Recovering lost ground
The government that has just taken power in Greece is different to what we are accustomed to and close to what a big chunk of the population is eager to see. The center-right administration appears well-prepared. The comparison is not only being made with SYRIZA, which was completely unprepared when it took over at a crucial period in 2015, but also with other supposedly experienced administrations before them. That said, in politics plans can be undone by unforeseen events.
It is also the first time during the economic crisis that reforms and the plan of action are being set by the prime minister’s office and not by foreign creditors. Cabinet members are operating within specific budgets, timetables and deadlines. Such restrictions were completely unknown until Greece signed its first bailout. However, we hope that this type of preparation eventually becomes integral to the country’s administration.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis also responded to a long-standing demand that cuts across social lines by picking skilled politicians from rival parties to fill certain key posts. It was an unprecedented gesture, with the exception perhaps of Yannis Stournaras, who served as finance minister between 2012-2014. The idea was to hire the best people for the job, regardless of political background. Former premier Alexis Tsipras also appointed MPs from other parties (PASOK and Independent Greeks) toward the end of his tenure but this was driven solely by political expediency.
Another welcome sign is the participation in the government of people from the private sector. Achieving this was not easy. Mitsotakis asked several executives to give up their jobs and join him. Most of them turned down the offer for obvious reasons but a sufficient number accepted the challenge. Nobody can predict whether they will be able to deal with the pressure-cooker conditions of Greek politics but we urgently need people who have worked for a living, who have known the risk of dismissal and who know how the market works.
Cynics are concerned by what they see as similarities to the policies of ex-prime minister George Papandreou, particularly in plans to digitally monitor government performance and public administration. Undoubtedly, New Democracy’s old guard will fight any such innovative effort.
The administration will certainly experience conflict. One can easily imagine a technocrat minister berating a career politician over some unfinished task, with the latter answering back: “Do you know who I am? Do you know how many votes I got?”
This government has to succeed. Greece has lost a lot of ground over the previous years. The only way to regain it is by taking leaps and risks.