The problem with DEKOs

True as ever to our tradition of focusing on the trees in order to avoid looking at the forest, we will once again waste our dwindling energies in endless debate over whether the proposed structural changes to public service companies (DEKOs) amount to real modernization. Are these so-called reforms actually the first sign of dislocation of established income and labor practices that will gradually shift the economic focus from the broader public sector to the private sector? Everyone accepts the urgent need for a bold but realistic revision of the operational and management model for state organizations and businesses. The catch is, when the time comes for change, fears over the political cost of the measures take over and the petty politicking and accusations begin. It has been years since the state started pondering the need for DEKOs to operate more like private firms, but every time anyone makes a move in this direction, they are criticized for interfering with the operation of an established institution. The essential problem lies not in determining whether proposed changes to DEKOs are viable or not. How is one to distinguish ostensibly healthy DEKOs from problematic ones when some of them – notably public transport organizations – continue to be funded regardless of how they perform? The eternal, and unsolved, problem is that genuine reform or restructuring needs long-term planning to be successful – and such a methodical approach remains a rarity in this country.