In the past, when the Greek state was in the hands of typical representatives of our traditional political system, we experienced serious failures. Especially at times of crisis.
I still remember an experienced official in the fire department describing what he was facing at the coordination center during a large fire in the previous century. The young officers sat in their seats, receiving information about the various fronts and passing the information on to their superior. A government official was sitting in a chair, next to the office of the chief officer, playing with a string of beads and constantly talking on the phone to lawmakers, mayors and other officials.
At the time, while the professionals around him were doing their jobs, he was shouting, “But [such-and-such a place] is burning, send aircraft now!” In vain they tried to explain to him that “this is not how it is done.” What’s more, this government official had also found a way to inspire the team. Every now and then he shouted, “Let’s go, my lads,” to the surprise of the young officers, who at first were baffled, and then laughed.
After every crisis Greece goes through, the conclusion is the same: We need more professionalism, less revolving doors between politics and the staffing of the vital core of the state. It is true that we have improved significantly. A new generation that is manning the key mechanisms of the state hates cronyism, values leaders, respects their rank, and wants to learn and improve. But they are forced to report to the latest batch of government officials who have learned that climbing through party channels is the right sport for anyone who wants to reach the highest echelons of power.
People who did not gain their reputation in the field but in political parties and through close friendships in the eternal bargaining in which the important thing sometimes is “Where are you from?” and “Are you a friend of [such-and-such]?” The very same people have a wonderful ability to switch party allegiances overnight and make deals with their political opponents, without any difficulty.
It is therefore time to create a culture that will allow the younger generation, which is not afraid of education or evaluation, to take over the main mechanisms of the state. They need the means, a new confidence and the absolute protection of traditional politicians.
It must be understood that a minister should ask, “Who is the best?” and not which party or company of friends one belongs to. A state employee ought to dare to say, “Let us do our job,” and not be afraid of presenting a real picture of what can and cannot be achieved at a critical moment. The doctrine of excellence, in which the prime minister strongly believes, needs to become deeply embedded in the DNA of the critical mechanisms of the Greek state.