Waning confidence

The conservative government started out with administrative issues, then embarked on a campaign to eliminate graft, and it now seems the initiative has passed to «groups of irregulars.» The first, administrative, stage concerned the hosting of the Olympics. The Athens Games were successful, but Greece failed to capitalize on the favorable international impression. Some critics would hasten to put the blame on the government and the purported inexperience of its cadres, but that would be unfair. Building on success does not mean rushing around to the point of exhaustion. The end of the administrative period was marked by the self-imposed audit on state finances. The deficit revision unveiled the chaotic state of public finances. As a result, the economy came under EU monitoring and the administration launched a drive for restructuring in a bid to tear down the monstrous system set up during the Simitis governments. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis’s administration set up a parliamentary committee to investigate arms procurements signed by its Socialist predecessors and, after a series of dramatic sessions, the government is left with two options: It will either have to initiate proceedings against those allegedly at fault, without having unshakeable evidence to hand, or give the impression that the issue has been closed and the culprits have managed to stay firmly in their posts. Then the government went on to pass the state tenders bill in an attempt to block media owners from gaining access to lucrative state contracts. During the parliamentary debate, the Socialist PASOK party came across as a champion of entrepreneurship while New Democracy’s reform drive drew criticism from the Federation of Greek Industries. The government admits that the new legislation is imperfect and that it may well be shot down by Brussels, but it could be at least two years before that happens. By then it hopes to have transformed the media landscape. The issue is closed, but only on a legal level. Moreover, there was a certain lack of coherence in the allegations of journalists’ entanglement with political and business interests. A debate was held between all concerned but the outcome of this reform initiative is still uncertain. Meanwhile, the cracks in the fundamental pillars of Greek society are becoming increasingly evident. The image of the Church and the judiciary has been tarnished by isolated cases of corrupt priests and judges. More crucially, it reflects these institutions’ failure to clean up their own act. The government seems to take action under the pressure of ad-hoc groups. But this was to be expected. When the system fails to take action, «irregulars» tend to fill the vacuum. These are all symptoms of an ailing political, economic and social system. A reform campaign is both legitimate and desirable. If the government does not wish to grind to a halt, it must impose practical measures and make its presence felt in a creative fashion. A poll recently published in Kathimerini highlighted that people’s confidence in the government’s ability to solve their problems has fallen by 8 percent since October. That alone should be enough to prompt the administration into action.