Karamanlis’s hour

After the government’s latest carelessness, not to say gaffe, over the postdating of the May Day holiday and the new tax declaration form on property ownership, one truly wonders whether this administration possesses the required credibility to move ahead with major structural reforms – reforms that would draw on a strong climate of social consensus and broad support and are needed to save the country from looming economic and social deadlocks. If, for a simple procedural matter such as the transfer of a public holiday, two, or rather one – and consistently gaffe-prone at that – cabinet minister can lead on the prime minister to affirm that May 11 is to be a normal working day, prompting a wave of protests from workers and unions, what will happen when the files are opened on more explosive issues such as labor market flexibility and social security reforms? No doubt earthquakes, famine and floods. It appears that the government is not doing well at all, despite its good intentions and the sincerity of its prime minister. That is because it keeps displaying two crucial and connected weaknesses. First, 15 months after assuming power, its ministers and their staffs are still behaving in a clumsy and amateurish fashion. Secondly, not only does harmony seem to be lacking between them, but they have actually been at each other’s throats, blaming each other when things go wrong. One only has to consider the major issues that the government has been handling. For example, did Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis have any support for his state financial audit? Some, such as Giorgos Souflias, have even made their opposition public. If the prime minister continues to turn a deaf ear to these goings-on, it may be that worse is to come.