New cabinet: Are they really the best we’ve got?

New cabinet: Are they really the best we’ve got?

The cabinet reshuffle the argument goes, was a chance for a fresh start, a bid to reach out to society, to the younger generation and to other political groups. 

We have heard it all before. I am not going to argue here about whether a spent political force could possibly become the symbol of a true advance into the future. Nor am I going to repeat the derogatory comments that some were saying about others in the past. I will only address the question of ability. 

The majority of the 53 members that make up the new, rather oversized cabinet cannot live up to the circumstances and challenges that Greece will face in the post-bailout era.

Does Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras really believe that the people whom he kept in the government, some in different cabinet posts, did a great job as ministers? Similarly, does he think that the new entrants possess the necessary qualifications for the task at hand? 

My criticism is ideologically neutral. Tsipras naturally wants in his government people who share the same opinions with him (although some of his choices seem to contradict this) and this is totally understandable.

But what is, or should be, important here is the ministers’ ability, not their ideology. Their ideological preferences and, at the end of the day, their political performance, will be judged at the ballot. That’s how democracies work. But parties should be expected to pick from their top cadres.

For example, certain ministers, such as Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and his alternate Giorgos Houliarakis, who arguably have the most difficult task, have the expertise and seriousness warranted by their portfolio, even if their policies have many detractors. The opposition has attacked the two (sometimes severely) for the policy mix that they have implemented, but it has not accused them of being irrelevant or inept.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about many other government officials. To be sure, the phenomenon is not exclusive to SYRIZA. The same was done by previous governments.

A final disappointment has to do with the failure to include diaspora figures in the government. We all like to praise the abilities of the Greeks who live abroad, we all stress the cost of brain drain and we all claim to have enormous respect for all the Greeks who excel as scientists or entrepreneurs in other countries. But when it comes to forming a government, we tend to forget about them.

Greece does not have the luxury to settle for mediocrity. Now more than ever, the country needs to use the best it has, from inside and outside its borders. Unfortunately, and despite some notable exceptions, the new cabinet does not fulfil this national imperative.

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