The country has to choose between two systems of government, especially in times of crisis: the European and the Third World system.
In the Third World personalities play the primary role. The minister, or the prime minister himself, needs to call the lowest-ranking official to make sure something happens, swears at their subordinates and crosses him or herself, hoping that everything will be fine. If they don’t, ministers and officials will not talk to each other, the regional governors and their assistants will not pick up the phones and everyone will run around like headless chickens.
The unavoidable result is a fiasco or, even worse, a tragedy. When you follow this model, the solution is usually an aggressive politician who chases every the last detail, interrogates other officials and does the job that a department head would do in another country.
The other model is based on a backbone of government officials who do not change every time the government changes. It requires that politicians build mechanisms and choose the head of the Traffic Police based on who will do the job properly – not on who will tear up a fine, if asked. It requires professionalism, discipline, continuous training and retraining, assessment, mock exercises and actual drills in the field. It requires uprooting the problematic mentality of a state-owned company from the vital services of the state.
Political parties have unfortunately made criminal choices in the past decades. They built a state to suit themselves alone. The hard core of the state needs to be torn down and rebuilt, but nobody dares to do it. One tries to radically change the Fire Brigade and his advisers prevent him: “Don’t do it, the whole of Greece will burn if they leave.” He doesn’t do it, and Greece burns.
For now, we kid ourselves, and those who should be grabbing the bull by the horns are sinking into the sweet and rotten swamp of political gossip. Obviously, I do not think we can change in one day. Even if we decide to change everything, we will go through a long period that will be “hybrid” – a little European, a little Third World, a little personal aggressiveness, a little strengthening of the mechanisms and promotion of qualified individuals.
But we need to do something beyond the shouting, emotional outbursts and fights of politicians. Because it is certain that the longer it takes to learn from our mistakes, the greater the cost of the next crisis will be. And we will be lucky if it is just another unprecedented snowstorm.