OPINION

Editorial

Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou’s official estimate that the cost of repairing the shoddy works and defects on the Corinth-Lamia national highway will be about 25 billion drachmas, while complete protection against floods would require 300 billion (which, of course, does not exist), brings into focus the issue of the extended damage recorded in the aftermath of every sudden rainstorm. It is true that Papandreou and the group of monitors who have released the findings cited above do state the primary causes for the disasters in every area and the requisite work required, but they do not clarify what part of the problem should be attributed to the contractors’ shoddy work or what part of the mess to deliberate decisions made in favor of lower cost, given the rarity of natural disaster in our country. Furthermore, the minister and the findings do not clarify the extent to which the damage is the result of private illegalities. The most provocative of all, of course, is the poor work on the part of the contractors which, as the EU has pointed out, is an endemic, pathological symptom of public works in our country. Nothing, for example, can justify the fact that the Corinth-Lamia highway, many stretches of which were recently restored – needs 25 billion drachmas just for the construction of anti-flood pipes. The ministerial study must not only confirm which companies are to blame and take the respective legal action but must also investigate how and why the responsible public officials have not pointed out these defects. Apart from the shoddy public works, there are also less obvious causes of damage. The most common are individual legal violations: the illegal construction and deforestation which entail heavy public repercussions. Often, the State constructs projects with low safety precautions in order to trim the cost, deeming that, statistically speaking, Greece enjoys good weather conditions. Of course, when disaster strikes, no responsible official has the courage to admit that the danger was always lurking. Let us not delude ourselves, there will always be floods. Sometimes, because technology does not offer complete protection against nature; sometimes, because we lack the necessary funds to exploit available technology to the fullest. The point is to clearly define the risk and prevent disasters stemming from minor causes. The first presupposes that the State is frank enough to say what it guarantees and what it does not, while the second presupposes its readiness to monitor and punish individuals whose trespasses undermine public safety. As long as these are lacking, the problem will persist, no matter what we spend on repairs and improvements.