The wolves no longer howl

The wolves have become dull inspectors who serve up familiar recipes and hackneyed home remedies. I am referring to the International Monetary Fund teams who drop by every so often and file reports proposing ways to improve the country’s finances. Although the advice is indeed useful, the fact is that they have little new to add to the slew of reports we already get from the European Commission, analysts such as Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s, and even large foreign banks. Most importantly, they tell us nothing different to what is repeated every day by objective voices from within the country. In fact, one could say that National Bank of Greece Governor Nikos Garganas has said it better and more succinctly than the head of the IMF team in his 10-page report last week. Anyone who closely follows developments knows about the dangers of high public debt, we all know that if the social security problem is not resolved the pension system will collapse and we also know that each year the country slips in terms of its global competitiveness and becomes further marginalized in the international market. One may argue that a report from a well-respected international body such as the IMF plays an important role in keeping the public informed of developments. But things are not quite that simple. Most people in this country are daily bombarded by television and the popular press with visions of Andreas Papandreou lambasting unfavorable reports on the country’s economic performance and railing against the «wolves» of the IMF. Sadly, the truth is that the IMF’s past is not untainted. The Nobel laureate and adviser to former US president Bill Clinton Joseph Stiglitz has often spoken of the unorthodox tactics adopted by the IMF which, however, has been headed since the summer by France’s former socialist leader Dominique Strauss-Kahn.