Moral governance

The public outcry over media reports that the Agricultural Bank of Greece (ABG) governor had been using his corporate credit card to cover personal expenses has renewed debate over the size of salaries awarded to senior state sector officials. Dimitris Miliakos said that past decisions on the issue by the general shareholders did not specify limits on the card’s use and invoked the practices of his predecessors. The question is, if the card is not just intended to cover business expenses, then why is the designated monthly premium not added to the governor’s already generous wage? Clearly, Miliakos did not break the law. The issue, rather, is a moral and symbolic one. Pointing out past Socialist sins is no excuse. Hammering away at the ulterior motives of those who drew public attention to the issue won’t do either. By making the war on graft and corruption the cornerstone of his election campaign, conservative Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis cultivated public expectations that paved the way to his election victory. As prime minister, Costas Simitis used to say, «Anyone who has any evidence should take it to the prosecutor.» These days people expect more than that. The premier must be extremely strict when it comes to moral issues. That would also be in his political interest. It would vindicate public expectations and simultaneously send a strong message to any greedy officials amid New Democracy’s ranks. Greed and corruption know no party tags. Unless drastic measures are taken, such ills will soon become the rule. The political establishment must move to break the vicious circle. Should Karamanlis take the easier road by turning a blind eye to such behavior, he would be backing away from his much-heralded pledge to promote moral governance.

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