OPINION

What about growth?

A sense of gloom has descended upon us following the brief hiatus of the festive season, as retail markets contract and households feel increasingly constrained and frightened. This gloom, a prevailing and deep feeling of despondency, has now become a structural characteristic of society that first became apparent back in the summer of 2007. The financial crisis, pressure from markets and threats of bankruptcy may well transform this despondency into defeatism. And defeatism leads to paralysis. The government, feeling the noose of the markets tightening around its neck and cracking under the pressure from its European partners, is incapable of producing any policy beyond the fiscal discipline measures that are dictated to it. And while trimming the deficit and reducing the debt are clearly issues of crucial importance, they are not the only ones. The government should first of all be making every effort to fully understand public sentiment, make an accurate assessment of the present reality, safeguard social cohesion and ensure a just and viable plan for growth. Does the government have what it takes to do this? Its stability plan is all about cutting costs and raising taxes, placating Brussels and appeasing the markets to improve its borrowing prospects. Where, though, is the plan for growth? Where is the light at the end of the tunnel? What does the average person have to expect after three more years of sacrifice? How will small-business owners, 50-year-olds who live in fear of unemployment and farmers who have been left to their own devices pick themselves up? Where will the hundreds of students currently at universities offering an education of questionable quality come into the productive equation? What is the strategy for tourism, agriculture, small and medium-sized enterprises and innovation? Nothing is said about any of this. Nothing specific. All we get instead are vague announcements about green development on the one hand and, on the other, that all-time favorite, the diversion of the Acheloos River.