Modernizing and digitizing certain state agencies appears to have been easier than changing the mentality that wishes to hold citizens hostage to red tape.
For instance, the state can – as it should – confiscate the assets of its debtors, but does not allow those it owes money to to proceed to confiscations of state assets: According to a Finance Ministry circular, all disposable cash in the banking system has been set aside for serving specific public purposes and therefore may not be confiscated. At the same time, pension fund workers refuse to pay out bereavement benefits to widows for lack of a circular, although the law on their issue is crystal-clear.
While the state owes some 2.3 billion euros to suppliers and other third parties and constantly threatens to seize the assets of those with debts to the state, it raises barriers to confiscations from the state.
A Finance Ministry circular issued a few days ago bans the seizing of state assets, noting that all contents in the state’s bank accounts serve specific purposes; that way no citizens with claims on the state may demand the seizing of cash from state accounts even if the debts date back five or 10 years. Some of those companies may go bankrupt because the state will not pay its dues, but confiscations are blocked even in cases where the courts have ruled against the state. The ministry’s circular even notes that the budget includes special credit every year for the payment of dues, but that runs dry quickly.
Another case of bureaucratic madness took Labor Minister Kostis Hatzidakis to the brink: Single Social Security Entity (EFKA) workers have failed to apply a recent regulation, keeping 444 seafarers’ widows from their bereavement benefits for years.
The minister argued that EFKA employees have refused to pick up the relevant files from the Seafarers Pension Fund (NAT), citing the need for the signing of a circular to that effect.