Rash populism

All the wrong messages sent by this administration to international markets have one thing in common: the stamp of PASOK’s pre-election promises that nothing would be withdrawn. The government adopted this line in its first crucial weeks in the administration as well. How differently things would have turned out had Prime Minister George Papandreou said that, based on the data he was presented with, he had either to cut subsidies by half or implement promises over three years. PASOK’s program, despite the shocking financial data, unfortunately became gospel for a handful of opportunists. A typical example is the fiasco with Chinese port operator Cosco, which irreparably tarnished Greece’s credibility abroad. Peel away the surface of this fiasco and the same stamp appears: Some of those involved allowed the port workers to believe that the deal with Cosco was negotiable. The same is happening now in the matter of the draft law on bank debt repayment, which may very well stifle rather than stimulate the market. The argument used here is that the cost of this measure had been accounted for in the campaign manifesto. In all these cases, someone behaved arrogantly, backing out of a done deal with China, brushing aside the authority of the European Commission and ignoring warnings from credit rating agencies. Maybe some analysts are right to lay the blame for the current situation partly on the previous administration and partly on Economy Minister Louka Katseli. Most members of the government see the rashness of such a policy and are trying to salvage what they can. No one, after all, wants to push the prime minister into taking Ireland-style measures that neither provide a real solution nor are in accordance with his viewpoint. They simply know that such extreme measures will become inevitable if the other members of the administration continue in this rash, populist manner.

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