The presentation of the draft budget this time every year spurs the typical mix of reactions from the ruling and opposition parties. The government brags that the budget is growth-oriented while stressing the need for fiscal reform to open the path to economic revival. At the same time, the opposition slams the alleged austerity measures and hefty taxes that are said to perpetuate deprivation among lower-income groups. Paradoxically, both parties refer to the same data. And they use each other’s arguments as they alternate in power. Have our political leaders ever considered the impression they give when they switch power roles? Now that political changeovers have become more common, these wild swings do little to promote the credibility of the mainstream parties. Voters do take offense. They have also had to put up with economic austerity measures since 1985, and that doesn’t help either. All these years – which saw Socialist and conservative governments and a short-lived coalition – voters have had plenty of time to ponder the causes of belt-tightening policies. Above all, they have long ceased to believe in fatalistic prognoses and to hope for magical solutions. Hence, the two main parties should show some modest responsibility when tackling the country’s economic woes. After all, no matter which party is governing, both put forth more or less the same diagnosis and follow the same prescription to remedy the problem. Exploiting the troubles for reasons of political expediency will only worsen them. Politicians’ double-talk is undermining their credibility, but it has also been a means for regaining power. But the days when voters will fall for populist slogans are gone for good. It’s time parties caught up with the more mature voters.

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