Rebuilding the state

By Alexis Papachelas

Can we really be this incompetent? It is outrageous that Greece’s political system has for three years failed to take the necessary decisions to streamline the country’s dysfunctional state apparatus.

We have already wasted too much precious time on pretending to shut down state departments and organizations back when PASOK ministers were mocking troika officials and the rest of us. Our political system failed to live up to the severity of the situation when officials should have had the courage to stand up and insist that some bodies within the civil service and some employees are redundant and have to go, while others are doing an important job and should be paid better and protected.

This ineptitude is what led us to the mess we are in today. The director of a state hospital receives about 600 euros more than a doctor doing a residency, while the chief of the National Defense General Staff makes about that much more than a second lieutenant as well.

How can our state possibly function under such terms? How can it provide incentives so that people work hard and are rewarded for their efforts, and also claim responsible positions?

We are now faced with a double deadlock. On the one hand we failed to rebuild the state – and miserably at that. On the other, we have also managed to eradicate from the top of the pyramid every incentive that could encourage the reform of public administration, and have made enemies of doctors, teachers, university professors, police officers and other state workers simply because they cannot make ends meet on the money they get.

I have no idea how we can get out of the hole we have dug ourselves into. To be sure, there are no magical solutions. Troika officials are at a loss as they see the Greek political system unable to introduce an evaluation system and streamline the state apparatus. Naturally, they are pushing with horizontal cuts instead.

This is a problem for us to tackle as a society, because success in fixing the incredible injustices and rebuilding the state will shape the future of this country. We will either have to do it now, or at a later date, after we are done with the troika and the memorandums.

No country can have a future without a solid state apparatus. It is nevertheless somewhat impressive that the Greek state has managed to hold it together, though this is thanks to the mammoth efforts of all those badly-paid doctors, teachers, police officers and others who continue to do their job under extremely difficult conditions. Or maybe it’s that good old-fashioned “filotimo,” which a long period of false prosperity did not manage to uproot.