Maria Katsounaki MARIA KATSOUNAKI

A twisted system

COMMENT

TAGS: Education, Health

Just how well public health and education work in Greece is confirmed by data from the Hellenic Statistical Authority and the Center for Liberal Studies, which found that in 2017, 7.3 percent of Greek households’ monthly spending went on health services, or 102.44 euros per month on average, and that collectively, beyond the taxes they pay, Greek households also spent 1.5 billion euros on primary and secondary education last year.

We don’t need to imagine the effects of this absence of decent services from the state sector on average Greeks, who use public transportation to get about their business, who daily have to conduct transactions with the civil service, who go to public doctors and hospitals for treatment and who send their children to state schools.

We know exactly what the consequences are because we experience them ourselves. We are witness to a system that works as it does mainly thanks to certain civil servants, doctors and educators who are well qualified, have a strong work ethic and are generous with their time and skills. Yet they are not enough to stop the erosion of the country’s institutions.

The beleaguered “Greek household” that is analyzed in so many studies, that continues paying excessive taxes even though it gets little but disdain from the state in return, should really stand as a paradigm of survival. Yes, Greeks are the ultimate survivors, though this is not always a flattering title given that the shadow economy is also a part of that survival strategy.

Because on the other side of the coin, as the Greek state continues to crumble, money keeps changing hands in the dark, be it in envelopes passed surreptitiously to doctors or in undeclared fees paid to private tutors.

In this twisted system, the number of people who are forced to turn to the private sector for health and education services rises hand-in-hand with those who oppose any private initiative in these sectors and lambast businesspeople looking to invest in them. The head-on collision between two contradictory positions, meanwhile, causes incredible harm to both the public and the private sector.

In the meantime, the state sector falls prey to whichever party is in power (SYRIZA is doing a great job of reviving and compounding all of the ills of the past) and public sector workers vociferously defend the absence of any form of performance evaluation or rationalization of the state sector under the misguided belief that this will help them hang onto their jobs for life – it is a twisted rationale on every level that does only harm, to the state as much as to the people it is supposed to serve.

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