New work ethic

No single project is at risk, IOC chief inspector Denis Oswald told a news conference in Athens yesterday, apparently impressed by recent progress in the Olympic Games preparations. The IOC official said the sliding of the huge steel roof over the main Olympic stadium is «a symbol to the outside world of the progress that has been made.» The recent progress in Olympics-related projects is in fact a sign of a whole new attitude in all areas of government activity. New Democracy’s ascendance to power has ushered in a radical change in mentality and the work ethic. It is indicative that Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has made far fewer public appearances in the past couple of months than his predecessor had over the same period. The conservative premier spends less time in public hooplas which do nothing to promote government work. Greece finally has a government which appears to be motivated by the desire to carry out policy and which refuses to channel its efforts into a public relations exercise – something that the Simitis administration was always keen to do. For the Socialist government, propaganda came before political action. It is worth noting that many ministers (including Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos, Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias and Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas) have tried to make good use of their ministries’ appointed officials. The effort to rid the country of the scores of costly advisers hired by the PASOK administration will have a triple benefit for the country. First, it will do away with the numerous closed circles and trusted «friends» who effectively shaped policy while enjoying a status of immunity, irresponsibility and unaccountability. Second, it will save money that was up until now spent on controversial services. Third, and most importantly, the use of ministry officials and the drastic cuts in advisers will prepare the ground for a substantial restructuring of the public administration, rendering it more functional and more effective. Furthermore, if we manage to treat appointed officials with care and if we succeed in rewarding them for their devotion, capabilities and achievements, then we may finally solve a problem that has plagued Greece for decades. Health Minister Nikitas Kaklamanis’s direct contact with citizens, described by a reader in a letter to Kathimerini, is a sign of enhanced relations between politicians and the public. When politicians relinquish their obsession with public relations, they can start getting some real work done.

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