OPINION

Editorial

The appeal by the Public Power Corporation (PPC) to the National Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT) against the state Hellenic Post Office (ELTA) over an excessive increase in mail rates is more than simply an unprecedented occurrence. The PPC reacted as an offended client and, regardless of whether it is right or wrong, this is in accordance with the State’s directive that public utilities must operate as private companies. Prime ministers and the competent ministers have long pointed out that public utilities have to operate as private companies, but this has been honored more often in the breach than in the occurrence. It is common knowledge that, at least over the last two decades, state-run organizations and corporations have been the playground for the government of the day to pay back political favors. It is also an open secret that those in power have used public utilities in order to exercise their social policy while at the same time they have failed to meet the State’s economic obligations toward them. If we add to these the administrations’ inherent inflexibility and the employees’ typical tardiness, it is not the ailing condition of the large majority of the public organizations and corporations which is surprising but rather the fact that the particular administrative model has not already become bankrupt. In recent years, public pressure has resulted in an attempt to restructure public utilities that remain under state control. Mainly, this was done by ending the usual practice of placing failed deputies in administrative posts and instead hiring managers with professional experience and successful careers in the private sector. Unfortunately, after the government shake-up, several appointments to the public utility boards seem to signal a return to bad old habits. Even if we adopt an optimistic interpretation of the changes, it could not apply to the typical phenomenon whereby new ministers tend to change the heads of the organizations and the corporations they are in charge of en masse, regardless of their skills. Regular and sweeping changes of this kind show that new ministers believe they are entitled to appoint their political peers in official posts. This practice, however, turns the government from the state executive into a number of semi-autonomous fiefdoms. Above all, however, it defeats any hopes of establishing a meritocracy and decent administration in an already troubled public sector. According to the report, the under-five annual mortality rate saw a 30-percent decline from 1990 to 1999, while the infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births saw a reduction by 32 percent.