The joke of the state

The joke of the state

The old joke that it takes five of whatever group one wants to disparage to screw in a lightbulb – one to get on the table and hold the bulb and four to turn the table round and round – is, unfortunately, true of the Greek state in many cases. We don’t know how many ministers it takes to screw in a lightbulb, but we do know that it takes 21 ministerial officials to grant state broadcaster ERT’s journalists and crews a stipend for going to war zones and reporting from there.

And that’s no joke. A recent amendment submitted by the deputy minister to the prime minister stipulates that hazard pay for war-zone correspondents needs to be approved by a joint decision by the heads of no less than 21 ministries.

According to the same law, ERT SA is a public company that has administrative and financial autonomy, with its own president, director, board, budget, revenues, expenses etc. Of course, this is all effectively a masquerade, like so many other laws in Greece – they are there for the sake of being there and not to actually be implemented.

There’s nothing surprising about this and let’s, for argument’s sake, accept that the ministers of finance and telecommunications should have a say in the day-to-day dealings of the otherwise “independent and autonomous” ERT. After all, half the officials in the cabinet have nothing else to do other than supervise dozens of organizations and thousands of employees. But what possible business does the minister of agricultural development have in signing any decision concerning ERT correspondents? Seriously! Are they going out to Ukraine to grow lettuce? We won’t argue about the minister of shipping. Obviously he should have a say. After all, Ukraine is on the Black Sea.

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