Ministerial micromanagement

The new measures announced yesterday by Merchant Marine Minister Manolis Kefaloyiannis and Transport Minister Michalis Liapis to upgrade the services at the port of Piraeus are no doubt welcome. No reasonable person would disagree with the plans to relocate the city’s bus terminal or to create a taxi stand within the boundaries of the port. These are obvious changes that should have been implemented a long time ago as they are connected to Greece’s tourism industry, a very crucial sector of the Greek economy. In fact, it makes one wonder why it takes two ministers to remove an obvious snag from a port which happens to be the biggest one in the country. The measures announced yesterday aim to fix problems at the Piraeus port but they also expose one of the main failings in Greece’s public administration system. The responsibility for decisions is constantly shifted upward and we have actually reached a point where it takes a minister to announce the installation of «new chemical toilets in the port.» Certain problems which could have been solved by lower port officials, or perhaps be the responsibility of a port manager, require the presence of a minister. So arises a simple question: What would have happened if the two ministers were absent because of work overload? Would the problems remain unsolved? Are there more snags that remain unsolved for lack of ministerial interference? If there was a problem with the trolley bus terminals, would the minister have to look into it himself? Any organization that wants to be productive has to decentralize activities. Greek ministers are the only ones who are expected to deal with bus terminals rather than hammer out policy. Unless ministers’ offices stop micromanaging there is little we can expect from the public administration. Instead, we are going to need more ministers because the ones we already have will be too busy with increasingly obvious little tasks.