The bottomless pit of Olympic Airlines

In December, Italy’s center-left coalition government led by Premier Romano Prodi launched a process for the privatization of the state-controlled airline Alitalia. It took two months to announce a short list of five candidates to take over the airline. The sale of Alitalia, whose annual losses are estimated at -1 billion, will be complete in April. In Greece, it’s been 18 months since Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis announced at the Thessaloniki Trade Fair that «Olympic Airlines cannot afford to operate along the same lines.» The company has kept accumulating loses ever since. Hungary’s Malev Airlines was sold on Friday for -800,000. The amount equals Olympic Airlines’ daily losses. In Greece, a country that is underfunding crucial sectors such as health and education, political thumb-twiddling has perpetuated a situation in which taxpayers throw their money into a bottomless pit. Politicians are wary of the political cost. Short-term political gain is taking its toll on the economy. But for how much longer?