The people’s burden

In the middle of last week, Deputy Economy Minister Petros Doukas presented a series of statistics that revealed some astonishing discrepancies between the original budget for Olympic venues, which Athens cited when it submitted its candidacy for hosting the 2004 Games, and their final cost. As we have seen, Greek citizens have been obliged to pay three or even five times the price of Olympic venues they had been prepared for. This is partly because the costs had been underestimated in the original budget, but also because the venues were built in great haste and with no transparency, which caused costs to skyrocket. Indeed, the rushed construction of Olympic venues, the overhauling of original plans and the tendency towards ostentation caused expenses to spiral out of control and resulted in sloppy work on construction sites. As a result, the new venues are already in need of some costly repairs; there are even doubts about whether they are completely safe. However, state coffers are not only being plundered to pay for frivolous expenses and shoddy workmanship; they are also burdened by the implications of short-sighted planning, a problem that characterizes all major national projects. The blatant example of the post-Olympic use of sports venues – which is only now being discussed – can be compared to the lack of planning that went into the waste-processing plant of Psytalleia. This project, which is crucially important for our capital, succeeded in cleaning the Saronic Gulf but is now burdened with the problem of disposing of tons of sludge that has accumulated on the islet. While the government, local authorities and citizens debate the practicalities of solving this problem, the sludge continues to pile up, the landfill in Ano Liosia has reportedly reached saturation level and the environmental risk intensifies. So, we are not only witnessing a waste of public funds but also a regression due to lack of foresight. Looking at the broader picture, it is difficult to grasp the reality that public finances are being frittered away so carelessly and that public projects are even now being strategically undermined by such indifference. However, the proof is indisputable. The honest efforts of Greek taxpayers are being consigned to the trash, and the general wastefulness highlights the corruption and makeshift approach that characterizes all levels of Greek society.

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