There are moments when you simply feel that there is no point in commenting on or analyzing what needs to be done to put this country on the right track. We felt this shortly after the 2007 national elections when expectations were high that Costas Karamanlis would snap out of his anxiety over the outcome of his bid to run for a second term and would bring about radical changes. We also felt it for a few months before the 2009 elections, when it had become obvious that the ship was sinking and no one was doing anything about it. Again we felt it after George Papandreou was elected into government and, despite the fact that everyone was shouting that he needed to grab the wheel and sail full speed ahead, he either didn?t listen or pretended not to hear.
And of course we are seized by the same feeling now that we see the real economy is in serious danger of crashing, as Greece?s international credibility continues to decline dramatically and we see not a safe haven but sharp rocks looming up ahead.
Yet the prime minister is obstinately refusing to change the way he is running his government, to change course. It is inconceivable that at a time such as this there is no real government office to speak of, no headquarters where important decisions are made and through which they are coordinated. One would expect that at a time such as this, Papandreou would have surrounded himself with the brightest minds and the best players. But no. Instead, he looks to clever but inexperienced newbies who have no idea where they belong nor what they need to do, an assortment of strange types who while away their days brainstorming without producing any tangible results, together with a handful of heroic figures who at great personal cost and with admirable dedication are trying to get a handle on the chaos.
Is it possible that we don?t know who is serving as the prime minister?s financial adviser at a time when the people listed officially as being in this capacity are not even in Athens? By what stroke of brilliance did someone decide that it?s OK for the Cabinet to show itself behaving like a group of contentious coffee-shop negotiators? Why has Papandreou failed to scold ministers, even some of whom are his own creations, when they talk back to him publicly and openly undermine his authority? With the way he handles his ministers, how can he possibly expect discipline among his parliamentary group and their support? And we shall not even go into the rumors that such and such minister will not even sit down at the same table as so and so. What?s happening here? Who?s running the show?
Let us also not forget the good old courtiers who have elevated administrational ineptitude to a study in bad management. One tries to convince us that Papandreou is using an unorthodox approach in order to make sure that everyone blossoms, while another argues that the chaos in his Cabinet is of the creative kind that eventually brings about results.
Greece needs some serious people at the helm, technocrats who know how to handle complex issues and a tightly knit government that speaks the same language. Maybe Papandreou is not interested in this kind of thing because he would rather be leading a nongovernmental organization than a government in a state of crisis. We have already argued that Papandreou would be the perfect CEO, as this role is defined by the rules of corporate governance, tasked with representing Greece abroad and writing the rule book for administration. All we need, therefore, is a good managing director to do all the unpleasant tasks he so abhors: running things, the dirty work, imposing rules, shouting at those who do not listen and making sure that decisions are put into action. As things stand right now, this government simply does not have a boss.