NEWS

What citizens want and expect the New Democracy government to do

Members of different social strata whose demands were in the limelight during the election campaign spoke to Kathimerini about what they expect from the new government. Workers on fixed-term contracts want permanent appointments, pupils and students want better education and jobs, farmers less bureaucracy, public servants higher salaries, pensioners decent pensions, the unemployed want work and everybody wants meritocracy. In other words, what they want is more or less the implementation of the election campaign promises made by New Democracy, which will become the government. PUPIL: Marilia Mentzelidou, 18, in the final year of senior high school in Nikaia, is skeptical but slightly optimistic about the changed political scene. «I don’t believe there’ll be any great change, or that the Right will come in the form it had in the past,» she told Kathimerini. «I hope that ND will put its education program into practice, especially by reducing the number of subjects in the national exams to six.» What changes does she think she will see when she goes to university? «I don’t know what will happen. What I want to see at university is better organization and more substantive education. I want graduates coming out of the university to be truly educated.» She also considers it important that a degree has corresponding opportunities in the job market. «We make incredible efforts to get into university and to graduate but we know we’ll have problems getting established professionally. Let’s hope some jobs become available and that there will be meritocracy at last.» PENSIONER: Christos P., 69, from Kato Patissia, spent part of his small pension on celebrating ND’s rise to power. «I feel that better days will come,» he told Kathimerini. «In any case, things couldn’t get worse. I believe that pensions will be increased, as ND promised, and that the increase will be the same for everyone – for the 60-year-olds and the 75-year-olds.» He believes there will be equal treatment of all citizens. «In general, there wasn’t equal treatment under PASOK. You had to ‘go green’ to get ahead. You could see people who weren’t able to approach the party. I trust the ruling party more now.» STUDENT: Giorgos T., a 27-year-old medical student in Thessaloniki, foresees small changes «that might make a difference. I don’t expect world-shaking changes. I’d be naive to expect everything to be completely different. But what I want to see – and think I will eventually see – are some steps in a new direction, those small details that can make a difference. For universities to be clean, for example.» What concerns him most, now that he is completing his coursework, is the issue of meritocracy. «The best must get ahead; you shouldn’t need a godparent in the ministry to help you get ahead. I hope the new government will manage to break away from that mentality.» UNEMPLOYED: K.S., 24, is an electrician by trade. He completed his military service a year ago and has been seeking work, unsuccessfully. «I’ve got serious money problems and I have to find work at once.» What does he think the new government will do about the major issue of unemployment? «I believe something will change, mainly on the matter of meritocracy. Wherever I’ve been, I’ve found closed doors because the jobs are taken by ‘acquaintances.’ I also hope new jobs will open up, which can only happen if small and medium-sized businesses aren’t hounded by the tax authorities.» FARMER: Giorgos Kefalas, a 36-year-old stock farmer from Lagada, sees the reform of public administration as the top priority. «When farmers have contact with public services, they are horribly inconvenienced. They come up against an incredible amount of red tape and corruption. I want to see drastic improvements in public administration.» As for the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy which will affect Mediterranean products, Kefalas asks the new government to see to it that «the funds that come into the country, even if they are reduced, go to farmers and not to various ‘technical advisers’.» Genuine reform of cooperatives is also necessary, he believes. «If Greek agriculture is to change, cooperatives have to become businesses that operate for the benefit of the producers. It’s probably time for the old cooperative members to go home.» Kefalas would like to see the new government act immediately on settling debts to the Agricultural Bank. «A farmer who borrowed 1 million drachmas in 1997 now has to pay 20 times as much, which is impossible.» PUBLIC SERVANT: «Blatant inequality in salaries has to be abolished by means of a new salary system that takes European salaries and productivity into account,» prefecture employee Voula Apostolou told Kathimerini. «A lack of incentives and low salaries are responsible for poor productivity and corruption in the public sector. Of equal importance is the evaluation of public servants on the basis of merit, so that the best jobs don’t go to those who have the right party connections. Similarly, there must be a fair distribution of employees. Currently, there are branches that have one employee doing all the work and others which have many employees with nothing to do.» FIXED-TERM CONTRACT PUBLIC SERVANT: What does fixed-term contract public servant Giorgos Kokkinatos expect from the new government? «We expect it to implement its election campaign commitment to give permanent work to people on fixed-term contracts who meet standard, long-term needs, and to give the rest points toward being hired on a permanent basis.»