OPINION

A changing world

The decision on the incompatibility between ownership of an enterprise undertaking public contracts and ownership of a media firm has brought to the surface an old, hidden conflict between politicians and big business groups that is more a conflict of ideas than a conflict of interests. It is about a clash of mentalities which stems from the different world views held by the various political and economic forces. The advocates of the old protectionist model of economic and social organization try to hang on to the established interests of the previous period, overlooking the fact that the world has changed. Greece is no longer an isolated state but has instead become a member of larger blocs, on terms and under conditions which are often imposed from above. Kathimerini has often expressed its view on this conflict, and defended the rules of the free competitive economy in the current globalized environment. We live in an increasingly integrated world, one which is characterized by growing economic liberalization and competition, in an environment which rewards originality, high quality, know-how and high productivity while punishing inaction, idleness, delay, introversion and protectionism. In this environment, subsidies and financial aid are gradually being curtailed and enterprises must draw on their own strengths and exploit the opportunities offered by market liberalization and the abolition of state monopolies. The State is getting smaller, it is giving up privileged economic sectors, it is transferring wealth and power to private corporations, though it has kept its regulatory and supervisory role. Its responsibilities have changed. It must safeguard fair competition, shape conditions for equal opportunity for all, protect citizen rights, and investigate and intervene when market forces tend to build oligopolies and abuse the rules of the game. At this moment, all advanced western societies are dominated by the effort to adapt to the new globalized context. In the European Union and the eurozone in particular, deregulation is on the daily agenda and Brussels issues regular directives and resolutions promoting market deregulation. At the same time, there is a growing number of regulations aimed at safeguarding fair competition and monitoring mechanisms that protect shareholders and investors. In the advanced world and Europe in particular, enterprises are left free to grow but they are also subject to strict controls. At the same time, political power is seeking its own role in the new world. Party funding is closely monitored and so are relations with economic interests. It is no coincidence that all countries are plagued by big politico-economic scandals resulting from longstanding political and business entanglement. Greece remains largely at odds with this international and European environment. On the whole, its markets are controlled. Oligopolies and preferential relations between the State and businesses are the rule; subsidies, both direct and indirect, undermine competition and sustain unproductive firms, blocking the development of new creative forces. As a consequence, corruption is flourishing, businessmen are resorting to more and more direct methods of pressure, control of the media is becoming an end in itself as politicians come increasingly to depend on it, ties between political and economic power are growing stronger, political and business entanglement is growing. Democracy is coming under pressure; the Constitution and institutions are discredited. Recent events are nothing but proof of the decay of the aforementioned model of social and economic organization which has no place in the modern world. The perpetuation of the above model is harmful for the citizens and dangerous for the country. But Greece has to stay the course toward adaptation. After the sacrifices and sustained efforts which allowed entry into the eurozone, the country cannot waver or retreat merely because a handful of businessmen, who have prospered over the last 10 to 15 years thanks to preferential relations and state contracts, wish to preserve established interests. Political forces must resist, and impose new principles which have been adopted by the advanced Western states. Otherwise, the country and the people run the risk of losing what they have won with effort and sacrifice since 1980 to the present day.