Messing up with small and big alike

John Kenneth Galbraith’s congratulations to John F. Kennedy for the latter’s election victory came with a warning: «The state,» the late economist said, «is the kind of organization which, though it does large things badly, does small things badly too.» Perhaps no one took care to give Greece’s Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis a similar warning when he came to power two years ago. Nevertheless, it seems that Greece’s conservative administration could make a dismal job of both reforming the education system as well as reaching settlement on the overtime work of seasonal stewards at Olympic Airlines. The long delays and cancellations of international and domestic flights caused by staff shortages exposed a multidimensional problem: Greece’s state apparatus cannot even deal with simple issues such as making sure there are enough air stewards to conduct a flight. The competition for the recruitment of new seasonal staff will be completed next week and the newly hired will start working by mid-July (after a short training session). That is, after a very profitable month of the high-season period has been lost for the heavily indebted company. For their part, workers refused to sacrifice a couple of days off to allow the state air-carrier to conduct flights at this difficult time. It’s clear that the fluff over a «state-owned, powerful air-carrier» caters to specific vested interests. To the cost of taxpayers, of course. The hard-fought settlement between management and the employees cannot disguise the fact that Olympic Airlines cannot provide the services that its customers pay for (thanks to subsidies from Greek taxpayers). It cannot even meet its most basic obligations. People can only hope for a final and comprehensive solution to the problem as the prime minister has promised in the past. This is yet another outstanding reform.