OPINION

Cutting the waste out of the system

The debate on education has been heating up – for obvious reasons – over the past few days. The focus, however, is on the wrong thing as it centers on the pending replacements and not on the tasks that the new officials are to carry out. Trimming costs is much of what these government initiatives are all about. It is common knowledge that the health and education sectors are dogged by cost overruns, the squandering of money, mismanagement, and the pilfering of equipment. These problems seriously undermine the quality of services available to the public and, at the same time, place a massive strain on state coffers. When, for example, people spend a stunning 2 percent of the GDP on medicine, one can easily suspect what is going on in a plethora of clinics where the system that monitors the drugs purchased and used is – at best – sorely lacking. A more rational management of available funds could save considerable amounts of money in these sectors and at the same time improve the quality of the services available – and without placing an extra burden on patients or the state budget. Moreover, it is an open secret that many universities misallocate their research programs subsidies while many CAT scanners are left to rust in hospitals as patients are pressured by vested interests to opt for CAT scans in private clinics. These highly corrupt, and costly, circles must be broken up as soon as possible, before they manage to establish ties with the new administration. Given the current situation, where their tentacles reach all the way to the foundations of the state machinery, the government will have its work cut out in any attempt to clean up the sector. The reactions coming from those who have so far benefited from this sleaze-ridden and wasteful system were to be expected. It is normal that these persons enjoy the support of those who bore political responsibility for the situation they tolerated and encouraged. For their part, citizens have every right to demand that the government clamp down on these vested interests and to upgrade the quality of services. It is a wager that the new administration has to win.