The day after the elections

No one really expected the televised debate among the five party leaders to get to the bone of the current issues, particularly after so many attempts had failed during the pre-election period. However, the format that was agreed upon by the parties’ representatives – that of successive monologues by the candidates – did not disrupt the politicians’ and political parties’ pet habit of glossing over reality and of viewing the future through rose-colored glasses. Indeed, it would have been interesting to see the five contestants touch upon the crux of the country’s economic problems. It is a known secret that the administration to emerge from the March 7 general elections will be faced with a number of very complex challenges. What is more, these challenges are not related to medium- or long-term economic planning but regard some very specific and pressing issues that will be catapulted onto center stage immediately after the polls. We have yet to close the books for 2003, while negotiations with Brussels on Greece’s debt have been postponed until after the elections. These are only two of the issues that the new government will have to deal with the morning after. Furthermore, the new administration will have to confront and solve the burning issues of how to finance state expenditures and investments – a problem that predominately affects this summer’s Olympic Games in Athens, an event whose gravity and urgency leaves little room to maneuver. All these complicated issues will only be the beginning, as the government will have to find a tonic for the country’s lagging competitiveness and productivity, sustain the current high growth rate after the end of the Games, contain debt and reform the economic market as well as encouraging investment and industriousness – both prerequisites for boosting employment. The sorry state of the Greek economy does not seem to support the lavish pre-election pledges and assurances that everything will be taken care of without putting any extra strain on the taxpayer or welfare state. Contrary to the pleasant-sounding words of the campaign period, the parties and the various social groups must realize that the morning after will demand bold decisions and a will to reach consensus in order to propel the country forward, but this cannot be done without short-term sacrifice. The day after will be a day of truth for the economy. And it should not find us unprepared.

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