Declaration of assets — for all

The delayed announcement of the parliamentary deputies’ declaration of assets, known in Greece as pothen esches, has aggravated public sentiment. Parliament only yesterday made public the declarations for the year 2002. Worse, Parliament has yet to release the figures for 2001, thus preventing any comparison indicating any fluctuation in the deputies’ assets. This means that the public is prevented from knowing not only the source of MPs’ wealth but also increases in their wealth. Another problem with the delay is that 120 of the individuals who were deputies at the time have since lost their parliamentary seats. However, the declaration of assets is supposedly stipulated by a law intending to reinforce transparency and allow the monitoring of active politicians, linking their credibility and influence to the transparency of their sources of income. Any after-the-fact imposition of fines on former deputies or ministers who have returned to the private sector does nothing to enhance the legitimacy of power exerted by active politicians. No one really believes that a mere declaration of assets is enough to erase graft and corruption from the body politic. However impunity is by no means preferable. Parliament cannot be allowed to pass legislation on the economic transparency of its members and at the same time see the same people openly snubbing the measure. If deputies, the representatives of legislative power, show such blatant contempt for the declaration of assets, if ministers, the representatives of executive power, get involved in shady dealings, and if judges, the representatives of judicial power, have reached such a sorry shambles, how can they possibly expect a tax officer or town-planning official to decline bribes? Scoffing at the declaration of assets is worse than not having the obligation enforced at all. If the government and Parliament have no intention of conducting real control on the deputies’ assets, they should at least find the courage to abolish checks completely and notify the populace that they deem themselves above accountability.

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