OPINION

A half-finished job

The first four-year term of the Simitis administration was a success that peaked with Greece’s entry into the common currency area, the eurozone. If Greeks now have a strong currency in their pockets, if the economy has broken with a messy past of devaluations and monetary turmoil, that is thanks to the work of Costas Simitis and his finance minister, Yiannos Papantoniou – even if they shied away from the necessary structural change that would have allowed the economy to enjoy all eurozone benefits to the fullest. In the second term, the Simitis government was held hostage to a web of corruption which – starting with the stock market boom in the late 1990s – enabled a group of politicians and businesspeople to squander public wealth. Voters reacted by punishing PASOK in the 2004 elections that saw Simitis passing the mantle of the Socialist party under pressure from his former business acolytes. Given his experience, Simitis has every right to intervene in public affairs. His eight years in office give him a sober perspective on social and economic problems that still remain unsolved two-and-a-half years after the conservatives ascended to power. Simitis has inside knowledge of the vested interests and other reactionary forces that blocked the much-needed reforms. Simitis is also an academic. So he is familiar with the academic elite that manipulates students against change. In 2001, Simitis and then Labor Minister Tassos Giannitsis attempted an overhaul of the social security system. Unfortunately for the country, PASOK backpedaled in the face of public protests. It’s a shame that during his speech at the Association for the Modernization of Society (OPEK) Simitis spoke as a militant, slamming parties for giving in to political pressure. Ironically, he was always the first to do so as prime minister.