Balancing act

In a few days, our political elite will travel to Thessaloniki for the annual economy show. Our leaders will, again, present the country’s positive indices and growth prospects, and announce measures to help the poor and increase productivity. Local residents will again be flattered with the circus while local bars will be packed with officials. However, soon the government will again find itself faced with the usual problems. This is where the real problem lies. For decades, the various governments have done their best to prepare for the annual Thessaloniki International Fair (TIF), trying to get out of it as much as possible. But, with few exceptions, Greeks have gained little from these pompous events. This year’s fair is based on the usual recipe: some announcements about tax cuts and higher pensions, lavish talk about progress and eurozone membership, but little on the genuine problems of an economy which for years has performed a careful balancing act between fiscal pressure and social spending. Never has there been a serious effort to curb public debt. The public spending increase for 2002 is three times the inflation rate; still, no one wonders where the money goes. No one has ever assessed the effect of public funds on health, education, or the quality of public services. No one has ever counted, for example, the number of citizens visiting the citizens’ service centers and whether these numbers make up for the cost. No one knows anything about spending by municipalities, which are not obliged to publish an annual balance, although this is demanded of small businesses. As long as we fail to tackle these relatively simple things, as long as we spend for the sake of spending, as long as the debt grows unchecked, there will barely be any funds to pay for other crucial needs. We will be left only with the annual shows and governments’ balance acts – until the day we fall.

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