Zero tolerance on corruption

Speaking at his New Democracy government’s cabinet meeting yesterday, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis took a hard line on corruption. «We will follow a zero-tolerance policy on corruption… The forces of complacency and inertia will not stop us. We are in a head-on collision with them… Enough is enough. I mean what I say,» the conservative leader said in an unusually outspoken fashion. No one can question Karamanlis’s intentions to fight corruption. But, in truth, the actions of both the government and state apparatus leave a lot to be desired. Speed and persistence in materializing the premier’s counter-corruption pledges are sorely lacking. So far, there is very little evidence to convince the public that the new government has taken steps to punish – or at least curb – the figures who set up this big web of graft and corruption. Although it is widely said that the former Socialist administration of Costas Simitis plunged the whole country into a sea of corruption, no PASOK political officials have been taken to court for their actions. This incomprehensible immunity has damaged public faith in the conservatives’ pledges. Worse, it has resulted in more corruption. Failure to punish the wrongdoers will be seen as encouragement and will cultivate the impression among civil servants that illegal activity can continue despite New Democracy’s nostrums. Empty promises or bureaucratic half-measures will do nothing to remedy the situation. Instead, they will render the conservative government an accomplice in the crime. In a coordinated campaign orchestrated by the media cronies of the PASOK opposition party, Socialist officials who were responsible for the wave of corruption that engulfed the state apparatus are now back, slamming the conservative government for allegedly being manipulated by private interests. The government should ponder the consequences of impunity. Corruption knows no party barriers and spreads quickly if decisive action is not aimed at the root of the problem.