For Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ government to succeed where many others failed, it will take more than “seriousness, humility and speed for an effective policy,” as the prime minister put it.
To get the people to accept reforms, to “disarm” the opposition and various interest groups that will react with force, the government will need to instil confidence in citizens that it aims not only to modernize the country but also to provide security to all.
While other countries recovered from the adjustment programs that they were forced to adopt, the Greeks are still suffering, with few having believed that the memorandums were necessary. This stems not only from our traditional suspicion of foreign demands and of our governments’ intentions, but also from the mistakes in policy over the past years. The across-the-board reductions in incomes, the new taxes, the harsh austerity multiplied people’s problems without offsetting them with a more functional public administration and a more just society. This deprivation provoked suspicion and insecurity.
To instil a sense of security it is not enough to wage a battle against crime, which is, of course, a priority. We need to believe that our society can improve. It is important that from the start the reforms should not hurt people; they must be seen to protect what is worth keeping and to solve problems where they exist.
For example, if laws and the penal code are to change so that there will not be equal benefits for all prisoners, regardless of their crime, this must be achieved with a sense of justice, so that other prisoners will not suffer the consequences. When the Citizens’ Protection Ministry (the police, in other words) is given jurisdiction over the prisons (taking it from the Justice Ministry) as well as immigration policy, it must prove that this will improve things for all involved and is not aimed solely at making the government look tough. Changes to the pension and health systems should inspire trust that this will lead to improvements, not further deprivation.
The accumulated problems demand determination, hard work and great sensitivity. This is not an easy mission. Inertia, half-hearted reforms and mistakes of previous governments have exhausted peoples’ patience and hopes. They will support the new government’s efforts when they can believe that it is not like the others, when they trust that it will protect and expand their rights, that it will not allow anyone to be lost.
And this is the only way the government can succeed.