Sterile fatalism

Bill Clinton’s adviser George Stephanopoulos famously said, «It’s the economy stupid.» Greece is now proving the aphorism right. The eclipse of the deep ideological rupture opened during the Cold War period and the emergent consensus between Greece’s mainstream political factions over the major coordinates of the country’s foreign policy have naturally made the economy the new battleground on which elections are fought. Hence it came as no surprise to see the Socialist opposition centering its attacks on the ruling conservatives’ economic policy. Unexpected, on the other hand, was the content and style of the rhetoric employed by PASOK leader George Papandreou and his aides. Shadow economy minister Vasso Papandreou all of a sudden said the Greek economy is «on the brink of collapse» without providing any evidence to back her dramatic claim. Too bad for her. Soon after Papandreou voiced her fatalism, it was reported that revenues from the sale of state-owned assets (including OTE Telecom and the OPAP state pools company) reached 2.1 billion euros, that is way over the budgeted revenue of 1.6 billion euros. That is good news for the government’s war on public debt. At the same time, it signaled that international investment markets have confidence in the future of the Greek economy. Not even the Socialist leader resisted the temptation of populism. George Papandreou went as far as to slam the government bill on public-private partnerships (PPP) as «a nice fit for corruption and lack of transparency.» Of course, it was PASOK that had earlier proposed similar partnerships for the construction of infrastructure projects, rightly deeming them a valuable tool for development. For certain, George Papandreou is facing problems deriving from chronic in-party skirmishing and challenges of his hegemonic skills. But the answer to these lies neither in reflexive retreat to a sieged-fortress mind-set, or to conspiracy theories about media that seek to undermine his leadership, or to a forward flight with boisterous yet unconvincing attacks on the government. The problems besetting the Greek economy necessitate strict government monitoring by a vigorous opposition. Sterile fatalism will neither benefit Greece nor PASOK. It will only weaken the Socialists’ credibility even more.