OPINION

Bold steps

I am not sure if it was his contacts in Davos or his meetings with bankers that influenced Premier George Papandreou into taking these bold steps to fix the economy. The truth is, the prime minister left it to the last minute before finally deciding that the true dilemma before him was measures or supervision. It’s too early to predict the impact of yesterday’s announcements on the markets; nor can we predict the scale of protests against the new government measures. Similarly, it’s too early to have any clear picture of where the real economy will go in the next months or the recession’s impact on revenue. Yesterday’s announcements leave little room for extra measures, unless the government goes for shock policies, such as slashing the bonus salary at Christmas. The government has so far been quite pragmatic. The economy minister won the in-party tussle, proving to be a tough political player. The point, of course, is whether he will be able to see the measures through in the broader state sector. Only few within the ruling camp seem to grasp the significance of the task and are willing to undertake the political cost involved. Then, of course, there is always supervision by the markets and the European Commission. Can Papandreou – and with him, Greece, of course – do it? Papandreou yesterday showed that he may have slow political reflexes and a soft spot for endless consultation but, in the end, he does what he has to do. Conservative opposition leader Antonis Samaras has displayed his own share of political courage. I am not sure the two men are surrounded by political staff capable of instituting the necessary reforms. But I do know that the past couple of days we have finally seen signs of both a responsible government and opposition.