A troublesome legacy

The opposition has repeatedly accused the government of taking issue with an ostensibly problematic Socialist legacy in a bid to disguise its own foot-dragging and incompetence. Without doubt, a government cannot for ever get by on criticizing its predecessors. And for some government officials, it is becoming a habit. But the truth is that the current administration fought and won the elections a few months ago in full knowledge of the burden it would have to shoulder. For their part, the Socialists ought to be more careful with their opposition tactics. So far, Socialist officials have been acting as if it were not PASOK that had ruled the country for most of the past 20 years. While the government needs to dilute its criticism of PASOK’s failure, the opposition should not ignore its poor record in power. Simitis’s so-called reformists are credited with meeting the economic criteria for Greece’s membership of the eurozone, as well as the construction of major road networks and Olympic projects. However, as Simitis would be the first to admit, joining the EMU was only possible thanks to sacrifices made by the Greek people. And as for the infrastructure projects, the way they were assigned was meant to line the pockets of a narrow group of businessmen. Eight years of reformist rule bequeathed a mammoth deficit, lagging competitiveness, faltering productivity, scant foreign investment, a vast tangle of red tape, high unemployment, and troubled health and education sectors. Nicholas Garganas, the central bank governor and a one-time associate of Simitis, now stresses the need for urgent reform and tough measures. Simitis’s reformists have left behind a legacy of problems. A different attitude on the part of George Papandreou’s Socialists would lead to them having more to offer – and certainly would make them more credible.