Governments must break eggs at the beginning of their term in office. Bold reforms must be introduced before the onset of political fatigue as political time starts to accelerate. In crafting his political brand, Greece’s conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis adopted several progressive ideas that perhaps don’t always reflect the established beliefs of his New Democracy party.
It is important that his political mark does not get lost in the routine of day-to-day management, casual arrangements and pleasant-sounding measures. Some of his ministers at times speak as if elections are around the corner. They are either trying to appear pleasant or are afraid of rocking the boat.
Recently, there have been some encouraging signs. The decision to abolish the permanent employment status of newly hired staff at Public Power Corporation (PPC) was a welcome and necessary move. It was also a courageous one. The same goes for government legislation allowing mayors to sign public contracts with the private sector for garbage collection. However, more such radical reforms are needed to send the signal that something is indeed changing in this country thanks to an administration that has the courage to take on vested interests.
A large section of society is prepared to believe in a narrative of this sort. Meanwhile, there are sectors such as education, public administration, dysfunctional public utilities and the health system that allow plenty of room for radical change.
It will take two things for the administration to pull this off. The first is determined ministers who will take ownership of reforms – because the worst thing for a government is to have to rely on ministers who whine about having to take a tough decision. The second is a deft PR team that is capable of explaining the government’s blueprint in simple words.
The New Democracy government is still enjoying the momentum built by the victory in the July general election. At the same time, SYRIZA is understandably dogged by confusion and political nonexistence. However, no one is convinced that the administration has a PR apparatus capable of pulling it off when the going gets tough.
A large proportion of society right now expects to see a determined political class that will work on solving their problems. The government made a good early impression and created expectations. Now it’s time to jump in at the deep end.