Time to wake up

The champagne and the card games with which we traditionally welcome in the new year could well be regarded as symbols of precisely what we should avoid over the course of 2005. Indeed, Greece really has no more leeway for feasts and games. Last year may have been one of euphoria on Portugal’s soccer pitches, one which boosted our self-confidence by promoting our country’s strengths through the virtually peerless organization of the Olympic Games. However, it also served to reveal that the «strong economy» extolled by the previous government was actually a myth, that Greece’s productive base has been stripped away, that our country’s competitiveness as regards the international division of labor is negligible, that our fiscal situation does not allow the state to show generosity to potential investors, and that our institutions continue to exude an air of obsolescence. In other words, we were faced with the image of our country as one riddled with problems and shortcomings which must be tackled now if we are to avoid a spiraling course toward economic, geopolitical – and even demographic – decline. There is no more time to waste, no more tolerance for further inactivity. This year is to be a crucial one for Greece – it will reveal whether serious and essential work can be effectively carried out, and whether state powers can be awakened and rallied along a course toward recovery. There is no more scope for lies and pompous declarations; inactivity has become tantamount to decline. Crucial issues such as pension reform and structural changes must finally be tackled. But there are also other areas that demand attention. There is, for example, the tourism sector – that «national industry» which, thanks to the Olympic Games, is essentially our main hope for a direct, short-term economic boost; but we are facing the risk of not meeting a 20 percent increase in tourism, which is regarded as the minimum target for a country that has just hosted the Olympic Games. And such a failure would be truly disastrous. The government must fulfill its obligation to spur developments in these areas, to highlight the course of action, and to urge the rest of the political world to face up to key responsibilities. The moment of truth has finally arrived. But within the next year, we will be able to draw conclusions about the progress that has been made; if this too is discouraging, we will not be given another chance.