Invisible changes

Back in the winter of 2003, when Parliament was debating the 2004 budget, then opposition leader Costas Karamanlis said that the budget tabled by the PASOK government was simply impossible to execute. The public debt, the conservative leader said at the time, was bound to exceed the 1.2 percent forecast. In fact, he said, it would be twice that figure. In the end, even Karamanlis’s predictions proved to be modest. Meanwhile, things deteriorated as most of the infrastructure projects, one of the main turbines of the Greek economy, were finally completed. Making matters worse, Greece was extremely slow in absorbing EU funds, while a series of structural factors did not help either: soaring oil prices, an economic slowdown inside the eurozone, and now the tainted food products scandal. Nevertheless, the New Democracy government has made a big effort over the past few months to break the deadlock. It has tried to soften the fiscal crisis by reining in public expenditure and encouraging business activity by eliminating much of the red tape. The government introduced a new development law, changed regulations governing the auction of public projects, and trimmed taxes on business and investment activity. But the impact of these innovations won’t be felt for some time. It will be a while before the bureaucratic mill is set in motion and citizens feel the impact of administrative changes. This is why many complain that nothing has changed. In truth, they cannot see the changes that have taken place. All these reassurances have long come from official lips, from people who have the institutional responsibility to make things work. Absurdity has become the rule. And there seems no end to it soon.

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