OPINION

Typical sound bites

In the early 1990s, the two main parties ratified the Maastricht Treaty in Parliament; subsequently they went on to endorse the rigid conditions of the European Union’s stability pact. By that time Greece was already a member of the eurozone. National economic policy has more or less been set by the EU, and in Greece, a country with yawning fiscal deficits, it is salaried workers and pensioners who have been mainly hit by government austerity measures since 1985. Both main parties have been careful to keep the public uninformed about the true state of the economy and the country’s various economic commitments. True to form, ruling parties have been keen to pledge they can guarantee high incomes and have sought to sell their incomes policies to the public. Opposition parties, on the other hand, tend to lash out against government policies, claiming to sympathize with the strained lower-income groups. It was deja vu all over again as the conservative government announced its new incomes policy, which met with stern criticism by the opposition. Although both party leaders have solid knowledge of the grim economic situation, both are struggling to come across as popular political heroes. For over two decades, policymakers have watched almost gormlessly as public deficits and the foreign debt grew. They have failed to boost faltering productivity, hammer out a long-term growth strategy, promote a fair redistribution of wealth, or put the brakes on the growing number of people slipping under the poverty line. As long as these fundamental problems remain unsolved, the sound bites about the national economy uttered by Socialist and conservative party heavyweights carry no political weight whatsoever.