OPINION

Decaying institutions

decaying-institutions

The country is in a precarious position. This is not a recent development, but a longstanding situation. For decades, the country’s politicians and parties played with its institutions because this strategy served their own goals. Useless military officers rose to leading positions simply because they supported a certain political ideology. The same is true of top judges, hospital directors and so many more. The obvious need for competence and professionalism was brutally swept aside.

I recall the day I met a high-ranking officer who held a crucial position during the Imia crisis – named after the Dodecanese islets which became the site of a military standoff between Greece and Turkey in 1996. When I pressured him, this is what he told me, as tears filled his eyes: “I know I should never have reached that position, it happened because of my party affiliation.” The fact that in this particular case the party in question was PASOK is of very little importance. Unfortunately, there were many similar cases, with the argument always being that previous governments had acted in exactly the same way.

Now I’m hearing many voices protesting at all that is going on with regard to the current SYRIZA-Independent Greeks coalition, a government which appears to be in a rush to conquer every last bit of state power. They are right to complain. But the groundwork for this state of affairs had been laid long before, with the many clueless and mediocre people who were appointed to key positions by previous administrations, based on a sole criterion, that of “trust.”

Plenty of clumsy and obvious games were played out in the justice system and other highly sensitive sectors. When the so-called establishment behaved in this way for so long, one can hardly expect anything better from today’s leadership.

The fact is that the country will never stand on its own feet again if the ties between parties, political cronies and institutions – which should be operating in an independent manner – are not cut once and for all.

Greece’s public administration system was severely damaged when the military dictatorship appointed army captains to act as general secretaries at ministries. The system was finished off by late PASOK minister Menios Koutsogiorgas, who did away with general managers at the ministries, who had comprised the backbone of the departments of government. With very few exceptions, the system was further incapacitated by several governments after that.

We are now experiencing the final episode in the decline of the country’s institutions, some of which are showing signs of major decay.