Fickle consensus on how to boost state’s quality

The Foundation for Economic and Industrial Research (IOBE), the think-tank sponsored by the Federation of Greek Industries, has attempted a formulation of proposals «For a More Effective State,» which will be presented on Wednesday. The ideas are certain to attract interest and be commented on by both government and opposition. It seems rather odd that IOBE has decided to deal with a subject that is widely considered already solved. The vast majority of citizens, as well as political parties, accept the need to create an effective state as a given. They may clash over the extent of state participation in the economy, or raise objections regarding the direction in which state intervention should be exercised, but no one disagrees on the need to improve the efficiency of state services. Wednesday’s event, as indicated in the invitations, will touch on issues on which there is at least a 90 percent consensus among the Greek people: regarding the regulatory role of the state, public administration, state participation in the economy and fiscal policy. Besides, the present government was elected on the slogan of «refounding» the state, but the main opposition PASOK party often argues for reforms that will improve it. The only problem is that the state does not seem amenable to improvement. The general consensus does not produce a more effective state which follows specific rules. In reality, the consensus of public opinion is itself bogus. Everyone agrees that the state needs to become more efficient, but on condition that it does not affect their own behavior, habits and interests but of others. The consensus among political parties also seems to be keeping up pretenses. For instance, regulatory authorities, everyone will agree, must be independent. However, when it comes to appointing the members of these independent authorities, the government will seek them among its friends. The previous government did the same. It is indeed very amusing that politicians tend to put forward substantial and interesting proposals only when they are in opposition. When PASOK was in power a few years ago, the sense of arrogance and omnipotence prevented them from making any progress toward improving the efficiency of state services. They could not see the real need for stable rules, commitments, independent authorities and fiscal restraint. Exactly the same is the case with those in power now. They do not see any reason for restraint. They already have made many commitments toward the European Union and in the form of pledges they made in order to win the next election. It is certain that no government wants more commitments, so they opt for the «pragmatism» of doing nothing. They wish for a more efficient state but are not willing to fulfill the prerequisite of limiting their own power. In the end, it seems that actually only a tiny minority is in favor of creating a more efficient state. So tiny that it may, after all, comprise just IOBE’s inner circle.