Identity crisis

Commentators in the pro-PASOK press believe that the Socialist party has failed to capitalize on the government’s shortcomings because it has yet to come up with a credible alternative. George Papandreou’s vociferous and often populist posturing merely cloaks a lack of serious ideas on the problems besetting the country. But we should take all this a step further. Could PASOK really tread a different path on the crucial issues facing the country, particularly the economy? There is good reason to doubt this. In fact the current government’s economic policy is based on the same premise as that of its Socialist predecessor under Costas Simitis. For sure, the Simitis government was marred by failure to push much-needed reforms and to clamp down on corruption among PASOK officials. Nevertheless, economic policy after 1996 aimed at stabilizing the economy, promoting deregulation and adapting to globalization through participation in the eurozone. The Simitis government was untypically business-friendly by PASOK standards, while Papandreou would not hesitate to make radical proposals for the labor market, social security reform and privatizations. In essence, PASOK’s recipe for the economy would taste a lot like that of New Democracy, as some 70 percent of economic policy is decided in Brussels. Decisions on fiscal stability, market deregulation, competition, social security, taxation and investment are taken by the European Commission. National governments are left with managing deficit reduction (by taxes or spending cuts) and tinkering with social policy, on which ND is often more progressive than PASOK. Some PASOK politicians, like Nikos Christodoulakis, Alekos Papadopoulos and Anna Diamantopoulou, are wary of populism and aim for responsible solutions. Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis is willing to embrace any constructive ideas.