OPINION

False hopes

The decision by EU finance ministers (Ecofin) on Thursday, giving Greece until 2006 to bring its public deficit below the eurozone’s 3 percent threshold, burst PASOK’s myth of a robust economy. It confirmed that virtual reality as being in the interest of a narrow elite which profited from state contracts and the stock market bust. PASOK had carefully disguised the huge debts and mammoth deficits run up under its watch. The EU’s reaction has unveiled the bitter truth about the economy, and Greece will be slapped with painful austerity measures for the next couple of years. That will be the price of streamlining public finances – a precondition for sustaining growth and restoring Greece’s name in international markets. The government must spread out the cost of adjustment, fulfilling its pre-election pledge that taxpayers won’t be punished for past governmental malpractice. The economic misadventure launched by the apprentice magicians of the «powerful economy» also has a dark political side to it. Back in 2001, after PASOK’s social security reform fiasco and with party ratings plummeting, former PASOK party secretary Costas Laliotis came up with the scenario of a brief right-wing interlude. New Democracy would go on to win the elections, the theory went, but would not keep its grip on power for long as anti-popular measures – and with a presidential election looming – would make its re-election impossible. The Socialist reformists worked hard for the materialization of this scenario. After 2001 they went on a spending spree, so that debt and deficits skyrocketed – and before the elections drafted an impossible budget that the new government would have to execute. Austerity measures would not inevitable. ND’s deficit revision, its mild-adjustment policy and the consensual presidential election killed Laliotis’s scenario.