Risk of hangover

The draft budget proposal for 2003 brought to the surface the problems of the government’s current economic policy. It is common knowledge that it relects the managerial approach of the last few years. Some have rightly read the budget as a rearrangement of the State’s own finances, as the government does nothing but ride on the back of the momentum created by EU funds and the construction of Olympic-related projects. It would be a pity to waste this unique conjuncture of the huge inflow of funds. This point is always raised when evaluating Greece’s economic performance. In banks, businesses, academic circles, even in coffee shops, everyone agrees that unless the government introduces some radical changes, Greece will live on outside funds and loans until 2004, while the economy will plunge into recession immediately afterward. It is hard to say what sectors or businesses could possibly drive the economy in the post-2004 period, during which the local economy will have to stand on its own feet in a context of global competition. The political elite and society have not examined the problems in depth to see why the Greek economy has failed to attract foreign investment, why entrepreneurship is tumbling, why the labor market is short of opportunities, and why the education system is sterile; why, in short, Greece does not produce, why it does not export goods and services, why it can’t sway more and wealthier tourists. The answer seems complex but is actually simple. Greece is dominated by myths like that of November 17, which was undone this summer. The country must dislodge many such myths and break the taboos of the post-1974 period in order to escape the vicious circle of stagnation. Otherwise the 2004 celebrations will be followed by a bad hangover.