OPINION

Wrong direction, again

The economic meltdown could have served as an opportunity to review the economics of development. Unfortunately, in Greece the crisis has caused only panic and a return to outdated stereotypes: Our worn-out state is looking for ways to collect money in order to plug gaping budget holes – at any price. After making available as much as 28 billion euros to shield the banking system, only to see the real economy dry up, the government has turned to improvisation: It imposed a one-off tax on those with above-average income, it encouraged the purchase of luxury vehicles, it handed all beaches to municipalities for exploitation, it sought to legalize the semi-open areas in homes (generally speaking, balconies that have been illegally closed on all sides to create an extra room), it is drafting measures to boost construction activity by – for example – extending the town plan, at a time when hundreds of other studies still await implementation. All efforts to boost the tottering market and prepare ourselves for the thousands of unemployed forecast by international organizations are reduced to the same old toxic cliches: one-off taxes, the selling off of public areas, the facilitation of car sales and construction. Sure, construction activity should not come to a halt. But this country needs more than maisonettes, sun beds and SUVs. It needs infrastructure, sewage networks, waste treatment plants, recycling facilities, schools, roads, hospitals and ports. It needs to upgrade energy-guzzling buildings. It needs a sustainable development plan, green entrepreneurship with incentives, plus technologies to conserve water and energy in agriculture. There are many solutions that do not strain the environment, that do not relinquish public areas, that do not waste natural and cultural resources and keep the economy ticking over without holding the future to ransom. I don’t know who is working on these solutions, but it’s definitely not the government officials.