OPINION

Shaking up the DEKO management

The announcement that the conservative prime minister had decided, after consultation with the responsible ministers, to juggle the management of several public enterprises (DEKO) was heartening news for the public. The news was welcome, first because even though a year has passed since New Democracy swept its Socialist predecessors out of power, there remains widespread aggravation with the public utilities. With very few exceptions, the public has to put up with extremely poor service at stiff prices. A second reason is that mismanagement of the public utilities has worsened, leading to ever-increasing wastage of money and yawning deficits. There is little doubt that the public utilities remain the weak link in the public sector economy. If the country’s central administration is sorely lacking today, it is largely due to the soaring deficits of public enterprises and the loans taken out to service them, which of course is undertaken by the state. In truth, the public utilities have traditionally been fiefdoms of PASOK’s party apparatus, which fed the patronage system. Four out of five members of PASOK’s central committee were on a DEKO board. If Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis really wishes to establish a new model of administration by shaking up the management of the public utilities so that these state monopolies can start providing quality services to customers, then he must make sure their staff is chosen on meritocratic criteria. The conservative leader must turn to the private sector for competent and reliable executives capable of tidying up these corporations. If the conservatives repeat the mistakes of the Socialist governments, selecting new staff on the basis of acquaintance or partisan affiliation, then the corrupt and incompetent public administration will be joined by a broader public sector beset by the same shortcomings and privileges (exorbitant wages, cars and secretaries) that came to characterize the feudal-like patronage system.