OPINION

Footing the bill

The global economic crisis has simply exposed pre-existing ailments in the Greek economy. The looming threat of bankruptcy reflects the breakdown of a growth model that favors parasitism and kleptocracy while sabotaging the country’s productive forces. Graft and the squandering of state funds are systemic, not isolated, phenomena. The fact that this twisted perception has infiltrated all classes has made corruption more ingrained, and no less damaging. The economic crisis was the last straw. It showed that the party could not continue. The bill is sitting on the table; we’re just waiting to see who will foot it. This is the real question and the rest is propaganda based on false dilemmas: strict measures or campaign talk, reformist or old PASOK, Papaconstantinou or Katseli, responsibility or populism? Many players favors quick-fix measures, warning of market retaliation. But they only point to the easy path, which perpetuates that same kleptocratic model: wage cuts, VAT hikes, welfare cuts. If the government adds to the burden on those who already pay – i.e. the low-income groups – it will exacerbate inequality of wealth and damage social solidarity. The real but necessary challenge is to streamline our fiscal finances on socially fair terms. First, by introducing tax fairness. Second, with a fresh look at spending. Streamlining expenses would save a great deal of money because of the mammoth waste and squandering of public coffers. Any criticism of such measures as unrealistic is animated by self-interest or foolishness. Effective solutions exist; what is missing is the political will. Tidying up finances takes time. Markets do not care about social justice or social cohesion. They call for quick-fix solutions because they want to see «blood» here and now (wage cuts etc). The mood would be different if, instead of belated announcements, the prime minister had already drafted realistic bills. That would have won him both credibility and time as well as more room to maneuver.