Heaven help the young graduates

Heaven help the young graduates

Speaking at the Benaki Museum in Athens earlier this week to present the “National Strategy for Administrative Reform,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras announced plans for more hirings in the public sector through the Supreme Council for Personnel Selection (ASEP), “as of mid-2018.” I wonder who, if anyone, felt encouraged by his promise?

According to the leftist prime minister, in order to halt the brain drain, young Greek scientists and experts need to be attracted to the civil service. I wonder who, if anyone, was pleased with his observation? He said that the government is examining ways to offer additional motives to young educated Greeks to stay in the country: “As of the middle of 2018 we will initiate written exams in order to attract university graduates to the civil service.” I wonder who, if anyone, started making plans to travel back to Greece?

A study conducted last year on Greek university graduates working abroad showed that one of the main reasons young professionals do not want to return is the “corruption and the absence of meritocracy,” with 40 percent of a sample surveyed indicating that. The prime minister did not say a single word on this issue. The hirings may indeed not be conducted in a “haphazard and unscheduled” manner but based on a “mechanism for evaluating needs,” as Tsipras stressed, but there was not a word about a mechanism for evaluating the actual civil service itself.

On the one hand, we have hirings and appointments that look uncannily like vote-fishing tactics – albeit wrapped up in a reformist ribbon – and on the other, mum seems to be the word on the matter of the pending civil service evaluation, as the very notion is seen a veiled intention to proceed with dismissals.

And so the clientelist state remains intact, a pillar of this and governments before it, and the civil service evaluation is cast as being synonymous with a right-wing reform drive associated with lost jobs. It is a stale argument, but it works because beneath its Manichean logic (good people hire, bad people fire) the very concept of evaluation is crushed even though it is the only process that can shift the mentality that currently prevails in the Greek civil service. How else will a person who is better equipped, more capable and a harder worker get the job over the system’s buddy? How else will capable employees be rewarded instead of incapable ones who have more connections than skills?

New hirings without a radical reform of the system, and employees who “no one really knows where they are or who they serve” (as one government official has admitted) appointed to ghost services, simply feed the disease – and heaven help the university graduates who have no one to call for a favor.

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