OPINION

Swift action

In a reckless move ahead of the European elections, PASOK Chairman George Papandreou sought to shake off the Socialists’ political inertia and ward off in-party criticism about his feeble opposition by blasting the government’s decision to expose the fallout of the so-called «creative accounting» performed by the last administration. Papandreou said that the government’s decision to take stock of public finances wound up tainting the country’s image. However, he made no mention of the longstanding, disguised public deficits, the pillage of state coffers, the mismanagement of and squabbling over funds – all of which are reflected on the poor systems of education, health and social security. Papandreou saw no need to recognize or deal with this acute problem. The PASOK leader refuses to acknowledge what the lowliest employee in the General Accounts Office knows: The funds are bankrupt, and the first step by the new government was to ask for a handout. Papandreou behaves as if the deficits are unreal, as if the public sector is in good shape, as if everything is as it should be. The truth, however, is that the public deficit has doubled, state clinics are heavily in debt and current spending is being financed through the sale of public property. Over the previous years, most Socialist officials chose to turn a blind eye to the fiscal woes, while others did not even consider this one of Greece’s main priorities. Recent data, however, has revealed the true size of the deficits, exposing a reality that is a far cry from the one that had been fabricated by the previous administration with the help of the media. The newly discovered reality demands a radically new set of measures. The economy experts of the new administration discover new «black holes» on a daily basis; they are under pressure from budget overruns and, at the same time, they have to deal with declining revenues – not to mention the burden of Olympic Games preparations. The conservative administration is under the immense pressure of time. It is faced with an emergency situation and must move swiftly to control public finances. The fresh public mandate and the great popularity of the newly installed government will allow it to implement a policy of privatizations, market deregulation and containment of expenditures. Such a policy would strengthen the country and the economy; it would demonstrate great will to remedy its economic woes; it would restore market confidence and, most importantly, it would provide a bit more room for social spending. It would be a pity to waste the time remaining until autumn in the euphoria of the – costly – Olympic Games.