NEWS

Ax to fall on state organizations

In a bid to show it is serious about pushing through delayed reforms, on Tuesday the government is to make public a list with the first 20 state organizations from around 250 that are to be merged and abolished as part of a drive to raise much-needed revenue.

The first 20 organizations on the list are to be merged with some 200 regional bodies across the country in coming days and weeks while the full list of organizations to come under the ax is to expected to be made public by the end of August.

The first phase is to include the merging of the Thessaloniki International Fair with Helexpo and the Organization for the Promotion of Exports (ELKE) as they are deemed to fulfill similar roles. Also 28 organizations for protected areas are to be whittled down to 13, one for each region in Greece.

The second phase of mergers and abolitions will be launched in August following an assessment of 1,500 publicly funded companies that operate under private sector rules. Already several companies in this list are to be abolished, including the Research Center for Civil Protection, which operates under the auspices of the Interior Ministry, and the company for the maintenance of the Corinth Canal.

The criteria in every case will be ?the cost for the taxpayer and the service offered,? according to Alternate Administrative Reform Minister Manousos Voloudakis. The process is expected to result in 4,000 employees losing their positions but authorities have pledged that all of them will be transferred to understaffed sections of the civil service.

The health sector is unlikely to benefit as it is also bracing for downscaling. Some 50 small hospitals will effectively be abolished by being merged with 82 larger institutions.

Doctors and nurses complain that hospitals are already suffering due to understaffing and inadequate funding. In Serres, northern Greece, 10 of the 11 resident pathologists at the general hospital resigned due to what they call ?dangerous? shortages. The 11th doctor was on vacation.

Nursing staff have described the planned mergers as a ?casus belli,? or cause for war, and have threatened protests while doctors in Attica are planning walkouts from the end of August.