Corruption still rules

Taking a cue from the prime minister, Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis has vowed zero tolerance for corruption. Dimitris Sioufas, the development minister, is expected to announce a zero-tolerance policy against price gougers tomorrow. Most citizens, however, remain unconvinced. According to a VPRC survey commissioned by SKAI radio this week, only 16 percent believe that graft has subsided. Some 47 percent said that the extent of corruption has not been reduced, while 32 percent said things have actually got worse. The public survey has come as a cold shower for a government that came to power on the back of a promise to clean up a sleaze-ridden system set in place by the Socialist government. New Democracy has not re-established the state, as Costas Karamanlis promised before the elections, nor has it done away with the corrupt apparatus. In fact, the web of corruption appears to have grown stronger – a fact made evident by the breakdown of the tax-collection system (which, particularly in the case of value-added tax, can only be explained as protection of tax dodgers by rackets inside the tax office) and the extensive bribe taking by state officials. These rackets are all-powerful because they have cross-party support. Tax officers of all political hues, well versed in the art of the fast buck, impose silence or intimidate their honest colleagues who struggle to collect taxes. The prime minister has to crush these cross-party rackets before they succeed in forcing a government reshuffle by orchestrating the leak of slanderous reports to undermine those ministers who want to combat the scourge of corruption.