OPINION

Getting Olympic off the ground

A meeting today of the interministerial committee on privatizations is expected to void the latest bid for Olympic Airlines, the troubled national air carrier. A new failure will mean that more precious time and money have been wasted. The losses from the hemorrhaging airliner’s continuing operation hover around 8 million euros per month. The conservatives’ foot dragging and the continued squandering of public money is bothersome and unjustified. The inability of the bidders to meet the financial obligations of such a huge investment had been clear from the very beginning. Even the most sanguine or deluded minister should have realized by now that no serious investor will ever show any interest in buying the air carrier in its current state. There is no point in allowing further delays and more doomed efforts to sell the company. It’s time the government fulfilled a decision that was actually made a long time ago after repeated failures to reach a deal with a private investor. The government must launch a small air carrier with a limited number of staff and aircraft that will above all offer connections to the country’s islands and the distant cities of mainland Greece, as well as a limited number of foreign destinations. The drastic cuts in staff, planes and flights, combined with a wise and tight management, will gradually make the company profitable and more attractive to potential buyers – especially once the government has rid Olympic Airlines of its excess work force. The government has already said that the public sector will absorb the redundant employees and hence relieve the newly formed carrier. Unfortunately, the government is already late with all this. As a result, the economic burden is piling up. Surely the government is not to blame for the mess it inherited, but it is responsible for the subsequent procrastination. There is no point in waiting any longer. It’s high time the conservatives took some final decisions. Time and patience are running out.