Missing an opportunity for change

Even at this late hour, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and the other party leaders in his governing coalition have an opportunity to send a message to the suffering and despairing Greek people that will give them some hope and convey a sense of solidarity, a message that an effort is being made to promote meritocracy and to restore the functionality of the state apparatus and an impression of fairness.

Few opportunities are as good for sending this message as the appointment of high-ranking officials in the public administration and the helm of state-owned enterprises.

So far, however, the names that have been heard regarding the candidates being considered for key areas show that little has changed from the past, when it was common practice to appoint failed politicians and cronies to key posts in public organizations. In fact, it is this practice that is almost wholly responsible for the demise of the state administration and the corruption that has seeped down from the top tiers of the civil service, through the body of lower-level staff and into the fabric of society. We are talking about the most obscene form of clientelist management of state funds and authority, the way the political system leeches society, a society that has been bled dry and left out in the cold.

The prime minister and the rest of the political leadership should think a little bit harder about the condition in which the state they are governing is. They should consider the absence of leadership in the state hierarchy and the low morale of public employees, the indifference and hostility that has permeated the entire structure. They should also think a little bit harder about the state that society is in and the promises that they made to the people in order to get elected. They need to remember that they promised to revamp the state and vowed meritocracy and transparency. They said nothing about handing out appointments to well-known failures and pillaging the coffers of a state that is already crippled by debt.

The people of Greece have shown a remarkable amount of patience and tolerance over the past three years of recession. They have adapted to the changes and every day try to remain strong in a deteriorating country. What they expect from the leadership is not money, which is not there to give anyway. What they expect is a modicum of dignity and self-respect, expressed through meritocracy, justice and efficiency.

Before they make their final recommendations, Samaras, Evangelos Venizelos of PASOK and Fotis Kouvelis of Democratic Left should have a long hard think about all this, because their duty is to the people and not to their slacker acolytes.

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