Time to take stock, not make promises

With very few exceptions, Greek politicians have a lovely way of speaking (and an even nicer way of promising things). But if one tries to determine what they actually mean – and compare their pledges with their actions – one will most likely feel confused, disappointed and angry. We have become accustomed to the pattern of impressive speeches, sweeping rhetoric, a commitment to certain «goals,» and then inaction. Citizens have the right to expect concrete results from the initiatives of successive administrations – developments that would solve everyday social problems. At the very least, the government of the day should be seen to be making progress in the right direction, taking some definitive and decisive steps. A few days ago, we heard Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas grandiloquently promoting the government’s new bill on research and technology. «The aim of the new institutional framework, which is one of the most significant reforms of the new government, is to make Greece competitive,» Sioufas said. So what does this impressive proclamation actually mean? First of all, it is a bit strange to describe as a «new government» an administration that has been in power for three-and-a-half years and which will very soon be in an electoral battle. At this stage of the government’s term, ministers should be taking stock of what they have achieved, if they want to win the popular mandate once again. We may recall that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had proclaimed 2005 as a «year of competitiveness» for Greece. Just one year later, we discovered – thanks to European Union statistics – that no steps had been taken to boost competitiveness and that Greece had actually dropped a few rungs down the European and global ladder. The government is now talking about its research and development legislation as if it has forgotten its pledge to create a national council for research and technology two-and-a-half years ago. It is also jubilating over the fact that it has set a goal to invest 1.5 percent of gross domestic product in research and development by 2013, as compared to the current level of 0.6 percent and the EU average of 1.85 percent. In actual fact, the amount being invested in research and development has been steadily declining over the past few years. The same applies to funding in education. Karamanlis’s administration may believe there is something to be gained from presenting itself as a «new government» and blaming the main opposition PASOK party for all the country’s ills. It may be true that the first phase of its term was spent «clearing the slate» of previous mistakes by PASOK. But the government’s insistence on blaming PASOK is becoming boring, and increasingly unconvincing.

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