NEWS

Minister admits civil service failure

The labor reserve scheme, which is designed to place 30,000 civil servants on reduced salaries for a year and which politicians pored over for more than a year was on Tuesday described as ?bordering on the absurd and ridiculous? by Administrative Reform Minister Dimitris Reppas.

He also raised eyebrows by telling a parliamentary committee that the current interim government would not approve the sackings of any civil servants despite the fact that Greece has pledged to reduce the number of bureaucrats it employs by 150,000 over the next three years.

?Sackings are not on our agenda and this agenda is formed by this government and this minister,? said Reppas, who did not provide details on what would happen to the plans for firings in the civil service that Athens has discussed with the troika of the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Reppas did however admit that some kind of streamlining would be needed in the public sector. ?We have to help citizens and the economy take off through the services that the state provides and its ability to boost growth, which is currently not happening due to bureaucracy and corruption.?

Reppas told Parliament?s public administration committee that he was hopeful an agreement with France that was brokered by the European Union Task Force would help Greece to receive expert help in reforming its public sector.

The minister took over his post last June and inherited the unfinished labor reserve program from fellow cabinet member Yiannis Ragousis. The pair clashed frequently over the scheme, which will eventually lead to 30,000 civil servants leaving their jobs and receiving 60 percent of their pay for 12 months. Reppas admitted on Tuesday that the scheme would not be used again as it had been a damp squib.

?We did not expect anything significant from a fiscal aspect and on the other hand there was the danger of public administration being unable to operate because of the loss of key personnel,? he said.