By Angelos Stangos
The reactions toward the government’s plans for an evaluation of public sector workers are completely unsurprising. Civil servants – and not just the unions that represent them – abhor the mere idea of being assessed, ministers and MPs cower at its very prospect and the general public simply couldn’t care less. Basically, the reason for all these reactions is that as a whole they do not believe in meritocracy, despite the pompous statements in calling for more of it and the whining over its absence. In other words, almost everyone in Greece, with the exception of a pathetic minority that understands the consequences and those who have faith in their abilities, do not want to see the evaluation carried out. Ergo, they don’t want meritocracy as the latter is dependant on the former.
Civil servants especially have no reason to react as this is not the first time that the concept of performance assessment has been introduced to the public sector. For several years there have been assessment forms where superiors evaluate the performance of their subordinates and on every form every employee had received top marks. We should obviously look elsewhere to understand why there is so much foot-dragging, incompetence, corruption, red tape and so many weaknesses in the public administration if every single employee is doing such a great job. Maybe we should look at the politicians, the citizens, the troika, the Europeans – but certainly not the employees. And they certainly don’t need any more new evaluations.
Then again, where else is anything evaluated in Greece? Are schools evaluated? Even model schools that were set up in the past have been shut down purportedly in the name of equality and the political leadership always scrambles to patch things up if students do badly in their university entrance exams and fail to make the mark. Are universities, in turn, evaluated? They can’t possibly be, given that students are allowed to enter with poor marks, are often passed without being taught much, and given that anyone can transfer anywhere, that much of the teaching staff lags in its scientific output and the institutions themselves are in a shambles. What about the military or the police? Of course not.
The conclusion, therefore, is that performance is never evaluated and there is, therefore, no meritocracy. So why is such a big deal being made about imposing an evaluation on the civil service? After all the motto in Greece is to make everything level down to the lowest common denominator.
Even SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras argues against the government for wanting an evaluation to go ahead because that would mean getting rid of employees who don’t abide by its instructions.