OPINION

Dormant machine

We often hear politicians and pundits talking of the need to move forward. What they call for is higher growth, stronger productivity and a more efficient civil administration. At the same time, much is said about the sluggish – or completely inactive – public sector bureaucracy, and the state’s failure to finally modernize the structure of the economy. What are we to believe? Recently, we read reports that the heads of the Information Society have charged that the average time that lapses between calling for a bid and the ratification of the contract is two-and-a-half years. Now responsible officials hope to trim this to one year. What are the consequences of this delay? First of all, Greece risks losing the very EU funds that support the Information Society initiative. Last year, Greece came close to losing about 100 million euros but, after tough negotiations, it managed to get an extension. It now risks losing another 60 million euros that was not absorbed in time. Secondly, companies that have been awarded a project are often close to bankruptcy by the time they are able to implement it. Finally, when it comes to the information technology sector, a two-and-a-half year delay, or even a shorter one, can virtually defeat the purpose of a program: Technology moves much faster than bureaucracy. A project announced in 2002 has become practically outdated by 2005, when work starts, and is obsolete by the time it comes into operation. The list of consequences does not stop there but we will limit this analysis to a conclusion that sums up all the problems: The tardiness and negligence of public sector organizations tend to produce underdevelopment. At a time when everyone acknowledges the need to computerize the public sector, when everyone acknowledges that the EU is the sole means for financing information technology projects, when everyone sees the faltering growth rates and the lack of private investment, the state, instead of setting an example by injecting society with ambition, optimism, and new jobs, does nothing but reinforce its negligent and incompetent image. The responsibility for our underdevelopment lies mostly with our political leaders, but not all of it. Lower-tier officials must also take some of the blame. Why do they systematically fail to live up to their obligations? If civil servants cannot protect the interests of their organization and their country in general, who is going to? Society is in urgent need of growth. Political leaders must stop lecturing and making wishes and finally put the state machine into operation.