End to hypocrisy

The parliamentary debate on the state tender bill that was recently tabled by the conservative government did less to underscore the lack of consensus between political parties over how best to deal with the issue of political and business entanglement than to expose the parties’ true intentions on the issue. Contrary to the constructive stance of the left-wing parties, PASOK’s overall stance was rather negative, thus casting doubt on its political will. It goes without saying that shady dealings between state officials and media barons not only distort the free market system but actually damage democracy per se. Media moguls possess enough leverage to influence political life or at least the power to establish preferential ties with political officials. Businesspeople have offered their much-needed political support and, in exchange, have gained access to lucrative public contracts. Hence a big dose of hypocrisy was to be expected. The proposed legislation stipulates that anyone who owns 1 percent or more of a media firm cannot bid for state contracts, but this is not the most important thing about the bill. Most crucially, the legislation attempts to close a number of legal loopholes that have so far allowed interested parties to sidestep restrictions. The bill bars the close relatives of the major shareholders from access to public tenders and sets strict restrictions on offshore companies that have often provided shelter for businesspeople. The new legislation is expected to put a damper on political and business entanglement. To be sure, it won’t eradicate it completely, but that hardly justifies opposition criticism whose stand has, in that respect, been hypocritical. The war on corruption and entangled interests cannot be won in one go with a single legislative adjustment. It’s an endless battle on many fronts. For that reason, the government must follow up with more legislation aimed at curbing elusive aspects of the phenomenon. Perhaps the experience gained from the implementation of the bill will lead to future corrections or additions. Most importantly, the administration has to muster the requisite political will to wage war on entangled interests. At stake is the smooth functioning of our democracy, therefore any initiative should not be held hostage to myopic partisan objectives. The prime minister has vowed to put an end to this hypocrisy and do away with the ambiguity that has sustained this ailing situation. He owes it to society but to himself as well. After all, he had first-hand bitter experience of this problem during his tenure as opposition leader.