OPINION

Salonica message

As usual at this time of year, the prime minister’s speech at the opening of the Thessaloniki International Fair will establish not only the terms of the government’s economic policy but also, to a large extent, the context for political debate in the near future. All the more so this year, as it will be the first time Costas Karamanlis has spoken from this podium as premier and without the limitations imposed by the recent Olympic Games. Freed from that anxiety, the New Democracy government can make moves it had avoided until recently, without triggering upheaval and friction. This concerns not only the replacement of state officials but also the implementation of policies that had been shelved. In this respect, the scene should soon become clearer. Besides, after six months, the period of grace is ending for Karamanlis and his ministers. This means they will soon face discontent, followed by social pressure. It is an open secret that the economy is problematic, and may prove a running sore for the government. What the prime minister is called on to do in Thessaloniki is not to describe how he will curb fiscal imbalances while making at least an elementary effort to meet the expectations fostered by his election platform and subsequent statements. What he must do in his speech is generate new development prospects for Greece. The economy does not need shock therapy, but consistency and continuity. It needs firm rules, the removal of bureaucratic obstacles, and thoroughly planned development measures at local and sectoral levels. Existing potential must be utilized and productive forces unleashed. There is no doubt that funds are required, but not in prohibitive amounts. In reality, the biggest problem is overcoming hitches and an obsolete, rapacious mentality. The only solution is to facilitate business initiatives that correspond to existing comparative advantages. This is the only way to generate wealth. Otherwise, the Greek economy is at risk of drifting into stagnation and possibly into crisis. Obviously, the government itself can only take such initiatives in certain sectors, mainly that of infrastructure. Not only must the prime minister fulfill that duty, but he must above all express the nature of Greece’s new development prospects, clearly and convincingly, and mobilize social forces in that direction. His clear electoral victory in March and even greater victory in June have put Karamanlis in charge of the political game. He can do as he wishes. This is a great advantage, but it also deprives him of any excuse.