One final wake-up call

It’s hard to look at the targets that Greece has to meet by spring without feeling a knot form in one’s stomach. How can we possibly achieve all that? The government has, at best, three or four ministers that really have the guts to do what it takes. Meanwhile, the prime minister does not like doing the dirty work, which comprises the bulk of the government’s task at the moment. In fact, George Papandreou thinks he can rely on his political cronies alone – a luxury the captain of a sinking ship cannot afford. Sometimes it’s hard to understand who is in charge on any one day: the minister of state, deputy prime minister, the head of PASOK’s parliamentary group or the premier himself? A whopping 85 percent of the administration is not behind the memorandum; worse, they don’t really believe that they have to change the way they have done things for the past 30 years. «Shutting down ET3 television is a nonstarter,» said a senior government cadre who obviously has not yet grasped Greece’s economic misery. So who is going to take responsibility for what needs to be done to save the country from bankruptcy? The ministers obviously do not fear Papandreou. And why should they? In fact, the premier has begun to behave like his predecessor. Instead of giving his lazy ministers a telling-off, he urges them to settle their differences and has somebody else scold them. This is not what an emergency government is supposed to be. More worryingly, some of the more industrious ministers end up being criticized by the idle ones. It’s sad to see career politicians talk about the restructuring of debt when they have no clue. Again, there are those within the government who believe that «the big man has something going with the Germans and the Americans that will eventually save the day.» This is just the relics of a political system trying to hold on to its privileges as the end draws near. Time’s up. Papandreou must set up a closely knit unit of strong-willed staff that can step into the fray. If the ship goes down, they will also be responsible for not speaking out when they should have. There is no alternative. One cannot imagine New Democracy’s Notis Mitarakis, for instance, at the helm of the Finance Ministry. Unless Papandreou reacts to this wake-up call, we could be in for an even bigger adventure.

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