Social consensus for tough reforms

Reactions to the government’s structural reform campaign, by politicians as well as unions, have so far been muted. The Socialist forces are disappointed, since they hailed the proposed reforms as a pretext for launching a wholesale attack on the government. Trade union resistance is also waning. At a different time and in a different social context, similar measures would most certainly spark loud if not stormy protests. The widely admitted degeneration of the union movement and PASOK’s tarnished credibility as a result of its dismal record during its previous eight years in office, have no doubt undercut resistance. But there is also a more profound cause for this. There’s a clear reason behind the absence of general disillusionment and the failure by PASOK and the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE) to drum up any negative feelings on the reforms. The majority of the public actually condones the government’s hardline reforms. Most Greeks realize the need for painful changes. Economic stagnation has reached unnerving levels and people acknowledge that «something has to happen» if the situation is to become any better. The worsening economic condition of most Greek households in recent years – in spite of the stunning upswing in macro-economic indicators – has reinforced the view that, in the existing economic context, any growth on the scale of the Olympic Games only benefits a few, since the generated wealth is not distributed fairly. In short, Greece needs a different economic model. This juncture is a favorable one for the conservative government. It must seize the opportunity to overturn long-established structural defects and distortions – and, what is more, it has a chance to do so amid subdued reactions and at a minimal cost. The government is not blind to the receptive mood and for that reason it has stepped up with its reform plans. It will most likely succeed in carrying them through. But more crucially, it must make sure the changes yield the promised social benefits. Otherwise, the economy will continue to stumble.

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