The old Socialist model

A large government session last Thursday headed by the prime minister and attended by senior ministers, deputy ministers and economic aides studied two proposals regarding the introduction of part-time employment in the public sector in order to fill 35,000 positions. The first proposal, a more pioneering one that was inspired by similar blueprints in the USA and Italy, provided for the setting-up of employee cooperatives. These are specialized employees’ groups, such as medics, who can negotiate their fee for a specific project within a specified time frame with the State, hospitals, the Social Security Foundation (IKA) or other institutions. This could introduce a more competitive spirit into the public sector and the labor market and at the same time establish a system to monitor the cost of services. This is a rather liberal blueprint, which also meets the State’s concern to rein in spending. The second proposal was the typical method of public sector recruitment. It recommended the simplest and more familiar solution without taking into account that it thereby fosters permanent tenure claims, as has often occurred in the past. After a two-hour session, the government rejected the first proposal for being too neoliberal and instead favored the more traditional path, which is responsible for party patronage, the corrosion of the central administration and the perpetuation of Greece’s fiscal shortcomings. The adherents of the centrally planned model, so to speak, prevailed once again and the premier was either unable or reluctant to back the new mechanism and thus failed to promote structural change in one of the most rigid state sectors. This did nothing but underscore how PASOK is in hock to loss-making practices which hold Greece ransom to the logic of small steps, instead of the big leaps it needs.