All green but no growth

This newspaper has repeatedly stressed Greece’s need for a responsible environmental policy coupled with a clean environmental conscience. However, certain officials in the current PASOK administration seem to have taken the complete opposite stance to that of former conservative Public Works and Environment Minister Giorgos Souflias. Prime Minister George Papandreou’s government was elected on the promise of a green growth campaign, but as «green» as the administration may have been so far, it has been dangerously laconic in terms of growth-inducing measures. Tina Birbili, the Socialist environment minister, has two rather bad habits. The first is that she likes to examine issues «from scratch.» Well this may be positive and rejuvenating, but anyone who wishes to invest in energy, tourism or construction needs a fixed set of rules to work with. A company that had decided to invest its capital in Greece in 2000 cannot all of a sudden be told that the rules of the game have changed. A second bad habit is that Birbili appears to ignore the rules of the market – in fact she almost seems to look down on the business world. The problem is that Greece today is in serious need of fresh investment; it needs to see the completion of the investments that have already been announced and it requires continuity in the way the state deals with vital sectors. The main environmental groups play a key role in Greek society and have proffered significant help in improving the way we think about these issues. But if the government were to entrust these organizations with the task of hammering out the country’s development policy, then Greece would end up accommodating a very large number of cormorants and other rare species – but little else. Birbili must strike a balance between her environmental concerns, on the one hand, and economic reality on the other. Her undeniably good intentions have so far been clouded by an inability to grasp the workings of the market. The job of environmental groups is to tell us what must not be done. Birbili’s job is to find ways to promote investments and to attract new ones in order to move the country forward.

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