Consensus or conflict?

“If Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and opposition leader George Papandreou were to take a stroll, chatting, from Syntagma Square down to Omonia Square, some 80 percent of the economy’s problems would cease to exist,» a banker said the other day. An overstatement? Maybe. No matter how slowly they walked, they would still not have enough time to reach a compromise on thorny economy issues. But what the banker really meant was that a conciliatory attitude is the best catalyst for change. True, if we made a list of current economic problems, we would see that consensus is the key to solving most of them. Had the government been more cautious with the deficit revision, assigning it to the Bank of Greece, Eurostat or some world-class auditing company, it would have prevented those who falsified the deficit figures from trapping Papandreou, who had said, after the elections, that he would not object to an audit as long as it was transparent. Notwithstanding his diffidence, Costas Simitis in the spring of 2001 opened up the social security issue, perhaps driven by the realization that despite his airy speeches about a powerful economy, the piling deficits could not be brushed under the rug for much longer. If Simitis had had the political courage to invite Karamanlis and brief him on the devastating British report on the grim future of the IKA social security foundation, then they could have joined forces to tackle the problem. But the ex-premier was so forbidding and secretive that he went on to draft his monstrous bill away from the eyes of the opposition leader. When then Labor Minister Tassos Yiannitsis presented the bill, it was rebuffed by Simitis’s own Socialist cadres.

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