Cleaning up public utilities

Yesterday’s meeting of an interministerial committee with the purpose of pushing the recently tabled legislation to restructure Greece’s troubled state corporations raised hopes that the government is on the right track toward reforming and modernizing the public utilities, or DEKOs. In an unusual move, conservative ministers also set specific dates to implement all the different stipulations of a quite loaded piece of legislation. Talks concerning changes to personnel regulations – including wages, benefits, extra time and so on – must be wrapped up by the end of April. By June 27, all public utilities must bring their charters in line with the new law. And by September 27, all DEKOs must announce their boards’ new operational procedures, which will include drastic cuts in the salaries of presidents and managing directors. In a sign of the coming changes, a statement by the Ministry of Transport yesterday said that the salaries of managing directors at public utilities controlled by the ministry will be trimmed by up to 63 percent. This means that the monthly salary (net) of a managing director will not be more than 5,000 to 5,400 euros. Finally, DEKOs must post their new operating procedures by September 27. For sure, the lavish salaries awarded to managing directors of Greece’s troubled public corporations are a provocation to public sentiment. The president of the Hellenic Railways Organization (OSE), the most heavily indebted DEKO, currently gets as much as 15,000 euros per month. Nor is there any reason why employees in pathetic state companies should be paid twice or three times as much as those in the private sector. The government no doubt has the best of intentions. It remains to be seen what will happen with the implementation part of the legal measures that have already been agreed upon. If the conservative government succeeds in implementing the provisions of the law which it itself passed, then it will deserve credit for its campaign to cleanse and reduce the size of the broader state sector, which in turn will be a tonic for the Greek economy and society in general.

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