NEWS

Pie distributed according to patronage and connections

«Planning was a completely unknown term in Greek administration when Community programs commenced. The first great shock Greek state services received was the implementation of the integrated Mediterranean programs,» remarked Foteini Papoudaki of the Law School at Edinburgh University, whose doctoral thesis was on CSF I and II. «For Community programs to be effective, there needs to be planning and programming, first on a national and then on a regional and local level, with the involvement of all the interested bodies. «Such an experiment was conducted in Thessaly during planning for CSF III. After the problems that occurred during CSF I and II, and following pressure from the European Commission, the political leadership of the National Economy Ministry, which was responsible for the implementation of the EU’s regional policy, pressed for the adoption of a new approach to shaping regional entrepreneurial programs. The then general secretary of the Thessaly region called on municipalities, trade association representatives and trade unions to collaborate so that a development plan for the region could be submitted. The attempt met with partial response. However, the value of a new approach was clearly seen in the proposals that were made, which were accepted.» Connections Of course, in most regions, this did not happen, since there was no real interest from local bodies in spreading the benefits of the programs to the populace. The patronage mentality is deeply rooted in Greece and collective goals leave people cold. Thus, access to programs is gained by those with connections to state institutions, to their own benefit, of course. Those acquainted with the inner workings of the system say that the situation has improved, but not by much. Entangled interests are facilitated by the following: Labyrinthine bureaucratic procedures, which ensure a lack of transparency because of the difficulties in checking what is going on in a complex bureaucracy. The lack of expertise among many top officials in state administration (who attain high position through their party connections rather than their abilities). Private companies covering the gap left by public administration. Following a competition, they undertake to collect applications and evaluate programs. As intermediaries, they receive a 3-4 percent commission on assigned works, and influence decision-making centers. Possessing the power to approve or reject programs, they often undersign, evaluate and supervise the projects as well – in conditions of absolute confidentiality, under the aegis of local leaders, MPs and even national ministers. Distributing the pie In the final analysis, these constitute interest groups that act without political curbs, in the regions at least. More schematically, the mayor cooperates with the prefect, regional authorities and politicians to provide programs and works for their own benefit. Often, the «enemy» is to be found within their own party. A typical story is that of a businessman who belonged to the opposition party of the island he lives on. He became the target of so much intra-party flak when he lost in local elections that the ministry revoked approval for a community program valued at 270,000 euros (92 million drachmas). The businessman, who in the meantime had taken out a loan from a bank to delay his investment as little as possible, is now on the verge of financial and psychological ruin.