Greek politicians never cease to surprise me. The country is at the moment facing two major challenges. The first is Turkey, which is becoming increasingly unpredictable and unstable. In contrast to Greece, which has spent billions of euros on military procurements but never built up a defense industry of its own, Turkey has research and production capabilities, and is able to arm itself fast, which is a significant cause for concern among experts on the subject.
Given this situation, it would have been fair to assume that the prime minister would have appointed a person with knowledge of security issues to the post of deputy defense minister who could take over the crucial project of reorganizing the armed forces and developing a long-term upgrading program.
Instead, he appointed Fotis Kouvelis, merely on the merit of keeping the peace within the party and not causing a public relations storm. Instead of a scientist, a manager or a respected former military man, the position was given to a politician who is in the twilight of his career.
How does the system work in the Greek government? Think the exact reverse of what would be the case in a business.
There, the boss would first ask what he could do better and then make a decision. Here, he asks how he can displease the least amount of people and what message he needs to send to the party and society, without any thought for what is needed for the purpose of the post in question.
Any company acting in this way would soon go out of business. Indeed, the appointment of unprincipled or incompetent people to crucial positions was one of the reasons why the Greek state went bankrupt.
This is not the first time, of course, that the wrong people have been put in the wrong position because the party has been put above the task at hand. I remember questioning one prime minister about the appointment of a man who was obviously incompetent and also politically dangerous to a key position.
The answer I got was, “The cards just didn’t fall right any other way.”
Greece’s second challenge is getting the economy adapted to the 21st century, to an age of rapid changes and developments.
To do this, it has placed a person in the driver’s seat who is distinguished for his spirit of compromise and his low-key attitude, but who in every other respect belongs in the 1980s.
The only thing that counts in his favor is that he has helped several competent young people launch successful careers, so maybe he’s kept a few who know about entrepreneurship, technology and all that stuff close at hand.
The message sent from last week’s reshuffle was just wrong: A country facing such challenges cannot be run in 2018 with people and methods that belong firmly in the past.