OPINION

What is at stake

what-is-at-stake

The government has put forward an ambitious plan with sweeping changes to education, health, the labor market and social security. These are sectors that affect the life of every citizen. If the changes materialize, this will be a very different country in a few years’ time. As with every reform, however, they come with serious political risk.

The opposition smells the blood in the water and is gearing up for a tumultuous autumn. The alliance of inertia, meanwhile, will try to torpedo the government’s plan in every possible way, intrigued by a repetition of 1990-1993, when many reforms were planned but never implemented.

The situation is very different now, however. The government enjoys a strong majority in Parliament and a clear sky on the political horizon. Yet, this does not mean that it is not looking at a real political and administrative struggle. Changing the healthcare system, for example, means finding and depending on people who understand the issues and can bring the reforms to fruition. It also means casting off the ballast of petty partisan ties, whether it is hospital administrators or other officials who will not or cannot make the necessary changes.

Citizens, for their part, have very little patience and will expect to see hospitals that resemble the “vaccination miracle” in every way. Those in charge of implementing the plan will find themselves coming up against entrenched interests, unions, content and well-settled academics and many others. Citizens will be bombarded with scaremongering arguments and morning current affairs shows on television will buzz with criticism. Without a persuasive and solid communication strategy, the entire endeavor could sink fast, especially in the era of social media, where public discourse deals almost exclusively in insults and extremes, and the central issue changes from one moment to the next.

All the tough issues will come to the fore in the autumn. The battle will be unrelenting, and the center of Athens may turn into an uncrossable no-go zone once again. Accumulated anger and fear of poverty will keep many “ears” and “eyes” shut and the only way for the government to succeed then is to quickly show the positive change it can bring. It will also need to do so in a way that will make a difference for the child going to nursery school and the sick man who does not have the patience or luxury to figure out the complicated public hospital system. If it manages to do this and avoids poking holes into its own ship, it will be able to show what is at stake the day after.