PASOK’s dilemmas

PASOK deputies, led by their leader George Papandreou, will next week submit a resolution on the government’s economic record over the past year. It was about time: A serious debate can only accomplish something positive, as the government will be forced to step up its efforts for greater growth and stability, while the opposition will have a chance to reinforce its image as the protector of public interest. The opposition’s initiative mandates a straightforward position on questions that have been lost in the mist of populism. Particularly, the people expect the government to take a clear stand on the following question: Does the 2004 deficit actually hover at 6 percent of GDP? It’s time PASOK stopped distorting reality and say, first of all, what specific measures should be taken to trim the deficit in line with EU demands and, secondly, what it proposes in place of the government’s policy of so-called «mild adjustment.» Socialist scaremongering over looming austerity measures raises suspicions that PASOK would like to see a return to its 1983 and 1985 policies, when it reduced real incomes by up to 10 percent in order to meet strained budget targets. On the other hand, if the 6 percent figure is bogus, a product of the self-imposed deficit revision, as former Socialist ministers Yiannos Papantoniou and Nikos Christodoulakis are insisting at Costas Simitis’s behest, then Papandreou should launch an international initiative to change the minds of EU watchdogs and prompt the government into more social spending. These should be the true dilemmas of a serious economic approach. For if the 2004 deficit was really down to 1.2 percent of GDP, that is, within the limit of Christodoulakis’s budget, then the European Commission is wrong to pressure the government to enforce austerity measures. So this is a chance for PASOK to enhance its social profile.