Assumptions for 2011

Exercises in optimism can sometimes be lifesavers. In this vein, let’s assume that the Greek economy will bounce back, as so many governing officials like to argue, however flimsily. Let us push aside our profound concerns and allow room for hope that things will get better in the new year. Let us hope that Prime Minister George Papandreou is working tirelessly to save the country, as he assures us that he is, and that Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou’s main objective is to help Greece recover from the crisis rather than to safeguard the interests of its lenders. Feeling introspective and optimistic, we could also argue that if anything else, 2010 was a year of absurdities: 65 years after the end of World War II, 65 years without military conflicts (except for NATO’s 1999 war against Serbia) and the citizens of the world’s most advanced continent found themselves plunged in a crisis like no other because of a miscalculation. Here in Greece, Papandreou was also off the mark. Following half a decade of opposing the efforts of the New Democracy government under Costas Karamanlis to modernize the Greek economy, the prime minister imposed a string of austerity measures of the most Neoliberal kind, in the name of the principles he claims to represent as president of PASOK and Socialist International. His election may have been hailed as a victory over the Conservatives, but the battle is not about political sides anymore. It has moved to different fields and the government’s greatest enemy right now is the product of its own creation: strong labor groups in state-owned corporations that are being scheduled for privatization. In this light, we can expect the battle within the ranks of PASOK between the hard core and the modernists to continue raging well into 2011. PASOK used to be admired for its ability to adapt to new conditions, but this process usually served only the interests of the hard core. But, no party can adapt without the support of its core and this is a problem that Papandreou will have to face within the next few months. Therefore, should Papandreou push on with his reforms, he will more likely completely undermine his own party than save Greece from financial ruin.