Populist reflex

Even at the height of his populist fervor, Andreas Papandreou did not sever ties with Greece’s business elite. The late socialist premier would hold regular meetings with Dimitris Marinopoulos and Theodoros Papalexopoulos, former chiefs of the Federation of Greek Industries, to discuss the various problems dogging the Greek economy. These discussions did not prompt any major policy shift but did protect Papandreou from committing serious blunders. If the socialist Papandreou felt okay maintaining direct contact with members of the so-called economic oligarchs, why should current conservative Economy Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis be criticized today for meeting with members of the Latsis and Vardinoyiannis families or for playing tennis with Eurobank CEO Nicholas Nanopoulos and industrialists? Slamming contacts between government ministers and business people is pure populism. PASOK’s Vasso Papandreou appeared to forget her own meetings with business tycoons in the past when she criticized conservative officials for hanging out at the Ekali Tennis Club. Greece, of course, has a free market economy that is affected by the decisions of a business elite. It’s not just okay but also necessary for the administration to have contacts with the business world in order to keep abreast with developments and intervene when necessary. Former economy minister Nikos Christodoulakis used to say that «one should listen to bankers, but not obey them.» Of course having ties with business people is one thing, but serving business interests – an area in which PASOK excelled – is quite another. Vasso Papandreou appears to have forgotten that it was PASOK that enabled the Latsis group’s participation in the state oil company and sold three state banks to foreign interests.

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