OPINION

Hierophants of the memorandum

The faces may have changed, but the policies remain the same. Prime Minister George Papandreou’s tenacity in his reform plan does not necessarily mean that he is on the right track. Meanwhile, the argument that we either have to embrace the memorandum of the European Union and International Monetary Fund or face bankruptcy no longer holds water, as the escalation of the recession in part vindicates its skeptics, in that adhering to the memorandum to the letter may in fact drive the country to complete financial ruin. In order to break the cycle, the government needs to crack down on corruption and tax evasion, as well as boost growth and investment. Across-the-board cuts was the easy way to go. Targeted policies to increase revenues and control expenditure is a much harder proposition; graft, mismanagement and a costly state machine are endemic problems that could bring much-needed money into state coffers if brought under control. It’s time for all those who got rich at the expense of the state and society to start paying their dues, but the state does not seem to have the tools it needs to accomplish the task. At this point, seeing a few people locked up is not the answer. What we need is for all potential tax evaders and fund pilferers to know that if they fail to abide by the law they will not get away with it. Purging the system of these phenomena will be significant progress, but the economy really hinges on growth and here we need to see bold initiatives in the development of potentially healthy sectors that have been allowed to go to pot. Much of what can be done wouldn’t even require huge amounts of money so long as there is good will, a plan and enough flexibility to overcome bureaucratic obstacles. Unfortunately, Papandreou’s government seems unwilling or unable to go in this direction; its course is firmly set by the memorandum. Furthermore, as there is really no other party up to the task (the main opposition will be paying for the sins of its previous government for some time yet), we appear to be in a deadlock. It seems that we are over the first phase of the crisis, the phase of fear of the worst and hope that the reforms will fix everything. The next phase promises to be one of despair and, when this reaches critical mass, it will transform into rage. Then, any small catalyst will be capable of igniting the powder keg.