COMMENT

Keeping the hacks out

By Alexis Papachelas

When things get tough, the political leadership ought to bring together a team of capable people who are not a part of the party nomenclature. Our politicians are all too aware that nothing will get done if they rely on the various cronies and acolytes – the hacks. The hacks and the champions of populism are ready to eat up whoever gets in their way because they feel entitled by the system of power that they have set up and which has had a hand in running the country for decades. They shiver when they hear the very word “technocrat” and feel threatened by the mere idea of a sharp entrepreneur.

This power structure has very strong allies at every tier of the political system and the public administration, and especially in the dark recesses of public life where no one really knows what goes on even though powerful interests and issues that affect us directly are at stake. When things get tough with the troika and the country is falling even further behind, the hacks find themselves in the shadows and all they can do is criticize, while at the same time waging their own battle in the trenches in order to block every reform, even those comfortably passed through Parliament. As soon as we get any money from our lenders they start to run the show by blocking reforms, working silently and effectively from within the deep state, which they know inside out. Then they sidle up to the prime minister and the Cabinet, pushing their own agenda from issues as menial as an appointment to ignoring a law.

In the meantime, the good people get fed up with it all and despair at the power of the hacks, who get their hands back on all the real power on the fringes of the political scene, without any real oversight from the central government.

Former Prime Minister George Papandreou got it in the neck because as he was going on about postmodern notions like transparency, the hacks were appointing their own boys to key posts of the civil service. The troika inspectors would turn up and see that nothing had been done to reform the public administration or to implement the agreed measures, and so they would demand more cuts to salaries and pensions.

The risk of the same happening today is very visible. The coalition government has fought hard to make crucial structural changes and has armed itself with people who believe that Greece should remain in the euro and should change. It would be a complete disaster if once we received the next tranche of aid, we let the hacks get back to business as usual. So far, Antonis Samaras has surprised and won over a lot of people with the policy line he has been pursuing in the past few months. Hopefully, he will not disappoint them.

Online