OPINION

Fight the kleptocrats

The shock therapy has intensified, but the patient’s heath is still deteriorating. What we are experiencing, in fact, is the breakdown of a false development model. The system was not just based on generous doses of populism, vested interests and exorbitant waste, as some propagandists would like us to believe. There is another side to the coin: an unofficial system of kleptocracy that has emboldened parasites while putting the brakes on productive activity. Kleptocracy is not just about corrupt state workers. It is also about a rich web of political and business entanglement that works in favor of the big fish. The squandering of state money is a systemic phenomenon that takes place not just at the bottom but also at the top of the pyramid. The fact that society has been injected with this sick mentality has strengthened its roots. But the crisis proved to be the last straw. The bill sits on the table, and all sides are quarreling about who will pay. An informal alliance of politicians, business circles, academics and journalists have stood behind the measures mandated by the memorandum which are mostly hitting the lower income groups. The government of Prime Minister George Papandreou is also leaning on the productive businesses in a bid to collect revenues. For the time being, the PASOK government has done little to stop all sorts of kleptocrats. And that is despite the fact that the much-needed fiscal reform must be carried out in terms that are socially fair, without hurting the productive forces. A policy of carefully targeted yet drastic measures could save huge sums of money and help to narrow the deficit that has been partly caused by the colossal squandering of state money. Some say that this is unrealistic, but their criticism is usually a disguise for self-interest or foolishness. True, the public is tired of being told about efforts to fight tax evasion and corruption and tales of modernizing the state apparatus. But this is only because similar pledges have been around as slogans for ages. However, this does not change the fact that the government must streamline the state structure. And also take measures to boost growth. Experts have repeatedly recommended effective ways of achieving both. If there’s one thing that has been lacking, that would be political will.