The everyday battle

National economic policy is finally paying off: growth three times the rate of the European average, falling unemployment, leaner public finances, and recovering public and private investment. International acknowledgement of this progress indicates wider belief that if Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis persists with reform – as he assured us he would last Tuesday – the improvement will prove sustainable. Yet, as the premier himself admits in private, macroeconomic improvement affects ordinary people’s budgets only after a substantial lag time. Karamanlis must mobilize his ministers and give them the task of dealing with the everyday problems people face. New Democracy did not win in 2004 because voters expected higher wages, but because they were fed up with a state based on bribery and corruption, which tyrannized them instead of solving their problems. If the public were asked whether the government had changed anything substantial so far, the answer would have to be negative. Health reforms have ended the problem of patients on gurneys, but hospital care is still inadequate, left to the patients’ relatives, while it still takes 40-50 days to get an appointment with a Social Security Foundation (IKA) doctor. Public transport has improved, but state-run companies are losing money and burdening taxpayers. Karamanlis should set these targets for his ministers: a. Policing measures for the city aiming to reduce crime by 20 percent. b. Measures to reduce bureaucracy and eliminate bribes. With computerization and the Internet, the public should expect efficient service at Citizens’ Service Centers, and medical help without paying bribes. c. A better system of state inspections and penalties for profiteers in order to keep prices down. Voters will decide at the next polls mainly on whether their everyday lives have improved.