Change of course

Costas Karamanlis’s keynote economic address at the Thessaloniki International Fair marked the inauguration of a «new era» – an era characterized by a new public demeanor in the country’s governance. In his speech, the prime minister focused more on the future than on the past; he avoided lavish promises of handouts and laid out the future policies of his conservative government. He did so with a sense of moderation and pragmatism. In a nutshell, there will be radical reform and a change of course on two closely interconnected domains, the State and the economy, with the aim of streamlining their relationship so that one sector can become the driving force behind the other. The overriding goal of the prime minister is to restore the true role of the State, that of an executive apparatus responsible for planning and monitoring. In his weekend speech, Karamanlis placed strong emphasis on cleaning up public finances without placing an extra load on the shoulders of taxpayers and the economy but instead by trimming spending, purging corruption, cutting red tape and modernizing public services. The premier announced that the attention of the conservative administration over the coming year will be mainly on productivity and competitiveness. Karamanlis did no more than point out the fundamental importance of the economy in the new global economic landscape in which our country will have to tread. The aim is to channel in that direction the energy of the State and society in general: of youth (through education), of scientists (through research and development), of professionals, private producers and, most importantly, of entrepreneurs. These are the social groups that are set to benefit most by the new governmental measures. The message is clear: There can be no welfare policy without initiatives for growth. Social policy is a condition and, at the same time, a consequence of growth. For the government, this will be an uphill battle. It will have to change objective factors but at the same time forge a change in mentality – which will be the hardest part. The pace must be set by the administration itself. In order to succeed, Karamanlis will have to sidestep partisan politics and seek to mobilize the most resourceful segments of society. This is what his uncle, Constantine Karamanlis, did – what is more, at a time when divisions were deep and tensions ran high.

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