Politics of victimization

Fortunately, unforeseen events often compensate for the mistakes of ruling officials or for their lack of political courage. Greece’s social security funds would normally have already gone bust, as the PASOK administrations kept deferring the necessary reforms for fear of the political cost. An extra 400,000 insured – mostly foreigners who arrived in Greece in the recent and largely unchecked wave of immigration – made sure the system got a brief lease on life. Because of inconsistent measures by the Socialist governments, the figure of 400,000 amounts to less than 50 percent of the immigrant population. The Simitis administrations deserve no credit for adjourning the crisis. Similarly, the recent improvement in the balance of payments is not a result of state-controlled sectors such as exports and tourism, but due to Greece’s thriving sea commerce. The stunning growth of the shipping industry has taken place in the absence of any state interference. In fact, the different governments have for years failed to set up the proper legal framework and requisite infrastructure to assist the shipping sector. Finally, the news that Greek banks’ profits are set to soar by 30 percent may prod some to argue that the banking system is in good shape. But in truth, this merely disguises a grave social problem: the boom in consumer loans and great indebtedness of Greek households. To be sure, the phenomenon also has a political dimension: for the example was set by economic policymakers who borrowed heavily and went on a reckless spending spree. All this should be kept in mind in view of PASOK’s congress – which is set to take place amid a climate of renewed optimism following the Socialists’ victory in Portugal – because PASOK cadres have shunned any self-criticism and plan a comeback by painting themselves as the victims of an unfair verdict by a conned public.

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