ideological knee-jerk reactions but political synthesis. New Democracy’s economic program is a synthesis of liberal recipes and measures to enhance social cohesion. It aims to strip the State of a role in which it has dismally failed – that of the manager – only to strengthen its hand where it is, in fact, irreplaceable: as a overseer of economic development and social solidarity. What both main parties must realize is that the country is not wanting for lofty goals: There is no government that would not like to see a 5 percent growth rate, real rather than nominal convergence with the European Union, a reduction in unemployment, or an increase in education spending. Their failure so far is obviously due to the fact that such nice and simple promises are not easy to realize. Regardless of which party wins the March 7 elections, it will have to deal with a low-profile yet crucial problem: tidying up the national economy. That is, it will need to form a clear picture about the true state of the fiscal economy and make it public without glossing up the numbers. It must put an end to excess spending in the public sector and to the leaks of precious EU funds – it should be remembered that Pachtas was responsible for community funds – and curb the high cost of bureaucracy. All these, of course, are not as charming as the big visions and the promises of radical change which are lavishly made during election campaigns. But they reflect the demands of citizens who are tired of cost-free proclamations and who want to see a new government that will have less to promise but more to offer.