Stating the obvious instead of doing it

Unfortunately, it is not unusual for political cadres and ministers to resort to generalizations and emphasize the obvious when they feel cornered by developments in public life. They generally resort to these tactics in an effort to dull the negative impressions created by allegations against them. «We came here to undertake projects,» several high-ranking cadres of the ruling party have recently declared. But it’s strange they should say this, as if a government could justifiably have the intention of simply holding on to power instead of taking positive action. Certain others have reiterated their «pledge to curb corruption» as if there could ever be a government that would actively promote corruption and obstruct transparency. After talks with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday, Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis told reporters that «government policy is unified and collective.» Personally, though, I cannot remember a cabinet minister having dared to maintain the opposite of this even when a lack of central coordination and communication prevails. Meimarakis also remarked that «political debate will draw us out of the negative climate that has dominated.» He also called for a «return to active and essential politics,» thereby suggesting that this is currently lacking in public life. But, working out policy is something that a ruling administration is obliged to do on a daily basis irrespective of any «collateral» consequences in public life. The government should not produce policy in order to escape a «negative climate.» It should do this constantly. Meimarakis also appeared to stand out from certain colleagues who insist on comparing today with yesterday. «The point is not to compare the present to the past but to determine the extent to which the government has taken measures, changed laws, and whether it is really showing zero tolerance to corruption,» the defense minister said. We have to agree in spirit with Meimarakis’s convictions. But one cannot draw conclusions without considering all evidence. And the latest statistics released by the World Bank show that Greece’s record in curbing corruption has slipped, from 72.5 in 2002 (out of a perfect 100 on the bank’s corruption control index) to 70.6 in 2004 and then to 67 last year.