Can the state sector be reformed?

Can the state sector be reformed?

Can anyone recall any major administrative reform launched by the administration of Antonis Samaras (as mentioned by Interior Minister Makis Voridis in his article in Sunday’s Kathimerini)? Sure, that government had a lot on its plate. The country needed to meet its bailout obligations and Samaras to come to terms with his own somersault (“kolotoumba”).

However, as far as state reform is concerned, the only memorable episode from that period was the quarreling with the troika over the independence of the Public Revenue Authority. Samaras struggled to keep it under government control (he even dismissed its president, Haris Theocharis), tainting his credibility in the eyes of foreign lenders. Some analysts claim that his reluctance was the reason that German Chancellor Angela Merkel pulled the rug from under his administration.

What’s done is done. The question is what do we do now. In Voridis’ article, which is reminiscent of a pre-election manifesto, the answer appears to be “Nothing.” 

The minister reiterates the usual generalizations: “An effective and meritocratic hiring system”… “hirings approved by a rational mechanism that will assess needs”… “staff training, upgrading the School of Public Administration”… “digital organization charts”… “personnel assessment aimed at performance improvement, an objective but at the same time fast system for the selection of supervisors, a reward system for efficient workers, modern forms of employment such as teleworking, serious disciplinary legislation and even more serious and responsible and well-functioning disciplinary councils, internal monitoring and enhancement of the integrity of procedures is a set of legal as well as administrative actions that will produce a modern state sector capable of playing an effective role in the modern, demanding era.”

It’s all pie in the sky, of course. How many times have we heard ministers sputter out meaningless pledges such as “a meritocratic hiring system,” “timely planning” and “goal-setting.” The answer, regrettably, is “Too many times.” 

The right answer to the question, “Can the state sector be reformed?” is not “No.” In fact the state sector can only be decentralized, which does not seem to be a priority for this government either. 

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