Necessary contacts

The late Constantine Karamanlis never attended the SEV industrialists’ annual congress, despite the participation of many influential players in the post-1974 years. Current Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is always present at SEV congresses. He obviously sees the need to keep in contact with a key social partner. Similarly, he ought to attend the gatherings of GSEE, the general confederation of workers. The presence of Karamanlis as well as that of opposition leader George Papandreou demonstrates that the majority of Greece’s political leaders have shed their obsolete statist ideas and have come to realize that only private initiative inside a free market can guarantee steady economic growth, more jobs and higher incomes. Nevertheless, it’s questionable whether the premier’s presence at a social event alone enables him to feel the pulse of the economy and the problems facing industrialists and entrepreneurs. During his address on Tuesday, Karamanlis merely reiterated previous statements made in Parliament. On his part, the SEV chief again delivered a rather political speech in the hope of downplaying recent price-fixing allegations. The late Karamanlis had chosen three powerful industrialists with whom he would meet every month or so to be informed on the problems faced by businesses. Andreas Papandreou, the late Socialist premier, maintained contacts with Dimitris Marinopoulos and Theodoros Papalexopoulos, both of whom served as SEV presidents. The current premier, as far as I know, has abandoned the practice. It was March 2004 when he met with Nikos Stasinopoulos, the leading Greek industrialist. Nor does he meet with banking heavyweight Yiannis Costopoulos or any other banker. But this deprives him of useful feedback on the economy and makes him vulnerable to the false reality painted by his aides.