Defending ND’s moral integrity

The news that Agricultural Bank of Greece (ABG) Chairman Dimitris Miliakos had been using his corporate credit card to cover personal expenses has led to a public outcry. No one doubts the legality of his actions or the fact that his «reformist» predecessors spent more than he did. But no one really pays any attention to such claims, as both facts – meaning the approval of this sort of expenses by the general shareholder meeting in 1988 and blatant excesses – date back to a period of vulgarity when underhanded ways were found to inflate the already generous salaries of PASOK officials – a practice that was punished by the public in the last general elections. So this is not just a legal question but also a moral one. It’s about the morality of the executives that the current administration has appointed to crucial posts of the state apparatus and the broader public sector. It was not PASOK’s reformist cadres – who have proved to have had a soft spot for public wealth – but conservative Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis who made modesty and humility the central slogan of what he heralded as a moral administration for the country. Miliakos should have known better. Nevertheless, he chose to act in line with Simitis’s legacy rather than in keeping with Karamanlis’s principles. The ABG governor should neither compare himself to his predecessors nor point out the ulterior motives of his political foes who revealed his failure to comply with the government’s promises. Miliakos is not charged with violating the law or any code of bank regulations, but for showing weak moral character. Miliakos’s slip has given the opposition a chance to blacken the government’s anti-corruption drive and to mar the spotless image of conservative ministers. Moral integrity, however, still constitutes Karamanlis’s most important political capital. It is something he must defend at all costs. There should be no attempt to whitewash Miliakos. It would set a bad precedent for the administration. Personal intervention by Karamanlis would consolidate transparent administration and protect the anti-graft campaign against those who have reasons to undermine it.

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