OPINION

Last chance for CSF III funds

When the generously endowed Information Society was created some years ago within the European Union’s Third Community Support Framework, government officials spoke of a great revolution that would take place not only in the state sector but throughout the broader economy. The truth is that this program constituted the heavy artillery of investments in modern technology. In that sense, expectations were fulfilled. Yet, as always in Greece, problems emerged in practice. During the phase of negotiating over the distribution of funds, the ministries showed a degree of enthusiasm that waned when the time came to actually implement the programs. Even those government officials who were aware of the strategic importance of the program and tried to move things along were faced with the usual bureaucratic and other related obstacles. It soon became clear that delays could put funds at risk, a possibility that now seems more than likely. If they are not to be lost, contracts must be signed within this year for projects cumulatively valued at 1.5 billion euros – as many, that is, as were signed over the past four years. Meanwhile, 2007 is solely given over to the implementation of projects, that is, contracts may not be signed during that year. In addition, all margin for further settlements with the European Commission has been exhausted. At next Wednesday’s ad hoc session of the Monitoring Committee, all parties involved will have to promise to speed up the procedure of signing contracts and absorbing resources. However, the problem is not only the obtuseness of certain ministries. Even after four years, no effective mechanisms have been put in place to ensure the implementation of the projects, meaning that, in practice, at least some of the promises being made might not be fulfilled. The bitter truth is that in the race to avert a loss of funding, quality has been sacrificed. As a result, results are not only below expectations but below what is realistically possible.