OPINION

Public shift on reforms

The monthly opinion poll conducted by VPRC for Skai radio revealed some very surprising trends: The public is gradually breaking with taboos and preconceptions and wants to finally see the country rid itself of the burdens imposed by decades of statist practices. The numbers speak volumes for the remarkable turnabout. The survey found that 55 percent of those polled back measures to end civil servants’ permanent job status. Another 58 percent said that public utilities must reorganize along private sector lines. The majority of respondents sided in favor of privatizing the large public enterprises. One does not have to believe in the complete accuracy of the figures to see the profound shift in public perception. Notwithstanding the fact that people are more keen to endorse measures that do not encroach on their interests (people, for example, tend to be less enthusiastic about social security reforms), the shift is strong enough to confirm the emergence of a more mature attitude. Skepticism over the slowing of the economy and the country’s faltering competitiveness, coupled with worries about rising unemployment figures, has made people realize that the existing model is bankrupt. People are convinced that the country must enter a new phase where the state sector is no longer a haven for political cronies. Hence their support for reforms that will help clean up the system. The VPRC survey confirmed that popular backing of the government’s reform drive hovers at high levels. The majority of those surveyed acknowledged the need for drastic change. Regardless of the outcome of the administration’s reform program, whose success will mostly depend on the government, the public shares the government’s concerns. People see what the problems are and are prepared to accept – and above all, to discuss – any remedial action. The poll findings reflect a more mature public opinion than what Socialist policy-makers had in mind when they slipped backward into populist measures that further undermined the structural shortcomings. The social consensus on reforms paves the way toward reforms without great tribulation. The government cannot afford to waste this opportunity.